St. Louis Confidential

The City Museum


I just turned in my Master’s capstone project this week. Finals are coming up, and I’m in the middle of a job search. Many of my friends are going through the same processes. With all of this going on, do you ever miss the days when we were little and the biggest decision we had to make was what to do first on the playground? Well, at the City Museum in downtown St. Louis, you can bring those days back–even as an adult.

At the City Museum, you have plenty of choices to make. You can walk through caves, tunnels, and secret passages, climb up a giant metal coil that looks like a slinky, hang out in a giant bird’s nest or tree house, and slide down a three-story slide. You can ride a ferris wheel that sits on top of the building or walk around in an old school bus that dangles over that rooftop. You can swing on ropes, walk through a huge stone whale, or sneak into an underground tunnel that you can barely fit through.

Rather than your typical museum, the City Museum is a giant jungle-gym. But it is also a work of art and an architectural masterpiece. The floors and walls are covered in tile mosaics, and most of the structures are made of recycled materials, such as abandoned planes and conveyor belt rollers. The City Museum describes itself as “an eclectic mixture of children’s playground, funhouse, surrealistic pavilion, and architectural marvel made out of unique, found objects.” The Museum occupies what used to be the International Shoe Company. All of the Museum’s materials come from St. Louis.

It sounds pretty cool, but the pictures speak for themselves:

A girl crawls through one of the metal tunnels in the outdoor part of the City Museum. Photo by Peter Newcomb for The New York Times.

You can go inside this old school bus that hangs off the roof of the City Museum. Photo by Nicandjessica

Concrete caves at the City Museum. Photo by City Museum.

Kids climbing up a metal, slinky-like structure at the City Museum. Photo by Trista Digiuseppi.

Abandoned airplane at the City Museum. Photo by Valrie.

The City Museum is fun for all ages. I have taken little kids there on field trips as a camp counselor, and also bring my friends there when they visit. On Friday and Saturday nights, the City Museum is open until 1am and serves drinks and plays music.

The New York Times featured the City Museum in an article a few years ago that described one out-of-town family’s trip to the Museum. The Mother, Gay Rhodes, commented, “This place is incredible…I have two 22-year-olds, an 18-year-old and a husband, and they are all being gerbils.”

With so many places to climb or walk through at the City Museum, you can be a gerbil too. You’ll have a different experience each time you go. You might end up with a few skinned knees, but a trip to the City Museum is well worth it.