Visitors Beware: A Guide to the St. Louis City Museum
What do you get when you combine an old shoe factory, a couple of airplane fuselages, an old bus, and lots of tunnels and slides? I think the only place in the world that fits this description is the City Museum in St. Louis, Missouri. It is a playground for kids and adults, as designed by the mind of an artist—playful adventure at its finest.
The name “City Museum” doesn’t come close to describing this place. While there are some interesting museum-like objects to be found here, a more appropriate name would be Coolest Place on Earth. Now, that might be overstating it a little, but I promise you, this place is awesome.
The City Museum was once a huge shoe factory in downtown St. Louis. In the 1990s, the factory was purchased by an artist with a creative vision for a building a fun space for kids and adults. He repurposed the former factory into a massive playground by recycling industrial items in innovative ways and by adding artistic elements. Today, the museum includes interior and exterior play areas, an aquarium, a rooftop with a ferris wheel overlooking the city…and more!
Six Important Warnings
Before you read any further, you must take note of these warnings to decide if you can handle the City Museum.
- Though you can take small children to the museum, it is best enjoyed by elementary-aged children and up. When we took our toddler to this place, we put him on a leash. We generally are not folks who believed in leashing our children, but we didn’t want our son to fall down a slide or get swept away by a swarm of people.
- This place is not for the faint of heart. You might notice how most fun things in America have been made lawsuit-proof. We have safety warnings telling us our coffee might be hot and our trail mix might contain nuts. The City Museum defies this trend. Yes, your kid can get hurt here, but probably not any worse than they would doing most fun things.
- If your children disappear, you will
probablyfind them again. Your children will likely disappear into a hole in the ground or tunnel in the ceiling, and you will worry that you might not see them again. You have to roll with this feeling and let your children go or follow them. Unfortunately, some tunnels are too small for adults; however, a smart friend told us that wherever a small tunnel goes, if you look carefully, you’ll find an easier route for adults. It’s smart to send children with a cell phone, if possible. I would also consider writing your cell phone number on younger children with a Sharpie. One thing you must do is set up a meeting place to go if you get separated. We chose the first floor restroom as ours since it was a place everyone could find.
- If you plan to climb around with your child, knee pads are an excellent idea. I went through one tunnel and left with bruises on both knees.
- It is very warm and crazy loud in there. If you weren’t having so much fun, you’d hate this environment, but the City Museum is worth this discomfort.
- Your children won’t want to leave and will beg you to return.
What Makes the City Museum so Fun?
Take a little photo tour to get an idea of what makes the City Museum so much fun.
When you first enter, you’ll find yourself underwater with a giant whale. Iridescent fabric hangs from the ceiling, emulating the movement of the water under the sea. Mosaic schools of fish cover the floor.
Everywhere you look, you’ll find tunnels and slides. It’s like a live, colorful version of Chutes and Ladders.
Be sure to explore the caves. When it’s hot and humid everywhere else in the museum, this is a great place to cool off. Watch out for strange creatures that might eat your children!
The caves lead you to the huge slides that were once used to send shoes down to the bottom floor when this building was a factory. Now, you can use these to spiral down several floors. These slides are pretty slow, so have no fear. Plus, this is a great place to entertain your eyes.
Upstairs, one of our favorite areas is the skate-less skate park. Even younger children will have fun sliding around the bowls. This area also has some warped walls, swinging ropes, and more.
You can’t miss climbing around the outside play area, Monstrocity. Start with the ball pit where you can immerse yourself in a colorful sea of monstrous-sized balls.
Climb up, up, up through the circular tunnels to reach the plane in the sky.
Or maybe you’ll want to visit to visit the red firetruck or climb really high to the looooong slide. Look closely to see a stack of tables that have become a place to play.
As if all of this isn’t enough, there’s also the roof. A school bus that hangs out over the edge of the building? Yep! A ferris wheel overlooking the city below? Sure, why not? The rooftop area costs a little extra, and we have never had the time or energy to make it there, but it sounds like more crazy fun.
If you need to take a break, you can find some quieter areas. Beatnik Bob’s is a lounge area that reminds me of the apartments my friends had in college. You won’t find anything to climb on here, but you will find the world’s largest pair of underwear. Plus, this is the place to score humongous, locally-made ice cream drumsticks–a perfect treat to cool off with after all of that climbing.
This barely scratches the surface of the City Museum. I think there’s a small train to ride, a hall of mirrors, a crafting area, a toddler town and more! We’ve taken our boys three times, and we still haven’t explored it all.
As you can tell, our family loves the City Museum! I especially appreciate that it is something that tween/teen boys can enjoy. Our boys like (or tolerate) the natural and historic sites we usually visit, but the City Museum is a place they LOVE. And, I don’t anticipate them growing out of this any time soon.
You might even find yourself feeling like a kid again!
If your family visits St. Louis, be sure to take in the traditional favorites like the Gateway Arch and the treasures in Forest Park (like the world-class zoo, the art museum, and science center), but if you want to have a unique adventure your whole family will love, spend a few hours at the City Museum.
Find out more about planning your visit on The City Museum website.
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