Ah, Forest Park. Your 1,371 acres have been our bucolic refuge since June 24, 1876, when you were officially dedicated and opened to a much younger St. Louis. Have we taken you for granted in the intervening years? Have we grown too accustomed to your charms, and do we no longer appreciate the history and beauty your lumpy outlines contain?
Maybe. Perhaps yes. OK, we admit it: Night & Day have paid less than enough attention to you, ol' park. We decided it was high time we re-acquainted ourselves with your secrets, and because we are hip and young (well, Ms. Day is), we did so via Forest Park Forever's new audio walking tour. We simply marched into the Dennis & Judith Jones Visitor and Education Center (5595 Grand Drive; 314-367-7275) and asked to take the "iPod tour." This self-guided tour -- offered from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends -- is presented via iPod Shuffles, which are loaned out free of charge on a first-come, first-serve basis (although failure to return the wee iPod results in a $100 charge to your credit card; if you have your own MP3 player, you can download the tour from www.forestparkforever.org). After receiving brief instructions from a friendly staffer, Mr. Night and Ms. Day strolled along Lagoon Drive toward the Grand Basin while the digitized voice of Karen Foss regaled us with the history of the park's founding. The weather was beautiful, the company was good, and the earbuds were too large -- but that's a minor quibble. We don't want to give away all the tour's secrets (we will reveal it's an estimated 30 to 50 minutes long), but we must rave about a few points of interest.
Mr. Night, who fancies himself a Forest Park expert, was surprised to learn about Picnic Island. This little hideaway is part of the most recent renovation work, and as the name implies, it is a great spot for an al fresco meal. It's probably the first place he'll go the next time he freaks out and runs away from work, especially with fall foliage on the way. Just lovely.
Why, thank you, Mr. Night! Oh, excuse-moi! Ahem, now, Ms. Day does not consider herself an FP expert, but nonetheless she was as pleased as the old, fat turtle sunning himself (Mr. Night pointed out this big guy) when she came across the suspension bridge connecting the aforementioned Picnic Island back to the real world. A sweeter, more bouncy bridge you could not find! After reluctantly leaving the lovely isle, she strolled along a lagoon-bordered path, which would eventually lead to an iced tea in a rocking chair at the Boathouse. But all the while she was walking, she couldn't help but let her attention drift away from Karen's soothing voice and the cheerful applause that accompanied parts of the recounted history to take in the sounds of crickets chirping their evening calls. Simply delightful.
Mr. Night also took great delight in finding a bench near the Grand Basin with a placard that read "Adolf and Annie Schermer: They met at the 1904 World's Fair and lived happily ever after." Wiping a tear from his eye, Mr. Night immediately retracted every bad thing he'd ever said about all of the hoopla surrounding the 2004 commemoration of the 1904 World's Fair. This bench is for all the lovers who ever met in Forest Park, and Forest Park is for all the lovers in St. Louis.