Angela Cornell

Professional Writer

November 17, 2017

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A Prescription for Achy-Breaky Singleitis

If you haven’t noticed yet that singleness is grueling and excruciating (even when you’re trying to redeem the time to “glorify God and enjoy Him”), don’t worry. You probably will eventually.

Here’s why. Go back about 6,000 years (or, if you don’t have a time machine, Genesis 2). God created the first man—the founder of the human race—named him Adam, and declared him good. God then gave Adam his first home: a pristine, protected garden/orchard, gave him a purpose (dominion over creation) and promised him the best of everything so long as he remained obedient. Then, God says something rather incredible: “It is not good for man to be alone” (Gen. 2:18).

God is never one to see a problem and do nothing about it. So, He first convinces Adam that none of the animals are fit helpmeets, then creates the most beautiful creature Adam has ever seen… a woman. She is perfectly complimentary to him, fulfilling Adam’s deep needs for spousal love and companionship.

Some things never change. The deep human needs Adam felt—and Eve fulfilled—are still present in humans today. Just like them, we are not meant to be alone. Now, I don’t have space here to go into why I think so many people are single in our culture (but keep checking back… you never know what may come up later in this series). I would like to share with you some tricks that I’ve learned to help combat the in-the-meantime pain.

  1. I pray for my future husband, understanding that God knows who he is. Romans 8:26-27 says, “the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit isbecause He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” Here are some of the things I ask for my future husband on a regular basis, believing that God desires these things more than I ever could:
  • That God will draw him ever nearer to Christ, making him into a powerful man of prayer and Christlike action.
  • That God will instill the qualities He wants in him (Job 29-31 gives several characteristics a godly man should have) and that I will need him to have as my spiritual and marital head. This man will also be the father of my someday children, so I ask that God will develop in him the characteristics he’ll need as a daddy.
  • That God will protect him and keep him physically and emotionally pure.
  • That God will draw him close to his family and give him godly mentors.
  • That God will make him prosperous in his chosen vocation.
  • That God will give him eyes to see me (and have the courage to speak to my father) when the time is right. However, I also pray that that time will be soon.

It goes both ways, though. Here are some things that I hope he is praying for me:

  • That God would make me more and more in His Son’s image.
  • That God would make me into the woman my future husband will need as a helpmeet and that our children will need as their mother.
  • That God would help me remain pure.
  • That God would help me grow and develop relationships with those around me.
  • That God would bless my writing and ministries.
  • That God will help me recognize him when he comes.

I also pray for these things for myself, and no, there’s no shame in that. I want to be the person who will best compliment and encourage my husband. To be that woman, I know that God will have to chip away at my faults and make me a Proverbs 31/1 Peter 3:1-6 woman.

  1. I actively find ways to distract myself. I like reading books (NOT ROMANCE. More on that later) or working on hobbies. Often, I’ll listen to music or an audiobook, especially when I’m alone. I devote time to memorize Scripture. Or, if I’m feeling especially achy, I’ll find something that makes me laugh—a movie or Studio C sketches. Whatever. One of the best remedies, though, is hanging out with someone. It’s harder to feel lonely when surrounded by friends.
  2. Are you familiar with the mind palace theory? It’s a way to order your mind to improve memory. However, I have found a slight variation that is extremely helpful to control emotion: I have a redwood log cabin in my head. It’s a simple design: A fireplace and a rocker is in one corner, and across the room there’s a door and a couple of windows. When the longings come, I go to my cabin, allowing the emotions to manifest as bad weather outside, and then I close and lock the door and windows. If necessary, I add a couple of logs to the fire, and then move on with my life. Call me crazy, but this method is one of the most effective that I have ever used.
  3. I write prayers and thoughts about my future husband in a special journal. I don’t write daily (or even monthly), but when I’m aching for him, I find that it sometimes helps to get it out on paper.
  4. This one is the most important of all: I focus on the principles in Psalms 37, especially 3-4a. “Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness. Delight yourself also in the Lord.” We are called to rely on God and to find peace and joy in His presence. This doesn’t always make the emotions go away immediately, but helps me keep things in perspective. When I put God’s glory as my primary goal, the pain lessens and life starts to make sense.

