A wonderful place for a family visit is Grant's Farm. It is located just outside of St. Louis in Affton, Missouri. It was a one time home of our 18th President, Ulysses S. Grant. In the early 1900s, it was purchased by the Busch family of Anheuser-Busch, Inc. fame. It was their home for many years prior to opening it to the public. It is now a 281 acre wildlife preserve.
Although Grant's Farm is not as highly publicized as some of the other places to visit in the St. Louis area, it is one of the best! It is a wonderful place to spend a morning or even the day. Entry into Grant's Farm proper is free, but you must pay to park.
This wonderful preserve is home to hundreds of exotic animals from around the world, including several varieties of deer, horse and cattle, including my children's favorite, the Oreo Cookie Cow (actually a Belted Galloway). Upon entering the property through a covered foot bridge, you wait in line at Grant's Station for the next tram to take you on a tour of the wildlife preserve. The longest time I have ever waited was during the Fourth of July weekend -- forty five minutes. This, however, is a rarity, as the wait for a tram is generally only ten minutes or less.
On the tram ride, one of the first sites you see is Grant's cabin, called Hardscrabble. It is the only existing home that was actually built by a president. Although he only lived there a short time while his "real" home was being built, it is still an exciting piece of history. There are tours periodically throughout the year through the cabin, but these are few. If you do happen to be lucky enough to go into the cabin, you won't be allowed on the second floor; it is closed due to age, and is not considered structurally sound. It is worth visiting when the cabin is open for tours though, just to gain insight into that piece of history.
After passing through a gate that separates Hardscrabble from the actual preserve, the tram ride continues. The length of the ride varies depending on the cooperation of the animals who call Grant's Farm home. You see, if an animal decides to block the roadway, which does happen, you are stuck. During one visit, the tram my family was on was "held hostage" by the bison for about fifteen minutes! It was quite interesting though as there were deer on one side of the tram and a baby calf on the other licking the tram. There is no guarantee that you will see animals on your ride though. Of the dozen or so times I have been there, there was only one time that I consider the tram ride a failure, because we saw no animals except for ducks and the fish in the pond. A personal recommendation is to go during cooler weather when the animals are more active or in the early morning if you go during the heat of the summer.
After the ride through the preserve, you are dropped off at one end of the Tier Garten near the petting area for the goats. You can purchase a bottle to feed the the babies. There are also a variety of animal shows in outdoor theaters throughout the day. (Signs are posted with the times.) There are several other animal exhibits to see, including bald eagles, giant tortoises, and elephants.
After a walk though the Tier Garten, my family is always ready for a soda in the Bauernhof. This is also the area to catch a tram back to Grant's Station. After our tram ride out, we like the visit the General Store. There are several souvenir shops located throughout, but this is the largest -- and our favorite.
Once used by the Busch family as a stable, it is now a show area for their carriage and tackle collection. There are a variety of horses stabled there as well. This is also the area to catch the tram back to Grant's Station. After our tram ride out, we like the visit the General Store. There are several souvenir shops located throughout, but this is the largest -- and our favorite.
A final stop at Grant's Farm should be the Clydesdale training and breeding are located at the north end of the parking lot. Known as Label Stable, you are almost always guaranteed wonderful Clydesdale views.
For more information, check out the website at www.grantsfarm.com.