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Trip 6, Stop 1: St. Louis and the Gateway Arch National Park

Our first stop on this trip was St. Louis, Missouri, to visit the Gateway Arch National Park. At just over 90 acres in area, this is the smallest of the national parks and was redesignated from a memorial to a national park in 2018. The park includes the arch, the Old Courthouse (which is closed for renovation at this time), and a museum under the arch that covers the history of St. Louis, U.S. westward expansion, and the building of the arch. We highly recommend planning to spend at least an hour going through the museum. The displays are interactive, very well done, and good for all ages. There is also a nice cafe next to the museum for a quick beverage or bite to eat.

The arch itself is quite impressive, and the highlight of our visit was taking the tram to the observation deck at the top. The tram cars are quite small and each has five seats, although the park is keeping to family groups at this time, so it was only the two of us in our tram car. The ride takes just a few minutes and the window in the door provides a view of the inside of the arch (mainly the emergency staircase) on the way up and down. Given the timing of the tram cars, we had about 10 minutes at the top, which was plenty to take a look around. From the small windows on the observation deck, we had a good view of downtown St. Louis on the one side and the Mississippi River and Illinois on the other. The ride to the top of the arch requires tickets, which can be purchased in advance (highly recommended, as tickets do sell out).

Beyond the national park, one of our must-do stops was a behind-the-scenes tour of the Budweiser brewery. We did the Beermaster Tour, which took us through the entire brewing process and included a visit to the Clydesdale paddock and stables. We were able to sample an unfiltered Budweiser (quite good, especially if you are a fan of hefeweizen), a filtered beer right from the huge finishing tank, and then a final product. The tour took about two hours and was quite entertaining. Again, we recommend purchasing tickets in advance, as the tours do sell out.

As for brew pubs, St. Louis has plenty to choose from. We met up with our friend Ann at 4 Hands Brewing Company, where I had a good chocolate milk stout and Mike tried the Scale of Complexity and City Wide IPAs. We also went to Urban Chestnut Brewing Company, where I had a vanilla porter and Mike had a very good American IPA. We also stopped at the Heavy Riff Brewing Company, which we really liked...great themed decor, good music, and a varied selection of beers with broad appeal. I had a sampler (Bright Night golden nitro stout; Beware of Darkness bourbon barrel aged imperial coffee sweet stout; Love Gun vanilla cream ale; and Vanilla Coffee Underbrown brown ale) and loved them all. Mike had Running Riot IPA, which was his favorite beer of the day. We would definitely go back to Heavy Riff, given the opportunity.

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