The Polar Express at Union Station 2020

This year things have been switched up a bit but the big news is that The Polar Express is back at Union Station in downtown St. Louis! Grab your masks and grab your kiddos and head downtown for a unique holiday experience unlike any other in St. Louis!

Even in the time of Coronavirus, an important St. Louis holiday tradition will continue to bring joy to families. The Polar Express returns to St. Louis Union Station for the 2020 season with some changes to allow for appropriate social distancing and safety.

The popular family event has been recreated as Believe! THE POLAR EXPRESS Experience for 2020. The beautifully decorated trains will remain stationary under the Union Station train shed this year for a walk-through event. Guests will interact with the The Polar Express characters and Santa Claus in whimsically decorated tents and on the Station’s Purina Performance Plaza.

Believe! THE POLAR EXPRESS Experience is the magical story of a boy’s search for the real meaning of Christmas, based on the beloved children’s book and hit film.

The event begins November 20 and continues through December 30, 2020. 
After beginning their journey, guests will feel the approach of a mysterious train and see the Conductor inviting them to board THE POLAR EXPRESS™. Set to the motion picture soundtrack, non-moving train tours will transport passengers into the magic of the beloved holiday classic.
During the experience, hot chocolate and cookies will be served by dancing and singing chefs and guests will read along with the children’s book,The Polar Express, by Chris Van Allsburg. Santa and his elves will visit with children and give them the first gift of Christmas, a silver bell.
Characters and helpers will wear masks and masks will be required for all guests over the age of nine per St. Louis City Health Department guidelines. 

Timed tickets will be available from 1 to 9 p.m., Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays with the last ticket sold at 8 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, the event will be open from 3 p.m. until 9 p.m. with the last ticket sold at 8 p.m. Timed tickets will allow for appropriate attendance sizes and social distancing during the event. Ticket prices range from $27 to $45.

More information about dates, fares and event times is available by calling 314-942-6942, or by visiting www.STLPolarExpressRide.com. Families are encouraged to wear their holiday pajamas for the experience. 

THE ST. LOUIS WHEEL & MORE
Admission to Believe! THE POLAR EXPRESS Experience can be combined with tickets to ride the St. Louis Wheel or to explore the St. Louis Aquarium at Union Station. The 200-foot-tall observation wheel will be open daily from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m. for views of the glittering downtown holiday lights. Additional activities on site include the St. Louis Aquarium, open daily from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. with extended hours until 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and during holiday breaks. The St. Louis Carousel, an 18-hole mini-golf course at the Wheel plaza and the St. Louis Ropes Course and A-Maze-Ing Discoveries Mirror Maze inside Union Station also are open during the event.

St. Louis Union Station will continue its popular holiday fire and light show set to Christmas music on the train shed lake during the season. THE POLAR EXPRESS™ movie will be shown every night during the season.

Guests can get a head start on their holiday shopping at The Winter Market, which offers a holiday shopping experience inside the event space. Carnival games, strolling entertainers and holiday lights add to the festive atmosphere.

ROOM PACKAGES AT THE ST. LOUIS UNION STATION HOTEL
Guests can save 20 percent on their Believe! THE POLAR EXPRESS™ Experience tickets when they purchase a hotel package at the St. Louis Union Station Hotel, a Curio Collection by Hilton. The hotel package includes tickets to Believe! THE POLAR EXPRESS Experience and deluxe accommodations or an exclusive holiday-decorated suite with turn-down service for the complete seasonal experience.

Book a hotel stay here: 
https://www.stlthepolarexpressride.com/hotel-packages

NEW THIS YEAR: PANCAKES WITH SANTA
Select Saturdays and Sundays in December, families can enjoy a special Pancakes with Santa breakfast in Union Station’s Grand Hall. Pancakes topped with strawberries and fun whipped cream Santa faces are served with bacon and milk for the kids or coffee for the grownups. Seatings are available at 9, 9:45, 10:30 and 10:45 a.m. on December 5 & 6, 12 & 13, and 19 & 20, 2020. Santa will visit with every child during the event. Tables will be placed at appropriate social distances and only one group will be seated at a table. Masks are required per City of St. Louis Health Department requirements.

Tickets are available at:
https://www.stlthepolarexpressride.com/pancakes-with-santa

There is so much to do this year at Union Station. It is worth a trip to visit and see what all the excitement is about. Our little family of four felt very comfortable wearing our masks, walking around, and enjoying everything Union Station has to offer. Just remember the three W’s. Wear your mask, Wait 6 feet apart, and Wash your hands!

St. Louis Aquarium and St. Louis Wheel Re-Opening Today!!!

If you haven’t seen the news then here’s to some good news! The aquarium and the wheel down in Union Station is re-opening today!!!