One of my greatest comforts is that God is not upset about my years of singleness. On the contrary, I believe He has and will continue to manifest His grace through it. In other words, He derives glory for Himself—and blesses me—through it. Personally, I find a great deal of peace in that. (Seriously, if God’s okay with it, why shouldn’t I learn to be?)

Willing to take a challenge? Go read and think about Psalms 37 and God’s character for a while, then try using these suggestions the next time your singleness haunts you. Leave a comment to let me know how it works for you! 🙂

November 13, 2017

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6 Free Things to Do in Chicago to Guarantee Great Times on a Budget

ChTimes are hard. Believe me, I get it. But why on earth does that mean that you can’t take a vacation this year? Yes, you read correctly. Not “staycation.” Not “No-cation.” Vacation. A chance for you to get away and enjoy the sights and experiences of somewhere beside home and work. Take it from a cheapskate: there are all sorts of amazing experiences just begging to be had that don’t cost a dime, even in a cool, classy town like Chicago. So go ahead and pull up your budget to take a second look at those numbers, ’cause it’s totally doable for your family this year with these free activities.

Lincoln Park Zoo

Most people like a good zoo. After all, what’s not to like? Like most zoos, Lincoln Park strives to have a variety of animals for patrons’ viewing pleasure with interactive, educational displays that give interesting facts about that cute and fuzzy (or scaly and ugly) critter on the other side of the glass. And what’s a creature-filled park without a gift shop and restaurant? But Lincoln Park Zoo goes beyond the typical and well into the exceptional, to the point that they made #3 on Fodor’s Top 10 Zoos list in 2015.

Not only do they have over 1,000 animals (representing over 200 species), but they also have 16 exhibits and animal houses containing some of their most exotic creatures. And when you’re tired of looking at the animals, check out one of their daily shows, like “Snow Monkey Science,” which demonstrates some of the latest scientific discoveries on these incredible creatures with hands-on technology that the kiddos will love. To top it all off, they’re open 365 days a year, so whenever you make your trip, you know they’ll be open and have something unforgettable for you to see.

Chicago Cultural Center

The Chicago Cultural Center’s building alone has a rich history, beginning back in 1897 when it was built as the city’s first public library. Although late 19th century architecture is generally awe-inspiring anyway, this building truly takes the cake with two stained-glass domes and special materials (like rare marble and hardwoods) from all over the world. But what really gives the Chicago Cultural Center character isn’t the architecture, but rather the events held inside. With incredible traveling exhibits, concerts, performances, lectures, dances, and family activities, this place is a hub for local flair and always offers different experiences for visitors. Is it any wonder that this is one of the most visited sites in Chicago?

The Money Museum

Picture a whole museum dedicated to money. More specifically, the Federal Reserve System and how it works. Now imagine several displays that teach about inflation, counterfeits, the history of US currency, and what happens to money when it’s no longer in circulation. Then add to that mental picture a display called “The Million Dollar Cube,” which literally holds that amount of money. And then there’s “The Million Dollar Suitcase,” which also contains more hundred dollar bills than most people have seen in a lifetime. Now I want you to picture you and your family standing by that suitcase and getting a picture taken with it. Are you sold on this experience yet?

The Money Museum, located just a few blocks west of the Art Institute (230 South LaSalle Street), has received high ratings from visitors and has the reputation of being a great place to take the kids to help them learn about money.

Botanical Gardens

Visiting a botanical garden is an incredible way to see a wide variety of beautiful plants. They typically sport both indoor and outdoor attractions—plenty to please anyone, even someone who is hesitant to enjoy the outdoors! For those of us who can’t get enough time with nature, especially while visiting the Windy City, there are several around town.

Chicago Botanic Garden

This particular garden spreads over 360 acres (that’s .56 square miles) and contains nearly 2,500,000 plants! There are 27 separate specialty gardens, like the rose garden, the fruits and vegetable garden, the heritage garden, the Japanese garden, and many others that reflect the interests of the surrounding metropolis. Since it’s so large, it is a haven for several varieties of birds, insects, and animals.

