Friday, December 8, 2023

City Museum, St. Louis City

Location: 701 North 15th Street, St. Louis, MO 63103


The City Museum is a much-loved St. Louis play attraction. There is so much to see and do, it can take all day. City Museum is a mixture of children’s playground, funhouse, surrealistic pavilion, and architectural marvel made out of found and repurposed objects. The brainchild of internationally acclaimed artist Bob Cassilly, a classically trained sculptor, City Museum opened for visitors in 1997.

Some of the more well-known parts of the museum are the caves, big climbing areas, and slides. There is a plethora of information available on their website, so spend a little time on the "attractions" pages to learn more about what the museum has to offer. I'll focus here on information you won't necessarily find on the website. 

Toddler Town is on the 3rd floor, with a staff member on duty to ensure the area doesn't get overrun by big kids. If your child can sit up, even with assistance, they can enjoy playing in Toddler Town. There are soft building blocks, cars and trucks, balls, and large, cushy blocks good for forts and/or walling in your sitting or crawling baby. There are toddler-sized slides and a smaller "MonstroCity"-style climbing structure that can also accommodate adults, so you can play with your kids. There is even a hollow dinosaur whose neck serves as a tunnel slide.

Just outside Toddler Town are Circus Harmony and Tiny Train Railroad. Mini train rides used to be free with museum admission but I think that changed, and there are no seat belts. You will have to decide whether your child is mature enough to remain seated on his/her own. Circus Harmony is also free, though they collect donations since the performers are not paid by the City Museum. There are a few shows each day, but the enclosure is glass, so we spent quite a bit of time just watching them practice. Our kids were mesmerized. 

Lunch at the cafe on the Mezzanine level was tasty but a little expensive. The menu is available online and includes kids' meal options, milk, and juice. There are 4 different places to eat here, and they all have different menus and prices. 

On the way up and down the stairs, take some time to spin the unique railing posts. We practically had to drag our 3-year-old away from them. Since our kids nap in the afternoon, that was all we had time for, but the City Museum does allow you to leave and come back on the same day as long as you keep the wristbands on. 

A few general notes: 
Strollers are welcome, and there is an elevator. However, the large open spaces tend to become crowded with people, making strollers cumbersome. Wearable baby carriers are your best bet here. The line for the elevator can get long as the elevator is slow. The roof is on the 11th floor. 

The first-floor men's and women's restrooms both have baby changing tables, but on the third floor, there is one only in the women's room. We didn't check any others.  

The website says this, but it's worth repeating: come dressed for active play! Wear closed-toe shoes and clothes that will accommodate movement. 

The official policy does not allow outside food or drinks, but they didn't search our diaper bag on the way in. 

Maps of the museum's layout are available on their website. There are also staff members posted throughout the museum to provide directions to lost patrons and ensure everyone is playing safely. The City Museum is a popular attraction and can get very crowded, especially in unfavorable weather. It can also be extraordinarily loud in certain areas. We were there on a rainy day, and as one staff member put it, "half the museum is outside," making it more crowded inside. Weekdays are generally less busy than weekends, but it's also a common field trip destination. Employees advised Mondays through Wednesdays are typically the least crowded days, but visitors are welcome to call in advance to inquire how many groups are expected on any particular day.

Also, it can be overwhelming if you have more than one child because there are so many places a child can go in and you can't see them come out. It's best for a one-on-one ratio of parents to kids. Losing kids here is very common and I was stressed out during much of my visit with my toddlers because they kept taking off.  Even though they have a toddler town I do not recommend this place for toddlers. It's so expensive to get in, and they can't do the majority of the things here, so I feel that there are much better play places for toddlers. However, this place is amazing for school-aged and up!

Bring water because it's hot in here (in summer), and bring hand sanitizer. I would try to park in their own lot if you can because car break-ins are frequent if you park at street meters. The lot is $15 but it was worth it for me, and it was very close to the entrance.  I also recommend writing your phone number on your child's arm in case you get separated and also have a talk with the kids about where you will be so they can find you. My daughter who is 7 said she got turned around in the caves under the floor and started crying cause she couldn't figure out how to get back to me. We were both panicked.

The following photos are from the rooftop area. There is a Ferris wheel, a giant praying mantis, and a few very long slides. They're famous for the school bus hanging off the edge of the building but it is closed right now. 

The gift shop has a lot of fun stuff for sale.

The top of this slide is up by the praying mantis. My daughter said it was really fast and fun!

The line for the Ferris wheel was extremely long so we didn't get to do that.

 Such a fun slide!

Ticket sales area at the entrance

Toddler town

Crazy chairs!

A miniature train, set up inside an extensive model train layout of the St. Louis Riverfront, gives kids of a certain height a ride into tunnels and through the solar system. The train is 1/8 the size of the original American Locomotive Company line. They can crawl up and over and go underneath the model train display.

Circus Harmony

Skateless Park on the 3rd floor. Built during a less litigious time, this one-time skate park is now a collection of slides and climbers built around the World’s Largest Working Pencil.

Art City on the 4th floor. They have different mediums for kids to create things. They have drying racks so you can come back later and pick it up. 

Main floor cave area

Holes in the floor everywhere!

A labyrinth of trees, mazes, and climbers connects City Museum's secret underground to the third floor.

 10,000 leagues under the floor

MonstroCity is an outdoor sculpture of flotsam and repurposed technology and includes climbers, airplanes, castles, bridges, and fire engines.

The 10 and 5-story slides

Don't discount City Museum during the holidays, they have a lot of decorations, storytime with Mrs. Claus, crafts, and Santa!

Little Free Library