United States

Fun in the Valley of the Sun! We headed out west for some outdoor fun on Spring Break. When we first arrived in Arizona, we stayed in Phoenix for a few days.

Lost Dutchman State Park

While we were in Phoenix, our goal was to be outside as much as possible. First on the list was the Lost Dutchman State Park. My boys and I love hiking. The Superstition Mountains were highly recommended for having scenic views and being kid-friendly. There is an entrance fee of $7 and a map is provided upon arrival. The park has many hiking trails that cut through the spectacular views of the Sonoran Desert landscape. We decided on the Treasure Loop Trail, but it was more challenging and advanced than we had expected.

Take a pic of map

Logan’s tip: When hiking, take a photo on your phone of the map. I cannot tell you how many times we had to reference it. The last thing you want is to get off on the wrong trail with little hikers.

Suspicious mountains
Logan photos

Mom’s tip: Remember to always bring a First Aid Kit when you’re hiking with kids! Both of my boys wiped out on this trail. Thank goodness for the good Samaritans we met along the way. Also, be sure to bring plenty of snacks and water. Don’t forget sunscreen! All that being said, the trail was very beautiful and provided great views of the scenic Superstition Mountains.

Suspicious Mountains

Goldfield Ghost Town

Goldfield Ghost town
Goldfield Ghost town

We also visited the Goldfield Ghost Town, which is just minutes from the
Superstition Mountains. Built in 1893, this old mining town is a must destination for any kids interested in westerns. There are all kinds of shops and restaurants to explore, including a museum and a train ride. In its hay day, the town had three saloons, a brewery, a general store, a blacksmith, a boarding house, a school, and a meat market. Visitors can get a feel of what life was like in a boomtown in the wild west. Another fun thing this destination features is a live reenactment of gun fights, just like an old Western.

Desert Breeze Park

In Chandler, we visited Desert Breeze Park, which was near our Drury Hotel. This park has a lake with ducks, bathrooms, picnic tables, shaded pavilions, a huge playground, and even a little train that goes around the park that you can purchase tickets for. The kids had tons of fun running around here, getting all of their energy out. It was a great last stop.

Other Recommendations in the Phoenix Area

A couple of other places that were highly recommended in the Phoenix area that we didn’t get to visit were:

  • Odysea Aquarium
  • The Cactus League – If you are a baseball fan, you may want to check out spring training baseball games. We met tons of families checking out their favorite teams at spring training.

Drury Inn & Suites

Drury Chandler AZ

When we were in Phoenix, we stayed at Drury Inn & Suites in a friendly suburb in Chandler. As always, they have all the perks we are looking for when traveling with the family and looking to maximize our vacation budget. Free, hot, delicious breakfast before setting out every morning is a great bonus that they provide. They have pretty much every breakfast item under the sun, but Mason’s favorite is by far the lucky charms and powdered donuts!

Drury breakfast

They also offer the crowd pleaser Kickback Hour every night from 5:30 to 7 PM, which includes three free drinks for adults and tons of snacks, such as hot dogs, nachos, tacos, and more. For my family, the snacks are more like a meal and provide a cheap but tasty alternative to going out to a restaurant every night for dinner.

The hotel also has free Wi-Fi for all of your vacation needs, like downloading movies or audiobooks for the plane ride. Plus, their suites are the perfect way for my family to travel because you can close the doors of the separate bedrooms when it’s time for the kids’ bedtime.

Our next stop is Flagstaff, my personal favorite of the trip.  Stay tuned!


When it’s cold and dreary outside, all I want to do is pack my bags and head south. I think to get through the winter months we all need a little something to look forward to from time to time. To get out of this slump, this past long weekend, the boys, grandma and I hopped in the car and headed for Memphis, Tennessee. It was also my mom’s birthday weekend, and given that she went to business school in Memphis, we decided to surprise her with a little trip to a city that holds a special place in her heart.

We had an absolute blast exploring all the things Memphis had to offer. For any STL mom looking for a little vacation to a vibrant city full of kid-friendly haunts, good eats, and is only a short road trip away, then Memphis is a perfect weekend getaway.

I love Memphis
(more…)

There’s no better way to unwind and recharge than with a massage at Massage Envy at Webster Rock Hill. What you may not know is that Massage Envy also offers an array of services dedicated to total body health such as stretches, facials,  skincare products, and peels. What’s more is that Massage Envy features affordable prices and high quality service, so you always know you’re getting the best treatment. Their services are perfect for the busy mom looking for a refresh and a little pampering. I wanted to share with you a few tidbits you might not know about Massage Envy–and reasons why I love them!