Of course, since this is an outdoor garden, you’ll see more of its open air beauty in the spring, summer, or fall. But even in the winter, there are things to do or see. Take the Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice Plant Conservation Science Center, for instance. Although it’s mostly used as facility for those seeking higher education in botany and related fields, there is a viewing gallery and a 16,000 sq. ft. green roof garden that are open to the public. This center strives to have incredible temporary displays that will mesmerize viewers of all ages.

Garfield Park Conservatory

Garfield Park Conservatory has a large indoor campus featuring climate-controlled houses for a different variety of plants, like ferns, palms, and exotic flowers, including an indoor garden specifically designed for children, and another one that simulates a desert climate!

And that’s just the inside. Outside, they have twelve separate gardens, ponds, and exhibits, all ready to enthrall you with the beauties and mysteries of the outdoors. These include a labyrinth, lily pool, a honeybee exhibit, a sensory garden, and even a garden that replicates the garden that the famous French artist Oscar-Claude Monet kept in his back yard. There’s also a “Play and Grow” garden designed for the little ones to enjoy.

Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

Although this museum isn’t free, when I heard about it, I decided it deserved an honorable mention. It was designed to facilitate genuine natural world experiences for those living in extremely urban Chicago. And you know what? It worked. This three story museum has more hands-on science displays than any other museum in the city. And besides its interactive displays, it also has a famous butterfly house, memorials to bison and extinct birds, hiking trails, an indoor greenhouse, and a look-in lab, which shows several animals that the museum’s scientists and volunteers care for on a daily basis. But these are just a few of this museum’s incredible assets. You’ll have to visit it to discover the rest!

Admission prices: $9 for Adults, $7 for Students and Seniors (60+), $6 for Children Ages 3 – 12, and free for Children under 3

Millennium Park

Since we’ve been on a roll with parks and such, let’s touch on Millennium Park, one part of Chicago that never ever stays the same. It’s always bustling with activity. Hundreds of visitors pass through every day and there’s always some kind of free concert, exhibit, or family activity going on. Of course, there are park features that never really change, like the incredible displays of architecture such as The Bean, which is a piece of art that is shaped like a ginormous kidney bean and is made completely from mirrors. Or the Jay Pritzer Pavilion, an outdoor amphitheater and concert hall, which is a wonder in sound engineering.

But that’s just the main sections of the park. There is also modern art exhibits, a large fountain, a massive playground that will tempt children of all ages, and beautiful flower gardens. Visiting this park is an absolute must for anyone who is visiting Chicago.

Hike Around Downtown Chicago

Before wandering off to check out more of Chicago’s sites, you really need to walk around downtown Chicago. Although this area of town is equated with expensive shops like Macy’s, there’s so much more to experience! Check out some of the chapels that feature Gothic architecture. Look for monuments and modern art. Definitely keep an eye out for the silver men, who can be found almost any fine day around downtown Chicago. They’re great to take pictures next to, but be careful! Although they look like statues, they’re actually actors who may move in the middle of the shot just to get a reaction.

Don’t forget to look at the buildings! Architecture from every era since the Great Chicago Fire grace the streets and it’s amazing to see so many representatives from ages past. Although it may seem overly simplistic, it’s actually a lot of fun to look at the sights and snap selfies and pictures of friends as a way to commemorate your trip to the Windy City.

This post originally appeared on Daring Penguin Travel Blog, published December 31, 2015.

November 10, 2017

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The Corridor or the Atrium

Let’s pretend that you’re staying in a La Quinta on vacation. You check in, and the lady at the desk gives you the key but neglects to tell you which door it goes to and the room number isn’t etched on the key. You try calling to the lady (who has gone to the back), but she must have suddenly grown deaf, because she’s not coming. So… what do you do? Let’s say for argument’s sake that you decide to go try some doors. You go to the first floor and try the first one you see. Of course, it does nothing.

The next five are the same way, so you decide to go to the second floor, but you keep meeting with locked doors. You keep hearing the people in certain rooms talking and laughing, watching TV, or snoring loudly, which only serves of a reminder of what you aren’t doing right now.

