Getting out of St. Louis for a scenic day trip is too easy. In less than an hour you can be riding through hills, passing acres of vineyards, stopping to sample wine at one of many wineries, exploring a tiny, historic town and marveling at the state’s natural wonders. These are the best drives within 60 miles of the city.
Great River Road North to Grafton
1501 W. Main St.
Grafton, IL 62037
Distance: roughly 25 miles
Hours: daily summer – 11 a.m. to 9 p. m.; winter – 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Along the Great River Road, at the confluence of the Mississippi and Illinois rivers, is the small town of Grafton. This scenic route is highlighted by limestone bluffs, wooded parks and wildlife areas. While visiting Grafton, stop for a bite to eat at the Fin Inn. This unique restaurant, specializing in fish, boasts 8,000 gallons of aquariums containing native fish.
Great River Road West to Pere Marquette
Pere Marquette State Park
Route 100, PO Box 158
Grafton, IL 62037
Distance: 2.5 miles from Fin Inn
Hours: Visitor Center daily – 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
From Grafton, continue west on the Great River Road and spend a day cruising Pere Marquette State Park. Great River Road’s 550 miles of western border bluffs and banks bring in wildlife you just won’t see elsewhere. Pere Marquette is Illinois’ largest state park and is famous for its bald eagles in the winter, easily seen in the breaks in the trees provided on the road. The park has 10 hiking trails, year-round electric and basic campgrounds, as well as a lodge.
Highway 94 West to Augusta, Mo.
H.S. Clay House
Augusta, MO 63332.
Distance: roughly 35 miles from St Louis city
Price: $150 to $235
Augusta, Mo. sits on the bluffs above the Missouri River Valley, a scenic 35-mile drive from St. Louis. While there, visitors may explore the Daniel Boone Home and The Lewis & Clark Trail, which are located in the area. Augusta is home to several Missouri wineries, which make the drive beautiful and the sampling/picnicking pit stops perfection. Enjoy lunch with views of the rolling hillside vineyards. While in Augusta, treat yourself with a stay at the romantic H.S. Clay House in one of two suites, a guest cottage or three guest rooms.
I-44 (Route 66) West to Washington, Mo.
Washington Historical Society Museum
4th and Market streets
Washington, MO 63090
Distance: roughly 35 miles
Hours: March 1 to Dec. 23 Tues to Sat – 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Sun – 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.
The route to Washington offers majestic views of the surrounding farms and vineyards. Stop at any one of the many wineries along the way. Washington is less than 30 minutes from the scenic Shaw’s Nature Preserve, with historic structures dotting the landscape along the way. To learn the history of this city, visit the Historical Society Museum at Fourth and Market streets.
Route 66 West to Stanton, Mo.
1135 Route W
Stanton, MO 63079
Distance: roughly 57 miles from St Louis city
Hours: May to June – 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.; July to Labor Day – 8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.; November to February – 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; March and October – 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; April and September – 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Price: cave tours $19/ $9.50 ages 5 to 11
Meramec Caverns is the largest commercial cave in the state of Missouri and is open year-round. It is along Route 66, one of the most famous highways in the United States. Established in 1926, Route 66 is 2,448 miles long and runs through eight states, including the patch you’ll travel here. Expect beautifully scenic patches along the way, diners dotting the tiny towns and a pit stop at Meramec State Park.
Janet Kontz is a Licensed Professional Counselor, specializing in family and parenting issues. She is an Active Parenting course leader and holds a Master of Arts degree in professional counseling. She has worked as a Foster Care Worker, a Substance Abuse Counselor, an Outpatient Adolescent Therapist and a Behavioral Coach. She currently teaches Technology and Writing. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.