This year for New Year's we decided to head out to STL and check out the City Museum. We heard about it from our friends and it sounded like an amazing place. We have been to a lot of museums as a family but words can't describe the magnitude of this space. From the City Museum website:
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!
As soon as you walk up to the building you get a sense of wonder - how amazing would it be to have such a building as a canvas. As we got closer to the front door you could smell a fresh fire burning and hear the laugher and screams from running children. We turned the corner to the front entrance to be greeted by a huge tangle of steel and wood. A bus floated in the air and cages and slides were everywhere. The fire was surrounded by a bunch of people making smores and hanging out. The place felt alive! We talked through the front doors and my eyes raced to drink everything in. My head spun back and forth to look at the detail and clever use of materials that lined the walls, floors and ceiling. It was incredible and we were only 20 feet into the door.
We moved from area to area, exploring and crawling through what seemed like a dreamland. The entire museum was an endless maze of tunnels and rooms that connected by slides and countless doors or holes that lead you from one place to another. The underground portion was big enough for me to stand in at times and some areas only small enough for a four year old to crawl through. Two things to take note of: 1. If you are paranoid about losing your child then this place isn't for you. You won't have fun if you don't let your kids (and yourself) explore. From entering a hole that might let out across the room or up to the ceiling to going down a slide that takes you three floors away from your loved ones. The possibilities of losing your kids for a moment or two are pretty high. 2. They sell knee pads in the gift shop. Buy them I wish I would have, the caves and tunnels are made of concrete. Bonus tip: Bring a flashlight, its dark everywhere, Flash lights are a huge help.
The amount of work and detail that went into this place is incredible. Once you take a step back and start to look at the craftsmanship and construction you begin to realize what an amazing feat this must have been to create. The metal work, the welding the planning all things to appreciate and take note of. I loved the details and decisions that were made. Every turn revealed a new treasure.
There was an overwhelming sense that everything there was meant to be touched, climbed on and used. Every inch every corner reveled something new. The staff was present but faded away in the background, like if there were only there to make sure no one got hurt. Nothing seemed off limits and the kids loved it. You never feel like something is going to break. There were many rooms like this one above where you could spend two hours in and not move from that area. The black door against the wooden wall in the above picture lead to a black maze where you had to crawl and zig zag your way through it. It was crazy I got about 30 feet in and had to turn around because it freaked me out.
One of the main attractions is the 10 story slide (there is also a 5 story one too) The slides spirals down 10 stories to the basement caves and tunnels. Again I was blown away on how they made it all and how cool everything was. I could have spent 4 fours in that area and taken a thousand photos. My mind was racing and the kids were having a blast going from tunnel to tunnel random slide to random slide. My daughter was a little scared because it was so dark but after awhile she started exploring herself too. My wife and mother and father-in-law were all troopers as we went from area to area searching and exploring this incredible place.
It was pretty cold to spend time outside (I put our coats in the car) but we went outside for a little bit to check it out. It was pretty dark outside too so I couldn't really appreciate the complexity and construction of everything but there was a bunch of cool slides this ball pit and a bunch of other things that begged to be climbed and jumped on. I can't wait to go back and check out this place again. It was a blast and totally inspiring.
Check out the City Museum on their website and plan your visit today. You won't regret it!