It's an amazing place. The name "City Museum" would imply that it's a museum about the city, but it's really a museum reclaimed from the city. Reclaimed doesn't even begin to describe it. Everywhere you look are salvaged treasures, pieces of industrial cast-aways re-purposed in unbelievable ways. Printing press rollers make banister rails, railway ties and busted balls of metal grow into a massive tree, miles upon miles of rebar make intense climbing structures that rise above the buildings in and out of the shells of old airplanes.
I could go on for hours about all the incredible things you can do and find at City Museum, but it really is something that defies description. So instead, I'm just going to give you pictures and some tips that might help you navigate, should you ever make a visit.
Plan Wisely: I could spend an entire week of full days at City Museum and still not have seen all that it has to offer. This year, we planned it so that we could spend the entire day there, open to close. We also went on a weekday (spring break) to avoid crowds. It worked well, and we had plenty of room to play and roam. Also, be aware that the outside structures can be very hot in the sun, and inside can get steamy as well. Best for a cooler day, if possible.
Get Ready to Get Dirty: Wear jeans. And sneakers. And maybe even kneepads. And if you are scared of heights, have someone else with you that isn't. You'll probably do a lot of climbing and crawling, and it's not exactly a sterile environment. It's old and worn, and there are no rules. Just have fun and explore. As a parent, sometimes this meant that I would have to figure out how to squeeze myself into an 18-inch wide shaft that my kids disappeared into, because I had no clue where the corridor under the floor would come out. Have a plan for where to meet up if you get separated, and make sure your kids know how to identify staff that can help them get there.
Don't Miss the (Free) Extras: City Museum has a circus school inside of it, on the third floor, and they put on shows daily. Very impressive kids! There's a small shoelace shop/factory on the second floor that can be both entertaining and an inexpensive souvenir to remind you of the experience. If you have little ones, there's a fun mini-train ride on the third floor across from the circus, and a mini play area for kids 6 and under. There's a great art studio on the third floor as well, a nest of creativity. Ask the staff what their favorite places are...you might find something you would have otherwise overlooked.
Go Deep: Head past the whale and back into the caves, then find a stairway and head up. And up. And up. I lost count of floors, but once your legs are protesting, about 10 floors up, there's a massive spiral slide made from one of the old chutes of the factory that used to be in the building. It's a fun ride, worth the climb. Not an experience you're going to find anywhere else, that's for sure.
Take a Break: It can be a crazy place. The art studio can be good for a sit. If you want a quieter wing, check out the architecture exhibit on the third floor for a serene moment walking through historic remnants of buildings and sculpture. There's a decent eatery tucked in between the first and second floors that makes some great sandwiches and can offer respite.
Details, Details: Everywhere you look, there's something creative and amazing to behold. Words can't do it justice. Pictures can't even do it. Just be in the moment and experience what a phenomenal place it is.
Pay for an Upgrade: In case you don't find enough to do (ha ha ha), you can also purchase admission to the rooftop, which is open seasonally, and to the aquarium housed on the second floor. I honestly have never had the time to do either of these, but I imagine that much like the admission to the City Museum itself, they are worth the cost.
Did I mention that this place is amazing? Seriously. If you're in Saint Louis, make the time to get there. You won't be disappointed.