Going to the Dogs

Remember how much fun “Cakeway to the West” was?!? I loved the public art scavenger hunt that celebrated the 250th birthday of St. Louis. You can imagine my excitement, then, when earlier this year, I heard that St. Charles, MO, home of many of our family’s favorite memories, was going to be celebrating their 250th birthday in a similar fashion, with 3-foot-tall sculptures of Lewis and Clark’s dog, Seaman, displayed around their town! When we were in St. Charles for Legends and Lanterns over the weekend, we found several of the dogs:

My favorite was the one at the Embassy Suites and St. Charles Convention Center, and it wasn’t because it was the location of my second place win in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch apple dessert contest, but because it had an American highway motif:

I don’t know if we’ll have the opportunity to see more of these sculptures before the year is over, but I’m really happy we visited the ones that we did!

Legends and Lanterns: The Fourth Year

Yesterday was one of our most anticipated family outings of the year…our trip to St. Charles, MO, for the fourth annual Legends and Lanterns event!

As always, the characters were a huge draw. Some were the same, but there were a few new faces/characters, as well (we really enjoyed the Druid Priest and Imhotep, and the new version of Ichabod Crane really nailed the nervous persona of his namesake!).

And Scarecrow Glen is always fun…my favorite was Vincent Van ScareGogh!

Historic St. Charles really gets the “spirit” of the season, from the festival adornments to the various shops’ decorations:

The girls, especially, love taking pictures in special locations or with special characters…and so do I!

Another new element this year involved the event books. Instead of handing out stickers, each character had a stamp. This had some obvious logistical benefits, and also had an added perk of some characters having specific ideas of where their stamp should or shouldn’t be placed in the book, which added to their eccentric personalities:

Every trip we take to St. Charles is fun and memorable, and as my children get older, and I begin to glimpse a future where they strike out on their own, I have a new appreciation for these special family moments we have shared, and memories that we have made!

Christmas Traditions 2018

Today we made our annual trek west to St. Charles, MO, for the Christmas Traditions festival. (This is not to be confused with the trek north we made a few weeks ago to St. Charles, IL, also for Christmas-related reasons!)

The day was as beautiful as the picture looks, although it was a bit warm for our tastes. But the spring-like temperatures brought our larger crowds than we’ve ever encountered before…it was a good thing they finally decided to close Main Street to vehicular traffic, because I don’t know how all of the pedestrians would have fit on the sidewalks!

St. Charles is never more charming than it is at Christmastime:

One of the best parts of going to Christmas Traditions is seeing all of our favorite characters. We’ll call this year’s attempt a “successful failure.” We saw the number one character we wanted to see (Jack Frost), and a really cool new character (Ded Moroz), but there was no Frontier Santa this year, and we didn’t see the Master of Revels, and a number of the other characters we enjoy seeing every year. In the end, we collected 31 out of 41 numbered character cards, plus one of the bonus cards, which is really not bad!

Bunny had an especially good visit with Jack Frost, the “Bob Ross of Frost” this year. He even embellished his character card with a bit of his artwork for her!

This was a challenging visit to St. Charles for me, since I’m still wearing the CAM boot. The uneven brick streets made walking more difficult than I would care to admit, and our parking space, which was practically on the other side of the Missouri River, made our walk extra long. But I was determined to have fun today, and do the things we usually do, because I hate to miss out on anything. So, even though climbing the brick steps up to the gazebo wasn’t the easiest thing ever, I even got my annual picture of the Fab Five, and I think it might be the best one yet!

And just like that, another year’s visit to Christmas Traditions is over. Even though things were a bit different this year (we were too late to see the parade, and we missed the gingerbread houses), we had a great time! I’m already looking forward to seeing what changes they might make next year…but not as much as I’m looking forward to not having to navigate the event with a broken ankle!

Legends and Lanterns: The Third Year

Today we visited historic St. Charles, MO, for the third year of the Legends and Lanterns festival!

We enjoyed meeting some new characters, including the Queen of Hearts, the Phantom of the Opera, the “Weird Sisters,” one of the Brothers Grimm, and the Wicked Witch of the East:

We also saw some familiar faces:

It’s always so much fun to walk up and down Main Street and see all the fall decorations, the horse-drawn wagon rides, and the creative displays in Scarecrow Glen (where we also voted in the “Straw Poll” for our favorite):

We had a great time collecting stickers for our “passports” along the way. The Legends and Lanterns passport continues to impress me. Not only is there a space for every sticker you receive, making it very easy to keep track of who you’ve seen (and who you’ve missed!), there are fun activities and great background information for the characters. We once again saw almost everyone, and only came up a few stickers short. We even found Jekyll, the cardboard cat, and were rewarded with Legends and Lanterns yo-yos!

As always, I love these great events in St. Charles, especially since they focus so much on history and literature!

Tasty Tuesday–Llywelyn’s Pub

It occurred to me recently that even though we’ve eaten at two different Llywelyn’s Pub locations (St. Charles and Webster Groves), on several different occasions, I never actually wrote a restaurant review. So even though I haven’t been there lately, here’s a look at one of our favorite St. Louis area pubs!

