Circus Harmony Flying Trapeze Center (D. Lancaster)
Since you're already traveling and therefore out of your comfort zone, you might as well push those boundaries a bit more. These seven St. Louis attractions will challenge your courage, unleash your imagination, lift you above the humdrum of daily life and expand your horizons.
Sure, it takes all the courage you can muster to step off that 25-foot-high platform and sail away in a wide arc, clutching the trapeze bar for dear life, but not quite as much as it takes to climb up there in the first place. In any event, the danger is illusory; you're firmly harnessed and tethered to experienced line holders the whole way, and there's a safety net below at all times. It's quite a rush, though, to throw your knees over the bar, hang upside down and do a backflip dismount, and an even bigger thrill at the end of a 90-minute session to let go and fly across to a catcher, just like a real circus performer. All that and more is in store at the Circus Harmony Flying Trapeze Center in St. Louis Union Station.
The most breathtaking scenery in the St. Louis area follows the Mississippi and Illinois rivers from Alton to Grafton, Illinois, and if you want to take even more of that breath away, sign up for a parasail flight with Captain Andy. Since you take off and land from the back of the custom-rigged boat, there's no need to get wet, just thrilled out of your mind.
What's in a name? Well, in the case of City Museum, not much, because behind that boring moniker lurks quite possibly the craziest place for kids of all ages on the planet. There's a schoolbus dangling off the roof, for crying out loud. There are two ten-story slides. There's a ferris wheel on the roof. There's a fantasy forest full of caves and tunnels where kids can let their imaginations run wild. There are two abandoned airplanes perched on precarious-looking structures linked by a series of metal-ribbed tunnels like a hamster maze writ large. It's one delirious, jaw-dropping experience after another, and it's the one place you're sure to tell your friends about.
Some visitors to St. Louis are surprised to learn that one can actually ride to the top of the Gateway Arch, and the experience will challenge your latent tendencies toward both claustrophobia and acrophobia. The means by which one ascends is in one of a series of rather small capsules. Inside of each are five plastic seats. Knees will touch. You're not going up in a straight line, like a normal elevator, so the capsules are designed to swing freely, most noticeable at the beginning and end of the ride. It takes about four minutes to get to the top, 630 feet above the ground, where you'll disembark and climb a few stairs to the observation deck, from which (since the Arch is triangular in section) you can look straight down as well as out to the horizon. It's creepy and fun, and you'll never forget it. While the Arch grounds are under construction, tickets to the top are available at the Old Courthouse.
If you've never flown in a helicopter, there's no time like the present to remedy that self-inflicted deprivation, and there's nothing that quite prepares you for the moment when that barge-parked bird lifts off, tilts forward and looks for all the world like it's about to dump you into the Mississippi River. It doesn't of course; it just soars high above the Arch and takes off at speeds approaching 100 miles an hour while the pilot tells you what landmarks you're floating over. It's a tour of the city like no other, and the best photo-opp you're likely to have all year.
Needless to say, St. Louis' biggest theme park is loaded with hair-raising thrill rides designed to get adrenaline flowing and heartbeats racing. The list includes (but is not restricted to) The Screamin' Eagle (10-story drops at 62 mph) Superman Tower of Power (freefall from a 230-foot tower), Boomerang (super-crazy twists and loops forwards and backwards); Dragon's Wing (skydiving/bungee-jumping/hang-gliding from a 150-foot tower...insane).
Mere minutes across the Mississippi River from downtown St. Louis lies the site of the largest and most influential pre-Columbian city north of Mexico, which at its peak in the 13th century had as many as 20,000 residents (more than London and many other European cities at the time). The most obvious remnants of the civilization — about 80 earthen mounds that comprise a UNESCO World Heritage Site, one of a small group in the U.S. — dot the landscape, and a climb to the top of 100-foot-high Monks Mound is a must. If you happen to be visiting on June 21, you’re luckiest of all: a summer solstice sunrise observance happens at 5:20 a.m. at the reconstructed Woodhenge, a solar calendar constructed of large wooden posts.