"Did you love it as much as you remembered?"
"Yes, even more."
That was how we all felt about the City Museum in St. Louis. Yoda was just learning to crawl during our last visit, and the big kids weren't quite old enough to let completely out of our site for a few hours, but this trip was different.
After strapping on our wristbands, Punk and Kooka grabbed Yoda and headed straight for the dragon cavern, where we promptly lost all three of them.
There is no proper explanation for St. Louis' City Museum, except to say that there is nothing "museum" about it. It's either the most dangerous playground you can imagine, or the safest junkyard you've ever explored. You'll enter a dragons mouth and come out of a whale's vagina - no I didn't make that up. You can climb ten stories and slide down an old merchandise chute from days of old (very old). You can traverse the St. Louis skyline via an old Cessna plane and a giant slinky. (Because the plane obviously had other structural inadequacies, so why not perch it on top of a ten story building, hold it up with a chain and a bungee cord and let it support the weight of hundreds of adventurous children and their vacationing families?).
Which of course, is what makes this place sooooooo freaking cool. Yoda was in love with the art room and the board less skate park where the whole point was to just run up the ramps and try not to to fall back down - or do - your call.
Punk loved the human hamster wheel and had a religious moment with the circus magician who said, "I do anything I can to keep from having to get a real job." To which Punk replied, "Amen! I feel you brother!" And tipped the guy generously with his own money. (Because, and I quote, "I need to support my people.").
Kooka loved everything - the higher and crazier the better. She dragged us all to the top of the outdoor climbing arena, OSHA standards be damned.
The kids weren't happy when we made them break for lunch, but the snacks at Gus's Pretzels more than made up for it. Gus's is a St. Louis institution, and for $13 we loaded up on two bags of squishy pretzel ends, a twist stick, two garlic butters, two cinnamon sugars, two salsiccias (the house special - spicy sausage wrapped with a steamy pretzel), cheddar dip, honey mustard and cream cheese.
Which fueled us up for another four hours of climbing, jumping, sliding and losing each other in the labyrinth of recycled parts that is the city museum.
Dinner at Pappy's Smokehouse featured fried corn on the cob, sweet potato fries, baked beans and fall-off-the-bone-ribs. Four of us were in heaven, one of us fell asleep at the table before she could even finish a fry.
Not gonna lie - we book our hotels solely on price and the pool, with free breakfasts a close third. So when we saw pictures of the pool area at the Crown Plaza in Clayton, Missouri (which was 3 miles from everything we wanted to do), we jumped on it. We weren't disappointed. For starters, the pool is warm -really warm, which means even Rico could swim all day. It's one of those inside/outside pools, so you can just swim under the barrier and take in the stars, (or whatever those lights are three miles out of St. Louis proper), while remaining toasty warm. And the poolside game room is free - that's right, you heard me FREE. Rumor has it that the guy who bought the place got sick and tired of doling out quarters to his grandson, so he just made everything gratis. Granted the games are old school: Atari race cars, Frogger, Mario Brothers, PacMan, but that just makes it better. By sheer luck, they gave us a room on the concierge level which meant free dinner, free soda, free nachos, free cookies, free wine - like, all you can eat and drink, and good stuff too - spaghetti and meatballs, chicken Parmesan, Merlot (not that I can stand the stuff, but Rico said it was good).
My one complaint with this hotel is this: wood and marble floors.
Even in the rooms.
So the pool's great, bit you'll slip a disk (or worse) walking the two city blocks back to your room. For real, it takes two brass elevators, two access ramps, 300 yards of marble flooring, lord knows how much tile, just to reach the relative safety of your own laminate-floored room. And once you're there, good luck navigating safely with five sopping bathing suits, ten wet feet, and three drippy ponytails. There ain't so much as an area rug for safe landing. Your only choices are to completely flood the bed you are about to sleep in, or continue to play ice-dancing roulette until you somehow manage to land in your pajamas. Seriously, Crowne Plaza, throw us a bone, or at least a sham-wow. For real.