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The rules are simple. Use common sense and play until you drop. That’s about the only thing that’s simple about the City Museum in St Louis. The name may sound boring, but what you find inside is a junkyard playground on steroids with every imaginable climbing structure, sliding mechanism, and fantasy play structure imaginable. It is very un-museum like in almost every way. There are no look, but don’t touch signs. There are no scientifically designed educational elements that trick kids into getting involved in the action. This is full scale, no holds barred, frenzied fun where everything is possible and nothing is off limits. I like to think of myself as fairly adept with weaving descriptions using words, but this place just defies words. You just have to see it, and until you take a trip to St Louis (and trust me, you will after seeing this video), you’ll just have to let me give you a tour.
Now, what do you need to know to make the most of a day at the City Museum?
- Dress for VERY active play. If you are doing this right, you will be a dirty, sweaty mess at the end of the day. For the best experience, athletic wear is a must. Long pants would be ideal so that you can take full advantage of the many slides. If the weather is cold, you will want to dress in layers, so you can enjoy both the inside and outside areas comfortably.
- Don’t wear your favorite clothes. Seriously, people, you do not realize how hard core this place is! I saw many people snag a shirt or sweater as they were climbing through various twists and turns. All of my kids completely ruined their shorts with rust that will not be moved by any stain stick on the market. It was totally worth the cost, but it’s something to consider.
- Wear the right shoes. Closed toe shoes are the bare minimum, but you should really choose an athletic pair of shoes that stay put. I wore a pair of sensible flats and I was constantly having to rescue my shoe after it had been lodged in some metal contraption.
- Empty your pockets. I saw two cell phones tumble end over end from three stories above and crash to a shattering death on the pavement below. Swallow your pride and wear a fanny pack for one day, or leave your valuables with someone who is not climbing and diving around.
- Knee Pads! All the cool kids were wearing knee pads. They knew. I tried to bribe some off of a little kid, but he wouldn’t give them up. They were just too valuable.
- Raise your hand if you have ever had to shimmy up the playground at a fast food restaurant to rescue your little one. This is just like that, but so, so much more challenging. If you have any doubts at all that your little people will get lost or scared in the maze, be prepared to go with them or don’t let them go up.
- If you are one of those parents that needs to have your eyes on your child at all times, this place may drive you to Xanax. There are numerous twists and turns, hidey holes and hideaways. Of course, that’s what makes it fun, but it can also be challenging if you like to keep tabs on your kids at all times. Know your limits!
- If you or your child has a moment of panic, ask for help. Often there is an easier passageway that will allow you to get to them quickly without having to think thin thoughts and squeeze through tiny holes.
- For ages 6 and up, this place is a dream, especially if you have someone to dive through the holes and passageways with you. We were fairly comfortable letting our older kids set off in certain sections on their own, with the promise that they would stay together and check in every 10 minutes. Walkie Talkies would have been great for this place!
- Consider some pre-visit training. I tried to convince my three year that I wouldn't fit in all the holes that he wanted to traverse, but he was quickly onto to me. He would look me up and down and declare "You fit mama!" and I would have to follow him through the rigors not meant for the knees and thighs of a grownup. I would suggest Hatha yoga or maybe high altitude training to really prepare your body for the rigors of this place. All the training will be worth it when you take your first ride on that ten story slide.
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