Though most people hate the feeling of getting lost, that?s the point behind spending a day at the maze at Brookdale Farms. Not because the staff wants guests to wander aimlessly, but because the maze makes for a great way to enjoy the autumn sunshine at a relaxed pace and escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Open as a family-friendly jaunt during the day and as a haunted attraction at night, the maze tests navigators? skills and affords a rare view into how scarecrows live when they think no one is looking. Outside the maze, the farm offers other autumnal activities such as pumpkin slingshots, pony rides, adrenaline-pumping ziplines, and a hay jump, inviting families to spend a full day disconnected from their televisions, computers, and employer-mandated tracking devices. The farm also has its very own pumpkin patch, where children and adults can pick their own pumpkins, especially after a nice hayride.
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]]
Fashioned by the minds behind the Eureka Butcher and enhanced by Missouri's distinct geological makeup, Terror Cave plunges guests into one of the world's largest subterranean spook-fests. Groups navigate through 55,000 square feet that make up a natural underground cave, sliding feet along uneven terrain and dodging the fissure's undead denizens. Like most early airplane models, the ecological attraction has no doors or windows, thereby preventing foolhardy escape attempts. Terror Cave recommends that small children, expectant mothers, and overly jumpy wallabies avoid its cavernous haunts, which go on grotto-patrol Friday and Saturday evenings from 7 p.m. to midnight.
World Balloon's skilled pilots have been cruising gentle air currents in their colorful balloons for over 41 years. From the safety of a basket, they unveil panoramic views of the arcing earth, the sun rising above the Sandia Mountains, and the lush greenery of the Rio Grande Valley. After the balloon alights upon the ground, the staffers keep the experience going. They treat guests to a champagne toast and a light snack, and give them a commemorative certificate. The crew also sets the tone for each celebration with a short lesson on the origins of hot-air ballooning and how to identify which clouds would yield the fluffiest pillow stuffing.
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.