Do you have a hard time going to museums because your kids want to touch everything or worse climb it? Then I have the perfect place for you. Two weekends ago we travelled to St Louis for the day. Had a nice picnic beneath the Arch and instead of waiting in line to go to the top decided we wanted to go see City Museum. Best decision ever! It’s hard to describe the City Museum. I had seen the website and read the reviews but was still amazed when I walked in. I was even more amazed as we actually explored the Museum. Here is my attempt at a description. The City Museum is like entering an art museum featuring life size structural art except instead of admiring the art you get to touch it, and climb it, or go over it, or under, or through it and it leads you to something completely different. A simpler description could be that it’s Tim Burton’s playhouse. Here is how City Museum likes to describe themselves:
Housed in the 600,000 square-foot former International Shoe Company, the museum is an eclectic mixture of children’s playground, funhouse, surrealistic pavilion, and architectural marvel made out of unique, found objects. The brainchild of internationally acclaimed artist Bob Cassilly, a classically trained sculptor and serial entrepreneur, the museum opened for visitors in 1997 to the riotous approval of young and old alike.
Cassilly and his longtime crew of 20 artisans have constructed the museum from the very stuff of the city; and, as a result, it has urban roots deeper than any other institutions’. Reaching no farther than municipal borders for its reclaimed building materials, CITY MUSEUM boasts features such as old chimneys, salvaged bridges, construction cranes, miles of tile, and even two abandoned planes!
“CITY MUSEUM makes you want to know,” says Cassilly. “The point is not to learn every fact, but to say, ‘Wow, that’s wonderful.’ And if it’s wonderful, it’s worth preserving.”
This is the first museum I have been to where I want a membership. I wish I lived in or around St Louis so that I could go back again and again. If you are travelling to this city or even within 100 miles of St. Louis then you need to make a detour. The City Museum is worth the stop for almost all ages. Thing 1 is four years old now and loved the museum. He loved dragging Mommy or Daddy through all the holes, caves, cages, and whatever else he could find. Some of the areas get pretty tight but we managed them. As we explored I was actually shocked that a place like this could exist in this day and age. Lawyers would probably advise against most of the exhibits saying they are just a lawsuit waiting to happen but this is why we loved it. The imagination truly can run wild in the City Museum.
Thing 2 is still a few months shy of two years old. She had a blast but had to stay on the main path more often since most of the caves, tubes, slides were too adventurous for her abilities. The City Museum has Toddler Town built for boys and girls just like her. The playground is not as impressive as the rest of the museum but Thing 2 didn’t seem to mind. More cautious parents will also be thankful with how tame Toddler Town is. Near Toddler Town is the Museum’s Art City. The Art City was a large open room of endless art projects. Just as the museum is a collection of recycled items so is the Art Room. Using old cardboard boxes and plastic bottles toddler and teenagers alike were building flowers, frames, and canvases and finishing them off with paint and glitter. There were craft stations too to make more elaborate projects using clay, copper, etc.
Here we go again:
While finding pictures for this article I realized there were entire areas of the museum I never even saw. So we ended up going back again less then one week later. Our second visit was even better then the first. Our first visit was on a Saturday and naturally was busy but our second visit was on a Friday and was virtually empty in comparison. This gave us the opportunity to take the younger Thing 2 around more since she wouldn’t be holding up any other patrons while she took her time to climb. We spent more time in the caves and outdoors in the second visit.
If you are afraid of heights then you will not like the outdoor portion. If you aren’t, then you will love it! There are old airplanes suspended in the sky that are reachable from a number of avenues. There are simpler ways to get there like using the spiral staircase or if you are adventurous you can crawl up there through steel re-bar tubes. There are huge ball pits, castle like structures, a fire truck, slides and more.
The caves can be accessed indoors and are a lot of fun. I should have brought a flashlight but I didn’t. The lighting is good in the large areas of the cave but if you want to crawl around in the secret passages you should bring some form of light and my cell phone wasn’t cutting it. From the caves you can find the 10 story spiral slide. It’s not very fast so it was great fun for Thing 1 and was okay for me. I get a bit motion sick and spiraling down 10 stories can definitely trigger it. If you buy a roof pass you can take an elevator to the top but if not you will be climbing 10 flights of stairs to reach the top. There is a smaller slide in the same area but closer to about 4-6 stories which is also fun and did not make me feel sick.
The museum costs $12 for every person over 3 years old and is worth every penny. There are additional charges for the attached aquarium and roof exhibits. City museum has a coat and bag check. You can check any items including strollers for just $1. They didn’t ask me to break my stroller down either so you can stuff the basket full of other items. For those with infants I would suggest babywearing due to all the stairs in the museum. There are lots of ramps so you could get buy with a stroller of any size but you will limit yourself immensely.
The City Museum is truly an awesome place for all ages. Explore the City Museum.