Crown Ridge Tiger Sanctuary, a USDA–approved big-cat rescue facility, plays motherly host to a roaring family composed of five tigers and a lone lioness with a sultry swagger. Adopting philanthropists can align with their striped or unstriped spirit animal, choosing from noble felines such as the elder Mohan—a white male tiger with blue eyes, a pink nose, and a natural screen presence—or Raja—the relentlessly caring mother of sisters Gracie and Thor.
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.
Your one-night Vintner's Getaway package includes a tour of the Crown Valley Winery, wherein a friendly and knowledgeable tour guide will lead you through the behind-the-scenes areas of the 55-acre winery, taking you step by increasingly zigzagged step through the wine-making process. Along the way, you'll get an up-close look at the massive tanks, the wine-storing oak barrels, and the bottling line before sampling the creations in their final form. You'll also enjoy a separate tour of Crown Valley's champagne house, complete with tastings of its effervescent, fizzy-lifting drinks.
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.
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]]