If you are taking a trip to St. Louis you ABSOLUTELY MUST visit the City Museum. Kids or no kids – don’t even ask what it is – just pin it and put it on your list RIGHT NOW. It was #1 on my list to visit during our first trip to St. Louis and it was absolutely mind blowing. In fact, it was so mind blowing that by the end of the day I was completely shocked with an overwhelming feeling and lost my mind (well, almost!). (in a good but exhausting way of course!) We already have a trip in place to go back this summer just for the City Museum.
I had heard about the famous 10 story slide (YES I absolutely said TEN STORY SLIDE) but I was not prepared for the sheer excitement, incredulous wonder, and core exhaustion that would accompany us! And we didn’t even make it to the rooftop Ferris Wheel, bus hanging off of the roof – and whatever else is up there. Surely I’ve caught your interest now!
This is the famous 10 story slide. I was actually the only one in the family (aside from our 16 month old of course) that didn’t make it all the way to the top. I am terrified of heights and although I can push myself to an extent to overcome that fear I only made it to the 6th floor! There is NO elevator to the top – you must climb the stairs all the way up! But I’ll give you a hint – there is a secret door near the cafe on the 4th floor you can crawl through to help take out a few flights! Otherwise go through the caves to get to the slides. Believe it or not it is a hidden wonder you wouldn’t know about unless you stumbled across the area. That’s how marvelous this museum is.
*TIP – Double check height requirements here for the slide(s) before you go and psych your kids up! Although my 6 year old was just tall enough to go on the slides! When we went the height requirement for the 10 story slide was 48 inches.
OK now that we’ve gotten the incredulous 10 story slide out of the way let’s talk about the rest of the museum and my tips on how to survive the City Museum St. Louis. The City Museum is like a living breathing work of art. An old shoe factory originally- it is evolving constantly with new additions. It’s FREAKING incredible. Just look at SOME of the playground outside! It is no easy feat to walk through there if you’re terrified of heights like I am! It IS, however, the PERFECT place for my daredevil boys! Safety with the feeling of terror. There are (almost) no rules except for a few safety height requirements. The building is meant to be climbed on, in and through.
Explored. Discovered. Lost in. Amazed by.
There IS food and seating inside the museum as well as bag check and an elevator which allows access to only some of the museum (since much of it must be climbed!). We did bring our stroller in for our 16 month which helped with the long day but it was tight. Parking is available literally right in front of the museum.
Tips to Survive the City Museum St. Louis
*Bring a few bucks in cash to park. It’s cheap & worth every penny.
*MUST FOR KIDS – Write your phone number on your child’s wristband in case they get lost!
*Bring $$ for food & drinks – you can NOT bring food from outside in. (although the food price is extremely reasonable in the museum!)
*Consider a stroller or baby carrier if infants/toddlers are coming but know the stroller will mainly be used for nap time or resting – not to be used while exploring.
*Wear GOOD sturdy sneakers and shoes that won’t fall off when climbing! IE- NO sandals! (if your child loses their shoe while climbing it’s unlikely they’ll get it back!)
*Be CAREFUL with items in your pockets if climbing – they can easily fall out! (Instead consider a fanny pack that won’t get in the way!)
*KNOW before you GO! Understand that the “cave” exploring area is VERY dark and you can encounter some very small spaces. You can absolutely walk through the main path without hunching over or crawling but if you’re claustrophobic skip the small spaces!
*In addition to writing your phone number on your child’s wristband have a designated meeting space in case your child feels lost. For us, we chose the “bread pans” by the bathroom. It was on the main floor by the front desk area where my kids could easily ask an employee to call our cell phones if they had a concern. If your child can read a clock consider having them wear a watch and check in every hour.
*EXPECT NOT to see your kids! We did our absolute BEST to keep tabs on our kids but inevitably we quickly realized once the kids headed into a treehouse or tunnel we had NO clue where they were going, when they would be out, or how to find them. For my boys it wasn’t a big deal because the thrill of exploring far outweighed the concern of where we were BUT understand this could be a concern if you always need to have an eye on your child! I have no clue how I would have been able to do it with a preschooler!
*Station yourself in a central area if you have kids. I gave my children a designated exploration AREA that they were to stay in and I sat in the middle of it waiting for them to be done. For example, the caves were several stories high on one side of the museum so I sat in the middle path area and they knew they were not allowed to leave the caves for any reason. Same when we played outside – it’s an amazing HUGE area and I let them loose out there after showing them where I would be with the understanding that they were to stay outside and find me in our designated location when they were done.
*Enjoy the art! Knowing the City Museum would be an all day affair we desperately needed a break from the sensory stimulation of a ton of people and tight spaces. On the 4th floor are beautiful art halls and galleries to wander through as well as a science specimen area! All large open spaces with pieces of history to view.
*If you have a toddler there IS a Toddler Town! (3rd floor!) Use it! It’s a great place designated for smaller adventurous little ones! I appreciated the ability to corral my 16 month old here. The combination of foam blocks and long but slow slides was perfect for her. There is even a little train ride up there for the munchkins!
*Wear LONG pants. Spending 8 hours crawling around in tunnels, against stone and wires, I don’t need to say much more for you to envision sore little knees! My kids were aching for days just from climbing around! If it’s too hot to wear jeans consider at the very least some light yoga pants or athletic pants! You’ll thank me later. I wouldn’t fault you for wearing knee pads…..just saying.
*Plan for ALL day but be OK with less! Since we were visiting St. Louis we slated out the ENTIRE day for the City Museum. Considering that it was open until midnight I knew we wouldn’t make it that long! I followed my kids lead on how tired they were. We were all SO exhausted by the end of our visit we were far too tired to do anything but go back to the hotel and watch a movie! I can guarantee you that this is not a place you will visit for an hour or two and then be ready to leave.
*Bring first aid supplies with you. Don’t go crazy, but I highly recommend having a few band-aids stuck in your pocket! One of my kids scraped himself up in the caves and it was quick to pull out a band-aid and cover his wrist instead of traipsing all the way back to the front desk.
*Arrive early for the circus! WHAT?! Yep – they even have several acrobatic circus shows each day! As you can imagine space fills up quickly! This is a great scheduled “break” in your day to just sit & enjoy. Definitely recommend!
Honestly, I cannot even begin to tell you how A.M.A.Z.I.N.G. the City Museum is. These photos do it NO justice as most of the pictures I took just looked like abstract chaos of intertwining branches, rooms, rock, tile, coils, and everything else that the museum is created from. You absolutely have to experience it for yourself – it will blow your mind away. But be forewarned – at the end of the day you’ll be utterly exhausted but dreaming of your next visit to the City Museum.