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Best family destinations in St. Louis: The City museum in St. Louis

Updated on February 24, 2014

Tour of the City Museum in St. Louis

How to get to the City museum

A markerthe City museum -
City Museum, 701 N 15th St, St Louis, MO 63103, USA
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The City Museum experience- only in St. Louis

If you happen to be downtown St. Louis, look up. No, not for the Arch, but for a yellow school bus tipping off the side of a 10 story old shoe warehouse. This is a place that you don't want to miss and one you will never forget; the St. Louis City Museum.

An indescribable place

As many Times as I have gone to the City Museum, and as many times as I have recommended it to friends visiting, I still have difficulty describing it with mere words. This is a magical place that must be experienced. And not just for the kids- mom and dad, I dare you not to crawl through, slide down or climb something while you're there. You can't help yourself. Think Dr. Seuss amusement park meets surreal interactive sculpture. Every corner of this 10 story building has something to intrigue you, something you must have a closer look at, or a curiosity you have never seen before. The City Museum was built by an artist, and it shows. It is a living, breathing piece of art.

Architectural and material elements come together in new ways at the City Museum-

The building itself, a shoe warehouse from the 19th century, is beautiful in itself, like much of the architecture in St. Louis, it was built with European influences, and built to last. Last it has! And talk about recycling- In fact, everything in the city museum is a found material, re-purposed glass, brick, concrete, stone and metal that was salvaged from St. Louis history itself. All of the materials that make up this enchanted place came from buildings demolished in St. Louis.

Historical St. Louis brought to life at the City Museum

Remember, St. Louis has been around a very long time. The 1904 Worlds fair was an international sensation at the height of the Victorian culture of St. Louis. Sacajewea's son, who lived with William Clark after the Lewis and Clark expedition for some time, attended St. Louis University the very year it opened, around 1818. So the town of St. Louis had been up and going for quite awhile before that. Fur traders came into the picture in the 1600's and established a village, but Indians had been here since antiquity before white man ever imagined the place called St. Louis. They say if you dig far enough, you will find 19 layers of civilizations before the "modern" town of St. Louis . On one of the floors, you will find a museum within the museum that displays all kinds of artifacts from archeological digs and demolitions over the years. You will see glass bottles from the 18th century, fragments of dolls that are close to 300 years old, antique marbles and toys, and every kind of object you can imagine that has fallen out of someones pocket within the last few hundred years!

Don't blink- you'll miss something!

So I say this to tell you that there is a lot to work with and to look at in the sculptural structures that make up the City Museum. Glass mosaics covering walls and floors and ceilings, iron labryinths that wrap around and form huge climbing structures, cave-like spaces and tunnels, tunnels everywhere! All created from the remnants of the vast and deep history of St. Louis.

Wintertime fun

In the wintertime, the City museum is a fantastic place to go. Kids and adults alike will love the 10 story indoor slide, the life sized whale sculpture that you can go inside of, the caves, the larger than life treehouse, and the gymnasium where kids can become trapeze artists! There is an aquarium on one of the floors that allows kids to climb through underwater tunnels and see the fish up close and personal. It is complete with a stingray to "pet", sharks, starfish, you name it. There is the organist who plays every hour on the hour, and the "samwich" shop and gift store when you're ready to slow down a bit.

Summertime at the City Museum

In the summertime, a whole new world opens up on the roof of the city museum. Fountains, shallow pools of water that kids can hopscotch over on well placed stones, and then the gigantic interactive sculpture that makes up the strange skyline of the City Museum: that bus is teetering on the edge of the rooftop, and guess what, you can crawl inside and "drive". There are tunnels and ladders and designs made of iron that you can crawl in, on top of, or under- or climb through the sky on!( do not attempt if you are afraid of heights) There is an airplane, gigantic "nests" to get into, and a four-story high ferris wheel on the rooftop.

Things to remember

Now, while this is a fascinating, thrilling, unique and wonderful place, there are a few things to be aware of: This is not your sanitized, sterilized, bubble wrapped amusement park for kids. This is a place that you might want to look around and see exactly where the tunnel/cave/ clide/ ladder ends up before you let the small kids go, or decide to meet at a certain place after they reach their destination. Usually, they will end up somewhere other than where they started, which makes for nervous parents sometimes. You can fall on a hard surface here, bump your head or get into a tunnel that is higher than you realized and find out you are afraid of heights after all... People do sprain ankles and bump heads at the City Museum, more often than at your local McDonalds plastic playgrounds. Also some of the spaces you get yourself into can get tight, mom and dad, take it from me. If you have clausterphobia or bad fear of heights, I would think twice before getting into a situation that scares the pants off of you. Have the kids check it out first! But this element of "danger" is part of the exhilaration of the City Museum. It is something you don't see in America everyday; and I'm willing to bet that it's a bit more risky, more exciting, more challenging, more artistic and more incredible than anything you've taken your family to see,


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