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.
In 1910, fourth-generation German immigrant Alvin O. Eckert set up a small produce stand on a roadside in Belleville, Illinois. More than 100 years later, that roadside stand has flourished into the expansive Belleville plot of Eckert's Farm: a pastoral acreage where orchards surround a country-style restaurant, bakery, and handmade-custard shop. The Eckert family's sixth and seventh generations ensure this farm remains a true family affair. Sixth-generation member Jim Eckert is the chief horticulturist, and his cousin-once-removed, Chris, oversees retail operations and the sale of the farm's homegrown produce and spare scarecrow parts. Chris's sister Jill helms the food program, and his wife Angie oversees the Country Store and colorful Garden Center.
Throughout the year, visitors arrive on the Belleville farm's grounds for a range of seasonal activities, including peach-, apple-, and pumpkin-picking. During the summer, a concert series features live outdoor music on Friday and Saturday nights, and in the fall, staff lead bonfires and evening hayrides through the orchards. Inside the farm building, instructors teach cooking classes for adults and children, as well as a wine-pairing class.
Family-friendly activities also abound at the Eckert family's other two farms. The Grafton farm, where public apple-picking began in 1964, offers daily animal feeding and miniature golf. The seasonal Millstadt farm is home to a workshop, haunted hayrides, and an array of warm-weather children's attractions—including a 70-foot underground slide.
?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."
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.
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.
Though built as a private home in 1901, the Victorian mansion stood vacant for years?until its first children's hands-on exhibits opened to the public more than 30 years ago. Since then, The Magic House's curators have worked to engage children of all ages in learning and creative thought through a range of interactive multimedia exhibits. Their exhibits enable visitors to service cars, climb treehouse ladders, and go fishing in a child-centric community, or play with pumps and pipes in a waterworks playground. They can also climb a three-story fairy-tale beanstalk or use detective skills, fingerprint analyses, and secret passageways to solve mysteries.
Museum staffers also organize a range of themed birthday parties, during which attendees play and complete special tasks as time travelers, scientists, or fairy-tale nobility. Family programs encompass monthly visits from outside professional artists, and special events designed to get the whole family moving. Visitors can refuel for exploration at the on-site Picnic Basket Cafe, whose menu highlights whole grains and healthy ingredients.