The City Museum: St. Louis' Happy Mutant wonderland


43 Responses to “The City Museum: St. Louis' Happy Mutant wonderland”

  1. nixiebunny says:

    We got to visit this museum while at the FIRST Robotics Championship competition in April. It was a blast! I had no idea it was this cool when I read the written description in the program guide.

    Best of all, there’s a bar in the middle.

  2. Robb Milford says:

    Awesome to see this on boingboing!  We live about 3 hours from St. Louis and it is well worth the pilgrimage.  We’ve had a blast everytime we’ve been.  And yes the aquarium is pretty cool, and it seems its only a few bucks extra.

  3. Jonathan Badger says:

    I know there are a lot of you who won’t believe me, but St. Louis is no longer the wreck I, and many other Midwesterners, grew up thinking it was
    Interesting places tend to come up from a wreck, become somewhat gentrified into interesting, hip Bohemia, and finally end up as sterile chain-restaurant and luxury condo hell as they become *too* gentrified. And eventually they become wrecks again. It’s the cycle of life.

  4. dpamac says:

    St. Louis is still very much a city in flux, trying to figure out what is. The late Bob Cassilly gave a lot of us some pretty damn good inspiration to try and continue to pull it out of flux and give it some personality. The City Museum is one of the coolest places you can visit pretty much anywhere. Nothing there goes unused…if it fails it’s repurposed. When you visit STL carve out the time to spend the day here. It’s fantastic.

  5. Joe Buck says:

    Such a great place; we visited in 2006 for a family wedding and the kids and the adults all had a blast.  The SF Bay Area, where I live, doesn’t have anything that is as cool.

  6. ChicagoD says:

    We were there with a curious five-year old this summer. It is hard to describe just how awesome it was for him. There are a million places that are really only for little kids and I think he found them all. At one point he was in a tunnel under the gift shop while we were expecting him to come out of a tree we’d seen him go up.

    BTW, if you are one of those parents who needs to know where the kid is and what the kid is up to at all times, either don’t go to this place, or be able to fit everywhere a five-year old can and be as quick as a five-year old. Otherwise, it is impossible.

  7. scruss says:

    The aquarium is definitely worth it. The shark tank crawl is the best! 

    • Compared to big fancy aquaria like the Shedd in Chicago or the big one in Long Beach, CA, the City Mus. one is pretty small, but like the rest of the place it looks like the creation of a slightly mad hobbyist, and therin lies the charm. This is an amazing institution, perhaps mostly because it doesn’t insist on teaching any valuable lessons to impressionable children.

  8. SofaKing says:

    it’s a little ‘disorienting’…at first.  There’s all this amazing stuff and not only can you touch it (unlike a museum), you’re encouraged to climb in/on it and explore… it takes a while to get over that… let your guard down and become like a kid again… oh, look, a hole in the wall with a metal tunnel going out the fourth floor and leading to an airplane suspended from the roof… let’s go!

  9. David Miller says:

    I’m a huge fan of the City Museum, I really miss it since moving away from St. Louis. One more tip: Take some wax paper with you and sit on it going down the slides, it’ll give you some real oomph.

  10. Sam Ley says:

    If you befriend one of the artists working on the machines, ask if you can borrow a mop-head for going down the slides – it makes it extra-terrifying!

  11. da_phonz says:

    Nice to see this getting some blog love. STL, my home town, is definitely a fun city.

  12. ChrisAnymouse says:

    Everything in this article is true – the city museum is one of the coolest things in the world. Stop reading now, open a new tab and begin making travel arrangements. 

  13. DrMedicine says:

    I just visited for the first time on Saturday. It was absolutely delightful.

  14. Cole Jackson says:

    Visited the place on two separate occasions while visiting friends in STL.  Fun times were had by all.

  15. eaddict says:

    One of the MOST VISIT places whenever friends come to town.  Even as an adult I love this place!  Late weekend evenings tend to get crowded with teens.  Nice to play in the Fall too – the steel on the outside of the building gets a tad warm.  Forget about tracking/following your kids – just have a time/place to meet and enjoy!

  16. This place is amazing. Bring knee pads or something to protect your knees if you go.

  17. Joe Fitzsimmons says:

    St. Louisan here.  The World Aquarium inside of the City Museum is also incredible.  The behind the scenes tour is the best.

