Quite often a child will lead you where you need to be. That was the case in 2013 when our youngest asked to visit St. Louis and the Gateway Arch for her eleventh birthday. She got to see the Arch, visit the Saint Louis Zoo and the Saint Louis Science Center, look at some great architecture and art, and get Mom and Dad out of town for a few days.

We didn’t get to experience all we had hoped to but we did enjoy our brief visit and made plans to return again. The only drawback was the hotel we booked was in the process of refilling its indoor pool and swimming was far from enjoyable — except for a girl celebrating her eleventh birthday with her thirteen-year-old sister.

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Gulf Coast

Windchill. Whiteout. Wintry.

Anytime a meteorologist uses one of the “W” words it’s time to think of places where weather forecasts include “sunny,” “bright,” and “pleasant.”

And when you hear one of the “W” words too often it’s time to go beyond thinking and actually doing. For us it was an all too short trip to Gulf Shores to spend time at a beach house my wife’s parents rent every winter. Our two teens, my wife, and I joined her brother, his wife, and their two boys for nearly a week with Grandpa and Grandma on the beach. The youngsters got to play in the sand and the adults got to take a break from winter in Missouri.

We tried to avoid the tourist traps all too common along the coast and instead visit places like Fort Pickens State Park on the Gulf Islands National Seashore and the National Naval Aviation Museum. There are plenty of other sites of interest beyond the t-shirt and seashell shops lining the highways. Try Big Lagoon State Park, Naval Live Oaks Reserve, Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, or ride the ferry to Dauphin Island and spend some time at the Sea Lab there.

February is snowbird season on the Gulf Coast. It’s too cool to swim and warm days on the beach aren’t guaranteed. If it rains, visit someplace like Joe Patti’s Seafood Market or the National Naval Aviation Museum instead of the overabundant souvenir shops. Make seafood, walks on the beach, and sand castles and kites with kids priorities. Then, when you return home, those last few weeks of winter will be a bit more tolerable.