  • The  Hydrafacial.   This is not your typical facial,  It is a multi-step process to rehydrate the skin.  The final step of this facial your skin becomes infused with ultra-hydrating serums.  If you’re planning on attending an event like a wedding, reunion, or special occasion it’ll have your skin looking and feeling its best.  J.Lo gets this facial.
Massage Envy Hydrafacial
  • Total body Stretch. Before I recently ran in a 5K, I decided to give it a try and was so happy that I did! They helped me stretch from head to toe.  I felt amazing afterward. The experts work with a large number of athletes, older clients, runners, golfers, etc. so I knew I was in the right hands.
Massage Envy Stretch
  • Customized facial. Taking care of your skin is important to feel radiant and rejuvenated. My favorite is the relaxing hand and arm massage that comes with it!
Massage Envy Facial
  • HSA Accounts: If you choose to get a Massage Envy membership, most HSA Accounts will allow you to pay for your body/skin services. Double check with your specific plan first, but what a deal!
Massage Envy HSA
  • Massage Envy offers Murad Skin care products. After your facial, your esthetician can consult you on a skin care treatment regime. All the products were created by a dermatologist and are customizable for your skin. I have a combo for anti-aging and adult acne.   
Massage Envy Murad Skincare
  • You can book appointments anytime, day or night through their app. Sometimes I get the urge in the early morning hours when I’m tired and groggy that I’m in need of some total body care. The app makes it easy to book or cancel your services anytime you want.
  • Peels. I love taking care of my skin, so once I was confident in Massage Envy’s skin care services, I decided I wanted to take action with my adult acne as well as promote anti-aging. After a consultation and some hand holding, I tried my first peel. The results were amazing! Afterwards, they sent me home with a post peel kit which featured products to enhance the service.
  • As I mentioned before, the services at Massage Envy are super affordable. Where else can you get your first facial or massage for just $50?  I’m all about maximizing my budget and I have loved all the services and results I have gotten from ME.
Massage Envy
  • Lastly, I will always give my business to places where the people are friendly, welcoming, and experts of their craft. Massage Envy has always made me feel welcome and relaxed.

Check out the photos from our fun event Massage Envy put together! All the attendees got to try out mini services and went home with SWAG from these great local businesses. If you are thinking about total body health services, check out Massage Envy in Rock Hill.  Use the code SarahOutandAbout for free enhancements to any service. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. 🙂

Last year was filled with road trips for my family.  I have set a goal to get my boys to all 50 states by the time they graduate high school so we hit the road and created loads of family memories doing it.  

My parents were avid travelers so I learned at an early age there is so much to explore in this beautiful country and I want my boys to experience that as well.  One of my biggest passions is traveling and I am thrilled to share all the places we would recommend with you is to hopefully make your travel planning process easier.  

Here are the most popular travel destinations from last year.  Click the link below each pic for all the scoop on where we stayed, what we did and where we ate.  

Nashville mural
Nashville
Gulf Shores
Mobile AL
Gulf Shores, AL
Branson Road Trip with Kids #notyourgrandmasBranson! #
Branson, MO
Cape Girardeau MO
Cape Girardeau, MO
STL Staycation at the Ameristar
St. Charles, MO
St Louis Arch
St. Louis Arch Staycation
Echo Bluff
Echo Bluff
Echo Bluff State Park
Kozy Kaboose
Kozy Caboose, Eureka, MO
St Charles Christmas Traditions
St. Charles, Holiday Staycation

We had so much fun on all these trips. I want these trip posts to be a valuable resource for you because I know the time it takes to plan a vacation. Please let me know anything else you would like to see that would be helpful. I’d love to know where your traveling to this year.

XOXO Sarah~

Mom to Mom:  Coach Gayle WhyPowered Coaching

Tell us about your background.

I’ve worked as a certified whole health coach and personal fitness trainer for four years. I’m a native St. Louisan (Parkway North, lol) but lived elsewhere for 15 years (Italy, Austria, Boston, Boulder, and Seattle). I’ve been back in the Lou for 5 years now and have one son who I gave birth to in Italy.  

I founded WhyPowered Whole Health Coaching to help women struggling to maintain a healthy weight by offering personalized support and accountability for making lifestyle and mindset shifts toward healthier living. I coach individuals and groups for finding their personal ‘whys’ for eating cleaner, exercising regularly and proactively managing stress. No gimmicks or quick fixes; just real and lasting change.    

Social handles:  

IG:WhyPoweredCoaching

FB:facebook.com/WhyPoweredCoaching/

Email:Gayle@WhyPoweredCoaching.com

Coaching questions:

What made you want to be a health coach?  

I’ve been passionate about health most of my life, but in my early 20s, I was carried an extra 20 pounds and felt miserable. I smoked and drank and just couldn’t seem to get untangled from it. Once I did, everything shifted positively.   

What type of person would benefit from working with a health coach?  

Anyone who has moved past the diet quick-fix mentality of weight loss.  

What created your passion in a healthy lifestyle?  

Personally moving out of an unhealthy and stuck place and having life open up as a result.    

What is your favorite thing about coaching?  

The positive life-changing impact it offers, especially for those who’ve struggled for years to find peace with food and for shifting to healthy lifestyles habits. 

What is your biggest challenge?  

Not enough hours in a day.  

Advice you would give someone wanting to make healthy changes in their life?  

Don’t go it alone.  Working with an accountability partner makes a huge difference—whether  with a professional coach, a friend, colleague or family member, when you have support systems to keep you in-check and cheer you on and help you right yourself when you get off-track, you’ll go farther than you would going it alone. 

What are healthy qualities you try and role model for your son?  

Moderation in all things– except love.  

What are some kid friendly healthy snacks you’d recommend for kids? 

Sliced apples coated with lemon juice (to prevent browning) and cinnamon

Fresh sugar snap peas

What are the best ways to keep kids active if they don’t play sports?  

Being outside in nature is fantastic, whether hiking or flying a kite or riding a scooter or a bike.  

