Offering sunrise and sunset excursions, Air Balloon Sports floats riders through the clouds on brightly colored, eight-story-tall buoys of heated air. After venturing to the launch site, guests will meet the day's FAA-certified captains, crew, and up to 24 passengers. Air wranglers impart a formal safety briefing as balloons slowly take shape, filling with hot air supplied by area high-school debate teams. A blast of burners lifts leisure seekers into the air, drifting through the blue sky for approximately an hour, bandied about by the day's prevailing winds. Balloons will be followed on the ground by chase crews who rendezvous at the chosen landing site for a traditional first flight ceremony and champagne reception. Recently christened sky devils will also receive a commemorative flight certificate that can be used as a valid passport.
Chandler Hill Vineyards' rolling, verdant rows of Norton, Chambourcin and Vignoles grapes and placid lakeside views offer visitors a quiet place to get away from it all. Built on land once owned by freed slave Joseph Chandler, the winery still retains the essence of the past. The 5,000-square-foot, lodge-like tasting room stands on the site of Chandler's modest cabin. Century-old artifacts discovered during the excavation, including a shotgun and a Hoveround, remain on display, and stones from the original foundation have been carefully repurposed. As candles in a wrought-iron fixture flicker overhead, guests here sip wines from Missouri and the West Coast and chat by a glowing fire in a large stone fireplace.
In its A-List 2010 feature, St. Louis Magazine said, "We?re fans of many regional wineries, but there?s something about Chandler Hill that feels a little more sophisticated, a little extra tucked-away." Thanks to its picturesque vineyards, 5,000-square-foot deck for warm-weather relaxation, and events such as live music performances, the secluded spot was named the Most Fun Winery on Ladue News's 2012 Platinum List.
At the turn of the 19th century, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark set out up the Missouri River to explore the vast, uncharted reaches of the Louisiana Purchase. They had it a lot harder than the guests of Missouri River Excursions. Today, tracing Lewis and Clark's route (marked with many historical plaques) is about as easy as outdoor exploration gets: just sit down and float. Staff load guests and canoes, kayaks, or rafts onto a shuttle to New Haven or Washington, where they disembark to drift gently with the current down to Klondike Park. Sandbars offer natural stopping points for fishing or picnicking.
Missouri River Excursions' guides can also set up more advanced journeys. They'll arrange itineraries lasting up to three days?marked by stays at quaint riverfront hotels or campgrounds?or lead fishing excursions to catch the modern-day descendants of the fish a bored Lewis once trained to do synchronized-swimming routines.
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.
In the pantheon of American explorers, there are few names as revered as Lewis and Clark. After securing the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, President Thomas Jefferson needed someone to map out the newly doubled national borders. The two U.S. Army officers were the men for the job. They set out into the great unknown in May of 1804, and except for the one Cracker Barrel they stopped at mid-journey, St. Charles was the last familiar piece of America they knew until their return trip in 1806.
As a testament to their momentous voyage, the Lewis & Clark Boat House & Nature Center houses full-scale replicas of the explorers' boats, half-scale 18th and 19th century buildings, and displays about the Native Americans that Lewis and Clark met along the way. Outside its walls, the museum also gives visitors a glimpse into the ecosystems that the pair explored. Visitors can walk on trails through the woods and wetlands to find herons, deer, and indigenous plants.
Founded in 1954 by James McLamore and David Edgerton, Burger King rapidly expanded from humble beginnings as a lone burger joint to more than 12,400 locations across 79 countries today, making it the second-largest fast-food-hamburger chain in the world. Its signature burger?the Whopper sandwich?consists of flame-broiled, quarter-pound beef patties crowned with a miniature fedora and a fully customizable array of toppings such as tomatoes, onions, and dill pickles. Focused on continual improvement, the chain recently reinvented the fries that accompany each value meal, outfitting the spud slices with a thicker cut of potato for a fluffier texture on the inside and crispier golden-brown exterior. A spread of decadent desserts including dutch apple pie and Hershey pie keeps sweet teeth from elongating into fangs, and made-to-order breakfast sandwiches clasp eggs, american cheese, and bacon, sausage, or ham between two halves of a flaky croissant to round out the speedy menu.