Saturday, December 24, 2011

Hermann, Missouri - Kristkindl Markt

Many people are familiar with the German heritage town of Hermann, Missouri for it's Oktoberfest, but there are other festivals and fun weekends that entice people to visit this Missouri River town.  We chose to visit during the annual Kristkindl Markt weekends in December.  The events were spread over two weekends and we ended up visiting both - too much to see and do in only one day!  Check out the town calendar of events on to plan your visit.

The 'Christmas Pickle' ornament is a popular item

We drive down Missouri hwy 94 to get to Hermann which follows the Missouri River and the Katy (MKT) Trail.  Winter days are great for Bald Eagle spotting along the river.  Our first  stop in Hermann was at Stone Hill Winery.  The market was in their hall for the first weekend of the festival.  Parking was easy - big parking lots- and there were a couple of men with golf carts to take you to the hall if you wanted a lift.  The market was bustling with shoppers buying pottery, art, candles, sausages, nutcrackers, smokers, many kinds of ornaments and more!   There was a booth from the winery offering tastes of the warm spiced Christmas wine (Gluhwein) and a small dining area with wursts, soups and baked goods.

Indoor shopping with many handmade items

We shopped and then decided to take the tour of the winery.  Stone Hill charges a small fee for their tours, but it was informative and interesting.  You don't see any of the actual wine making or bottling - just the fermentation tanks and barrel cellars, but lots of local history is discussed.  After the tour we headed for the tasting room.  We were lucky and happened to be there on a day when the wine was buy a case and get a case FREE!! You also could mix cases - so we started shopping! 

The kids were interested in the old wine barrels

We had to taste in order to decide what to buy!

Merry Christmas to me!

After our wine purchase we headed over to St Georges church for their annual parish dinner and craft sale.  It was a great dinner in the church basement with chicken, turkey and all the fixings.  We ran out of time to visit  other sites on this Sunday - so we planned to come back on the following Saturday.

Our first stop on Saturday was the market which was held in the Festhalle and Hoffgarten.  The hall was decorated with boxwood garland, trees and candles.  Quite a festive event!  Many vendors were packed into the hall where they also had live music on a small stage and a wine bar from Hermannhof Winery which was serving wine, gluhwein (you could get it in a souvenir mug) and beer from the Tin Mill brewery.

Decorated for the holidays

There were benches to sit and enjoy the music

More vendors were in the Hoffgarten buildings where they also had a dining area.  We took a break and enjoyed the soup and German wurst plate along with some beer from Tin Mill.  There were carolers serenading us while we ate lunch.

Time for lunch!

Some of the carols were sung in German

The German school & museum was next on our list.  This tour has a small fee, but it is a self guided tour and you can take your time with the exhibits that interest you.  Two floors of the old school are filled with artifacts and information about the founding Hermann and life from the 1860's until now.  We were amazed with the many different rooms covering areas of home and farm, school, businesses, wars and an entire room dedicated to the riverboat trade.  There is a small store in the museum to purchase books, reproduction items, gifts and during the market weekends they have a German bakery with Stollen, Lebkuchen, Pffernuesse, Springerle and more.

A great example of a local woodcarvers work

I love the dollhouses wherever we go - this one has a Christmas tree!

The St George's rectory tour is a do not miss for this weekend!  This event is very popular and can have a small line waiting to tour, but it is well worth it.  There is a 'free will' offering at the end of the tour (the funds go to the local food bank).   The priest and members of this parish outdo themselves decorating this rectory.  This is Christmas overload in every room!!  There are over 40 decorated trees (over 4ft tall), garlands, nativities, candles, bows and lights everywhere you look. Some of the rooms have a theme and this is a self guided tour - volunteers direct the flow of visitors.

Living room tree with heirloom jewelry

The dining room has a Mardi Gras theme

This bedroom even had a stuffed bear and other animals

Irish themed bedroom

Weinachtsfest is the theme at the Deutschheim State Historic Site.  The home features 19th century trees, toys, cookie samples and information about German Christmas traditions.  There was a small gift shop where you could try the Springerle molds with play dough and there were cookbooks, molds, German 3D greeting cards and more for sale.

