“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."
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.
When Lindsey Schaefer moved back to St. Louis, she noticed that something had changed. Microbreweries were popping up everywhere, and she pleasantly found more and more craft beers inside local stores. So, Lindsey created the STL Brewery Hop as a celebration of the city's best brews.
On weekends, a tour bus takes up to 20 passengers to local breweries, where guides speak to the history and operations of each business. They hand out samples, too, of course. A typical hop might sample the Cast Iron Oatmeal Brown of the 4 Hands Brewing Company or Urban Chestnut beer.
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.
Grant's Farm has been home to two titans of the US—one a general and president, the other a brewer who forever changed America's bar scene. The first of these was the farm's namesake, President Ulysses S. Grant, who in 1885 built a four-room cabin, needing only a few days, the help of some loyal friends, and an '80s-style montage. After a few transitional owners, August Busch Sr. bought the farm in 1907 and had that same cabin restored to its original condition.
While visitors to Grant Farm can still view that historic cabin today, the grounds have grown into much, much more. More than 280 acres host over 900 animals from 100 unique species, one of which has starred in commercials for decades: the Budweiser Clydesdales. A behind the scenes tour of the Clydesdale Stables reveals more than 50 of these stallions, from weanlings to full-grown, six-foot-tall equines. Meanwhile, Zebras, Black Buck Antelope, and other exotic animals roam across Deer Park, and Tier Garten hosts interactive elephant shows and goat feedings.
Back indoors, the bauernhof (farmstead) stands as a 19th-century relic with antique stables and carriages. It also houses non-antique bartenders, who pour complimentary samples for of-age visitors. They can also point families to more complete dining locations, including Grant's Farm Deli.
Vintage red trolleys and horse-drawn carriages still roll through the streets of St. Louis. Though sometimes caused by a rip in the space-time vortex, more often than not they're part of the St. Louis Carriage & Trolley Company's leisurely history tours. A certified guide leads these trips in trolley busses or carriages drawn by some of the company's 17 elegant horses, including Percheron draft horses, one Clydesdale, and one Belgium. The tours—which can be customized—pass sites such as Union Station, Peabody Opera House, and the picturesque Laclede's Landing.