  18. Lauren Seals says:

    I think perhaps I’m just being sentimental, but I grew up in St. Louis. I live in Seattle now and for the foreseeable future, but my heart and my roots are in the Lou. There is a magic to the city that I’m spoiled on, and perhaps it’s just because I was raised there and my parents and grandparents and great-grandparents were as well, but considering that mostly these days the news I see about it is troubling (imagine being from Todd Akin’s district this year. Gross) seeing all these bits and bobs crop up on BB is really exciting.

    I miss the city terribly, but I also don’t expect there to be a lot for me there right now as a professional creative. It’s in recovery but it’s not booming. There has never been a doubt in my mind that I will go back though. If only to be back in a city that appreciates its baseball team.

    The City Museum is a perfect place. There’s absolutely nothing like being at the top of a 40 foot ferris wheel on the roof of an 11 story building at night. You can see Purina and downtown and Forest Park. If you really want to feel as though you’ve made a terrible decision, climb the wire armatures 30 feet up in the air. Nothing gets your heart racing faster. 

    Though word for the wise— If you’re planning to do this as your bachelorette party, make sure your bridesmaids don’t have short dresses. You get pretty bruised up.

    (And if you’re wondering, fellow St Louisans, it’s KHS)

  19. vendorx says:

    The St. Louis City Museum was like finally reaching heaven! The question you’ll ask yourself, of course, as you stagger along drunkenly, four stories above the ground, along coiled wire scaffolding from plane chassis to plane chassis, gin and tonic in hand, tiny children swarming about you like rats, is how anyone ever managed to insure the place!

  20. LOVE that place! Last time I was there, which was unfortunately about a decade ago, we got drinks at the bar, then hit the skatepark, and had a belly dancer perform for us. Great time every time.

  21. TombKing says:

    This showed up after I moved away to job prospects in Seattle. It has been a must do according to the offspring every visit back to see the parental units. Not that I mind going, 10 story slide! Though last visit was a Sunday and they closed at 5pm but we did get to explore the roof as it was open and get a ride on the ferris wheel, ON THE ROOF!

    And yes be very comfortable with losing sight of your kid they will just go off and have fun. Note there are staff to keep unattended kids from getting out of the specific area you are in so they can’t wander too far.

  22. Robert Reiheld says:

    One of the best things about the City Museum is that it is always under construction. We probably go every other month, and every single time there is something new, or something that I was looking forward to that is caution-taped off. I hope they get the man-sized pneumatic-powered Rock’em Sock’em Robots back out soon. 

    You definitely should have taken in one of the circus shows and mentioned it. Every couple hours there is a performance of either a local youth-circus acrobatic show, or jugglers, or magicians, or somesuch, and they are really really good.

    One of the other things I try to take a look at every few weeks is Bissel Autobody on Choteau street. They’ve got a a junk lot full of Vietnam era jets and helicopters in various states of disrepair. A couple F-105′s, an S-3, and the forward fuselage of a B-52, just sitting on the grass on an industrial side street.

  23. Chad Wattler says:

    Thanks for this. St. Louis only seems to get any press when someone famous passes through or one of our sports ball teams are winning. It’s a cool town with a lot of hidden gems like this one. I love living here. 

  24. Chris Meyers says:

    If you go, remember to watch out for the dark side of the corn dog.

  25. Crashproof says:

    A St. Louisian here who loves City Museum… but frankly I think the aquarium sucks.  When I visited it last, some of the tanks weren’t even clean and there were sea turtles without anywhere near enough space.

    Go to the St. Louis Zoo instead during summer if you can, when they have the rays and sharks you can pet.

    Everything else about City Museum though is fantastic!

  26. Tarliman says:

    I’ve been there a couple of times, and the aquarium was well worth the extra coinage both times. Amazing place. Plus, Sydney Padua used the pipe organ in the shoe factory slide area in her comic, The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage in the “Organist” storyline. 

  27. Shana McDanold says:

    We held our main reception for the 2011 NASIG Conference ( ) at the City Museum. Essentially we turned 300+ librarians loose in the Museum for several hours on a Saturday night. So much fun! The best part? Watching my colleagues compare bruises the next morning and talk about which slide they liked best. :) *Everyone* had a good time (even the doubters). Definitely worth looking at if you want to host an event. It will be memorable, and in a good way.

  28. franko says:

    one of my favorite places EVER. i think every city should encourage places like this. it’s the closest thing i can think of to what burning man spirit feels like to me outside of being at burning man.