Sister city of Hermann is Bad Arolsen

We also visited Hermannhof winery (we do like their Norton and White Lady of Starkenburg) and the Tin Mill Brewery while in town.  Another fun filled sunny winter day complete!

Whatever your holiday traditions may be - we are wishing you a very Merry Christmas and look forward to our travels in 2012! (Maybe we will be coming to YOUR town!)

Friday, December 9, 2011

Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry

If you are in Chicago then try to find time to visit the Museum of Science and Industry!  We have been going to this museum for our whole lives and still enjoy the exhibits.  There is always something new - and of course our favorites that don't change much.   Admission for adults is $14 and parking is available in the garage for $18.  Members of other museums may get reduced or free admission - check with your home center (St Louis Science Center members get in free).  There are added paid exhibits like the Omnimax movies, coal mine, U505 submarine tours and traveling exhibits also.  We attended the Dr Seuss exhibit on this visit.  No photos were allowed in this area - but it was very good with original works, drawings, cartoons, sculpture and more.  We learned that Dr Seuss rhymes with 'voice' NOT 'goose'!
Contest winner Kevin got to live in the museum for a month!

Transportation Gallery - United Arlines 727, 999 Steam Locomotive, Spirit of America car and many more historic modes of transportation

Science Storms - the science behind natural phenomena of lightning, fire, tornadoes, avalanches, tsunamis, sunlight and atoms in motion

Everyone who knows this museum has their favorite spot - the chicks hatching, coal mine, U505, human development, Finnegan's Ice Cream Parlor, Coleen Moore's Fairy Castle.....  Check the schedules when you go to attend hands on science experiments led by museum staff. 

Gunther von Hagens' circulatory system - there are other body systems and illnesses shown in this way too

One of the many rooms in the Fairy Castle

Who can resist the lightning ball?!
The Museum of Science and Industry is located just off Lake Shore Drive and you can plan your visit by logging on to

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Lincoln Presidential Museum

We have driven through Springfield, Illinois many times...but finally took a couple of hours to stop at the Lincoln Presidential Museum and Library.  This location is another listing in the book of 1,000 Places to See Before You Die.  The complex was opened in 2005 and has the largest repository of Lincoln artifacts anywhere.  You can easily spend a few hours here to explore the different galleries and view the movies. 

Start you journey through the family log cabin

The only place where you can take photos are in the children's room and  in the central plaza where you  start on the "exhibit journeys".  One side shows Lincoln's youth in Indiana through when he became a lawyer.  The other side of the hall depicts his career as a politician, his troubled presidency, and his assassination.

Enter the White House to view the presidential years

Some of the exhibits include special effects which help to bring history to life.  The presentations of "Ghosts of the Library" and "Lincoln's Eyes" were very interesting and well done (though could be frightening to small children).

Period toys and costumes for the kids to enjoy

Lincoln Logs and a play kitchen area

The Treasures Gallery has artifacts from the life of Lincoln, his wife Mary Todd and their children.  You can see everyday things like his stovepipe hat and shaving mirror, also her music box and jewelry.  We were amazed to view a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation signed by Lincoln and also a draft of the Gettysburg Address written in his own hand.

We plan on returning to Springfield and spending more time, maybe a weekend, so we can also visit the other historic sites including Lincoln's home, the Lincoln-Herndon Law Offices, Lincoln's Tomb and New Salem. 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Babler State Park, just a few minutes from St Louis

Just a short drive from St Louis you can find a wonderful state park where there are hiking trails, equestrian trails, ball fields and campgrounds.  Babler State Park was started in 1934 when Jacob and Henry Babler donated land for the park in memory of their brother, prominent St Louis physician and surgeon, Dr Edmund A Babler.  We enjoyed spending a warm, fall morning here with our grandson.  This park can get crowded in the summer and is a popular camping spot.

Dr Edmund Babler statue

The park now covers more than 888 acres and contains 22 CCC structures that are on the National Register of Historic Places.

Great hiking trails

We stopped at the River Hills Visitor Center where there is a relief map of the park.  The employees are very helpful to explain the different trails and terrain, plus you can spend some time exploring the dioramas of the flora and fauna of the area.  Other exhibits were aquariums and reptiles to view, hands on coloring and crafts for the kids, microscopes to explore natural items 'up close', a bird viewing area with binoculars to use and a small gift shop.

