I had been dying to visit the Cahokia Mounds for ages; after all, what history-lover doesn’t want to visit an ancient city? Because the site is so close to the Illinois-Missouri border, it should have been easy to make a quick stop as I returned from my recent trip to St Louis.
However, Google Maps failed and led me to an industrial chemical site in Collinsville, Illinois. My refusal to stop anywhere and ask for directions made finding the park a challenge, and I drove in circles for more than an hour, convinced the historical site had to be somewhere nearby.
After way too much aimless driving and nearly giving up and heading home, I spotted a sign signaling I was close. I’m certainly glad I didn’t give up on my search, as the visit was really interesting. After browsing the visitor’s center and checking out the exhibits, we hiked up the mounds themselves (a much higher climb than it appears to be!) and could even see the St. Louis skyline in the distance.
Who would have imagined one of the largest ancient cities in North America was just a few hours from my home? More than 120 of these mounds were constructed hundreds of years ago and remain mysterious to both historians and visitors. They’re definitely worth a stop if you’re in St. Louis and in the mood for a history lesson.
Though I’m not a beer drinker, I frequently find myself in local microbreweries, on beer tours, or being offered a free bottle of the beverage. Despite my dislike of most carbonated drinks, I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to take a tour of the Anheuser-Busch factory in St. Louis. While most people were probably there for the free beer at the end of the tour, I was interested to learn about the historical significance of the company in the city.
While it wasn’t quite as fascinating as the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, I was happy with the few hours we spent on this tour. Not only was it completely free (a major plus for a budget traveler), we had some friendly guides eager to teach us about the company and its significance in St. Louis, a chance to see famous the Budweiser Clydesdales, and the opportunity to wander through many of the different buildings and watch the steps of the brewing process.
And while I still don’t like beer, I’m glad I had the chance to take the tour. I had always assumed most Anheuser-Busch products were the kind of cheap alcoholic beverages only consumed at frat parties. I now know better – travel is truly the best teacher!
I’m one of those travelers who likes to go to the high point of every city they visit – the Empire State Building in New York, the Duomo in Florence, the Alhambra in Granada – and it was no different when I traveled to St. Louis. I knew I had to go to the top of the Arch, but it was nothing like I imagined.
I knew the Arch signified the Gateway to the West – a tribute to U.S. expansion westward – but I never knew exactly how you got to the top, or what it would be like. The entire experience was nerve-wracking, especially for my companion who is not fond of heights. Rather than the traditional elevator I pictured riding to the top in, we were placed in tiny white pods that carried us up. It was rather like riding in a giant egg, which sounds pretty neat, but was more bizarre than anything. The frightening part was being able to see the inside of the monument as we rode up and wondering what would happen if the gears broke and our little capsule went crashing down.
Thankfully, our miniature elevator made it up without a problem, but I experienced more anxiety as soon as we stepped out. The relatively calm morning had become extremely breezy while we purchased our tickets and waited in line, causing the Arch to sway dramatically with each gust of wind. I tried to set my fears aside while we looked out the windows, which were much smaller than I had anticipated. From one side we could see the baseball stadium, the courthouse and downtown area, and from the other we looked over the river and Illinois. It was a fun experience, since I do love a view from above, but after a while the constant swaying started to get to me.
However, I would absolutely do this again. After all, it’s not every day you get to ride in a giant egg and look down on one of the Midwest’s most underrated cities.