Nestled in the middle of nowhere Pike County, Mo is the best-kept secret around.  The Henry Lay Sculpture Park is a jewel waiting to be discovered, explored and enjoyed as we're all craving some outdoor space.

I'm a lifelong resident of this area and I had never heard of this park until I saw a friend's Facebook post.  Over the weekend, we loaded up the kids and drove the winding State Highway UU.  Gas is cheap, and what else is there to do?  Just when we were about to give up, lo and behold there we found the oasis that is the St. Louis University Lay Center for Education and the Arts.

The main attraction is the Henry Lay Sculpture Park.  It's a 20-acre park loaded with some pretty elaborate sculptures, like the life-sized scene of a family on the wagon trail.  There are sculptures from China, quirky metal-work pieces, and some abstract art.  You'll also find the Story Woods which offers a combination of art and literature to stimulate a child's imagination. The kids are invited to climb the sculptures, though that may not be recommended under the circumstances.  There's also a swanky playground that will open back up when the virus fears have passed.

It's an easy 40-minute walk to explore the sculpture park.  If you're in for a more rugged adventure, check out the five-mile walking trail that takes you all over the park's 350 acres.  It's set in a predominately oak-hickory woods with signage of the different trees you'll discover. It also features two lakes, some open fields and a hike up the bluffs to get some exercise.

As you wander the park, you'll also see the old McElwee cemetery.  James McElwee was a Revolutionary War hero who first settled on the farm in 1832.  That's where you also find the grave of the park's benefactor, Henry Lay, he was a resident of Louisiana, Mo and a graduate of St. Louis University Law School.  Lay died in 2000 and left the land to SLU so it could be developed into a retreat where education and arts could be enjoyed in the beauty of nature.  On-site are classrooms, a 75-seat auditorium, cafeteria and lodging for retreats.

Our family trip to the Lay Center has been a highlight of our quarantine experience.  The park is sprawling and largely unknown.  There's plenty of room to spread out and not even cross paths with another person.  It's out of the way, about 5 miles outside Louisiana, Mo, but its isolated location is definitely part of its charm.  Check it out...because again, gas is cheap and what else do you have to do?


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