St. Louis City Museum: Is it worth the cost?

The City Museum in St. Louis rendered me speechless. This may be acceptable as an experience, but makes writing a thorough review rather complicated. To break it down in the simplest form: should you find yourself in the St. Louis area, despite the cost, the City Museum is a place not to miss.

My attempt to encapsulate the City Museum

A year ago while our family was on a road trip from Idaho to Tennessee, we passed through the city of St. Louis. We were short on time and had a limited travel budget. We had to decide: do we visit the St. Louis arch or the City Museum? Both our time and budget constraints claimed the arch as the clear winner. We splurged and purchased tickets to ride to the top of the arch. Leaving St. Louis with satisfied awe, we vowed to visit the City Museum should we find ourselves in the area again.

St. Louis

Our moment of truth arrived a month ago. Once again we were back in the “Gateway to the West”. Equipped with long pants, flashlights, walkie-talkies and an adventurous spirit, we coughed up the seemingly ungodly admission fee for a family of 6 (see details below for pricing breakdown) and braced for the onslaught of the unknown.

the roof of the city museum

 

To say that creativity is king in this multi-story, multi-purpose maze of merriment would be an understatement. Upon entry, we were overwhelmed by the clever usage of recycled decor and thoughtful design. Everywhere you looked, mixed media art covered the walls, ceilings and floor. Everywhere you stepped, adventure awaited in the form of slides, caves and tunnels.

playing at the st. louis city musuem

 

Oversized, stainless steel springs spiraled up to the ceiling beckoning all to climb up and in. Unknowingly naive and caught up in the excitement of the moment, we all ascended. Somewhere suspended at an unnatural height and progressing toward an ever growing narrow passageway, I faced a moment of truth: just because I can, doesn’t mean I should. Locating the closest exit route I could find, I detoured my fun to a lower elevation.

St. Louis City Museum

Shockingly jarring, yet strangely appealing, was the fact that there are no maps to lead your navigation of discovery. Instead, a child’s sense of intuition guided the day. Thankfully, we decided to visit on a Friday when the hours extend clear till midnight, because the kids were still going strong at 5PM when closing hours would have typically interrupted the frolicking fun.

img_1254

In an unabashed manner we climbed, crawled, slid and scooted our way through the endless maze of cleverly crafted, well planned discovery. Testing the limits of our comfort, we threw caution to the wind and blindly trusted that if they built it and other people are doing it, it must be safe. (Yes mom if our friends jumped off a cliff, we would jump too).

City Museum St. Louis

By the end of the day, the parental figures throughout the building were drooping from fatigue while their younger counterparts gaily ran wild-eyed and free. We milked the evening as long as we could. However, Trent and I were running on empty by 8:30 PM. After 9.5 hours of endless exploration and play we left exhausted and happy. We’d just experienced a menagerie of creative play and endless exploration. Nothing we’ve seen so far could compare and thus far it remains at the top of our kid’s lists for things they’ve done since we’ve hit the road. My 13 year old son wrote about his thoughts and experiences at The City Museum as did my 10 year old daughter so feel free to follow those links to read about it from their perspective. These are also the first posts they’ve published. I know they’d love it if you left a comment ;).

To try to fill in the gaping holes in my explanation, please check out the video my husband put together. He did a great job of showing the unique features of the St. Louis City Museum.

Travel details

Hours: The City Museum is open Wed-Thurs 9-5, Fri-Sat 9-midnight, Sunday 11-5.

Prices: $12 per person ages 3 and up (or $10 after 5 on Fri and Sat) If you wish to go up on the rooftop it is an additional $5/person. Everyone we talked with said purchasing the rooftop was a must. We decided to trust their judgement and it was great, especially for the views throughout the day and into the evening. If you purchase the option to go on the roof you are given a special armband allowing you to come and go as desired. The evening weather on the rooftop was cooler than we planned for however so keep that in mind when choosing your attire.

Parking: There are a few all day parking lots within easy walking distance for $5. We were in our van at the time. If you visit this area with your RV, I do not recommend the Trail’s End campground.