What would you tell your younger self? 

Dream big and always invest in yourself.  

Advice you’d give to other working moms to maintain a healthy lifestyle?

Keep your self-care and well-being high on your priority list. It’s not selfish—it’s vital.  When your ‘cup’ is full, you have so much more to give. 

Personal:

What is your guilty pleasure? 

Dark chocolate (70% or greater for the antioxidants)

Favorite beauty tip?

Exercise—it’s the number one way to control how you age.

Favorite beauty product?

Moisturizer with sunscreen (and smiling!)

What is one thing you cannot go to bed without doing?

For stress-management I prioritize a practice of nightly gratitudes. In a bedside notebook, I record 2-3 things that either made me smile that day or generally I feel grateful for. It’s had a profound impact on my ability to see the silver lining in challenging times and keep my optimism meter set on high.  

Best place in the world you have been?  Bucket List travel spot?

Tuscany.  I lived in northern Italy for 4 years, so I was blessed with being able to spend quite a bit of time there.  It’s dreamy– especially the food!

Bucket list travel destination is…

Too many to list.  I’ve experienced lots of Europe, but never Asia or Africa, so somewhere on those continents.  

Favorite App 

SworkIt 

Anything else you want people to know? 

Diets don’t work.  The industry has 95% failure rate. Learn to trust your body and yourself.     

The Grinch at Stifel Theatre

One of my favorite parts of the holiday season is making lasting memories my boys will remember forever. We love Christmas, and everything that comes with it, so it’s the perfect time to have some festive fun. Seeing Santa Claus is always a fan favorite, but who could forget our most lovable green Christmas villain, the Grinch! This year, I surprised my boys by taking them to Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical at Stifel Theatre in downtown St. Louis for a special holiday night.  The show was magical. Logan loved the Grinch and all his funny antics.   Mason thought Cindy Lou Who was pretty and I loved watching the excitement on my boys faces.  

Logan and Mason love the Grinch, and I loved dropping little hints that we were finally going to see him. They saw the commercials on TV for the musical, and kept asking me if we could go, so I decided to have some fun and build the excitement. I went for whipping up some delicious green Grinch themed smoothies for breakfast, that they not only loved but were also a super healthy way to start our mornings. We also made Grinch themed cookies, which were dark chocolate and mint. They were seriously tasty. When the night finally arrived, I couldn’t wait to tell them the big news that we were finally going to see one of their favorite Christmas characters on stage. They were so excited!

Grinch theme breakfast smoothies

I wanted to include some helpful tips below, in case you and your family decide to pay the Grinch a visit this holiday season. Tickets are still available. Not only is it a great way to spend a night out on the town (who doesn’t love going to the theater), but also a great Christmas memory to make with you and your loved ones. The show was so fun!

  • The show runs for four days, starting the night of December 13th.
  • If you purchase your tickets at the box office you save money on the added fees.  
  • For most shows, Abram’s Garage offers parking passes for purchase, which is right next door to the Stifel Theatre.
  • If you don’t pay for advanced parking, there is also parking available for $10-$20 at the Kiel Center Garage (owned and operated by the city of St. Louis) which is attached to the Enterprise Center. If you take the back exit, it leads straight to the venue.
  • I suggest coming early! The doors open one hour before the start of the show.  There are fun photo opps.  
  • If you need ADA tickets, give the Box Office a call. The staff at Stifel is happy to accommodate you.
    • A sign language interpreter may be requested through the Box Office.
    • For select shows, Stifel partners with MindsEye to provide audio description for those who are visually impaired.
  • Booster seats are also available for your littler ones. Ushers will provide them upon request.
  • This show does not have an intermission.  

So those are my tips to make the most out of your visit to Stifel! I’d love to hear about your experience seeing the Grinch, and as always, Happy Holidays! Tickets are still available here.  

Photo courtesy of Stifel theatre

To check out our holiday posts click here and here.   

Holiday Staycation

This holiday season, the boys, grandma and I took a holiday staycation in St. Charles! Every year the city holds the St. Charles Christmas Traditions featuring tons of festive events for the whole family. It’s a great way to reconnect with loved ones and take a break from the distractions of daily life. And you don’t need to take a plane or train to get there! I wanted to share with you some of our favorite events we attended, where we stayed, and a few of my favorite places to shop downtown; all in time for this holiday season.

What we did

 The St. Charles Christmas Traditions filled with all sorts of fun events such as parades, caroling, Christmas characters, and card collecting and more!

St Charles Christmas Traditions

After we got all settled and checked into the Drury, we decided to take the trolley that night into the downtown area to catch some fun holiday festivities. We used the Ride Saint Charles app to find out the trolley route and times which show you when the trolley will be in your area. It was free and best of all we didn’t have to park.

When we got onto Main Street in the downtown area, I felt like I had stepped straight into a Hallmark Christmas movie! Everything was so festive and jolly, with carolers, music, lights, decorations and even Christmas characters. They had Santas and Magical Legends of Christmas, who were in character all over Main Street. They give you a brief background of who they are, and even carry around cards with their name and a little picture of themselves, with a description on the back so you can remember them! Some of them were jokesters and others seemed to take a page straight from Ebenezer Scrooge himself. My boys got really into meeting and talking to all of them, especially the Christmas Angel who was Logan’s favorite.

