Indoor Tours Perfect for a Winter Day

See Photo Location
Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis
Credit: Copyright 2018. All rights reserved.
The Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts
Pythian Castle - Springfield

If cold weather has given you a case of cabin fever, resist the urge to hibernate at home and try some indoor sightseeing in the Show-Me State. From historic churches and opulent theaters to ornate mansions and interactive museums, many beautiful and intriguing places offer tours sure to capture your imagination.

Here are some suggestions to get you started:

Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis: See one of the largest collections of mosaics in the Western Hemisphere at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis. Created with more than 41 million pieces of glass in 7,000 different colors, the mosaics cover the cathedral’s soaring ceilings and many of its walls and archways.

 A museum in the lower level of the church shows how the mosaics were designed and applied by dozens of artists over the course of 76 years. Self-guided tours do not require reservations, however tours are not offered during weddings, funerals and other events at the cathedral. Guided tours are available by reservation.  

Vaile Victorian Mansion: View one of the country’s best examples of Second Empire-style architecture at the Vaile Victorian Mansion in Independence. Located a mile north of historic Independence Square, the 1881 Gothic-style structure is a Victorian showplace. The mansion features a solid black walnut grand staircase, nine marble fireplaces and 14-foot ceilings painted by French, German and Italian artists.

Called “the most comfortable home in the entire west” by the Kansas City Times in 1882, the 31-room mansion boasted state-of-the art facilities for the times, including hot and cold running water and flush toilets. The mansion is open for holiday tours during the month of December and for regular tours April through October.

The Fabulous Fox Theatre: Experience an eclectic blend of Asian motifs, featuring elaborate and colorful designs, at The Fabulous Fox Theatre in St. Louis. William Fox built the theater to showcase films produced by his movie company. When The Fox opened in 1929, it was reportedly the second-largest theater in the United States. Reporters described the structure as “awe-inspiringly fashioned after Hindoo (sic) Mosques of Old India, bewildering in their richness and dazzling in their appointments…”

The theater now hosts Broadway shows, concerts and other events. Daytime tours include an exhibit featuring long-time theater organist Stan Kann and Peacock Alley, which displays photographs of the many entertainers and productions that have played the Fox. Tours are conducted on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. On Saturday tours, an organist plays one of the theater’s two Wurlitzer organs.

Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts: Considered one of the most beautiful concert halls in the world, the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City features music, theater and dance performances. Tours take visitors through the development of the center, highlighting its architecture and mission to bring the performing arts to the public.

Designed by renowned architect Moshe Safdie, the structure houses the Muriel McBrien Kauffman Theatre, Helzberg Hall and Brandmeyer Great Hall. Each space incorporates dramatic “eye- and ear-catching” design that includes sophisticated aesthetics, acoustics and technology. Tours are offered on varying days, and reservations are required.

Museum at the Gateway Arch: The recently renovated Museum at the Gateway Arch in St. Louis features all new exhibits chronicling the westward expansion of the United States. Six themed areas celebrate America’s pioneering spirit and trace the stories of the Native Americans, explorers, pioneers and rebels who contributed to the country’s development.

The museum also includes an exhibit about the design and construction of the Gateway Arch. Once you’ve seen how it was built, take a ride 630 feet to the top for an expansive view of the city. The museum is open year round.

Pythian Castle: Discover a piece of Springfield history at the Pythian Castle. The Knights of Pythias, a fraternal organization founded in the 1860s, built the castle in 1913 as a retirement home for needy members of the order and their widows and children.

After the structure was purchased by the U.S. military, German and Italian prisoners-of-war were assigned there during World War II for medical treatment and as laborers. The castle is now privately owned and offers history and ghost tours year round.

When planning a trip to one of these or other attractions, be sure to check the individual websites for hours of operation and reservation information.

Written by Liz Coleman