Ages: Our kids are ages 5, 7, 10 and 13. They all enjoyed their time in their own way. As adults it was also an incredible experience. I believe it would be harder to enjoy the museum with kids 3 and under as a lot of the places to play require independence. That said, there are some specific areas for younger kids to play and explore.

Tips: We have watch style walkie-talkies (affiliate link). These were a great tool throughout the day as there were several occasions that the kids were out of eyesight as they climbed through tubes, tunnels and caves. It brought such peace of mind to be able to touch base with everyone at anytime. Long pants were useful as so much of the time you may be crawling. If we’d had knee pads we would have worn them as well. Flashlights (or particularly head lamps) were useful in the dark tunnel like caves.

if you don’t like your view, just wait a day or two

I’ve visited places where the locals say, “If you don’t like the weather, wait a few minutes.” In other words, if you can be a little bit patient, change is sure to come. I’ve been thinking about this concept of frequent change as it has a strong application to our lives right now.

We are winding down toward Tennessee in a rather quick fashion hoping to meet the fall colors in the Smokey Mountains sometime in mid-October. Currently, we are in St. Louis, Missouri. The last two weeks have seen the bulk of our forward movement–every few days moving another few hundred miles.

Making decisions about where we will park the RV while in-route has been interesting. While the Internet often has a wealth of information to offer, (spoiler alert) it’s not always accurate. A few days ago we were parked in New Salem, IL as the only RV in a cul-de-sac type row surrounded by trees and quiet beauty. While we didn’t have an electric hookup, we were close enough to connect to water and the $10/night price was just right.

Upon arriving to the St. Louis RV park we’d planned to stay in, we discovered that Google had neglected to mention that they were closed for the season. A quick internet search and a few phone calls later, we decided to stay at the only place we could find with full-hookups that wasn’t in the $50/night range. Plus the online reviews stated things like, “The new owners are really great” “So clean and peaceful. . . we will make this a yearly tradition” “Safe, clean and family friendly” and “Very clean and close to town” so we entered the address into our phones and off we went to Trail’s End.

google

Now let me preface all that I am about to say with this: I am not an RV park snob. As long as we feel safe, I have no problem staying in ‘cheep’ establishments in order to save some money. However, based on the nightly price and many 5 star reviews, I honestly had a different expectation set in my mind than what I saw when we pulled into Trail’s End RV park. “Oh my” is all that came out of my mouth. Someone was clearly tickling the online reviews for this place.

trails-end

Thankfully, my husband is becoming a master at backing into tight spaces because there was no room for error. I was hardly much help in directing him because the neighbor lady had my full attention. She was yelling and shouting at her kids and the closest nearby adults. I am pretty sure she was yelling at me at one point in which I simply responded, “I don’t work here.” Despite my husbands fantastic rear navigation, the sites are so short that there is hardly any room to park our car and truck without jutting out into the circular dive area of the park. This should be fine provided no one needs to drive by pulling anything long while needing to turn. . . Once we were situated, I began to open up the 5th wheel by extending the slideouts. At first we were a little concerned if we would have room to do this without hitting our truck which was wedged between our RV and the next one over, but all was fine. However, the weather was pretty warm so I decided to extend our awning to provide some shade. Oh, there’s the neighbor’s side right there. . . never mind about the awning. We also step carefully as we walk to our vehicles (which are parked conveniently close) as to not trip over our neighbor’s sewer hose.

Tonight it became apparent that there was some sort of motor raceway located nearby as a sound like that of a swarm of bees swept over the campground ebbing and flowing throughout the evening. Trent and I keep exchanging looks and teasing comments. Its comical especially given the stark contrast to our little New Salem spot just a few nights ago.

trails-end2
Notice the sewer hose?

As I lay in bed with the unique hum of engines revving outside my window, I am reminded that we always have something to be thankful for. Here I have electricity, which means I can freely run my washing machine as well as the air conditioning and microwave (all at the same time if desired) without overloading our batteries or generator. Here it is still $20/night cheaper than the other options in the area that offer full hookups. Here there is no hurricane hurling toward us with powerful destructive intent. Here is only “here” for a little longer and then we will shake the dust of this place off our feet and march forward to something new. In our family, “if you don’t like your view, just wait a day or two.”