St Charles Christmas Traditions

Another great event that everyone from 1 to 92 will get a kick out of is the Santa Parade! Every Saturday and Sunday during the festival, the Santa Parade rolls on down Main Street with music, floats, and even international Santas. The grand finale features Santa and Mrs. Claus riding in their horse-drawn carriage. The Ice Block Party is also a fun way to end the day with a bang. It starts every Friday and Saturday at 6:30 p.m.

St Charles Christmas Traditions

After strolling around for a bit, we took a horse-drawn carriage ride through the streets to take in all the holiday cheer.  

The horse-drawn carriages are parked along the street.  You can take a short or long ride and they are equipped with cozy blankets to keep you warm.  We could not resist this cute horse.  I mean look at the glitter hoofs.

St Charles Christmas Traditions

St Charles Christmas Traditions

My Favorite Places to Shop on Main Street

No visit to the historic downtown area of St. Charles is complete without a little shopping! I love perusing the locally owned stores that line the brick streets for gifts and goods you really can’t find anywhere else.

Grandma’s Cookies

If you’re in need of a quick and delicious pick-me-up, make sure to stop by Grandma’s cookies. They have a holiday special:  Cookie and Cocoa for $2.00. With classic flavors like chocolate chip, sugar sprinkle, snickerdoodle, and coconut, Grandma’s cookies is sure to please all sweet tooths in your family. Not to mention the cute little location the bakery calls home is the same building where all the cookie magic started in 1976 with the Grandma herself, Charlotte Thompson.

Bathhouse Soapery and Caldarium

Get ready to treat your nose, because Bathhouse Soapery and Caldarium has soaps and bath products that smell good enough to eat. Spiced cranberry bar soaps, pumpkin spice latte bath bombs and apple mint oatmeal sugar scrub are just some of the indulgent creations this one of a kind soap shop whips up. They also make for great gifts!  My favorite-The bath bombs.  

Happy Camper

This shop makes me happy.  It’s the only shop you need for the best graphic T’s.  My current favorite T-shirt says Hallmark Movies and Christmas Cookies!  Yessss. They have loads of cute T’s for adults and kids.

Main Street Books

This cute little red brick building is every book lover’s dream. Stop by for a new book or a gift for your loved ones. The shop also has unique greeting cards, children’s toys, journals and more. Sometimes, just getting lost in the bookshelves the perfect way to spend an afternoon.

Candle Fusion

If you are looking for a fun hands-on activity you can create your own candle at Candle Fusion.  They have over 100 different scents to choose from and you create your candle from beginning to end.  This would be the perfect girls night or fun to do with kids to create the perfect gift for someone special.

Holiday Lights

If you’re in the area of St. Charles, O’Fallon isn’t a far drive away and worth visiting for its “Celebration of Lights,” which you can experience from the comfort of your own car. The event is held at Fort Zumwalt Park and runs from Thursday to Sunday 6-9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 6-10 p.m. You can also make your visit a little more special by reserving a horse-drawn wagonette, a train, or a sleigh hayride!

We decided to drive around and catch some holiday light displays in the area! To limit our time trying to find houses all over the area, we used the website, Holiday Light Hopping, which lists an easy to use guide of all the best home light displays. 

Bass Pro Shop

If you’re in the area of St. Charles, a visit to Bass Pro Shop is a free fun indoor spot for kids. My boys love to come here for Santa’s Wonderland.  There are tons of fun activities for the kids inside the store like video games, kids shooting range, write a letter to Santa, play with remote control trucks, and even Santa photos for free.  

When you arrive you’ll get a pass for a specific time to see Santa.

Bass Pro St Charles

Where we ate

Looking for a pizza joint that offers delicious pies while also being completely customizable? Then Pieology is your new favorite spot! This week, the boys and I headed over to Pieology to try a slice (or a few) from the restaurant’s six new crusts. Not only were they super yummy, but we also got to choose exactly what we wanted. With tons of choices and individual sized pizzas, there’s a little something for everyone at this not your average pizzeria.

Pieology recently released six new premium crusts that you can choose from when building your pizza. The menu features Artisan Thin, Artisan Thin Hearty Wheat, PieRise® Thick, Hand-Crafted Deep Dish, Cauliflower Crust and Gluten Free. I ordered my boys the Cauliflower Crust as a base for their cheese pizza, and they absolutely loved it! They ate every bite and had no clue they were eating something good for them. I’d call that a win. I tried the Hand-Crafted Deep Dish and the Artisan Thin Hearty Wheat which were both delicious.

Pieology lets you create any type of pizza you want, but if you get a little overwhelmed with all the choices like I sometimes do, the menu also has Chef Inspired Pizza. One of the most popular choices on the menu is the “Butcher’s Choice” which features house red sauce, pepperoni, sausage, meatball, mozzarella and olive oil blend. The other favorite is the Margherita Da Vinci, which is a classic margherita pizza. The restaurant also has delicious salads, such as the Elevated Caesar, and the Classic Italian, and even beer and wine for the adults in the family.