Of course there are a few guidelines to be aware of when arriving. Check out the press release below!

The Aquarium reopens at 9 a.m. and the St. Louis Wheel reopens at 10 a.m. on Monday, June 8.

CHANGES: Guests will notice a variety of new animals and activities at the reopened St. Louis Aquarium, including “Annie,” a four-year-old Tamandua, or Lesser Anteater. Other new animals include Zebra Sharks and Bonnethead Sharks, one of the smaller Hammerheads.

A new Dive Show will take place three times a day — at 11 a.m., 1:15 p.m. and 4 p.m. — in the Shark Canyon exhibit. Guests will be able to ask questions of the Aquarium’s divers who will be wearing special communications masks during the 20-minute shows.

Colorful murals also have been added to wall spaces throughout the Aquarium.

DETAILS: The indoor and outdoor attractions at St. Louis Union Station will reopen on June 8, 2020 after receiving clearance from the City of St. Louis.

ST. LOUIS AQUARIUM: The St. Louis Aquarium at Union Station will resume regular hours from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Thursday and 9 a.m. until 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

New physical distancing protocols will be in place along with enhanced sanitation measures and extensive team member training to ensure the health and safety of guests and workers.
 
The St. Louis Aquarium and other St. Louis Union Station attractions have been closed in accordance with Missouri and St. Louis City COVID-19 regulations. 

Aquarium Ticketing Changes: All guests, including annual pass holders, will be required to reserve timed tickets in advance to keep within City of St. Louis regulations for significantly reduced capacity in the Aquarium.
 
Advance reservations will guarantee guests’ admission on the day of their visit. No tickets will be available for same day visits at the ticket counter and no guests will be admitted to the Aquarium prior to their reservation time. 

Guests who are feeling unwell on the day of their visit can contact the Aquarium and have their tickets exchanged for another date.
 
Aquarium Safety Protocols Added: The health and safety of guests and team members is the highest priority of the St. Louis Aquarium and St. Louis Union Station. Enhanced safety and sanitizing procedures have been enacted for the Aquarium reopening, including:

— All team members will wear masks and guests over the age of 9 are required to wear masks at the direction of the St. Louis City Department of Health. Guests with pre-existing health conditions unable to wear a mask for medical reasons are exempt. Guests may remove or lower their masks when they are able to stay six feet or more away from others or when eating or drinking.

— A one-way flow has been established through the Aquarium to help with social distancing. 

— The Aquarium is maintaining its existing high standards of cleanliness and all high-touch surfaces such as windows, doors, railings, restrooms, and elevators will be cleaned continuously by the Aquarium’s Clean Team. Hard surfaces will be sanitized throughout the attraction, lobby and restrooms continuously. 

— Additional hand sanitizer stations will be found throughout the Aquarium including at the entry, exit and in the restrooms.

–Employees will be screened daily to verify that they do not have fevers or other COVID-19 symptoms. Guests will walk through an infrared scanner at the entrance to verify their temperatures and will take a survey to confirm their health. Those with temperatures of more than 100 degrees will be asked to return on another day.

— Guest services associates will refer guests to signs listing COVID-19 symptoms to verify that everyone in their party is symptom free.

–Floor decals have been added throughout the queue lines and inside the aquarium to help guests maintain six feet of separation from others. At touch pools and interactive areas, guests can step up and enjoy the experience when floor decal spaces are open.

— The Aquarium’s touch pools, Otter Chat and animal presentations will continue to be available along with a new dive show at Shark Canyon. 

— For now, the Fish ID touchscreens, Scavenger Hunt touchscreens, the Train Experience and the Virtual Reality Sandbox are not available due to their high touch nature and the difficulty in maintaining adequate social distancing during their use. 

— No cash payments will be accepted at attractions and restaurants throughout St. Louis Union Station; all major credit cards will be accepted.
 
St. Louis Ropes Course and Mirror Maze: The indoor attractions at Union Station also will reopen on June 8. Queue markers will help guests at the St. Louis Ropes Course and the Mirror Maze maintain their distance from each other to at least six feet. Gloves will be offered to guests and the areas will be continuously sanitized throughout the day.

More Information: Guests will finds an FAQ at www.stlouisaquarium.com and can ask questions by emailing info@stlouisaquarium.com

Follow the St. Louis Aquarium on social media @aquariumstl.

UNION STATION RESTAURANTS AND RETAIL: The Aquarium gift shop and Wheel retail kiosk will be open but will limit the number of guests allowed inside at any time. Guests will be asked to touch only what they intend to purchase. 

No cash payments will be accepted at this time. Plexiglass barriers have been erected to separate guests and team members at Aquarium gift shop checkout counters. 

