In 1910, fourth-generation German immigrant Alvin O. Eckert set up a small produce stand on a roadside in Belleville, Illinois. More than 100 years later, that roadside stand has flourished into the expansive Belleville plot of Eckert's Farm: a pastoral acreage where orchards surround a country-style restaurant, bakery, and handmade-custard shop. The Eckert family's sixth and seventh generations ensure this farm remains a true family affair. Sixth-generation member Jim Eckert is the chief horticulturist, and his cousin-once-removed, Chris, oversees retail operations and the sale of the farm's homegrown produce and spare scarecrow parts. Chris's sister Jill helms the food program, and his wife Angie oversees the Country Store and colorful Garden Center.
Throughout the year, visitors arrive on the Belleville farm's grounds for a range of seasonal activities, including peach-, apple-, and pumpkin-picking. During the summer, a concert series features live outdoor music on Friday and Saturday nights, and in the fall, staff lead bonfires and evening hayrides through the orchards. Inside the farm building, instructors teach cooking classes for adults and children, as well as a wine-pairing class.
Family-friendly activities also abound at the Eckert family's other two farms. The Grafton farm, where public apple-picking began in 1964, offers daily animal feeding and miniature golf. The seasonal Millstadt farm is home to a workshop, haunted hayrides, and an array of warm-weather children's attractions—including a 70-foot underground slide.
Inside the St. Louis Downtown Airport, travelers excitedly bustle about on their way to distant destinations or emerge from vacations rested and ready to return home. The constant stream of action is all part of the experience for diners at Crusoe’s on the Runway, which combines the spectacle of air travel with hearty American meals. Whether they’re traveling or just stopping by for a bite, diners fill their bellies as they overlook two of the three runways from the airport’s east ramp. St. Louis–style pizza, steaks, and pastas satiate hunger pangs, along with comfort food such as Mom’s meatloaf and country-fried steak. As they watch Airbus A320 jetliners and lightweight Boeing 757 aircrafts launch into the sky and gently touch down on the runway from their tables, guests can hold up score cards to judge the pilots’ form.
A huge yellow sign in the shape of a two-man log saw hangs above the unpainted clapboard fa?ade of Sawmill BBQ, emblazoned in bold block letters with the straight-forward phrase "BBQ RESTAURANT". Inside, the restaurant hums with the activity of diners chowing down on bratwursts and cheeseburgers as the scent of dry-rubbed spare ribs and tender beef brisket fills the air. Traditional dishes of coleslaw and baked beans sidle up to morsels of turkey beast and pork loin, while homemade hot, sweet, and mustard-based sauces slather pork, beef, and the faces of ravenous diners. The surroundings promote a feel-good vibe of backcountry hospitality, with its big, grassy lawn, huge, screened-in porch, and rustic handcarts, pumps, and farm implements.