One of the aquariums in the visitor center

Gabe enjoys the fountain at the visitor center

There are many areas for picnics and playgrounds.  A couple of geocaches are available - but cell phone coverage is spotty at best, so download the coordinates before you get there! 

Playground fun

Site of a geocache

Remember - Missouri State Parks are FREE to visit!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Faust Park - a great place to spend a day

The city of Chesterfield has a wonderful park with many different areas you can enjoy.  Faust Park was established in 1968 and covers nearly 200 acres.   This is truly a 'something for everyone' type of park.  There are the usual picnic areas, a fun playground, hiking trail, antique carousel, historical village and the butterfly house! 

The carousel was built in the 1920's, survived a fire, was sold and then donated to the St Louis park department.  After being restored to it's original glory, the carousel was installed in a climate controlled building in the park in 1987.  Rides are offered at the bargain price of $1!  There is a small gift shop and this is a popular place for  birthday parties.

The historic village has 16 buildings from 1840-1888.  These represent different lifestyles, professions and needs of the period.  They are open for historical weekends in the summer - complete with period demonstrations, tours and for guided group tours by appointment only.

The streets and paths make it easy to walk around the buildings

The gardens have vegetables, flax, cotton and flowers

Sachs Butterfly House has an admission fee of $6 for adults, $4 for kids (2 yrs and under are free).  You can stroll through the conservatory and see nearly 2000 butterflies in flight, watch a butterfly emerge from it's chrysalis and see a movie about butterfly behavior and anatomy.  There is an outside garden planted to attract butterflies, an inside exhibit hall where displays of other types of insects and arachnids are housed, a gift shop and more.

Kids love to play on the caterpillar

Thornhill farm is the historic home of Frederick Bates (the second governor of Missouri) and his family.  The site includes his 1820s home, barn, reconstructed summer kitchen, ice and smoke house, orchard and herb garden, and family cemetery.    There are living history weekends at this location also.

Check out the St Louis county parks website for the calendar of events if you want to enjoy one of the special weekends at this park.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Time to Meet the King and Queen

The entrance to the festival

The Kansas City Renaissance Festival celebrated 35 years in 2011!  This festival has something for everyone - juggling, magic, comedy, swordplay, dancing, jousting, rides, games, crafts and more.  The event is held every fall from Labor day weekend through the middle of October (Sat & Sun only).  Parking is free and the gate fee is $18.95 with discounts available online and through various outlets.  There is a facebook page for this festival and they offer contests with free tickets and lots of information about the different weekend themes and performers.  Check out the website for all the details about this fun place .

Part of the jousting competition

Human powered rides

You can ride an elephant, camel and more

Period clothing is not required, but it can be a fun part of your visit.  We saw everything from beggars, Celtic kilts, royalty, serving wenches, pirates, fairies, knights, robin hood and his merry men and others.   Pets are welcome and there are many options for food and drink. 

The Queen, King and Prince of Bulgaria

A few of the citizens of the realm

Dennis DOES believe in fairies!

The website states that there are over 100 artisan booths and 20 entertainment venues.  Make sure you get a map/program if you go.  The festival is situated in a wooded and hilly area with winding streets and paths.  This makes for a realistic venue...but not very handicap or stroller friendly.  It can be muddy if it rains - or dry and dusty as it was when we were there (more reason to drink a beer!).

Many areas to take a break and enjoy the area

Some of the art available

Plan your day and check the schedules in order to make sure you see your favorite performers.  The joust happens only a couple times daily and the parade only once.  Some of the shows are definitely PG13 with adult humor and signs are posted at the areas.  Some of the musical acts have CDs and t-shirts for sale also.

King Henry VIII and his royal family entertain with songs

Dennis helps to hold the tightrope for a juggler

Jolly Rogers is a popular group - definitely PG13!

There are living history tours available through the day (free) and deals like the Feaste of Fools, Royal Smoker and the Queen's Tea that include food, entertainment and drink (some have adult beverages too) for one price.  We enjoyed the Feaste of Fools this trip.  Two hours of entertainment with a 5 course lunch, a goblet to keep and admission to the festival for one price.  Maybe we will see you next year at the faire!