Rohan is one of our oldest (but really, youngest) hosts on WVT. Harrison has known him since middle school, and I went to college with him at UVA. Even though he moved to St. Louis (“the Lou”) to do his residency in 2012, we never made it out to see him from Champaign. So it should be no surprise that we made visiting him in “The Lou” a priority on WVT!
Though we visited The Lou a few years ago, we never made it to the ultimate of STL tourist destinations: the top of the arch. Our New York Times guidebook said that it was “a must” for any visit to St. Louis, so we got ready for a long wait on a Monday afternoon.
First, you stand outside the arch, waiting to pass through “airport-style” security. Once inside, you buy tickets for a reservation to ride the 40-passenger tram to the top of the arch. While you wait, you can visit the Museum of Westward Expansion.
I didn’t major in Museum Studies, but I’d say that this one kind of sucks. Whoever curated and designed it must have had a vision of how the exhibits would flow, but the layout is very unintuitive to the average waiting-for-the-tram visitor. There are random saddles, stuffed animals, and a conestoga wagon with no explanations, and while there are “Please don’t touch” signs, everything struck me as a relatively un-valued artifact. This is good because children were touching everything.
Rohan excitedly told us about the animatronic displays, but unfortunately, only Red Cloud was feeling well enough to speak to us yesterday. This was a bit unnerving because he only says about a hundred words on a loop. As we walked through the exhibit of peace medals, we just kept hearing him over and over and over.
(If you ever visit Rohan, ask him to do his impression of the animatronic Red Cloud. It’s sort of like C-3PO but with a deeper voice.)
After another long wait (Well, really, three waits…), we got to watch a video about how the shape of the Arch will retain its dignity for a thousand years. Meanwhile, you wait for the tram car.
Then it arrives, and you’re just like…Da Fuq?? There are five seats, but you get to know your capsule-mates quite well on the four-minute ride to the top. Harrison and I are both below average height, and we had to lean forward to avoid hitting out heads on the curved wall. We were surprised that there were not more warnings for people with claustrophobia. The tram rocks slightly to accomodate the curved track on the inside of the arch, so it feels like being inside a washing machine on spin cycle.
Bottom Line: It’s very small.
Once at the top, you get to look through very small windows at Missouri and Illinois. The green-domed building is the old Court House in St. Louis.
You can get an idea of how crowded it is at the top from this picture. With the small windows and cramped space, it’s somewhat reminiscent of being in an airplane.
Each tram ticket was $10, though that includes a $3 entrance fee to the national park facility. (Stupidly, we’d left our annual America the Beautiful pass in the car.) All in all, we’re glad we spent the $20 to go to the top–it was worth the experience of riding in the small tram and looking out the window. It is not, however, something we plan on doing twice.
Once back on solid ground, it was time for a drink. (I say this mostly metaphorically.) We headed to the Annheuser-Busch Brewery for their free tour.
I was interested in the ginormous Clydesdales. Hi, Bruce!
We learned a lot about the brewing process, including that rice is added to the malt.
We also learned about how the brewery survived during Prohibition. Apparently, they made bakers yeast and a “cereal drink” called Bevo. Bevo’s icon was a fox named–surprise!–Bevo!
Annheuser-Busch doesn’t produce Bevo anymore, or, at least, they didn’t talk about it on the tour. It was cool to see the packing facility, though. In fact, I was really impressed with all of the facilities we toured. They were clean and well-lit and in really interesting old buildings with lots of fancy ironwork and decorative carvings.
At the end of the tour, we were taken to the “Hospitality Room” where we could sample two free beers. Unsurprisingly, this is the most hyped portion of the tour. We were expecting beer flight-sized four ounce samples, but no, you get a lot of beer.
Since I think beer tastes like poison, I offered my two samples to Harrison. After his Budweiser and half of my Stella, we were done though.
There were a lot of underage visitors on our brewery tour, so the Hospitality Room also had a free soda fountain and bags of pretzels. Like the children, I was very excited about this. I made a shandy that was about 90% lemonade and 10% Stella. I highly recommend this combination.
We really enjoyed the Annheuser-Busch brewery tour. It’s pretty interesting, and for me to say that, it must be good, right? The tour guides are bright-eyed young people, and they really know their stuff and have good presenting skills. Except for the fact that beer tastes like crap, it was an fun and educational experience.
Our day in St. Louis included a run in Forest Park, a trip to the top of the arch, a brewery tour, and pizza dinner with Dr. Rohan. We’re very proud of this solid visit!
Thanks for the hospitality, Rohan! We’ll see you in August for your ENGAGEMENT PAR-TAY! (Rohan and his fiancée Khushbu are getting married in Fall of 2014, and I am already getting excited for the weeklong celebration. I’m not sure if I’ll be more delighted to eat tasty Indian food or to watch Rohan ride in on a white horse!!!)