Restaurants Trainshed and 1894 Cafe also will reopen to the public at reduced capacity and with enhanced sanitizing and health checks for regular hours on June 8. 

Soda Fountain reopened at reduced capacity and with added sanitizing, health checks and social distancing on May 18, 2020. 

THE ST. LOUIS WHEEL: The St. Louis Wheel at Union Station also reopens to the public on Monday, June 8, 2020.

With physical distancing protocols, enhanced sanitizing and extensive team member training in place, the St. Louis Wheel will welcome riders with a resumption of regular hours, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., daily. 

The Wheel has been closed in accordance with Missouri and St. Louis City COVID-19 regulations. 

Wheel Safety Protocols Added: The health and safety of guests and team members is the highest priority of the St. Louis Wheel and St. Louis Union Station. Enhanced safety and sanitizing procedures have been enacted for the Wheel Park reopening, including:

— Team members will wear masks and guests are encouraged to do the same. 

— Employees will be screened daily to verify that they do not have fevers or other COVID-19 symptoms. 

— Guests will take a survey to confirm their health.

— Signs in the Wheel Park will list COVID-19 symptoms and guests also will be asked to confirm their health statuses in person. 

— Pavement markers will placed to guide guests to stay at least six feet apart to maintain social distancing. 

— Gondola loading and unloading cycles will be spaced to allow physical distancing between guests and between cleaning cycles. 

— The Wheel’s gondolas will be sanitized between groups. Clean Team members will continuously sanitize surfaces on and around the Wheel, in the Wheel Park and at the other attractions. 

— All team members will be required to wash and sanitize their hands frequently. Hand sanitizing stations will be in place throughout the Wheel Park.

UNION STATION’S OUTDOOR ATTRACTIONS: The Mini-Golf course and St. Louis Carousel in the Wheel Park at Union Station also will open for guests on June 8, 2020. 

Golf equipment will be cleaned between guest uses. Signs will be placed to remind guests to continue social distancing. Entry to the golf course will be regulated to keep the appropriate number of players on the course. Golf pencils and scoring pads will be disposable. 

At the Carousel, queue lines are marked to allow for social distancing. Attendants will use visual checks from a distance to ensure safety compliance and verbal instructions will be given from a distance to explain how to properly fasten the seat belt. Chaperones will be required to fasten the lap belts of younger guests and assist them off and on to the carousel animals. Each animal will be thoroughly disinfected after each use and the amount of riders will be limited to allow for proper social distancing and spacing.

The Wheel Park playground will not be open at this time.

Tables in the Wheel Park and chairs surrounding the Union Station Lake will be spaced to allow for proper social distancing. The Lake Fire and Light Show will resume on June 8.

More information is available at www.thestlouiswheel.com.

Enjoy a Ride on the River with The Gateway Arch Riverboats Sunday Brunch!

St. Louis is known for it’s melting pot culture and variety of things to do in the lou. However, in all of my years here in this awesome town, I have never ridden the Riverboats down by the Gateway Arch. That is until a few weekends ago. The chance to ride the riverboats with my family came across my email with the added bonus of brunch! In our house there is nothing better than eating breakfast for lunch, except maybe breakfast for dinner, but I think that’s an entirely different post.

So the opportunity came about for my family and I to take a ride on the Riverboats at The Gateway Arch and enjoy a delicious Sunday Brunch. We were extra excited because the day of this event was also our baby girls birthday! So we got the chance to take her on an unique experience riding the Mississippi river near downtown St. Louis! How cool is that?

I don’t want to go into all of the details of our visit but I will offer up a few tidbits of information that will help your Riverboat experience go smooth sailing (fyi, it’s not a sailboat lol).

For starters, plan ahead, figure out your route and where you will park. Be sure you have plenty of time to make it to the boat. It will leave without you. We parked in a parking garage by Laclede’s landing, however there is parking a lot closer as well on the cobblestone road right next to the river. So be sure to plan accordingly.

If you have plenty of extra time, check out the new Gateway Arch Museum. It is worth a visit. There is a lot of St. Louis history packed into that space that is full of interaction and information!

There is a photo service provided by the Riverboat crew that you can purchase a print of when you arrive back to the dock. The crew will get your photo when you board and the prints are ready when you get back. Pretty cool memento!

Since this was a brunch we made sure we checked out the menu posted on GatewayArch.com before our arrival. This way we knew what we wanted and could prepare if the kiddos weren’t having any of it. They enjoyed the french toast and ham and other goodies that were available in the buffet. A good tip to know is that water, tea, and a few select juices are included in your meal, soda and other alcoholic beverages are an additional cost. So be sure to bring cash or your card if you are wanting any of those amenities.

