Our ARCH-etypical St. Louis trip

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arch-6

I promised last week to tell you more about our spring break St. Louis trip, but then had such a weekend of catching up to do — and the kids are still on spring break through today, too! But better late than never, right? St. Louis was fantastic, and I highly recommend the trip.

crackersugar

St. Louis is about a four hour fifteen minute drive from Chicago’s western suburbs, so we headed down last Saturday, stopping halfway at Cracker Barrel for lunch. (Because that’s what you do on road trips, right?) But really, not a bad drive at all.

tv-boys

We stayed at a hotel with an indoor pool, so Saturday night we just got dinner and hung around there and swam. I think the boys might have been more excited about the unlimited access to Cartoon Network in the hotel room than the actual sightseeing, because their mean mom doesn’t pay for cable at home. 😉

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On Sunday we visited the St. Louis Arch. The area all around it is currently under construction, so if you’re heading to St. Louis anytime soon allow extra time to get there. The Museum of Westward Expansion inside the Arch also turned out to be closed during construction, so we didn’t get a chance to see that.

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You can choose to head up to the top of the Arch in this crazy tiny pod thing — kind of like Mork’s egg — which goes up the inside of one of the legs. Pre-order tickets online or (during construction) at the Old Courthouse a couple of blocks away: It cost $30 for the four of us: $10 per adult; $5 per child.

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Unfortunately Mr. 8 took one look out of the windows at the top and turned out to be terrified of those kind of heights — then he was not too pleased about going back down in the little pod!

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The view, however, was amazing from 630 feet up! See the courthouse in the distance? That’s where we’re headed next…

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We walked through the Old Courthouse, which had just gorgeous architecture and so much history — it served as the site of the Dred Scott court trials, for one! Some of the museum exhibits were also located there temporarily during construction. Definitely spend some time here. After a wander through downtown, a late lunch, and a trip to a big local mall (yes… the mall… MashupDad forgot to pack a swimsuit), we decamped back to the hotel for more swimming + hot tub fun.

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Monday: The St. Louis Zoo! This is a great zoo, and the place really gives Brookfield a run for its money (literally, as it is free.) Free admission, but $15 to park unless you choose from the ample free street parking a little further down.

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And by the way? 72 and brightly sunny surprised me at the end of March, so we might have come out of the zoo a little sunburned. Bad mom!

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We spent the entire day at the zoo, because it was just a gorgeous day with so much to see. Highly recommended if you are also thinking of a trip to St. Louis!

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On Tuesday morning, we packed up and then hit the St. Louis Science Center on the way home. Also free admission, but parking runs $10 (and things like the Planetarium Sky Show or the IMAX cost extra). But for just that $10 parking fee, the four of us were entertained for several hours — and could easily have stayed longer if we weren’t facing that long drive home.

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The Science Center is very well done. It’s sometimes hard to find places that will keep both kids entertained since they’re 4.5 years apart and very different in temperament, but this fit the bill nicely.

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We did, however, end up having to divide and conquer to suit different ages and interests. MashupDad hung out with Junior High Guy doing DNA experiments and such, while I ran around with Mr. 8 digging for fossils and examining scorpions.

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I’d definitely go back! Such a pretty city, and the downtown was not crowded and easy to walk around, with big public parks, horse drawn carriages, and the stadium and convention center both right there if you wanted to take in a game or other event. We also didn’t get a chance to visit the City Museum, which came highly recommended and is on the short list for next time.

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We could easily have spent another couple of days here, but overall I think we packed a lot into a four-day visit (given that good chunks of two of those days were spent driving). It also turned out to be a pretty affordable trip: It amazed me that the Zoo and Science Center had free admission, and all four of went up in the St. Louis Arch for less than it would have cost for one adult and one child to hit the Sears Tower Skydeck. (Admittedly, it’s a little more cramped up at the top of the Arch, lol…)

Have you been to St. Louis? What else should we see on our next trip? :)

Sign up for TravelZoo for discount alerts

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travelzoo

Sign up for TravelZoo for discount alerts — including some close to home. I get their newsletter and right now on their site I see Medieval Times discounts, Lake Michigan sailboat cruise discounts, half off a weekend pass to Randolph Street Market and more. Just put “Chicago” in as your destination to see what you can spy.

Southwest Sale — Big airfare sale 2014

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southwestairsale

Thanks to feelgood for sharing this one: The Big Southwest Sale is back, where you can get one-way airfare as low as $49, depending on destination.

For 72 hours only, we’re lowering fares on fall travel and offering some of the best deals you’ll see all year. So if you’ve been waiting to book a fall trip, hurry and do it now before someone else snags your seat.

Sale fares this low don’t come around often, so hurry and book before they’re gone! Book by June 5 for travel August 25 through December 17, 2014. See complete terms, conditions, and exclusions below.

Already purchased a ticket for these travel dates and want to check for a lower fare? Visit change air reservation at southwest.com®.

So if you’re planning on fall travel this year, check it out!

Trivago — Hotel price comparison tool

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This looks kind of useful: You can use the Trivago hotel search to search hotel rates and deals across multiple websites to help you find the best rate. I just use this to check the prices at the resort where my brother’s wedding will be later this summer, and am glad we’re getting the wedding block rate — it’s not cheap, but the regular rate is yikes, lol.