You’re on the third floor now and tired and (be honest) angry. You’re about ready to go back downstairs and march into the back room—despite the “Employees Only” sign on the door—and give the lady a piece of your mind. Or perhaps, you just want to walk out. Find another hotel. But, you’ve tried so many doors already… what’s one more? You slip the key in the lock, and much to your amazement, it clicks! That little green light flashes and you open the door to your hotel room, begrudgingly thankful that you’ve found your room at last.

Many people approach singleness like this. It’s a long, arduous process that has no purpose beside make you frustrated… I mean, it’s an opportunity to develop patience and… ministries. *Fake smile*

Been there, done that, bought the t-shirt. Trust me, that perspective is neither fulfilling nor wholesome. But when you view singleness as a gift from God, it changes your worldview.

Let’s imagine that the same situation happens, only at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville. Unlike most hotels, the rooms here surround indoor atriums, complete with shops, trails, and a river. Imagine Never-Neverland, only as a resort, and you’re getting pretty close.

Everyone around you is having a good time. Guess what? So are you! Granted, your version of fun may or may not look like that hand-dipped ice cream cone in that child’s hand or taking the riverboat like the guy over there by the dancing fountain (for me, it would be exploring all the trails with friends or family, then finding a bench in a populated corner and alternating between people watching and reading a good book. Of course, having a crafted coffee or tea in hand would be an added plus). Whatever you decide to do, you’re having the time of your life and making pleasant memories that you will have forever.

Oh yeah… and then there’s your room. But don’t worry—that wonderful, comfy bed and the amenities aren’t going anywhere. The desk has your deposit, so they’re not going to give the room to someone else because you’re taking too long. Relax and live in the moment. It won’t last forever (although, seriously… there’s a small part of you that says that you’d be happy even if it does). At some point, you’re going to have to go actively look for your room, but not with the angry, tired attitude you had at the La Quinta. This is with an attitude full of the pleasure you experienced in the atriums, and knowing that the hotel staff isn’t so careless as to let you wander aimlessly. They’ll help you find your room when you’re ready.

When you view singleness as a good thing, that’s exactly what it can be. You find opportunities and learn to appreciate and be invigorated by them. You discover beauty in life (even if it doesn’t look exactly the way you want it to). The temptation to covet someone else’s relationship is easier to conquer. You understand that more good things (hopefully marriage) are yet to come, but you’re not so anxious to get there that you miss here. Plus, when your life is surrendered to the sovereign God of the Bible, you know that He will lead you to your spouse when the time is right.

Sure, it can be tiring or lonely at times, but you know that singleness is good in its own way and there’s more to do. Thing is, this perspective affects the rest of life. It instills contentment, excitement, and how to “consider it pure joy… whenever you face trials of many kinds” (James 1:2, NIV). And those, my friend, are qualities that will carry you through whatever life may throw at you.

November 6, 2017

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The St. Louis Vacation, pt 2: Sleeping Arrangements

After your first full day of vacation, the thing utmost on your mind is probably getting a good night’s sleep. After all, without rest, all you’re going to have is a cranky family with no ability to separate people when they start growling at each other. Although there are many excellent hotels and campgrounds in the St. Louis area, here are four worth noting.

#1: The Cheshire Hotel

For a mix of a “good hotel” feel with British refinement, check out the Cheshire Hotel. It has several types of rooms to choose from, is pet-friendly, and amenities include an outdoor pool, a daily full English breakfast, daily tea service, complimentary chocolates, bicycles for close attractions, and restaurants located in the building.

Better than most places, this hotel understands that traveling can be stressful for kids… and a challenge for mom and dad. Therefore, they offer a few kid-friendly amenities just for the more youthful members of your family. Some, like the hotel-wide scavenger hunt, is meant to keep the kiddos occupied inside by looking for special aspects of this establishment. Others, like the “Royal Kids Club” backpack helps keep them occupied no matter where they are in the city.