Pieology

Another great feature that Pieology offers is their app, “Pieology Pie Life Rewards,” which makes it super easy to order and pick up your pizza. Although you can’t get delivery through the app, you can still order Pieology pizza using Grub Hub or Door Dash. With the restaurant’s app, you can easily customize your pizza any way you want just like in the restaurant, and it even has loyalty reward points and exclusive offers for an added bonus. You can pay through the app, and every 100 points earned is a free pizza!

App_Pizza_image 2

Pieology is perfect for kids, family friendly and in a great location in the streets of St. Charles. They also hold great fundraisers for organizations raising money for a charitable cause. It’s great food, with a great message. Give Pieology a visit today!

Where We Stayed

For our holiday weekend, we stayed at the Drury Plaza Hotel St. Louis St. Charles. It’s fun meets convenient! TripAdvisor lists the Drury as excellent, and it’s not hard to see why with amazing amenities to make your stay comfortable and completely stress-free.  This hotel is modern and new and is the only Drury with a mini convenience store

Drury St Charles

The boys loved the indoor/outdoor pool, and I loved hitting the jacuzzi after a long day spent out in the cold. But what was definitely an added bonus was our suite. Comfortable and roomy, the suite had a private bedroom separated by a door so the kids go could go to bed early and I can stay up binge watching Christmas movies.

Drury indoor outdoor pool

The free, hot (and delicious) breakfast the Drury features is sure to please even the pickiest eater in the family. With biscuits and gravy, scrambled eggs, oatmeal, Belgian waffles, sausage, fresh fruit, coffee and more, it’s the perfect way to start your day before heading into town.

Drury hot breakfast

In addition to the breakfast, what really sets the Drury apart from other hotels is their free “Kickback” hour. Yep, free food and drinks! Starting every day at 5:30 and running to 7, the hotel offers 3 free drinks per adult and yummy “snacks.” The snacks include chili, baked potato, hot dogs, and nachos as well as their main dish of the night which varies from chicken, tacos, or pasta. It’s perfect for kids (and adults) who want a little bit of everything without the formal setting or expenses of a sit-down restaurant.

Drury kickback hour

This hotel is just minutes from downtown St. Charles and is walking distance to the free trolley service that shuttles you into town for all of the holiday events. (No parking hassles-yeah)

So gear up for the holidays and create some long-lasting memories by visiting all the festivities in St. Charles! It’s a close to home holiday adventure, perfect for your family this Christmas.  We have posted more of our favorite St Louis metro holiday traditions here.  

If you are in St Charles check out my adult Ameristar staycation post too.

Have you been before?  Tell me your favorite Christmas tradition.

**  Thank you to all the businesses we partnered with to bring you this story.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.

The Ultimate holiday events for kids in St. Louis

The Garden Glow, Botanical Gardens

“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas” at the Missouri Botanical Gardens! This year, create some new family traditions at “Garden Glow,” which runs from November 17th to January 1st, and is a perfect way to see the beautiful gardens in a new light…over one million lights to be exact!

This year the boys and I met up with some friends to walk around the botanical garden and take in all of the beautiful lights and displays, sip some holiday drinks, listen to some music and get some always appreciated fresh air and exercise. New to the event this year is a huge 24-foot pixelated tree and flower xylophones kids can play that change color with the beat. 

Garden Glow Garden GlowYou can also step inside a huge snow globe and have a visit with Santa, who comes to the garden Monday to Thursday nights.

Garden Glow snow globe

Garden Glow Garden Glow

If your kids are a little nervous around Santa they have a book they can write their wish in.  It looks like Logan is wishing for a hamster this year.  (OMG) 

Garden Glow Garden Glow

Garden Glow is mostly outdoors, so make sure to bundle up if the forecast is chilly! The walk itself is only around a mile, so it’s perfect for kids who tire out easily. The event also allows strollers and wagons for moms with littler ones in tow.  (I was wishing I had this after Mason started whining his legs hurt).   

This year, the general admission also includes the Gardenland Express Holiday Flower and Train show, which features G-scale trains of all different styles weaving around holiday landscapes and thousands of fresh plants and flowers. “Garden Glow” also features family night every Wednesday from November 21st to December 12th, where tickets for the kids are only $3!  

Garden Glow Garden Glow

If you need to warm up check out the Victorian Christmas at the Tower Grove House with our admission. All decked out in Victorian style with plant decorations, Henry Shaw’s country home was a beautiful addition to our night.

We all had such a fun time at “Garden Glow” this year, strolling around to see the light displays and spending some much needed time outdoors. If you’re looking for a fun new tradition to add to your holidays, make this your next family night out!

Garden Glow

Christmas Traditions, St Charles

The St. Charles Christmas Traditions filled with all sorts of fun events such as parades, caroling, Christmas characters, and card collecting and more!

St Charles Christmas Traditions

After we got all settled and checked into the Drury, we decided to take the trolley that night into the downtown area to catch some fun holiday festivities. We used the Ride Saint Charles app to find out the trolley route and times which show you when the trolley will be in your area. It was free and best of all we didn’t have to park.

When we got onto Main Street in the downtown area, I felt like I had stepped straight into a Hallmark Christmas movie! Everything was so festive and jolly, with carolers, music, lights, decorations and even Christmas characters. They had Santas and Magical Legends of Christmas, who were in character all over Main Street. They give you a brief background of who they are, and even carry around cards with their name and a little picture of themselves, with a description on the back so you can remember them! Some of them were jokesters and others seemed to take a page straight from Ebenezer Scrooge himself. My boys got really into meeting and talking to all of them, especially the Christmas Angel who was Logan’s favorite.

