In 1914, the spacious Mineral Springs Hotel opened its doors to overnight guests seeking its namesake mineral treatments. Though designed for relaxation, the hotel and spa became the unwitting host of homicides and suicides to mysterious, accidental deaths. These days, in its 100th year, the only people spending the night are attendees of Mineral Springs Haunted Tours' "Haunted Overnights," where brave souls camp out inside the hotel's basement pool, or other areas of the building. As the hours pass, they might detect signs of spirits such as the "Jasmine lady," who took a fatal tumble down the hotel's steps.
Those on the walking and overnight tours scour the hotel with ghost-hunting equipment at the ready before launching into a poolside s?ance and tarot card reading. Besides exploring the hotel, walking tours visit upwards of 10 other haunted Alton locations, including tunnels under the old Enos Sanitarium. In addition to leading paranormal treks, the Mineral Springs team of paranormal investigators teach the tricks of their trade to aspiring ghost hunters at its Paranormal Research Center, where there have been six documented ghost cases. For winter tours, the company even unveils its private collection of over 50 historically-accurate torture devices, whose origins span across the globe from ancient times to present.
Legend has it that Mark Twain once called Alton a "dismal little river town," perhaps referencing the area's propensity for disease, disaster, and Civil War?era violence?some of which radiated from a Confederate POW camp. Roughly a century later, another author, Troy Taylor, wrote an entire book about Alton's dark history. He also created Alton Hauntings, a company that hosts walking and bus tours that explore malevolent stories from Alton's past, as well as the supernatural happenings that have been rumored for decades. Guides lead groups to various locations throughout the town, summoning the past through their storytelling.
In December 1803, Captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark set up the Camp River Dubois, right where the Mississippi and Missouri rivers meet. There, they and a crew of 30 men spent five months preparing for their legendary three-year expedition to chart America's newly acquired Louisiana Purchase territory. On May 14, 1804, they finally set sail on a 55-foot-long keelboat, named for its habit of keeling over in fear when it passed a shark.
To commemorate the bicentennial of its namesake's journey, the Lewis & Clark Confluence Tower opened on May 14, 2010, the 206-year anniversary, to the day, of the expedition's embarking. Tower is a slight misnomer?the structure is actually two parallel towers, connected by viewing levels 50, 100, and 150 feet above the ground.
The platforms afford panoramic views of Lewis and Clark's departure point, as well as the rivers' intersection, and, 25 miles north, the union of the Mississippi and Illinois rivers. Downtown St. Louis and the Gateway Arch are visible on clear days, and during evening events, sunsets and fireworks reflect gorgeously on the water. Back on the ground, the Meeting of the Great Rivers National Scenic Byway, complete with educational plaques, accommodates visitors interested in following the rivers' convergence on foot.
At one time, St. Charles Flying Service's airport was a training base for World War II pilots during the early 1940s. Today, several vintage WWII aircraft still call the facility home, as does Boeing, which utilizes the grounds to test its own planes for modern-day military operations. Surrounded by aviation benchmarks both past and present, St. Charles Flying Service passes on the gift of flight to students with flight training for single and multiengine aircraft. From light sport to airline transport pilot, the facility's certified instructors help mold the pilots of tomorrow, who may also take advantage of open-enrollment ground courses.
There's nothing better than a perfect pizza with bubbly cheese and flavorful, chewy crust except for maybe 10 exceptional pizzas. On April 27, visitors will get the chance to sample up to 10 exceptional pizza samples from up to 10 different community pizza joints, and at the end of the day they'll judge their favorites and vote for the best. Proceeds will benefit A Hero's Impact Foundation, which encourages children to be everyday heroes and live for others, along with other local charitable foundations.
The old mulberry tree at the top of Noboleis Vineyards—the same creature that graces the estate's wine labels—symbolizes the endurance of Robert and Lou Ann Nolan in pursuing their dream to own a vineyard. After purchasing a 74-acre expanse of Augusta farmland in 2005, the Nolans planted their first grapes: chambourcin, traminette, norton, and vignoles. Initial growth indicated high yields, but a late frost in 2007 claimed most of the chambourcin crop. Adversity struck again in 2011, when a tornado tore through part of the vineyards and lifted sections of roof off of the winery.
But between these setbacks, the Nolans built a steady string of accomplishments. Their first vintages claimed multiple awards at the 2010 Missouri Governor's Cup, and what had started as plain farmland grew into an estate encompassing an onsite winery, tasting room, cafe, and wine shop. The Nolans now lead tours and host tastings so that visitors can get an up-close look at how Noboleis's wines—such as the barrel-fermented vidal blanc—are produced without tickling the grapes. The indoor and outdoor grounds also regularly host events that range from weddings to live music performances.