Tag: Tourist Attractions

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.


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.


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


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.


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



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.


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.



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.


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


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

strange Collage

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. . .



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.

Happiness Is Getting Splashed By A Puffin: The St. Louis Zoo

I got splashed by a puffin and it was the greatest experience ever.

Last week I met a new friend to explore the St. Louis Zoo and could not have anticipated the amount of joy it brought. While I didn’t exactly feel like I kid again, I felt the same levity, wonder, and ability to just enjoy the moment that comes easier when you are a kid. I found myself giggling with glee when a penguin that swam less than a foot away splashed me and staring in awe as a hippo pressed his thick whiskers against the glass.

I’ve always enjoyed visiting zoo and actually grew up minutes from the Minnesota Zoo. Birthday parties and field trips at the zoo were common occurences and gave me a wonder and appreciation for wildlife. However, there have been other zoos made me feel sad when their animals’ habitats seemed too small or too bare. I have a vivid memory of visiting a free zoo where a lonely polar bear anxiously paced its bare concrete space on a hot summer’s day.

The St. Louis Zoo does amazingly offer free admission and its grounds are immaculately kept. Architecture and landscaping are gorgeous and walkways are litter-free. You can also get surprisingly close to the animals.


The animal’s habitats are spacious and they seem content. I am not well versed in zoology, but guess that animals arrive at zoos for a variety of reasons. The animals I saw did not seem anxious or demonstrate any behavior such as pacing or other repetitive behaviors.


The atrium in the main entrance near the Welcome Desk in the North Entrance.

Free street parking is located around the zoo’s entrances. Depending on how early you arrive and how busy the zoo is, you may have to walk a bit or parallel park. Zoo parking lots are closer to entrances and cost $15 for the whole day. While admission is free, extra activities including the sea lion show, merry-go-round, entrance to the children’s zoo, stingray cove and movies cost $4-5 per ticket (children under 2 are free).

I learned that admission to the stingray cove and children’s zoo is free between 8-9 a.m. on an early morning stroll.


Pet goats in this part of the Children’s Zoo. If I wanted to see a goat in North Iowa, all I had to do was ask a friend, and they’d be like, “There’s some in my backyard. Come on over!”

There is so much to see that one could view indoor and outdoor exhibits all day without paying for the extras. My friend and I strolled around the zoo for two hours and saw many of the free exhibits including elephants, rhinos, seals, sun bears, and orangutans. I assumed we had seen most of the exhibits but was surprised when I learned we only saw about 1/4.


A really cool train track runs through the park. Train tickets cost $5, but allow you to exit to visit exhibits and re-board.


I love that the only trains in St. Louis that I’ve had to wait for to cross the tracks are the fun ones at the zoo.


The Penguin & Puffin Coast features Humboldt, Gentoo, Rockhopper and King penguins. According to the zoo’s website, the Lichenstein Penguin Cove is the nation’s first walk-though, sub-arctic penguin exhibit. You’ll feel a chilly blast of cold air upon entering the cove.


I almost couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw how close we could get to the penguins. They are just inches away from you as they swim by or watch you from the cliffs.


I got a kick out of watching the penguins dive from the cliffs into the water. The one to the left is staring at me through the glass. All of the glass around the exhibits was really, really clean. penguin CollageGaze upwards, and you will see penguins just feet from your head.

Penuins on cliff

The puffin pond lies just beyond the penguins. I watched in delight as puffins bounced and bobbed and dive-bombed into the water from their little cliff coves.


I remember watching Anthony Bourdain hunt puffins with his hosts on the cliffs of Iceland on No Reservations but never expected to see them in person. They also watch zoo-goers above the walkway. I kept expecting the birds to jump on our heads.


Finally, you’ll meet Kali the polar bear who lives at the end of the penguin exhibit. He became the zoo’s newest resident in May 2015 and it’s obvious the city loves him. This two-year old bear was orphaned in Alaska when his mother was killed by hunters for food. Villagers cared for the cub before giving him to U.S. Fish and Wildlife biologists. Read more about Kali’s story here.

Everyone wants to catch a glimpse of Kali. Wherever he goes, the crowds go too. The zoo staff monitored the exhibit and made announcements reminding people to take turns standing by the windows so that everyone could catch a moment with Kali.


When I strolled by Kali’s habitat at 8:30 a.m., groups of people were already waiting for him to make his morning appearance at 9 a.m.

Sea lions and seals are more animals I could spend hours watching. When you reach the underwater tunnel, they swim over and around you and pause in front of curious bystanders.


In addition to the penguin and puffin coves, the bug exhibit is also a cool place to take a break from the sun. This dome houses the butterfly garden (free admission) where you can learn about pollinators and admire plush plants as butterflies flap around you.


Usually I’m afraid of bugs. The bug exhibit helped turn fear into fascination. I was especially enthralled watching leaf cutter ants carry small pieces of leaves around this twisted branch.Ant exhibit Collage

Like I mentioned earlier in this post, I’ve only seen about 1/4 of the zoo. Jake hasn’t gotten to explore it yet, so we’re going back this weekend. Hopefully our trip will include snacks from the zoo’s concession stands, too. Whether or not you think you are excited about zoos, I’d highly recommend visiting ours (can I say ours, yet?) if you travel to St. Louis. I think you’ll find that it’s literally impossible to leave without feeling extremely enthusiastic about zoos.



My short STL-area bucket list includes visiting the haunted Lemp Mansion, Missouri History Museum, City Museum which others have described as a giant, adult playground, Cahokia Mounds, and Elephant Rocks State Park. Our list of bars and restaurants is staggering and we’re struggling to figure out where to start. It’s my turn to choose a date night restaurant and I’m thinking Thai or Vietnamese food.

Thank you to all who make this zoo free for all and to those who have offered us a warm welcome to STL! We appreciate all of your suggestions for your favorite places. 

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