Saturday, April 26, 2014

46 Hours in St. Louis - The Last 22

The Old Courthouse Museum
This is a continuation post of this post, which covered our first day of a short weekend trip to St. Louis.  Here, we pick up where we left off on Sunday morning, to take in as much of the area as we could before we had to head back to the airport for our 8 P.M. flight.

Reminder of our itinerary for Day 2:

The Old Courthouse Museum
Missouri History Museum
Forest Park
The Great River Road from Alton to Nutwood, Illinois

You can read about Day 1 of our trip here.

The original plan for this day (Sunday) was to do our indoor activities (mostly museums), as the weather forecast earlier in the week called for rain by afternoon.  As it turned out, today was just as beautiful as Saturday, if a little warmer and more humid.  The good thing, of course, is that this meant we could spend more time outside.

We visited the Arch on our first day, but we had to leave before we could visit the Old Courthouse Museum, so we decided to come back today.  As I mentioned in Part 1 of this post, I'll do a more detailed post of the Arch and the Old Courthouse later, but will include a brief summary here.  This courthouse was the site of the famous Dred Scott case between 1847 and 1850, and the museum contains several exhibits dedicated to the history of the case, along with the history of St. Louis in general from the time of Lewis & Clark to today.

The courthouse rotunda
Sample artifact on display - bed with buffalo quilt

Example of frescoes inside the courthouse

Restored courtroom, where it is believed the Dred Scott case was tried

Plaza and fountain on west side of courthouse
After lunch, we walked by Busch Stadium on our way back to the Metrolink (light rail).  Those of you who are Cardinals fans will appreciate these photos.  As you would expect, the hometown brew is prominently on display.

Our next stop was Forest Park, a very large park about 5 miles west of downtown, and home to several major attractions including the St. Louis Zoo and the very cool St. Louis Science Center.  Forest Park was originally constructed as part of the 1904 World's Fair, and doubled as one of the sites of the 1904 Olympic Games (bet you didn't know the Olympics were once held in St. Louis).

Our destination was the Missouri History Museum.  The museum currently has a very good interactive exhibit on the 250th anniversary of the founding of St. Louis, as well as a very good exhibit on the 1904 World's Fair.  Definitely worth a visit, especially since it's free.  Museums are difficult places to get good pictures (especially for people like me that never bothered to read the camera's instruction manual), but here's a mock-up of Charles Lindbergh's plane, the Spirit of St. Louis, along with the original facade of the building.

Our original plan was to then visit the St. Louis Art Museum (also free), but we were both feeling a bit gassed by this point, so we just walked around Forest Park for a few minutes instead.  This is a great place to be on a pretty spring day.

Unknown older building in the background

Forest Park is one of the city's fancier neighborhoods

We still had a good 3 hours before we needed to be at the airport.  The beautiful weather made it a perfect time for a Sunday drive, so we decided to head for the Great River Road, a series of scenic byways that stretch along the Mississippi River and some of its tributaries from Minnesota to Louisiana.  We intended to do this on Saturday after finishing up with Route 66, but we ran out of time.  To get there, we had to backtrack to Alton, Illinois on the same road we used to see the Mississippi/Missouri confluence point.  We had plenty of daylight this time for a good view of the Highway 67 bridge.

From here, the Great River Road follows Illinois State Highway 100, designated a National Scenic Byway.  The road follows the Mississippi River to Grafton, then the Illinois River from its confluence with the Mississippi (there is no view of the confluence along the road on the Illinois side, though you may be able to see it from the marina in Grafton).  The road between Alton and Grafton is spectacularly scenic as it hugs the east bank of the river; the southbound lanes provide an especially scenic view of the high bluffs dotting the river on the Illinois side.



North of Grafton, the road winds through woods and farmlands along the Illinois River.
Illinois River at Pere Marquette State Park

Backwaters at Pere Marquette State Park

View of bluffs near the Illinois River
At this point, it was time to turn around, as it was time to get to the airport for our flight home.  A little bad weather was approaching Dallas, but thankfully, our flight was on time (though a little rough on the descent due to turbulence).  48 hours later, we were home after a lovely weekend.

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