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Of the many museums available to explore in St. Louis, one of the most unique is City Museum. The facility is a massive work of interactive art that visitors can adventure through, letting their imaginations run free. This quirky museum is located within a 600,000 sq-ft. facility that used to be the International Shoe Company. It’s now comprised of re-purposed and salvaged materials from St. Louis — anything from an old ferris wheel, a fighter jet, and a school bus. The museum includes both an indoor and outdoor area for adults and children to explore, including caves, tunnels, and slides all made from found objects. The founder, Bob Cassilly, was a classically trained sculptor and entrepreneur who opened City Museum in 1997 with the vision of creating a collection of his “childlike” artistic creations. Today, the museum is known not only as an entertaining playhouse, but also as the revitalization of one of St. Louis’ previously desolate central areas. Here are several reasons City Museum should be on your list of spots to visit in St. Louis:
1. It’s not a “children’s museum”
Despite its whimsical appearance, this museum isn’t particularly geared towards children. In fact, children under 16 must have an adult present with them to enter the museum at all. With its many contraptions and rusty found objects, the museum isn’t completely free of danger. Cassilly himself preferred that the facility allow its visitors to take risks in the unrestrained spaces, with as little rules and signage as possible. On their website they give some tips on how to best enjoy the museum, but assert that “common space prevails”. Don’t let this keep you from bringing the family — City Museum was voted “#1 Family Attraction in the World”. Just know that it’s a space that’s equally enjoyable for children and adults.
One of the most exciting exhibits in the museum is the outdoor hodgepodge that is MonstroCity. It’s one of the most popular attractions in the museum and includes two airplanes, some wrought iron “slinkies” tunnels, and a castle turret. This fantasy-like climbing gym is one of the major draws of the museum.
3. The Enchanted Caves
Another very popular exhibit in City Museum is their Enchanted Caves. Here you can explore a massive concrete labyrinth with gaping mouths to climb through and slides to take you back down again. These caves took Bob Cassilly 6 years to construct, and the various nooks and crannies attest to his work. Visitors recommend bringing a flashlight of your own into this attraction.
4. Their 10-story slide
One of the most thrilling experiences to try here is taking a ride down their 10-story slide. There is no elevator to take you to the top, so you’ll get your exercise in climbing the stairs. One interesting aspect of the slide is its former use in the shoe factory — it used to be an old chute which the factory would use to transport their shoes. Just one of the many fascinating examples of repurposed objects you’ll find here.
5. It’s expanding
The best part about this innovative space is that it’s always expanding, so there are often new exhibits to explore. While Cassilly passed away in 2011, he left a longtime crew of staff who are dedicated to carrying on the missions and projects of the museum. They currently have 15 years of projected add-ons and expansions. These artisans construct their add-ons strictly from St. Louis found objects, so you’ll find objects like salvaged bridges, chimneys, and abandoned planes, that hint at the urban roots of the city.
City Museum is open 7 days a week, Monday-Thursday from 9am-5pm, Friday and Saturday from 9am-midnight, and Sunday from 11am-5pm. Admission is $14 per person, and parking is $10 cash in their lot. Due to the climbing activity required to explore much of the museum, they recommend wearing closed-toe and closed-heel shoes, preferably sneakers. Plan your visit and see why over 700,000 people visit City Museum each year.