Amber Koproske and 8-year-old son Derrick steered their swan-shaped boat into shore and hopped out.
"We just wanted to try everything," said Amber, of Fenton, Mo., after a paddle boat ride on 7-acre Mirror Lake at Grant's Farm. "We like to try new things."
Twelve paddle boats ($7 for 30 minutes) are among the new attractions at Grant's Farm, just southwest of St. Louis city limits. The popular destination is celebrating its 60th year. Since 1954, families have come to visit the Clydesdales, take a tram ride, feed the goats, attend a bird show, sample an Anheuser-Busch product -- if you're over 21 -- and much more.
Paddling was a workout for both mom and son.
"It was fun," said Derrick, "and funny. She was going all over the place."
"Hold on back there," a worker called out as the next paddle boat made its way to the dock. "We will get you in in a minute."
"It's beautiful," said Melissa Stump, of Chicago, on board with her 2-year-old daughter Marlowe and her mom Nina Harris, of St. Louis, "You get to see all the greenery and be out on the water with the little ducks."
"I don't know how to swim and I did it," said Nina, who wore a life jacket.
Was it hard to do?
"I think it was medium," said Melissa.
They liked everything the park had to offer, especially the animal shows.
"The history combined with the wildlife on a perfect day makes for great family memories," said Melissa, on a sunny 70-degree afternoon. "We couldn't ask for a better day."
"The lines were very manageable," said Nina.
And what about that free beer?
"I had the Shock Top," said Melissa. "It was very good."
The ancestral Busch family estate is home to more than 900 animals, including bison from North America, black buck antelope from Europe and zebra from Africa.
The farm takes its name from Ulysses S. Grant, 18th U.S. president. In the 1850s, Grant founded and farmed a portion of the 281 acres. Visitors pass his cabin early in the tram ride. It's one of only two existing st ructues hand-built and lived in by an American president.
"See the covered wagons," said a mom, pointing them out to her preschoolers. "Before cars, there were covered wagons. Horses pulled them."
The tram driver narrated the ride through 160-acre Deer Park.
"This is the part where we might see some animals," he said. "Animals roam freely. I have no idea where they might be."
He pointed out Belted Galloways, cows that are black on both ends and white in the middle ("We call them the Oreo cookie cows.") and a little herd of buffalo ("Two babies were born this year.")
The tram drops you off at the Tier Garten where you can feed the goats, ride a carousel, sit down for an exotic bird show or take a camel ride ($ 5 per person).
Feeding the baby goats is so popular that by 11 a.m., the little fellows weren't hungry.
"The babies have been eating for two hours," said the woman at the milk window where you pay a dollar for a baby bottle. "They're sleepy and full."
That didn't stop folks from going into the goat pen and still trying. Young children stooped to pet the docile goats as parents kept a watchful eye.
Payton Groves, 21 months, was there with parents Andrew and Kelsey Groves, both 22, why drove up from Creal Springs. ("It's near Marion. It's about a mile big. There's a gas station there and a post office.")They visited Grant's Farm with family who live nearby.
"I like it here because you can get more personal here with the animals," said Chris Groves, Andrew's brother.
Payton also took her first camel ride with dad holding on tight.
"Man, this is not a comfy ride," he said after a lap around a fenced corral. "The camel was Sara. It was good though."
So was the sample of Johnny Appleseed, the brewery's hard apple cider.
Have your quarters ready if you want the llamas and camels eating out of your hand. Fifty cents gets you a handful of feed.
A droopy-eyed camel leaned down to see what Jack Niebler, 5, of Milwaukee, Wis., had to offer.
At least, we think it was Jack. His face was painted green and yellow to look like a lizard.
"I picked this because it looked really cool," he said.
"It cost $12," said his mom, Jessica. "He probably chose the most expensive design."
Nita Scherer, of Edwardsville, a mom and grandmother, stopped with family to feed the llamas.
"We come here a lot," she said of their visit. "We love it here. We love the tram ride, the goats and the Bauernhof area. We have done it all -- the elephant show, the bird shows, the parakeets. ..."
"I really liked feeding the parakeets," said granddaughter Carlie Scherer, 8, who attends Columbus School in Edwardsville. Carlie described how the food (a dollar per serving), at "Cheek to Beak: Feed the Parakeet" is placed on a stick that you serve to birds in a screened cage.
"You hold yor hand out and they come to you," she said.
"We got here right when it opened at 9," said Nita, just after noon. "We are going to feed ourselves now that we have fed all the animals."
If you go:
Where: 10501 Gravois Road, St. Louis, Mo.
Hours: 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays; 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays; and 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays. (Times reflect when park entrance is open. Park closes 90 minutes after the park entrance closes.)
Admission: Free, but there's a $12 parking fee for cars; $30 for buses.
Reservations: Not required
Stroller and wheelchair accessible: Rentals are available.
Information: 314-843-1700 or firstname.lastname@example.org
New this year: Parakeet feeding; swan paddleboat rides and a special draft beer brewed for the 60th anniversary. It's available at the Bauernhof, as one of the complimentary taps for those of drinking age. Two-cup limit.