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Things to do in St Louis: Getting Down (and up!) at the City Museum

I knew that our visit to the City Museum in St Louis was a little selfish. It was too “big” for my one year old to really be able to enjoy, but my inner child had an awfully good time.

This place really fires the imagination for big kids and little kids alike. The museum (a very loose term – it is more of a huge play space made of found and recycled junk ) is located near downtown St Louis in an old, multi story industrial building that used to be a shoe factory.  The city museum is definitely one of the more unique and exotic things to do in St Louis.

We enjoyed exploring and experiencing the various themed environments that the museum offered. From exploring winding cave tunnels complete with dragons and giant crystals in the basement, to a whimsical, ocean themed oasis replete with fish, a whale and crashing waves, the City Museum delights and amazes visitors with its childlike creativity.

things to do in St Louis

Even the spaces outside and on top of the museum are filled with places to explore, including a post apocolyptic (think Mad Max) looking ball pit amidst airplane wrecks and fire engines perched atop high towers with bridges strung between them and a ferris wheel on the roof.

things to do in St Louis

The hardest part of this museum to convey to those who have never been here are the unending tunnels and slides that are the glue that strings the multiple floors of the museum together. Like a giant game of chutes and ladders, tunnels, ladders and slides disappear into the walls, floors and ceilings in an endless variety of directions. Disappearing into one is almost certain to take you to an unknown destination on another floor.

things to do in St Louis

The center of the old shoe factory is a macabre looking collection of twisting metal chutes, at the bottom of which is an old pipe organ. These chutes used to take shoes down from she shoe factory when they were finished. Some of them have been reinforced and polished into slides, including one that takes you down five stories and one that plunges you down an amazing ten stories, from the very top floor of the building to the bottom.

I visited on a humid day, so I didn’t get much speed on the slides, but one of the slide attendants told me that if one wears the right kind of clothing on a dry day in the winter, you can get going pretty fast.

The City Museum does have a toddler area, with toddler sized versions of its larger attractions. Given the fact that there are tunnels all over that your kids can disappear into (not all of them adult sized) and that you might not know where they will come out, the rest of the museum is a harder place to manage small children.

If you do plan on crawling around with your kids, suggestions of knee pads are not off base and do make sure to wear grubby clothes, as the museum is somewhat dusty.

The City Museum is a worthy stop for children and children at heart alike visiting St. Louis. I can’t wait to go back in a few years when my son is a little older and I can strap my knee pads on to explore the tunnels with him!

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