St Charles Christmas Traditions

Another great event that everyone from 1 to 92 will get a kick out of is the Santa Parade! Every Saturday and Sunday during the festival, the Santa Parade rolls on down Main Street with music, floats, and even international Santas. The grand finale features Santa and Mrs. Claus riding in their horse-drawn carriage. The Ice Block Party is also a fun way to end the day with a bang. It starts every Friday and Saturday at 6:30 p.m.

St Charles Christmas Traditions

After strolling around for a bit, we took a horse-drawn carriage ride through the streets to take in all the holiday cheer.

The horse-drawn carriages are parked along the street.  You can take a short or long ride and they are equipped with cozy blankets to keep you warm.  We could not resist this cute horse.  I mean look at the glitter hoofs.

St Charles Christmas Traditions

St Charles Christmas Traditions

To see our entire St Charles staycation holiday post check it out here.

The Polar Express

All aboard the Polar Express! This holiday season, spend a festive night with your family riding St. Louis Union Station’s very own Polar Express. It’s the perfect way to get into the holiday spirit with Christmas carols, hot cocoa, yummy treats, a reading of Polar Express, and even a visit from Kris Kringle himself! Kids and adults can wear pajamas if they would like, but don’t sweat it if you don’t want to. The dress code isn’t a big deal! All in all, we had the best time and my kids loved every minute of it.

Polar Express

We booked our tickets for the train ride through Xplorcity.com under their events tab. When we arrived, we parked near the main entrance, which is across from where the old Hard Rock Café was located. There we picked up our tickets and our wristbands and were ushered to a tent area to wait for the train. They tell you to arrive at least an hour before your train departs, but don’t worry because there are plenty of fun little activities for the kids. Coloring pages, build a bear, and cute photo opportunities are just some of the things we enjoyed while waiting. There aren’t a ton of bathroom options so make sure the kids make use of the deluxe porta-potty before boarding the train!

When it was time to board, we were lined up according to what car we booked as they put on a little production. Then, we climbed aboard and found colossal sized cookies waiting in each of our assigned seats! My kids were so excited to eat them. And no cookie is complete without a cup of delicious hot cocoa which was then served to everyone as the train left the station. Just like the book, chef characters came out to greet us to make sure everyone got a cup. It was great because the hot cocoa was the perfect temperature for the kids so they didn’t burn their mouths.

Polar Express

After they came around and punched our tickets just like the story, the characters read aloud the The Polar Express and walked up and down the aisles with large books so the kids could see the illustrations. And before we knew it, we were at the “North Pole!” Outside we saw a fun little light display and then Santa himself!

You don’t get off at the “North Pole” stop, but that doesn’t mean a certain someone doesn’t get on. Santa Claus came aboard the train and made his way around to every kid to give them a little gift (as well as making sure everyone was on the nice list). He asked Mason if he was eating all his vegetables and Logan if he was picking up all his toys! The kids went nuts seeing Santa, and it also reminded them to get their act together in time for Christmas presents!

Polar Express

I highly recommend The Polar Express Train Ride to anyone wanting to experience a little Christmas magic this year. My kids were dancing in the aisles, screaming for Santa, and fa-la-la-ing the whole ride! It’s a perfect way to switch into Christmas time mode for the whole family.  Stay tuned for St Louis event holiday updates.  

**Thank you Xplor for hosting us at this fun event.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.

The Grinch at Stifel Theatre

So, I have this thing with wall murals. I drive around the city during the work day and love stumbling upon big, bright and colorful works of art. There are so many unique murals in St. Louis and it’s always a fun surprise to come across new ones. Here are some of my favorites along with where to find them next time you’re in the city in search of some great street art!

Peacock pianist 

The Grove.  Manchester Avenue St. Louis, MO

St. Louis wall mural in The Grove

Greetings from St Louis

The Garcia Properties building at 3537 Kingshighway St Louis Mo  63139

Greetings from St. Louis wall mural

 

Psychedelic vibes on Cherokee 

STyLe House Cherokee and Compton 3159 Cherokee St. St Louis Mo 63118

Colorful wall mural in St. Louis

This way to antiques

 The Little Shop Around the Corner 4474 Castleman  St Louis Mo 63110

Antiques in St. Louis

 

Color me happy

SOHA Art gallery 4915 Macklind Ave St Louis Mo 63109

Soarin’ in STL

Koho Boutique 5433 Hampton Ave St Louis MO 63109

Nashville wings in St. louis

Little birdie

The intersection of Macklind and Sutherland in SOHA neighborhood. 

A true triumph

In between The moto museum and Triumph Grill. 3441 Olive St. St Louis MO 63103

Pantone perfection

Right by SLU and FOX. Turn right down the alley before getting to The Best Steakhouse 516 N Grand Blvd.  63103

Catch ya later in the Lou!