There are nine Llywelyn’s locations, and like I said, we’ve only been to two of them. I can’t imagine any of them having a better atmosphere than the St. Charles location, though! Not only is it located right on historic Main Street, it is in a former bank building, and if you’re really lucky, you can even eat in the old vault!

Let’s start with the important stuff…their pub chips are AMAZING. The burgers are good, too. They don’t quite measure up to my gold standard (Seamus McDaniel’s), but they’re close:

I’m not sure that the colcannon pictured with the burgers is on the menu anymore, but it was so good. They definitely know what they’re doing with the traditional pub fare…they also have other favorites, like shepherd’s pie and fish and chips on the menu, and everything we have tried over the years has been excellent. And don’t let the word “pub” scare you off…it’s a very family friendly restaurant, with a full kids’ menu. The Fab Five love eating there, too (especially the one time we were seated in the vault!).

This is a great local spot, and it really has that neighborhood pub feel. The Soulard location even offers a trolley that runs to Cardinals and Blues home games, which is just another great reason to stop by Llywelyn’s for a bite to eat and a beer!

Christmas Traditions 2017

Yesterday was that most magical day of the year when we went to St. Charles, MO, for the Christmas Traditions festival. I think this was one of our coldest visits to the event…some years, we’ve barely needed sweatshirts, but yesterday, we were wearing winter coats, hats and gloves! We braved the cold to see all of our favorite characters and collect their cards along the way…We ended up with 32 of 45 cards, which isn’t too bad! Every year, I hope that maybe this is the year we get them all, but I kind of doubt that will ever happen. Plus, there are Wednesday night bonus cards, so we really couldn’t ever collect all of them, since we can only make the journey to St. Charles once a year, and we would rather go during the day on the weekend.

We visited the Gingerbread Village, where, as always, I was impressed by the talent and creativity on display. I especially liked the gingerbread TARDIS!

Part of the fun is seeding the old buildings, horse-drawn carriages, and beautiful Christmas decorations:

By the time the parade rolled around, a few of us were too cold to watch, and had to head back to the car. Those that stayed enjoyed seeing ALL the characters, and taking part in the camaraderie of the crowd:

No matter how I feel about Santa, I always enjoy seeing the Santas of the world carrying in their country’s’ flags:

We didn’t take a lot of pictures with the characters, but we got the ones that mattered most, including a group shot with my favorite Santa (Frontier Santa, who I am pretty sure is exactly who Mr. Edwards met in Little House on the Prairie), and a photo with Bunny and Jack Frost, her Christmas Traditions hero:

And of course a family picture on the steps of the gazebo!

It always goes by too fast, but we’re already thinking about the fun we’ll have next year!

Legends and Lanterns–The Second Year

We loved visiting St. Charles, MO, last October for the inaugural season of the Legends and Lanterns festival. We had a great time, and you never would have known that it was in its first year, because everything was so well-organized, and the event ran so smoothly. We’ve been looking forward to going back for the second year, which is scheduled for October 21-22 and 28-29, (plus some evening hours for the Main Street Pumpkin Glow on the 27th), and yesterday was the day! Because the first year went so well, I can’t say I was looking forward to seeing how they worked out the kinks, because there were no kinks to work out. I was however, looking forward to seeing what they added!

The biggest change was the addition of some new characters. We visited Sweeney Todd and Mrs. Lovett on Fleet Street, heard some bad pirate jokes from Blackbeard, danced for Miss Havisham, admired Medusa’s hair, and hoped the Big Bad Wolf wouldn’t eat us. There also seemed to be more tour guides/storytellers wandering around between hay rides, too.

We also ran into plenty of familiar characters from last year, including Stingy Jack, Edgar Allan Poe, Lizzie Borden, and a group of angry villagers, who also happen to be talented singers! I didn’t get pictures of every character we saw this time, but we saw them all, save Ichabod Crane!

I am still impressed with the static stations set up and marked by lanterns unique to each character. It makes it easy to keep track of the characters because you know exactly where to look for them. It also makes it easier to make notes of who you missed!

All the fall decor in St. Charles is beautiful…and there were even a few trees with colorful leaves, which seems like a rarity in St. Louis following a warm, dry fall!

La Plaza del Dia de los Muertos at Berthold Square Park was a very happening place…in addition to face painting, there were crafts for kids, too! And of course La Catrina was there to share about the customs unique to Mexico’s Day of the Dead.

We enjoyed taking a “straw poll” for our favorite scarecrow in Scarecrow Glen…like last year, I was very impressed with how clever people are when assembling their creations!

The other big difference this year was the Legends and Lanterns passport. Last year’s book was excellent, filled with history and fun little puzzles and games (and I still think Christmas Traditions could benefit from something similar). But it was a pretty small book, and the stickers were tiny. This year’s book is much larger, and weighter…it’s still full of great historical information and activities, and there’s plenty of room for the much larger stickers. This was a great improvement that I didn’t even think was necessary!

We had a really fun afternoon in St. Charles…

…and just think, we’ll be back before too long, because Christmas Traditions starts next month!