  29. HeatherD says:

    This is where my St. Louis Native husband and I held our wedding reception. On a Sunday evening, following an afternoon ceremony at the Missouri Botanical Garden, we had the run of the entire museum (minus the aquarium and the not-yet-built roof). In the wedding invitations, we encouraged our guests to bring a change of clothes “Khakis go down the slides faaaaast!” 
    Some folks believed us and were adequately prepared, others decided to risk their clothing. Nobody really sat out but the not-yet-crawling baby… but even then, the lights and sound must have been magnificent. My uncle and college buddy went crawling through the under-floor tunnels and popped their heads through while cake was being served, Parents and friends climbed through the habitrails, zoomed down the slides. Grandparents walked in wonder of the bones of a a city that they once knew, touched it, and stepped back in time. 

    I love this place. It is a part of me. And I, too, have always felt like it belonged in American Gods. It is a place of reverent madness, somehow solid and real, a physical delirium in a city that hasn’t forgotten how to dream. 

  30. zeppo says:

    Two things:

    1) The City Museum is a lot like what a tour of the Willy Wonka factory might be (Gene Wilder version).

    Seriously, we would just be walking along, and my kid would jump down a random hole in the wall, and I wouldn’t find him for an hour.

    It was unsafe in the best sense of the word.

    2) I don’t swear much, but at one point during our visit, I turned to a guy who worked there, looked him in the eye, and said, “This place is fucking amazing!”

    I’m a total suburban-dad-type-guy, and I had this wild-eyed grin on my face. It was the best museum (attraction? it somewhat defies single word definitions) I’ve ever been to.

  31. I have lived in St Louis most of my life, and can confirm that, yes, the City Museum is AWESOME.

    Hey, you there, yes, you — the one who’s reading this right now. What are you waiting for? Get tickets to STL right now, and come see it for yourself!

  32. Sparg says:

    Is the bus still hanging out over the edge?  Haven’t been there for a coupla of years.  That would be a twisted place for a spook house.

    • SofaKing says:

      yes, the bus is still there hanging off the roof… I haven’t been since the roof was opened… but according to their website, you can actually get in the bus!

  33. I don’t live in a loft on the 5th floor, but I’m in a loft next door! Visit whenever you want!

  34. regeya says:

    ‘ I turned to my husband and asked, incredulous, “Why the hell wasn’t this place in American Gods?”‘

    Having been to both City Museum and House on the Rock, I couldn’t agree more.

  35. billstreeter says:

    If you think that place is cool imagine what Bob had planned for the enormous former cement plant he was working on at the time of his (untimely) death last year. It was several acres of buildings and hills and tunnels and sculptures. I saw it in its construction phase and it sits unfinished due to legal turmoil of his estate between his former business partners and his widow. It’s unfortunate. Bob was cool enough to let me shoot a series of live music videos after hours at City Museum you can see them here:

  36. I’ve lived in St. Louis since the 1980′s, and it’s more fun and more artistically vibrant than I have ever seen it. Even five years ago I made fun of the resident boosters, but now I’m happy to be one of them. Also, this article undersells The City Museum. The English language may not contain enough superlatives to praise the place properly, but the reviewer could have tried harder. ;^D

  37. occula says:

    Husband and I went to the museum not long after it opened. There weren’t a lot of other people around most of the time, and there was a lot of empty space. We were both fascinated by an area with live glass blowing in progress, and a large corner with heaps of architectural pieces basically in open storage. We roamed around looking at pillars and cornices and pieces and metal and doors and … I don’t even know. Some had labels indicating what building they came from, but by and large, we weren’t even sure we were supposed to be in that area.

    It was awesome.

  38. joe hostman says:

    I live down the street from the City Museum, and it’s true! You cannot accurately describe the incredible amazingness of this place. Hint to those 21+: go on Friday or Saturday nights.  They are open til midnight or 1am,  There are also 2 bars, one in the log cabin on the main floor, and another hidden in the middle of the place (I won’t say where…its more fun to find it after crawling, jumping and sliding around for a couple hours, thirsty and in desperate need of a frosty PBR). St. Louis is often under-appreciated by both outsiders and it’s own residents, so it’s wonderful to see this great press about the city I love!

    • CastanhasDoPara says:

       “…in desperate need of a frosty Schlafly”


      (Sheesh, and I’m not even from STL. No offense intended, just some friendly ribbing.)

  39. CastanhasDoPara says:

    Certainly on my list of places to frequently (as possible) revisit. Friends of mine did their wedding and reception there a while back. Best. Wedding. Ever. (And I hate weddings.)

  40. William Draughn says:

    City Museum is great. My kids love the place, and I have plenty of fun chasing them around. Warning, watch your head in the caves. Smacked my head plenty. My brother and his wife had their wedding there as well as the reception. They rented the vault room floor all evening. Fun time for all.

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