Return to the Wild West in St. Joseph, Missouri
Home of the Pony Express
copyright Museum St.
& Visitors Bureau
Start in Patee Town, a 19th-century historic district downtown. Park on the street and walk a few short blocks to a handful of museums that bring the Old West back to life.
If your e-mailing mob has never licked a stamp in their lives, take them to the Pony Express Museum. In 1860, the first rider strapped a mailbag to his saddle here and headed west. Now, the old stable/depot is a state-of-the-art museum, with hands-on exhibits for kids and a 70-foot diorama mapping out the famous mail-trail.
Then, walk a block east, to the wrong side of the law at the Jesse James Home Museum. The famous outlaw was straightening a picture on the wall, when he was shot and killed here in 1882; and, yes, you can still see the bullet hole. Heard the old legend that it wasn't really James who was killed? You'll find an exhibit about the 1995 grave opening and DNA testing, which should settle the question once and for all.
By now, your little pioneers should be ready for a sarsparilla. Go next door, to the Patee House Museum National Historic Landmark. Built as a luxury hotel in 1858, it has been Pony Express headquarters, a ladies' college, a sanitarium, and a clothing factory. Now it's a hodge-podge museum of commnunications and transportations.
Spend an hour checking out the antique toy shop, the blacksmith shop, the 1860 Hannibal and St. Joseph locomotive, a Model T, antique racecars, and fire trucks. You'll find sarsaparilla in the 1854 Buffalo Saloon, where there's also a working nickelodeon. For something sweet, the Japanese Teahouse Ice-Cream Parlor across the street has floats and fortune cookies.
Before you leave Patee town, hunt for treasures at Penn Street Square, across the street from the Jesse James Museum. This 1899 factory and carriage-works is now an antiques mall, with more than 60 booths on three floors. You can tie on the feedbag here, too. The Oldtown Smokehouse and Pub serves up great sandwiches, ribs, and fried green tomatoes.