Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Best Museum Ever

We have now been to the City Museum in St Louis two times.  We will go again.  I think pretty much everyone who ever comes to visit us will now be taken there to visit.  It is the most amazing museum I have ever entered.  Part museum, part playland, part circus, part haunted house, part maze, it's the most entertaining space I've ever found which would truly appeal to a wide age group.  (Except for mothers of young children.  When I was looking for info on the City Museum I found numerous complaints that this place is a "nightmare" because little children can get away from you in a blink and you may never find them again.)  Mothers of older children however (including me) just make a plan and go forward into the maze.
City Museum is housed in what used to be a shoe factory. It was taken over sometime way back when and gradually morphed into what it is now and hopefully is expanding in even more outrageous ways.
On the first floor is a very large whale and lots of fish, both real and sculpted.  See that very large slinky thing on the right?  You can crawl up that into a maze of tunnels in the ceiling.  The kids headed up that coil, but Kerry and I opted to get there through the stairs in a four story tree house and we almost never saw the kids again.
There is also an aquarium in the building but you have to pay extra to go into it so we opted out of that. But there is a small aquatic area near the whale where you can look at fish and turtles while you wait for your legs to quit twitching from all the climbing around.

This is a real live turtle, balanced on top of two real, live turtles.  I don't know how he got up there.
Also in this area is the biggest freaking catfish I've ever seen in my life!
And I'm from Georgia. I have seen big catfish.

If, instead of going up, you choose to go through the whale, you wind up in a maze of caverns.  Every surface has a dinosaur or dragon carved into it.  It is incredibly cool.  There are areas where water is dripping down a stalactite and you really feel like spelunking.  If you have children who would be unnerved by the dark, take a small flashlight.  While we're on the subject, be aware that you will have to keep up with that flashlight while climbing, sliding, and crawling through this building.  I did not take a purse, backpack or camera (used my phone because it fits in my pocket) because it is just impractical.  On the other hand, if you don't take a flashlight with you, duck a lot in the caves to save your head some bonks.

I'm not sure, but I think these are the stairs going up to the ten-story slide.  Yep.  Ten stories.  Spiral slide.  There is also an elevator up to this area, but I swear we could never find it.
Speaking of which, there are no maps of the museum.  They even sell tee shirts that say "no maps".  They really want you do explore and discover things on your own.  If you see a bathroom, use it while you are near it because you may not be able to find one again for quite a while and there will not be a sign pointing to one.  Also, I'm not sure if the employees are told to not give you clear directions but the two times that I asked how to get to an area, I was given oddball directions, "Go halfway down the stairs and turn left", or the employee acted like he had no idea what I was talking about. 
Now this is the part that even your grandparents would want to see.  They wouldn't like the slides and crawling around, but there is an amazing museum of things like this Big Boy statue - my kids were like "What is that?"  Kerry and I realized we have left a huge gap in their education. 
In this area there are collections of antique doorknobs, bugs, architectural elements from buildings,
freaky odd things, items excavated from around St Louis, I can't even remember everything that was there.  There's a shoelace factory somewhere in the building, it may be in this area.   Oh, and a  small circus.  And a train that younger kids can ride.  And the area of oddities which is something like going through a spooky old house which may or may not be haunted.  There was one area where you walk down a dark hallway and make a sharp right.  Ben and Emily were looking doubtfully down the hallway and declared they weren't going first.  Katie and I headed down, there was nothing around the corner, but I shrieked bloody murder just to make them think there was something there.  Unfortunately, I scared Katie  senseless.  I laughed a lot though.  I'm still laughing about it actually.
Up on the roof is a ferris wheel.  I like ferris wheels, but when you are on the roof of a tweleve story building it feels rather unnerving.  Also there is a school bus which is unsettling, as is the very steep slide up there.  There is also a fountain with stepping stones that you can cross over.  We watched one adorable little girl try to cross , but she slipped and faceplanted right into the water.  She screamed and wailed over being wet for quite a while.
Downstairs again here is a ball pit with large rubber balls in it.  If you've ever seen the ball pits like they have in fast food restaurants, this isn't that.  Those pits have small hard balls that are easy to move out of your way.  These balls form a barrier between you and the floor the likes of which you've likely never encountered.  I just laid down across the top of the pile and it gently sifted me under a layer of balls, but not all the way to the floor.  I giggled for a bit and then tried to sit up.  It was impossible.  With no way to get my feet to the floor, I couldn't get the leverage to rise.  I struggled around for a bit, then had to rest for a bit, then had another go at it.  It's quite amusing to watch people flop around in there.  Once you can finally wedge a foot down to the floor, you can get up, but it takes quite a bit of doing.  Castle moats should have been filled with these things instead of water.  An invading army in chain mail could never have gotten through.

Outdoors is a jungle gym like no other.  See that wire tube coming up out of that plane?  I declined to go up that.

Shorter people can scootch through those wire tubes on their bottoms.  Adults have to crawl though on their knees.  Bring knee pads.
In some areas, like this one, you can actually walk upright. 
But see that little area underneath this walkway?  Small, daring children can crawl underneath the walkway all the way across, several stories up. 
I would have done it, but I was too big.  (Thank goodness)

Some of the areas are very high up.  And if you meet someone coming from the other direction, one of you will be going backwards back to where you started.
See that schoolbus at the top of the building, hanging out over the edge?  That, my friends, is up on the 12th floor and you can walk into it and sit in the driver's seat and open the door and freak yourself totally out!
At the top of a slide.
And let me just tell you, there is also a vintage clothing shop, a coffee bar, a real bar, several eateries, a shoelace factory, a gift shop, a pipe organ, and probably a million other things I can't even remember.
This is definitely going to be one of our favorite places.  The first time we went was the first time I actually saw Ben smile in a month.  I told the kids, "See?  Illinois isn't so bad!"  Emily gave me a withering look and replied, "Mama, this is Missouri!"

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