Pay no attention to the name, this is not your typical museum or about the city. They couldn’t name it, “Concrete Jungle Gym/Aquarium/Pedestrian Skate Park/Art Creativity Center,” so I guess City Museum just had to do. This is my children’s all time favorite St. Louis destination and one that can’t help but make me smile! So what is it? Well it used to be a shoe factory, which they pay homage too with an onsite shoelace shop where you can watch the laces made in front of you.
However, in 1997 it opened as a city playground with concepts by sculptor and entrepreneur Bob Cassilly. The museum uses found materials, such as an old plane, a bus, concrete blocks to create space for young and old to play and climb through, but it’s also so much more.
It’s best to really just go floor by floor. As you drive up the outside will already astound and confound you. There is a bus hanging off the roof of this otherwise nondescript warehouse building in the front and as you get around the back there are concrete snakes and lizards, a plane, a castle and much more in a multi-level open-air structure. As you walk in to buy tickets you go past a gigantic ball pit and I mean kickballs not your run-of-the-mill small plastic ball pits. As you get inside you have children whizzing down by you from a couple of different slides that span several floors and observe found art everywhere from mosaic floors to staircases with colorful banisters.
After purchasing tickets, we usually start on the main floor with my children’s favorite. A gigantic room with a concrete whale, a giant fish tank, caves, trees, and hidden areas aplenty. This would be a good time to warn that this outing is not for the parent that needs to have eyes on their child at all times, unless you are a fast climber and are great at fitting in small spaces. I have often thought I knew exactly where my children were only to have them pop out from a spot that I didn’t even know you could get to. Now the giant tree area connects all the way to the 3rd floor, just to be aware. That element of surprise and discovery is the very reason they love it so much! My kids could spend the whole day in this area alone, but there is much more to do and see!
On the 2nd floor there is a restaurant with sandwiches and pizza, a giant hamster wheel that children love to run in as well as the aforementioned shoelace store and an “aquarium”. I put that word in quotes, because there are a few fish and seahorses, but there are more areas to climb all with a sea theme and a giant waterfall you can walk behind! My kiddos loved going underneath the big tank in the middle and find the mermaid and sea monster underneath. Plenty of parents made this journey, while I took my kids word for it. There is a giant octopus with stairs leading down and this will put you back in the cave area of the 1st floor. This area is being worked on and I look forward to the finished result.
The 3rd floor is by far my favorite! On this floor there is a skateboard park area for sliding and swinging around, a sci-fi themed diner with local treats, a train, a circus, and an architectural museum. If that wasn’t enough they have now added a toddler city for 5 and under (where you can actually keep track of them), a giant spider web kids can bounce around in, and a store selling pieces of buildings from downtown. This is also where you can get on the slide that will take you all the way down to the first floor.
The 4th floor has recently been redone and if any of you loved the craft area and snowflake lady, this is where they live now. If you or your child need a break from all the climbing and running, this is a nice place to chill and create. There is also another eating area, a modern art museum, and more St. Louis architecture. We’re not done yet! The 4th floor now has stairs leading you up to more slides and a view of an organ and other instruments. Also, you can access the roof here if you paid extra for roof access.
Make sure you come on a nice day, so the outside is also available to you. Besides the aforementioned ball pits, there are plenty of climbing areas in towers, a plane, a firetruck, and many other places to discover. If you need an adult beverage to calm your nerves from all these kids popping out of everywhere, there is a bar in the log cabin connected to the outside along with barbecue depending on the time of year.
Come to City Museum ready to experience the magic of discovery and invention, as you crawl around never knowing what will come next. I hope I have provided you with enough description to pique your interest, but to really get this place you have to see it for yourself!