Crown Valley Winery, nestled on a small hill amid prolific vineyards and rolling greenery, beckons for passersby to peruse its flourishing grounds and sample its inimitably crafted libations. Couples and especially friendly strangers stroll along hand in hand on a 30-minute guided tour, gleaning tidbits on the winemaking process. After the tour fills ear canals with interesting facts about adult grape juices, visitors gather at the wood-ensconced, naturally lit tasting room or on the outside patio overlooking the verdant estate to sample splashes of vino. Swill tastes of Crown Valley’s Estate and Museum Collection before departing with three flavorful bottles of wine, which can be popped open during special occasions such as family get-togethers or graduation from Rubik’s Cube University.
Nestled in the majestic rolling hills of Ste. Genevieve County, Cave Vineyard spans 14 fertile acres of prime grape-growing property and an on-property natural cave. This serene subterranean den—outfitted with electric lights, cozy tables, and wine casks—envelops famished blanket brandishers in a unique saltpeter picnic area. Each basket is loaded with an elegant spread of bread or crackers ($3), cheese ($5), olives ($5), and two decadent chocolate truffles ($5). Starting in May, stalagmites drip with quarter notes from cave-dwelling live music every Saturday. Guests are welcome to enjoy their picnics indoor in the event of a rainstorm or grape-juice tidal wave.
In place of what once was a sand mine, Crystal City Underground has transformed more than 6 million square feet—approximately 200 acres—of sub-surface space into a climate-controlled entertainment facility. With 30- to 40-foot ceilings, thick pillars carved out of rock, and a lake, it presents visitors with a multifaceted underground experience, one that already includes sand volleyball, disc golf, and weekend barge rides. Future plans for Crystal City have it adding more recreational amenities en route to becoming a subterranean cultural and convention center.
Originally built as a one-room house in 1816, the Morse Mill Hotel grew to 5,300 square feet under the watchful eye of engineer John Morse, a former Confederate officer and suspected warlock. In its present state, the hotel may house ghostly figures who once took up residence in one of its 33 rooms. Jesse James and company signed their marks in the guest register, and a famous female serial killer, Bertha Gifford, was kept in the hotel's employ; a nearby gravesite marks her resting place. A burial ground for Confederate soldiers, relics of Al Capone's old brothel, and a dungeon also add to the sinister air. An expert paranormal guide leads amateur ghost gumshoes through the 33-room, four-story Morse manse, providing advice on where to find the friendliest demons. If they dare, guests are encouraged to snap photos to document their occult encounters with phantoms, specters, or eerily expensive minibars.
World Balloon's skilled pilots have been cruising gentle air currents in their colorful balloons for 38 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.
While unloading their ammo upon enemies, paint-splattered warriors hunt for cover in the outdoor wilderness of Xtreme’s 10 playing fields. They duck behind multistory wooden barricades on the Castle field, navigate a maze of padded pillars and logs on the Arena field, dive into leafy ditches on the Bunker field, and command one of four two-tiered fortresses on the Four Forts field. Much like siblings competing to see who celebrates their birthday first, Xtreme Paintball Park gathers players to engage in competitive scenarios such as capture the flag and elimination. Park staffers expand these play opportunities by constantly building new playing fields and restaging area structures. During private parties, ranks of covered pavilions offer spaces where groups can take a break from excessive sun, rain, and snow as they prepare for the next round.
With a strong belief in life’s simpler pleasures, the staff of Riverview Ranch oversees a host of watersports, campsites, and cabins along the picturesque shores of the lazy Meramec River. Shuttled upstream, visitors push off in canoes, rafts, or kayaks to enjoy the easy-moving currents of the stream before arriving back at vehicles or campsites to do celebratory touchdown dances and life-vest spikes.