You’re Supposed To Get Lost At The City Museum In St. Louis, Missouri

It’s easy to be a tourist in your our own town, especially since you just got there!

This weekend, I planned our Saturday outing at the City Museum located in downtown St. Louis, Missouri. The City Museum isn’t your typical museum; It’s more like an art gallery, fun house and obstacle course wrapped into one crazy experience.

The late artist Bob Cassilly and his wife Gail founded the The City Museum in the old International Shoe Company building. The interior exhibits span four stories, and, as the City Museum website states, the artists are “always building.” Visitors can explore the outdoor exhibits, too, including a 10-story slide and elevated obstacle course.

Museum admission costs $10-12 dollars per adult (2 & under free), plus extra for access to the rooftop and aquarium. Visitors can park in the museum’s parking lot for $5 or find plenty of metered parking around the museum (though I’m unsure if there are time limits). The museum website mentions that there are usually lines in the mornings and recommends visiting after five p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

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A view of the building next door.

When we arrived at 4:30 p.m. on a Saturday, the museum was packed, but the lines to purchase wristbands were very short. We had heard that although many of the museum exhibits are geared towards children, it’s intended for adults, too. On this visit, we didn’t notice many other adults who attended without children.

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There are signs at each admission window informing guests that the museum does not offer maps. Getting lost is highly encouraged.

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We tried to escape the crowd in the lobby by exploring the second floor. I loved that we had no idea where we were going or what to expect. The first exhibit we saw featured examples of local architecture.

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There were examples of tiles and doorknobs and keys. We were especially fascinated by the sneering gargoyles.

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This same floor featured a St. Louis resident’s extensive insect collection. Jake studied a frame of pinned cicadas and I curiously poked a wasp’s nest. On the next floor (or at least I think it was. Who knows where we were?) a confident, gold hotdog man greeted us.

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This stance, though.

The art piece below features little figurines of people holding up a plane of glass. We took turns standing on it since it could support five people at a time.

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Another part of the museum took us into a cavern maze complete with secret doorways, crawl spaces and spiral staircases. The cavern entrances are located all over the museum. You never know where you’ll see legs dangling from the ceilings. For tall men like Jake, crawl spaces and tunnels might not be options.

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I nervously walked across this wire-covered board walk suspended high in the air.

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And you never know what will greet you around each corner. It could be this weird devil head or stone torso lady.

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Or this spinning wheel.

Spinning Wheel at the City Museum, St. Louis, Missouri from JeniEats on Vimeo.

The most mind-blowing part of the museum is an outdoor obstacle course that’s suspended stories-up in the air. Temperatures reached past 95 degrees so we were more than content to watch the brave obstacle-course goers. I might also be afraid of heights. . .

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After an hour and a half, we were hot and sweaty and ready to head somewhere cooler. Between all of the people and the 90 degree weather, the museum felt toasty and we were too hot to visit the outdoor features. We grabbed a beer at the Alpha Brewing Company across the street.

Overall, we’ll always remember our date at City Museum as one of our most unique experiences. The 30-year old me was hesitant to crawl into dark holes and mid-air wire tunnels, but I smile as I imagine the 10-year old me zipping through them with wild abandon. Some of my fondest childhood memories occurred at a giant Twin Cities park called Shoots and Ladders. This reminded me of Shoots and Ladders on Surge.

The museum did seem mostly geared for children who could easily be entertained for a whole day here. There’s also a special children’s ball pit and crafting area where we saw supervised paper snowflake, cardboard sculpture, and painting stations. Parents will find plenty of entertainment, too, but may have to work to keep up with their kids who will want to zip in and out of the passageways.

Finally, guests can not bring food and beverages into the museum. There are several concession stands and cafes sprinkled the museum, including the Roof Top Cantina. I never had trouble finding a bathroom or drinking fountain when I needed one. Keep in mind that rooftop access costs an extra $5 per person with general admission, only.

When our family and friends with kids visit, we’ll highly recommend they check out the museum. At some point, we really do need to visit on a cooler day so we can experience the outdoor features. Maybe I’ll be brave enough to slide down the 10 story slide by then.

11 Comments

  1. Glad you visited and yes, it’s a great place for kids! The middleish picture is the one of the 10 story slide! It’s awesome!

  2. Those obstacle courses are awesome! The gargoyles are scary!

  3. That place looks like it’s right up my alley!

  4. This looks like such a cool place to visit!

  5. Interestingly, I have never been to the City Museum during all the years I’ve been going to St. Louis. (Also, I’ve never been up in the Arch – my wife is a little scared of heights, but I may do it on my own at some point when I’m down there on business.) It was my understanding that 20 and 30-somethings flock to the City Museum on Saturday nights. Don’t know what’s different about it, but I’ve heard it’s a popular place on the weekends.

    Also, if you want to see a large collection of kitschy memorabilia, you need to check out Blueberry Hill in U City. We were just there on Saturday getting bloody mary’s and beers while the wives were shopping down the street. It’s always fun to browse the figurines, pictures and other stuff they have.

    • Honestly, I thought there would be more 20-30 year olds at the museum. I did go down a slide, but was the only adult that we saw trying to use the obstacle course features. We weren’t sure what we were allowed to climb on and didn’t want to accidentally step on a little one. The museum closes at 11 p.m. and we left around six, so maybe we went too early. Thanks for your Blueberry Hill suggestion. I don’t think we’ve been to U City yet. We’ll have to check out Chavas too for burritos.

  6. I would totally love this place. I am not sure that Chris would be as excited as I would be over it but man it looks amazing. The golden hot dog man –of course you had to take a picture. And the people holding up the glass platform is amazing. What a fun time. You are definitely finding some worthy things to visit in St. Louis and I am so glad you are getting some of the local flavor already. Fun but definitely a good place to go on a cooler day. Good thing there was a brewery close by. 🙂

  7. Your writing is very good. It is descriptive and interesting to make me want to visit there. From your descriptive language, one can easily tell whether you enjoyed the experience and encourages one to go or not …and what to expect when you do go. You really are quite good at this…keep it up!!!! We enjoy you!

  8. I feel like I’d hurt myself every time I went as a kid, but I love it anyway. Such an odd, awesome place.

    • Also, would be afraid my child would get lost forever. Couldn’t believe how many secret tunnels and doorways there were.

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