Where in the world — or at least St. Louis — can you go to see a coffee bean mosaic of the Gateway Arch?
The 8-foot tall by 20-foot creation is part of the Coffee exhibit at Missouri History Museum in Forest Park. A team of staff and volunteers spent almost two months gluing each of the approximately 260,000 coffee beans by hand.
If you have family in town or extra time on your hands over the holidays, a stop at the History Museum and a few other places around St. Louis may add to the fun of being together. A plus: the weather forecast looks quite reasonable for late December.
1. Missouri History Museum
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Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily except Tuesdays when the museum is open till 8 p.m. Closes at 3 on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. Closed Dec. 25 and Jan. 1.
Where: 5700 Lindell Blvd., St. Louis
Information: mohistory.org or 314-746-4599
Programs: 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 26: “Happy Feet” movie in Lee Auditorium. Light snacks provided. 10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 27: Kids of all ages can get creative with art projects inspired by the museum’s special exhibit, A Walk in 1875. Enjoy a sip of St. Louis coffee while attending “Coffee: The World in Your Cup & St. Louis in Your Cup.” And at 11, noon and 1 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 29, enjoy a 30-minute performance by Circus Flora. If you’re there at lunch time, you may want to treat yourself to a great lunch or snack at Bixby’s.
Just for kids: The History Clubhouse, the museum’s first long-term exhibit is a place where families can step back in time, discover local history and have some fun doing it. The free exhibit, open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., is divided into four St. Louis-area places — downtown St. Louis, the Mississippi River, Cahokia Mounds and Forest Park. Kids can try on vintage clothing, catch magnetic fish, play with blocks that look like city landmarks and more.
Another thing: If the weather is warm enough and dry enough, a playground east of the museum is a good place to swing or slide.
2. Missouri Botanical Garden
The Garden Glow is the hit at night, but there is plenty to do during the day. Both adults and kids will find something to like in the Gardenland Express through Jan. 3. G- scale model trains of many eras travel through a festive landscape featuring thousands of plants — many of which are labeled — as the Garden’s annual holiday flower and train show celebrates conifers of the world. You can make a game of it by picking up a paper that sends you on a scavenger hunt looking for such things as special pine cones and tiny figures that are part of the exhibit. The skylights, colorful poinsettias and other flowers make a great backdrop for photos.
Where: 4344 Shaw Blvd., St. Louis
Hours: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily; closed Christmas Day
Admission cost: $8 adults 13 and older; free for children 12 and younger; Gardenland Express: $5 ages 3 and up (Free for garden members and their children)
Information: www.missouribotanicalgarden.org or 314-577-5100
Another thing: If you would like some exercise, walk over and check out Tower Grove House’s Victorian Christmas. The two-story country home of garden founder Henry Shaw is dressed up and waiting for visitors.
3. St. Louis Zoo
Get a glimpse of the North Pole at the St. Louis Zoo at the Zoo’s U.S. Bank Wild Lights. You can walk through an Arctic wonderland of twinkling holiday light displays. Enjoy special menus and s’mores, fireside storytelling and activities. You may want to swing by and say hello to the Zoo’s special delivery this year, Kali the polar bear.
Where: Forest Park, 1 Government Drive, St. Louis
Hours: 5:30-8:30 p.m. through Jan. 3 except for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve. On Jan. 1, the Zoo will be closed all day, except for Wild Lights starting at 5:30 p.m.
Admission: $7 members, $8 general public Mondays through Thursdays; $9 members, $10 general public weekends. Children under 2 are free.
Information: www.stlzoo.org/events/calendarofevents/wildlights or 314 781-0900
One mom’s take: Her kids (5 and 3) enjoyed the arts/crafts area that had a little sandbox and two simple ornament creation stations. Young artists could color an ornament or use animal footprint stamps to make a clay ornament. Other highlights? The little ones liked sticking their heads through the animal picture head holes, riding the carousel, visiting the penguins and playing in the Build a Bear toy store where the employees never get upset when you play with the plush animals on the floor. The kids’ favorite? Free ice cream cups and ice cream sandwiches inside the Living World Center.
One more thing: You may drop off lights in recycle bins at the Zoo’s North and South entrances during Zoo hours through Jan. 15 and on evenings of Wild Lights through Jan. 3.