Return to the Wild West in St. Joseph, Missouri
Gothic Chic and Psycho Wards
of Art, copyright St.
Joseph Convention &
Drive north on 10th St. to Charles St., where you'll find the St. Joseph Museum. Old house buffs will ooh and aah over this 1879, Tiffany-decorated Gothic mansion, inspired by a castle on the Rhine. While you eyeball the huge collection of Native American artifacts and natural history exhibits, your kids can whoop and holler in a Children's Room complete with teepee, fort, and covered wagon.
If shopping is your passion, head toward the river. Pioneers bound for California and the Oregon Trail stopped here to stock their wagon trains. Now it's boutiques instead of beef jerky, but you'll find a great concentration of specialty shops and antiques stores a few blocks west, on Felix and Francis Sts., between 5th and 8th.
Farther north in town, pick up Frederick Ave., which runs northeast out of St. Jo, for more one-of-a-kind attractions.
Your first stop on Frederick is the Albrecht-Kemper Museum of Art. This Georgian-style mansion houses Missouri's finest collection of American art, including works by Thomas Hart Benton, Mary Cassatt, Rembrandt Peale, and N.C. Wyeth.
Kids driving you crazy? You're in good company at the Glore Psychiatric Museum. For 125 years, this was State Lunatic Asylum #2. Now, artifacts and displays illustrate advancements in the treatment of mental illness over the past 500 years. Maybe the "Bath of Surprise," O'Halloran's Swing, or the Tranquilizer Chair will calm your nerves, but take note: Kids under 9 are probably too young (and sane) to appreciate this stop.
Now comes the payoff for kids who've behaved during the museum portion of this tour: the Russell Stover Candy Outlet. Let them fill up bags of their favorite candy, chocolate, and holiday items, as well as treats in bulk (at cut-rate prices!) You can also get ice cream and sodas. Have a coffee here before heading home. But beware; after a bag of sweets, the ride may be a little "bumpy."