Orbitz — 15% off hotel stays through 6/1

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orbitz

It’s a 48 hour hotel sale on Orbitz through 12 PM Central on Wed.! Plus, use code GETHAPPY through June 1 to save another 15% on participating hotel stays. Read the fine print though — “most major chains are excluded.” Hmm.

Fine print

Book a qualifying hotel between May 1, 2014 12:01AM CST and June 1, 2014 11:59PM CST, for 1 or more nights for travel between May 1, 2014 and November 15, 2014, via Orbitz and instantly receive 15% off through the use of the promotion code. Limit one discount per hotel room and one promotion code per booking. Discount may not be used toward the booking of a vacation package. Discounts are not redeemable for cash for any reason. Promotion codes are non-transferable, not for resale, and cannot be combined with other offers. Any attempt at fraud will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Void where prohibited, taxed or restricted. Orbitz reserves the right to change or limit the promotion in its sole discretion. Most major chains are excluded, to find participating hotels look for the “PROMO CODE ELIGIBLE” message.

Waterpark deals roundup February 2014

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Let’s get away! Here’s a roundup of a few current waterpark deals on the daily deal sites. If you are planning on using one of these for spring break, check blackout dates. Also note that taxes and resort fees are generally extra.

timber

Here’s a Timber Ridge Lake Geneva waterpark deal on Groupon — starting at $99 a night (+ fees). Dates run into May, but there are blackout dates, so see if it will work for you…

  • Stay for up to five in a one-bedroom suite with four daily water-park passes or stay for up to seven in a two-bedroom suite with six daily water-park passes
  • Half off lift tickets 3/21-3/31/14 (weather permitting)
  • Dates into May

atlantis

Dells deal at the Atlantis Waterpark! Rates starting at $59 a night (plus fees), with dates into May. Although their own waterpark is smaller, you get access to BOTH the on site water park AND passes to Chula Vista, just five miles away.

It’s likely that Wisconsin Dells has more water slides per capita than any other spot on the planet. The area’s multitude of water parks includes more than 20 indoor facilities that stay open all year round. Just a few miles south of town, you can splash around in one such park at the Atlantis Waterpark Hotel. The onsite Aqua Kingdom is equipped with two 40-foot-long tunnel slides as well as gentle spray features that are perfect for younger kids. You can also soak in the whirlpool or perfect your backstroke in the lap pool.

Your stay includes free passes to the massive Chula Vista water park, located 5 miles away. Here you’ll enjoy 80,000 square feet of indoor attractions, including a high-speed water coaster, a languid tropical river, and a Mayan temple with an enormous tipping bucket.

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And here is another Dells deal at Great Wolf Lodge, starting at $159 a night on AmazonLocal!

  • $159 ($255 value) for Sunday through Thursday check-in: one-night stay for up to six guests in a Family Fireplace Suite or Lone Wolf Condo
  • $209 ($324 value) for Friday check-in: one-night stay for up to six guests in a Family Fireplace Suite or Lone Wolf Condo
  • Includes six waterpark wristbands and $25 resort credit

bestwestern

Here’s another Dells deal at the Best Western Ambassador Inn & Suites starting at just $59 a night. This hotel does NOT have its own water park, but the deal comes with passes to the nearby Chula Vista resort.

The newly remodeled Best Western Ambassador Inn & Suites is located just off I-90 and I-94, providing a convenient landing pad for adventures in and around Wisconsin Dells. With complimentary breakfast, included passes to a nearby indoor water park, and a 24-hour casino shuttle, this Best Western makes for a fun Dells vacation even when it’s cold out. Spacious rooms, an attached 24-hour restaurant, and a large (and extra-warm) indoor pool round out the amenities.

  • Indoor water-park passes let guests splash through 80,000 square feet of slides, water coasters, and a lazy river at the nearby Chula Vista Resort.
  • Classic Dells attractions such as Ripley’s Believe It or Not and Jeremy Allen’s Grand Illusions are within a mile of the hotel.
  • Moons Over My Hammy and other casual fare is available at the onsite 24-hour Denny’s, and a continental breakfast with oatmeal, waffles, fruit, yogurt, juices, milk, and coffee is also available.

maui

Ranging a little further from Chicagoland, here’s a deal at the Maui Sands Resort & Indoor Waterpark in Sandusky, OH starting at $168 a night.

  • Stay for up to six in a Cabana Hana suite or Hana suite
  • Six water-park passes
  • One family dinner complete with two-topping pizza, pasta, dessert, and six soft drinks
  • Dates into April

kingspointe

Or head to the King’s Pointe Waterpark Resort in Storm Lake, IA, starting at $99 a night. Use code 2014FEB20 through today 2/23 to drop that to just $79.20!

  • A One-Night Stay for Up to Four Guests in a Standard Double Queen Room with City View, Fridays or Saturdays, without Breakfast for Four ($99) or with Breakfast for Four ($109)
  • Or, a Two-Night Stay for Up to Four Guests in a Standard Double Queen Room with City View, Fridays and Saturdays, with Breakfast for Four and Four Movie Tickets ($219)
  • Combine Up to Two One-Night Vouchers to Extend Your Stay

Escape the cold and make a splash at this 20,000-square-foot indoor water park, featuring slides, a lazy river, and more.