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.
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.
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.
At Sun Rays, an exhaustive list of UV and UV-free tanning services sheathes bodies in golden veneers. Tanning packages cater to the entire corpus with 20-minute sessions in a Sunvision tanning bed; leg tans show preferential treatment with light focused exclusively on the gams. A comfort chair allows recumbent positioning during the session, and UV glasses protect the eyes from light rays and radioactive slideshows of embarrassing family photos. Alternatively, guests can opt for a UV-free glow with airbrush tanning services. Technicians spray epidermises in Playboy airbrush solution, imparting a bronze finish that lasts up to seven days, about the time it takes to color the entire body with a burnt-sienna crayon.
“St. Louis is the fourth-most-haunted city in America,” the tour guide said on a tour covered by Narratively. "But your tour guide is No. 1.” That guide is David Riordan, a renaissance man who's been a commodities trader, lawyer, and Spanish real-estate seller, and now-owner of Riordan Tours. It was his time in Spain that inspired him to become a tour guide. He practiced his storytelling on the English-language radio station he bought and then began leading homespun tours through the small, picturesque town of Frigiliana.
But when the Spanish economy soured, he moved back to his native St. Louis. Now he draws on his natural talent for yarn spinning and leads groups to tourist attractions and haunted corners of the 250-year-old metropolis. Along the ghost tour, David unravels chilling yarns about events that inspired The Exorcist, the St. Louis Fire, the cholera epidemic, and spirits that still roam the streets, asking people which bus they should catch to get to the afterlife. The less spooky city tours explore the UNESCO World Heritage site Cahokia Mounds, as well as the Cardinal's Busch Stadium and the Gateway Arch.
David also puts his storytelling skills to use at his Unveiled: History & Hauntings of St Louis shows. Accompanied by a folk guitarist, he regales crowds with tales of the city's history. "I can talk about anything," he told the Riverfront Times. "It's not just ghosts and spirits, [it's] the brewery, steamboats, gangsters."
Just a short drive from the metropolitan tangle of St. Louis, Twin Rivers Canoe Rentals releases urbanites into the gentle, spring-fed waters of the Meramec River. Adventurers may choose which vessel will best cut through the water’s rippled pane that flickers with shadows from the canopies of trees lining the shore. In a kayak, a single boatman may ply past largemouth bass and flathead catfish or spy a whitetail deer sneaking a drink on the banks while its doe is at church bunco. Canoes can comfortably seat two people and a cooler, whereas rafts transform five to seven passengers into an inflatable party. The leisurely pace and tranquil environs encourage groups to stop and swim or to tether to shore for a picnic.:m]]