#2: 370 Lakeside RV Campground

This 4-star campground is located about thirty minutes from the Gateway Arch, which is a perfect for getting away from it all. Both primitive and RV sites are available. Located on 140 acres, they offer many simple back-to-nature activities, like fishing, hiking, sand volleyball, archery, and watercraft activities. For the guests’ convenience, there is free WIFI throughout the grounds.

#3: Klondike Park

For those who prefer an outdoors experience during their vacations, there’s Klondike Park, which is a tent-only facility (no RV’s, please) with picturesque cabins for those who don’t like sleeping on the ground. Don’t get concerned when the kids complain about not having WIFI in the park, because this park has a ton of amazing features, like biking and hiking trails, fishing, family activities, and nature programs.

#4: Eureka Jellystone Family Resort and Campground

Jellystone Park has multiple attractions. For those who prefer the great outdoors, this facility has a large campground that’s accessible to tents and RV’s alike! Besides the typical fire ring and picnic table, there is free WIFI throughout the grounds. If you’ve always wanted to try camping, but don’t want to invest in all the equipment, this is the place to go. They have permanent tents, complete with air conditioning, and can house up to 6 people! However, if you prefer to enjoy nature from a distance, check out the family resort cabins. But whether you decide to sleep in a cabin or tent, Jellystone Park has the best kid-friendly atmosphere for miles around. Amenities include an outdoor pool, mini golf, video arcade, arts and crafts, and outdoor programs, just to name a few. Altogether, that makes Jellystone the best family-friendly resort in the area.


This post originally appeared on Daring Penguin Travel Blog, published January 10, 2016. It was part of a larger article, 30+ Places to Check Out in St. Louis.

November 3, 2017

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Singleness… A Gift from God?

I think I’m the last person in the world to get into a serious relationship. Seriously. Just this year alone, I’ve attended four or five weddings… and all the brides and grooms were younger than me.

I could go on, but I think you get it. So, give me a sec to snap out of my whining mode and maybe we can actually have a decent conversation about how I believe singleness is intended to be a blessing and a gift from God.

So, why do I think that? First, can we agree on something? If something is good, it’s a gift from God. Yes? … I see that shaking head in the back. Well, here’s the proof text for you: James 1:17 “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” So now, we have to make a bridge from “everything good is a gift from God” to “singleness is good.”

You may be thinking right now, “But it hurts so much! Every time I see someone else’s status change on Facebook, it reminds me of what I don’t have! I feel like I’m sitting around waiting for God to give me the best part of my life! That is… if He’s intending on giving it to me at all.”

You’re probably right on all counts. But before you click the X in rightful indignation, let me explain. Yes, you might be sitting and waiting. Yes, you’re waiting specifically for that special someone. And yes, it’s agonizing to be patient (especially when it seems like none of your other friends have to be). But, what if you could turn that waiting into something beautiful?

See, the key word in my thesis is intended. Singleness is intended to be a blessing and a gift from God. It’s kinda like the parable of the minas. In Luke 19:11-27, Jesus tells a story about a rich man who leaves town to be crowned king of a distant country and invests his wealth in his servants’ business ventures. Each one gets one mina (that’s about $19,660 by today’s standards1,2). Several of the servants do well… one savvy servant even multiplies the investment tenfold! Then there’s the servant who is so frightened that he’ll make a mistake that it makes him lazy. He refuses to be purposeful with the mina given to him, and when his master returns, all hell breaks loose.

The master intended the mina to be a good gift. It was the break his servants desperately needed to get his feet on the ground and make it in the business world! Plus, the reward wasn’t just a pat on the back. The first guy I mentioned—the one who made ten minas from the one—was awarded with a governorship over ten cities in the master’s new kingdom.

Despite the master’s best intentions, the lazy servant decides that it’s not worth it. Maybe he had a history of crippling anxiety. Maybe the responsibility of returning the investment with interest scared the bejebers out of him. Maybe he had great dreams and plans, but never sought—or implicated—training on how to realize them. Maybe his favorite show came on during the city business leaders’ meetings and he didn’t want to get off his keister. Whatever the case was, the master rightfully blamed the lazy servant for not taking initiative to overcome his personal hurdles.

