It’s easy to take where you live for granted—some of its best attributes and attractions can become an afterthought. The City Museum in downtown St. Louis, which has been open for 22 years this October, could easily be one of those places.
The intricacies don’t easily show themselves, but seeking out the stories and appreciating the history is key to next-level admiration. Housed in a 10-story, 600,000 square-foot warehouse, the City Museum is a mixture of playground, funhouse, aquarium, art gallery, all wrapped into one architectural marvel made out of found and repurposed objects.
Each one of these objects has a story—and a good one at that. See that plane hanging from the side of the building? It belonged to legendary Vegas crooner Wayne Newton. It was flooded in 1993 and left as junk.
The gargoyles that greet you as you walk to the second floor? Those were taken from bombed cathedrals in Europe by a soldier during WWII. The numerous stories and secrets are sometimes lost in the chaos of kids belting down slides and climbing through mazes.
Bob Cassilly, the mastermind and founder of City Museum, was an internationally acclaimed artist and classically trained sculptor. Bob and his longtime crew of artisans have constructed the museum from the material of which cities are made: everything from iron, bricks, and stone, to tanks, bridges, planes, and buses.
On your next trip, look carefully to see the details of City Museum. MonstroCity is made from salvaged rebar from the old Vandeventer Overpass. The giant dome on the rooftop was salvaged from the St. Louis Science Center during the Center’s remodel. Each beam and artifact represents the city of St. Louis, but the museum also boasts some of the best collections of materials, artifacts, and fine art from around the world.
Head to the fourth floor to see one of the cities best-kept secrets—an impressive collection of work by internationally renowned contemporary artists, as well as murals by St. Louis-based artists. Opened in 2017, the gallery started from an interest in contemporary art shared by former owner Dave Jump and current director Rick Erwin. The result is an awe-inspiring collection of cutting-edge pieces.
Artist: Thomas Heatherwick / Mural: Noah Macmillan
The 2019 season pass has arrived. The deal makes the museum affordable and provides lots of flexibility. The pass includes unlimited visits (good through the end of the year), rooftop admission, invitations to season pass-only events, and discounted special events and programs. The cost per season pass is 69.99 plus tax.
There’s nothing one dimensional about the City Museum, so don’t make the mistake of assuming it's an amazing place to take kids and leave it at that. To be clear, this is one of the best attractions for kids in the Midwest, and in the entire country. Yes, your kids will probably get lost at least 2.5 times, but they will have the. BEST. time.
In the words of eight-year-old Luke Prinzi, “You can do a lot of stuff there, you can climb and slide, and it looks like a plane crashed into City Museum, and I get to walk on it.” Don’t miss your chance to discover (or rediscover) this St. Louis gem.