Christmas Traditions 2016

Yesterday was one of my favorite days of the Christmas season…the day where we drive out to St. Charles, MO, for the Christmas Traditions festival!

We started, as we do every year, with lunch. We haven’t eaten at Frankie Tocco’s since before Chickadee was born, so I figured we should go back there so she could experience that part of our family tradition. St. Louis style pizza isn’t my favorite, but Frankie Tocco’s makes it as good as it gets.

We then went through the Gingerbread Village…I really wish I could enter one of those contests someday!

For the last few years, we’ve seen most of the parade…this year, we saw the whole thing! I love seeing all of the different characters in costume, walking down the brick street, passing by all the gorgeous old buildings that are so much a part of St. Charles’ identity.

img_9336

And seeing the flags of the world carried by the different Santas is always fun:

We joined the end of the parade and went down to Frontier Park, where we enjoyed a good-natured red vs. green game show, led by La Befana and Babushka:

img_9385

After the parade and the character hoopla, we got down to work meeting characters and collecting cards. The children had their pictures taken with all our old favorites…the Frontier Santa, who looks like he stepped out of the pages of Little House on the Prairie, Santa Lucia, the Christmas Angel, and Bunny’s favorite, Jack Frost. He even let her hold his “BLUEkulele!”

img_9391

For the first time ever, I had my picture taken with a few characters, too. The Master of Revels has been my favorite since the first time Ryan and I sat down and watched him harass festival-goers over a decade ago(!!!), and like Bunny, I’m also a fan of Jack Frost, and his pal Susie Snowflake (the one character I will take credit for introducing to Christmas Traditions several years ago). I even had the right outfit to take a picture with the frosty duo!

img_9274

img_9403

We managed to find 32 out of 48 characters, which is a lot, but not our best year by any stretch of the imagination. I may die of shock if we ever have a year where we collect every single card!

img_9239

I love walking up and down Main Street and seeing all the buildings and decorations!

img_9263

img_9441

And I really love taking a picture of the children by the gazebo…I think this is one of the best photos yet!

img_9249

I’m a little sad that it isn’t even December yet, and our family’s favorite Christmas tradition has already come and gone, but we had an amazing afternoon in St. Charles, and I’m already looking forward to next year’s festival!

Legends & Lanterns

If you know me, you know I’m not into Halloween. At all. Five children, and we’ve never once gotten costumes and gone trick-or-treating. Not our thing. But I do like local festivals. And history. And literature. And I love St. Charles, MO. So, when I found out that St. Charles was having a new Legends and Lanterns event this year, focusing on the rituals and customs of Halloween through the years, as well as some of the more macabre characters from history and literature, I figured we should go, regardless of our feelings on Halloween.

Actually, I almost didn’t find out about the event at all. I only happened to see a reference to it on social media, and I did some investigating. But after that, I discovered that three of the children had heard about it on the radio (yes, on a station I was listening to…I guess that just shows how much I actually listen to the background noise I put on!), and knew all about it. None of them thought it necessary to tell me about it, though, so I guess they’re lucky I heard about it at all!

So, yesterday we drove out to St. Charles. Our yearly visit for Christmas Traditions is still over a month away, and yet there were things that were familiar. There were characters to visit (although they were handing out stickers instead of cards), and we actually found them all! The cast of characters included Edgar Allan Poe, Lizzie Borden, Vlad (The Impaler) Tepes, Baba Yaga, Guy Fawkes, Abigail Williams, Madame Esmeralda, La Catrina (The Spirit of Dia De Los Muertos), a Druid Priestess, Stingy Jack, the Gingerbread Witch, Igor (servant of Dr. Frankenstein), Ichabod Crane, and a hoard of angry villagers (who, while peasants, were also talented singers!).

img_7234

img_7238

One thing that I thought was really well done was the fact that each character had a “post.” There was a unique lantern stand for each character, and if they weren’t there, a sign explained their absence. This made it really easy to keep track of which characters we had seen, and which we had missed. I think the Christmas Traditions festival might benefit from something similar…perhaps static posts for the most popular characters, which would make them easy to locate, and the rest of the characters wandering as they currently do, which is fun from a scavenger hunt point-of-view.

The stickers that each character gave out were meant to be placed in a booklet, which was available (for free!) at the Visitors’ Center on Main Street. The only stickers we didn’t get were for the hayride (which we could have gone on, but we wanted to walk instead), and the Victorian Mourning Exhibit. In addition to a description of each character in the booklet, there were also activities…word searches, crafts, even recipes. This is a another fun idea which reminded me of the long-ago days when Christmas Traditions used to offer a coloring book.

Main Street was a beautiful sight to see, just as it is a Christmastime:

The Dia de los Muertos Plaza was a busy place, and also very colorful!

At Christmas, Main Street has a gingerbread house completion. Yesterday, we found a scarecrow contest…it was hard to pick a favorite!

The was the first year of Legends and Lanterns (although it was so well-organized, you certainly couldn’t tell that they haven’t done it before!), but if the crowd we saw was any indication, it certainly won’t be the last! I think this festival has the potential to become a highly anticipated annual event in St. Charles, and another great thing for the community!