I believe that singleness—especially when the single years stretch five, fifteen, thirty or more years beyond “normal”—is a mina. Yes, it’s painful at times. Occasionally when I see my best friends snuggling with their significant others, I want to curl into a little ball and cry. There are days that I am absolutely furious with God that I’m nearly 29 and no solid Christian guy has actually told me in no uncertain terms that he’s interested.

And then there are the moments—that come more frequently than the bad ones—that I thank God that he has given me this mina, which has proved to be a blessing not only to me but also to those around me. I’m not saying that I’ve come up with ten minas from the one I’ve been given (I’m not sure I’ve multiplied what I’ve been given by two), but I am saying that, as hard as it is, it’s a good and perfect gift, straight from the One who illuminates heaven and earth.

Don’t. Waste. It.

1What is a “Mina”? How much was it worth?

2How Does Your Income Stack Up Against the Average American’s?

October 30, 2017

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5 Great Restaurants in Louisville, KY

The old proverb goes “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food.” Or in other words, “Your body ain’t gonna function long without some vittles!” Although no one can take a trip without eating, many travelers like to know where to get the best tastes while they’re away from home. So, next time you’re in the bluegrass region of Kentucky, check out these restaurants in Louisville.

Joe’s Crab Shack

Joe’s Crab Shack is located on the Louisville Waterfront and is an absolutely beautiful restaurant. It’s decorated to look like a ship, complete with boat-looking floor boards, a picture window overlooking the Ohio River, and enough memorabilia to make any ship captain proud. But that’s only first impressions…the best is yet to come! Once you’re seated, fold your menu and let your mouth water as you peruse the wide variety of appetizers, entrees, and desserts. Whatever you choose, this is a meal you definitely don’t want to miss!

Joe’s Crab Shack is located at 131 River Road.

Nord’s Bakery

This family-owned local favorite is known for its fantastic doughnuts. But don’t forget their pastries, cookies, and cakes! Basically, anything they produce is amazing. Although most patrons will tell you that you need to try the maple bacon long johns, it can be difficult to snag one, unless you plan on going early enough to beat the crowd. To make things better, their prices are reasonable and the atmosphere definitely has the “local corner bakery” vibe. So, whether you’re looking for the perfect place for a mid-morning coffee break or an airy coffee shop to work or read a book, this is where you want to go.

Nord’s Bakery is located at 2118 S Preston Street.

Zoe’s Kitchen

This restaurant is a great place to stop in for some Mediterranean fast food, and has three locations throughout Louisville! The friendly, personable staff is ever willing to assist those who breeze through their door. They also have a wide array of fresh, appealing options. Although you can’t go wrong with any of the soups, kebabs, sandwiches, or salads on the menu, you’ll definitely want to try their to-die-for hummus. Their open and airy seating area is perfect for enjoying the view of the city. To top off the eating experience, lively music fills the restaurant.

Zoe’s Kitchen locations:
500 W Jefferson
3723 Lexington Rd
4126 Summit Plaza Drive

Harvest Kitchen

Harvest Restaurant takes a grassroots spin on the term “farm to table restaurant.” Not only are all the ingredients produced in a 100 mile radius of the place (except coffee), but also the shop is owned by a farmer. This eatery has a warm, country-esque atmosphere, brought on by the streamed bluegrass music, real wood tables, and friendly staff. They serve incredible southern style foods that you will enjoy to every last bite. This locally owned restaurant is a must-visit!

Harvest Restaurant is located at 624 E Market St.


This unique, fine dining experience is located at the apex (literally) of the Galt Hotel in downtown Louisville. What makes it unique? Well, the location for one. Since it’s on the 25th floor of one of the largest buildings in the area, each window (and by the way, all the outside walls are windows) affords you with a different view of the city. However, don’t get too attached to your view because the floor slowly moves, affording you a panoramic view of the area.

The food is also spectacular. They have a fine selection of appetizers, seafood, pastas, and meats. Beyond that, they serve decadent wines and mouth-watering desserts. They are especially known for the Rivue for Two, which is a selection of king crab legs, oysters, and shrimp, with three different types of sauce. This restaurant is the epitome of upper echelon dining, and is well worth the visit.

