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.
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.
The St. Louis Symphony Volunteer Association's Gypsy Caravan organizes one of the largest antique, craft, and flea markets in the Midwest, with up to 20,000 people expected to attend this year. The 7 a.m. early-bird ticket grants a full two hours of perusing before general-admission ticket holders, who risk becoming antiques themselves during long waits for admittance. Nearly 400 outdoor and 72 indoor vendors will occupy booths plying antiques, collectibles, crafts, jewelry, furniture, clothing, and other unique wares. Complimentary shopper’s guides plot out retail excursions with maps, vendor lists, and navigational star charts. Browse toys, DVDs, and comic books at Tim Metzger's table; deck yourself out in vintage jewelry and custom-made apparel at the Blackberry Exchange booth; or please your feathered friends with a recycled-tire bird feeder from Chalily Pond and Gardens.
Designed for pint-probing neophytes of the 21-plus persuasion, Beer School opens an interactive window to the world of brewski connoisseury at the historic Anheuser-Busch brewery. A flight master begins your session with a beerscape rundown, including the effects of individual ingredients on the final product, as well as the secret reason behind each draft-filled flagon’s frothy top. The half-hour class also includes ample taste testing in order to differentiate the elemental baseline of Budweiser from other Anheuser-Busch elixirs. Following the class, pupils receive certificates of tasting completion and hop on a complimentary hops tour.