After eating you can check out the dixie music playing, or head out on top of the boat to scope out the beautiful St. Louis scenery. Yeah, there is some graffiti on the big wall, but if you’re an artist like me you can appreciate some of the work that went into those pieces.

A nice ride down the mighty Mississippi is quite calming and relaxing and the Riverboats really do help provide that comfort you may need to beat the heat downtown. A nice meal, beautiful sites, and some nice A/C is sometimes all you need to make your day amazing!

Curious to learn about some other experiences? Check out STLMotherhood’s post about her visit on the Riverboats as well! St. Louis Dad and family even make a cameo in one of her photos! See if you can spot us! So be sure to reserve your tickets online! Tickets are $45 for adults, $18 for kids 3-12 and free for children under 2.

The boats are docked at the foot of the Gateway Arch. Stop by the ticket office to pick up your tickets by 12:30 — the boat will leave without you at 1pm!

St. Louis Dad was provided complimentary tickets to a Sunday Brunch on the Gateway Arch Riverboats in exchange for this blog post.

The Darkness – A St. Louis Landmark with 25 Years of Fear

Starting back in fourth grade his fascination with haunted houses had Larry Kirchner spending his days mapping out mazes out of blankets and filling pickle jars with his G.I. Joe’s in his basement to create the perfect haunt. For years Larry has spent working countless days towards that perfect haunt and for the last 25 years he has brought the best to St. Louis with The Darkness.

Much like some of the staples found in St. Louis, you will be hard pressed to find someone that hasn’t heard of The Darkness or Creepy World. Both offer some of the best scares during the Halloween season. But did you know that they work year round to bring those freights to us fans! This year is the 25th year of The Darkness, the longest-running haunted house in St. Louis. Rated as America’s best haunted house, The Darkness is opening September 21st for all to see.

New renovations to The Darkness make it longer and more terrifying! There is an all-new Zombie Laser Tag, as well as The Hive live zombie experience. The renovations also include new interactive elements as well as a horrifying Jigsaw Horror Escape Room in the Monster Museum!

You don’t have to risk your life for an adrenaline rush at a haunted house. – Larry Kirchner

My wife and myself were invited to check out the new renovations at The Darkness and see what Larry had in store for St. Louis during the 25th Year of Fear. What we had envisioned for our tour was not what we expected. We got to see the shop where all of these amazing creatures and animatronics are made year round as well as for clients all over the world! Getting this behind the scenes look was a sight to see and really showcased the amount of work that is put into a production like The Darkness.

After a brief tour we were invited to go through both haunts! Not only has my wife never been through a haunted house, we have never gone with basically just us two! There were twists, turns, freights, clowns, zombies, creatures, and more! Each haunted house features 15-20 actors ready to terrify you into needing a change of shorts. Rooms with scenes that depict the syfi, morbid, sacrificial, insane and more! The viral IT animatronic is here too, and poor Georgie just doesn’t stand a chance either.

The Darkness will be open for the 2018 haunt season on September 21-22 and 28-29 from 7:30PM to 11PM; October 5-7, and then every Thursday through Sunday night starting October 11th! Beginning October 19th, the attractions will be open nightly through Halloween! The Darkness will keep the fear going November 2, 3, and 10 from 7PM to 11PM. November 10 is Black Out Night where guests can go through the haunt with just a glow stick for light. Check out TheDarkness.com for more information!

We want people who come to The Darkness to have the best haunted house experience. – Larry Kirchner

And have no worries, this year The Darkness now offers photo opportunities! Back in the day you used to not be able to bring in a camera, now there are spots where you can take selfies and post them to your favorite social media platforms!

Be sure to follow St. Louis Dad on Instagram this week to see more behind the scenes and sneak peek photos and video of the haunts you will be able to see this year! You can also check out the hashtag #thedarkness and #darknesshauntedhouse for more photos!

St. Louis Escape, located at the same locations as The Darkness has some of St. Louis’s best top themed escape rooms. Featuring four different escape rooms, including the Haunted Hotel, Cellar Escape, Subway Escape and the Mummy Escape. There are also VIP Party Rooms in the amazing themed lobby. Booking information for the escape rooms can be found at StLouisEscape.com

The Darkness and St. Louis Escape are both located in the Soulard neighborhood, just south of downtown St. Louis and next to the historic Soulard Market at 1525 South 8th Street, St. Louis MO 630104.

St. Louis Dad was provided a complimentary tour of The Darkness in exchange for this media promotion. Follow The Darkness on social media for more awesome details!

Twitter @Scarefest
Instagram @Scarefest
Scarefest on Facebook.com/stlouismissourihauntedhouses
The Darkness on Facebook.com/DarknessHauntedHouse
Creepyworld on Facebook.com/CreepyworldHauntedHouse
Lemp on Facebook.com/lemphauntedhouse