Rivue is located at 140 N Fourth St, 25th floor.

Whether you live near Louisville, you’re passing through on vacation, or you’re in town for a business trip, there is something here to temp your taste buds. So check out one of these incredible restaurants and figure out for yourself why National Geographic labeled Louisville the #1 food city in the world.


This article was originally published on the Daring Penguin Travel Blog

October 23, 2017

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The St. Louis Vacation, pt. 1: Downtown

Getting ready to go on vacation can be time-consuming and stressful. After you decide which city (or cities) you’re visiting, you’ll need to decide which attractions you want to visit, where to sleep and eat, your vacation budget, and most importantly, how to avoid as much whining and complaining as possible from the backseat of the car. It’s not a job for the faint of heart, especially if you’re going to a lively area like St. Louis.

But that doesn’t mean it can’t be easier. This series of articles seek to outline several activities you can choose from to schedule a full vacation’s worth of memorable activities that your family.

Downtown St. Louis

Ever since St. Louis was founded, the downtown area has been a bustling spot. Although it no longer has a thriving fur trade, like it did in the 1760’s, it is full to overflowing of shops, tourist attractions, and entertainment. This makes it a fantastic place to begin your vacation!

#1: The Gateway Arch

Of course, one of the first places you should visit is St. Louis’ crowning glory, The Gateway Arch, which can easily be described as an architectural masterpiece. Measuring at 630 feet tall, it’s a marvel to behold, especially when the sun glints off the three stainless steel sides. But more spectacular still is seeing St. Louis from the observation deck at the pinnacle of the monument. Unfortunately, due to limited space on the deck, only so many sightseers are allowed up at a time. Therefore, you want to be sure to get your tram ride tickets early, as they often sell out quickly. These tickets can be purchased either at the visitor center, which is located underneath the arch, or at The Old Courthouse.

While you wait, enjoy the shops under the arch and watch the historical orientation videos. One explains how the Arch was constructed and the other explains the evolution of the Greater St. Louis area. Check out the Museum of Westward Expansion, which tells the story of America’s push into the untamed wilds beginning in the pre-Lewis and Clark era through the complete settlement of the “Wild West.” With interactive and lifelike displays, you won’t want to miss stories of Indian raids and daring pioneers, details about how and why different treaties didn’t work, and archaeological discoveries in the local area. This fun museum requires at least two or more hours to explore properly, so plan accordingly!

#2: The Old Courthouse

A corresponding museum to (and within walking distance of) the Gateway Arch is The Old Courthouse. This museum is completely free, and brings history to life by highlighting the Dred and Harriet Scott Case (an African American man and his wife who sued his master for their family’s freedom and won). Although it’s not a very big museum and only takes about an hour to view, it has received hundreds of very positive reviews. Even kids enjoy it!

Besides the fascinating history, this building has been restored to its historic glory. Visitors are awe-struck by its elegance and character, and are especially drawn to the decorative dome and artwork tastefully placed around the premises. Besides, in between looking at murals and displays, you can purchase tickets for the Gateway Arch observation deck and avoid the line at the visitor center!

#3: Tour Busch Stadium

Whether it’s ball season or not, the Cardinals’ home field is always open for guided tours. Enjoy viewing the field from places the public typically isn’t allowed to go, like the radio press box and the Cardinals’ dugout, as well as the Champion’s Club to see the World Series trophies. Once everything is said and done, you even get a discount at the Officials Cardinals Team Store with your ticket stub!

If you decide to take your trip to St. Louis during baseball season, please note that these tours are not offered on home game and special event days, so be sure to call ahead first. Tickets can be purchased online, by phone (314-345-9000), or day-of at the Gate 3 ticket window.

#4: Cardinals Nation

But of course, after a tour of the Stadium, everyone’s sure to be hungry. Head over to Cardinals Nation, a unique restaurant/sports bar with all sorts of toothsome dishes. While you’re there, look through the Cardinals’ Hall of Fame, which has memorabilia from across the ages. You’ll be able to sit in a replica of the radio press box, and hold actual bats used by some of the most famous baseball players on the team. If you consider yourself to be any kind of Cardinals fan or you really like a good burger or quesadilla, you really should check this place out.

