It’s rare to find a log home as close to a major metropolitan area as the Lodge at Grant’s Trail
, but here it is, smack-dab in St. Louis, minutes from the Gateway Arch and other attractions. The lodge is a nine-room bed-and-breakfast, constructed
of Michigan white cedar logs
. It’s operated by Jan and Stan Orlando, who chose logs because they enjoyed the rustic, log-lodging getaways they experienced on their own family vacations.
Surrounded by nearly three million people and just a stone’s throw from a major interstate may not seem like the ideal location for such a woodsy retreat, but the acreage was available, and the Orlandos have made it work. “When we were building
this, I’m sure a lot of people thought we were crazy,” says Jan, “but at the same time, the construction workers did such a great job, you can’t hear a sound from the interstate once you’re inside. That makes a visit so much more magical, I think.”
The Lodge at Grant’s Trail opened in July 2000, about the same time as the eight-mile Rails-to-Trails bike trail. The lodge is at the northeast end of the paved trail, which eventually passes through the pastures of Grant’s Farm, home of the Anheuser-Busch Clydesdales, and past the Ulysses S. Grant log cabin
. The cabin, a National Historic Site, is the only remaining structure in the United States built by the hands of one of our presidents.
Oddly enough, neither of the lodge’s two rooms dedicated to presidents recognizes the president who made St. Louis his home. Instead, its largest suite honors George Washington, with a jetted tub, fireplace
and exterior balcony overlooking the trail. Across the open balcony, overlooking the dining room
, is the Abe and Mary Lincoln suite, a little smaller than Washington’s but with a private kitchenette and large conference table for those who reserve the inn for corporate retreats. Other rooms carry popular motifs, such as Christmas, safari, fishing and Alaska, the most popular one.
All rooms feature fireplaces. There’s also a large wood-burning fireplace in the main foyer and another in the spacious great room
, which also features big-timber trusses and an elk chandelier to enhance the lodge’s rustic flavor. The wall of windows
in the great room overlooks Grant’s Trail.
On Sundays, the lodge opens to the public for a fabulous breakfast buffet, followed by an all-you-can eat fried chicken lunch and dinner, served family style. In the beginning, the Orlandos thought a number of the bike riders on the trail would be their guests, but surprisingly few bikers fill the spacious dining room on Sundays.
Among the many nearby attractions to see and experience are the Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site and Grant’s Farm, a 280-acre wildlife preserve operated by the family of Adolphus Busch of the Anheuser-Busch Brewing Company. Both are just five miles down the trail. A free brewery tour (and free samples) is a must for many visitors, as is an outing to the new baseball stadium, which also bears the Busch name. Even if it’s the off-season or the hometown Cardinals are on the road, visit the stadium anyway. St. Louis is a fiercely loyal sports town, and you just can’t say you’ve been to St. Louis if you haven’t had your picture taken beside the statue of Stan “The Man” Musial. Stadium tours are offered at least twice a day throughout the year.
Touring the Gateway Arch and the adjacent waterfront attractions is equally rewarding. The arch is officially named the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, and the museum underneath it tells the story of the nation’s westward expansion before and since the Louisiana Purchase and the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
A paddleboat ride on the Mississippi River is another way to understand the city’s appeal. Stroll through the Missouri Botanical Gardens
or visit the St. Louis Zoo
for free. Foodies will enjoy toasted ravioli, a St. Louis specialty, at any of the great restaurants on The Hill, the city’s famous Italian neighborhood, topped off by an upside-down concrete at Ted Drewes Frozen Custard
, a throwback to the good old days along Route 66.
After a day of urban exploring, returning to your rustic retreat will seem miles away. And yet, you’re right in the heart of the city.