Lou Realty Group, 4600 Loughborough Ave. 63116

I’ll keep you in the loop

THe Loop.  Delmar Blvd, University City, MO 63130

 

Groovy murals in The Grove

Rad robo

‘Nest’led in the grove

Bird mural in St. Louis

Cute cardinal 

Cardinal mural in the grove

Grab some grub in the groove

Life’s a beach

 

 

 

Back in the day, I was all about taking trips to Mexico and the Dominican Republic with my girlfriends. Now, I’m lucky if I can break away for one afternoon. That’s why I was over the moon with excitement when I discovered Ameristar in St. Charles. I immediately called my girlfriends.  

The goal was simple: find a spot with a pool, spa, good food, tasty cocktails, shopping and nightlife. What we stumbled upon exceeded our expectations with the hidden gem Ameristar. Now, I know Ameristar is really no “secret” to St. Louisans…I mean everyone knows it’s there. It’s hard to overlook the glitzy building stationed across the St. Charles river. The reason I call it a “hidden gem” is because of the unexpected surprises offered to visitors. I would have never considered going to a casino for the weekend, but Ameristar is the perfect destination for fun girls getaway with everything you could ever possibly want and need for a stress-free St. Louis staycation.

I’m going to be sharing my experience staying at Ameristar and my top recommendations for a carefree and luxurious getaway. Just grab your girls, your favorite pair of shades, and a bathing suit. Get dad to take the kids on for a couple days and get ready to have some fun. No passport necessary.

Ameristar St Charles

 

Unwind at the Ara Spa

Ara spa

Named by St. Louis Magazine as one of the best spas in Missouri, Ara spa is truly a magical place that creates a personalized experience for each one of its guests. Ara offers VIP treatments, a luxurious steam room, sauna, hydro-pool, fitness center, Vichy Shower, spa boutique and two pools which we’ll touch on in a bit. You don’t have to book a room at the Ameristar in order to enjoy a day at the spa. Just book a treatment, and you’ll have open access to all spa amenities and pool for the entire day.

Ara spa

Ara flip flops hydropool

There are several relaxing treatments to choose from at Ara spa, but I decided to go with the soothing Dream Weaver and Seasonal Body Treatment. The Dream Weaver was a calming 25-minute hot oil head and face massage. The nourishing oils were used to gently massage my forehead, temples, and scalp relieving me of some tension and congestion I was experiencing earlier that week. The oil used contained keratin which is great for dry hair (which I have) and helps to smooth and bring out a healthy shine. A cooling eucalyptus towel was placed on my forehead as well which I learned can easily be made at home when you need a little zen time to decompress. Simply take a clean cool towel and apply 10% oil and 90% water and voila!

Shortly after the dreamy Dream Weaver, I went in for my Seasonal Treatment in the Vichy Shower. The treatment is broken up into three steps. First, you receive a scrub which is like a facial, but for your entire body which is then rinsed with the Vichy’s seven relaxing shower heads. In the second phase, a mask is applied and then covered with a warming blanket. A foot massage is also offered. Finally for the third step, you’ll receive a moisturizing treatment for your whole body. The whole experience took about 50 minutes and was absolutely amazing. 

My girlfriends opted for facials and massages.  They have so many options.

For lunch at the spa, we had some refreshing champagne, an assortment of fine cheeses, crackers, sausages, fresh fruits, a variety of hummus and veggies with grilled pita, yogurt parfait, a grilled chicken salad and a platter of chocolate covered strawberries and homemade banana bread. We enjoyed our mid-day meal inside the spa and our healthy and delicious treats were delivered by Falcon Diner, one of the many restaurants inside Ameristar.

Spa lunch

To make a day out of it, I recommend arriving early before your appointment and utilizing the state of the art fitness facility to squeeze in a little workout before heading into full on relaxation mode. Then, slip into your robe and slippers and unwind in the steam room, sauna or hydrotherapy tubs. You can also sit and relax in their waiting room and chat with friends, read or just decompress with a cold eucalyptus towel. They seriously smell like heaven.

Pamper yourself by the pool

When I first caught glimpse of the Ameristar pool, I thought for a moment that I might be at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. It was as if I had stepped into a European courtyard, only it was hot and I couldn’t wait to catch some rays and sip on some frozen cocktails.

Ameristar Pool

 

Pool side couch

Ameristar offers two gorgeous pools, one indoor and one outdoor and both are heated so that you can treat yourself to a swim rain or shine, summer or fall. There are no kids allowed after 6 pm or on weekends so, if you plan to make this getaway a truly relaxing occasion, worry not. Screaming babies and frequent cannonballs are replaced with adult conversation and tropical beverages. If you’re feeling adventurous and fancy a dip in the deep end, you can jam out to your favorite tunes underwater with the pool’s advanced speaker system or doggy paddle back and forth between the indoor and outdoor sections.

STL Staycation at the Ameristar

Ameristar pool #poolside

On Sundays, Ameristar hosts something called Liquid Society during summer months which is as big and bougie as it sounds. Liquid Society is essentially a giant Las Vegas-esque pool party where you can hang out with friends and enjoy the pool amenities. It’s fabulous.