#5: Citygarden

Citygarden is another attraction within walking distance of the Arch. It’s filled with all sorts of really cool features like fountains, perfect for wading. And all along the wide sidewalks, there are sculptures, a varied collection that is definitely worth viewing. To make sure you see everything, download the free Citygarden App, which gives you a guided tour via a GPS map.

#6: Downtown Carriage Ride

These 30- or 60-minute relaxing little trips are offered every weather-permitting evening and you don’t even need a reservation! Begin your journey in front of the Gateway Arch, the Spaghetti Factory, or in front of the Hyatt Hotel and see a view of the city from a slower-paced perspective. Take it from someone who can speak from personal experience: your kids will never forget riding in a shimmery coach and driving by stores, sites, and the river with the cool evening breeze blowing gently past their faces.

#7: A Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate Factory Tour

Okay, I want you to think about the first time you watched or read Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Did you wish that you could have been one of the people on the tour? Well, even though it’s not a chocolate factory imagined by Ronald Dahl, the Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate Factory (one chocolate for each child in the founder’s family) does offer tours almost every half hour between 9 AM and 3 PM. This free tour takes you to the factory floor to let you watch professional candy makers form chocolates by hand and even allow you to taste a sampling of the chocolates and candies made there. Then, if you’re interested in more, you can purchase tickets to see the tasting room, where you can receive more chocolate samples! Reservations are not necessary, but close-toed shoes are required in order to take the tour.

#8: The Botanical Garden

The Missouri Botanical Garden is a glorious haven set on 79 acres and functions as a rich, natural habitat for flora and a calming oasis for humans. Featuring an amazing array of domesticated flowering and non-flowering plants alike, this park is a center for scientific advancement. It contains attractions like an archaeological wonder in and of itself, the Climatron, that is a climate-controlled geodesic dome housing a year-round greenhouse for tropic plants (like banana and cacao trees) and some rarer ones like endangered orchids and the double coconut.

#9: The Butterfly House

Also on Botanical Garden grounds is the Butterfly House, a popular attraction that allows visitors to interact with over 60 types of tropical butterflies year-round! These tame, exotic creatures aren’t afraid to land on your arm; nor is it uncommon to watch a butterfly emerge from its cocoon, watch as a caterpillar eats a leaf. You can also go outside to one of the butterfly gardens and observe local butterfly species live out their day.

#10: Go Rock Climbing at The Upper Limits

Although it’s not for everyone, rock climbing at the Upper Limit is a fun activity to do with your whole family. And if you’ve never climbed a rock wall before, that’s not a problem. A staff member will give you a brief orientation on climbing and safety. The goal is simple: get to the ceiling or as close as you possibly can. The better your fancy footwork and upper body strength, the higher you’ll get. The family fee of $45 (or $14 for adults and $12 for kids under 10) is good all day, so you can test abilities over and over!

#11: Go on a Riverboat Cruise

Ever wondered what it was like for Mark Twain and his contemporaries to travel by riverboat? Book a cruise on a riverboat that will take you up and down the Mississippi to find out. These boats will take you back 150 years to a time when river travel by paddle-wheel boats was the way to go. There are a variety of cruises offered: one-hour cruises, dinner cruises for a romantic evening, as well as several specialty cruises.

#12: See a Performance at the Fox Theatre

In today’s day and age of the silver screen, many people forget about the magic of the stage. What would be a better time to enjoy a musical than during your vacation? Head over to the internationally renown Fabulous Fox Theatre. Although it is rather unassuming on the outside, the inside is extremely ornate and feels very much like an old vaudeville stage. Broadway productions only takes up half of the Fox’s performances; the other half of the performances are famous entertainers like Riverdance, PianoGuys, and Andy Cohen & Anderson Cooper. .No matter what you get to see, it’ll be an experience you won’t forget.


This post originally appeared on Daring Penguin Travel Blog, published January 10, 2016. It was part of a larger article, 30+ Places to Check Out in St. Louis.