If it’s full-on luxury you crave, you can rent a poolside cabana for the day starting at $100 which includes a fridge to store pina coladas, complementary sparkling fruit infused water, and those heavenly eucalyptus towels. You can also order from the spa and pool’s enormous menu with specialty dishes prepared by Chef Josh and Chad who we got to meet on our trip. Some of their most popular items include the Impossible Burger, a 100% vegan treat that’s quickly becoming one of the trendiest modern dishes in the food industry. I am not a vegan and this was just downright delicious. The menu also includes flatbreads, wraps, salads and dessert items. The bar offers lighter bites for poolside snacking. The Fruit Platter drizzled in decadent honey sauce was a favorite of mine as well as their savory Chicken Spinach Salad with homemade strawberry vinaigrette. And what native St. Louisan could pass up Gooey Butter Cake for dessert? Yum!

Poolside lunch in bento boxes

Girls pool side much Ameristar

 

 

Stay the night in one of Ameristar’s dreamy hotel rooms

Hotel ameristar

I would highly recommend booking a reservation for one of the casino’s beautiful hotel rooms even for just a night. The standard room is spacious and elegant. Walk in and to the left, you’ll see a full sized bathroom with a tub, shower, double vanities and a TV…yeah a TV in the bathroom to watch your favorite shows while you get ready for a night out! There’s also a living room complete with a mini fridge, cute seating area and a window with full view of the Ara pool. Upon arrival, we were brought bottles of chilled wine and chocolate covered strawberries which was a nice touch.

One of the best reasons to stay a night (or two) at Ameristar is the opportunity to enjoy the sites around St. Charles in the most convenient way. The hotel offers a trolley service which makes several stops around the area including Main Street, St. Charles where you enjoy a day of shopping and sightseeing around the historic and charming little town. You can also spend a few hours riding bikes on the famous Katy Trail if you’re looking for a little outdoor fun. Across the highway, there’s a movie theater and tons of restaurants and boutiques at the Streets of St. Charles. You’ll never run out of things to do!

Ameristar hotel #vacay #hotel

Wine (or sake) and dine in one of Ameristar’s fabulous restaurants

I cannot begin to tell you how impressed I was with the dining options at Ameristar. Everything was simply exquisite. St. Louis foodies will love the artistry and complexity of each carefully prepared dish. While there are endless delicious options to choose from, I’m going to highlight what I ate on the trip.

Asia Ameristar

To say the chefs at Ameristar are passionate about great food, would be an understatement. Each dish is inventive and modern and incorporates high-quality ingredients that are both locally sourced and nutritious. For our first dinner at Ameristar, we choose Asia, a restaurant that takes you through a culinary excursion with exceptional dishes from all around the far east. Everything from the wok-tossed noodles to the fresh sushi rolls are made authentically. Asia takes pride in their sous chef who spent years mastering his culinary craft in several Asian countries like Japan, China, Korea and Thailand.

We began our trip through Asia with some bubble tea followed by what they call a “Sake Flight” where we were able to sample three different kinds of sake which was super fun. One of their most popular sakes is called The Wandering Poet. I preferred a smooth blend called The Snow Maiden which incorporated a unique and flavorful combination of honey dew and pumpkin. We then moved on to some tasty appetizers. From their extensive menu, we opted for the famous must try Wonton Wrappers, Crab Rangoon and Eel Sushi Rolls. For our main entrees, we went with Hong Kong Noodle Lemongrass Chicken, Szechaun Style Beef, Salt and Pepper Shrimp and a sea bass dish that looked like a piece of art on a plate. We were offered warm hand towels before and after our incredible meal and the atmosphere and ambience was both pleasant and exciting.

Asia Bubble tea

 

Asia appetizers

Side note on Asia: The restaurant is open until 2am on weekends so if you’re looking for a five star quality meal late at night, this is the place to go!

Asia Ameristar

sake flight

Start your day right with a memorable breakfast at Falcon Diner

As a busy working mom who spends most of her mornings sipping a smoothie on the go, indulging in a big breakfast is a real treat for me. The Falcon Diner offered more than just great grub. It was an experience. This isn’t your typical side of the road pit-stop. It is a bit retro, but it’s elevated and somewhat elegant in both its chic Art-Deco interiors and presentation of food. We were excited to get a visit with Chef Chad.  

We decided to go all out with the Chicken and Waffle Tower which included cheddar bacon waffles, fried chicken, and a yes, you guessed it, a tower of onion rings topped with a sweet bourbon maple syrup. To complement this hearty meal, I also ordered a power bowl (I’m obsessed with granola) and a decadent salted caramel oatmeal brulee. Is your mouth watering yet? While I would have liked to try everything on the menu, I was stuffed to say the least, but their farm fresh quiche and loaded skillets definitely caught my eye.

chicken and waffle tower Falcon diner

power bowl Falcon diner

Chef Chad stopped by our table for a quick chat where he made sure that we were having a great time. With mouths stuffed with bourbon maple waffles, we simply smiled and nodded our heads in delighted appreciation. Chad’s determined to make every visitor’s experience memorable and I don’t think he needs to worry.

 

If you’re looking for a place within driving distance of St. Louis where you can just get away for a bit, Ameristar is the destination for you. It’s Disneyland for adults combining three of my favorite things: amazing food, shopping and relaxing with friends! You can also make it a romantic getaway for two.  It’s a great way to vacation without getting on a plane or dropping thousands of dollars on a Mexico beach trip. My younger globe-trotting self is nodding in approval. I was able to save more money and enjoy myself without the guilt of being away for too long from my kids.

***I was thrilled to partner with Ameristar on this post but all thoughts and opinions are my own.