19 March 2013

STL Adventures: the City Museum

Last fall, I met up with my cousin and her family while they were visiting St. Louis. Over a nice dinner they explained that they were just taking a typical fall break, see-a-new-city sort of vacation, and one of the sites they wanted to check out was the City Museum. I hadn’t been, but told her I’d heard good things... even if I couldn’t really describe was it was a museum... of. Art? Science? Uhhh. I don’t know, but it’s in a factory and there’s apparently a Ferris wheel on the roof?

The next evening, my cousin texted me to say that the City Museum was one of the most incredible places she’d ever seen, and that Mr. P and I absolutely needed to check it out.

Well, months later, we still hadn’t made it there (though not for lack of interest – it’s just that the Ferris wheel is only open during the summer, and just in case you missed it, it’s on the roof). And while Mr. P and I still haven’t made a trip... my coworkers and I did, for a Thursday afternoon lab party! Finally, I would get to see this crazy lauded place!

And oh, the crazy.

It looks like collected, industrial art, right? The handpainted railing, that spirally spring thingy.

Except... that spiraling spring thingy? It’s how you get to the next floor, as my labmate (all four-foot-nine of her) volunteered to demonstrate.

And those colorful railings in the background? They’re covering a slide. Yes, like an actual slide that you slide down. That one’s only two stories, but the museum is full of these long, crazy slides. We all took turns going down the ten story spiral slide, which was fun enough to make up the ten stories of stairs you had to climb to get to the top. But I don’t have photos of that part, because it was too dark in the cave section for photos.

Oh right. There are caves, too.

Maybe I should just stick to photos, because my narrative is getting as crazy as the museum itself.

Quite a bit of the museum focuses on architecture. A lot of it is turned into things you climb on, but some of it is displayed artistically, like in a mosaic on the wall:

Or nice and orderly, displayed as collections on shelves.

Other parts of the museum don’t give the same, uhh... classy vibe. Like this somewhat creepy funhouse bar full of pop art and kitsch, right in the middle of the museum.

Yes, bar. If it doesn’t serve alcohol, you’re not in St. Louis.

But the City Museum isn’t all crazy artistic collections. There are also crazy scientific collections.

You can imagine that this part was a big hit with the group of scientists.

Also big with the zebrafish researchers: the aquarium.

We didn’t actually go in the real aquarium (it cost extra) but this eye candy sufficed. (And what’s that hanging from the ceiling? A giant-horned cow skull? A ceramic bird? Some part of a whale? I have no idea. It’s the City Museum, just go with it!)

And there’s even more random crazy stuff to see, even without getting to see the roof. There was a human-sized hamster wheel, a skate park minus the skates, a pottery collection, a shoelace store, a bank vault, a miniature train kids could ride complete with a little-person conductor (I AM SERIOUS), and one very old, very graffiti’d, very out-of-tune piano on which the guests could play “Heart and Soul” every five minutes and OH THEY DID.

But it’s the stuff you climb on that gets the most press. And the giant outdoor jungle gym for adults, that’s a site to see.

That’s my coworker crawling around way up there. She’s just in a chicken wire tube more than four stories off the ground, no bigs. (Note that my vantage point for this photo was already two stories off the ground.)

Admittedly, I’m a little too afraid of heights and enclosed spaces to fully experience this part of the City Museum, but that didn’t stop me from marveling over all the things that could be done.

At one point I was strolling along some suspended walkway, noticing that there was some tiny crawlspace just under the walkway. And just as I was wondering exactly how one would access that space, if one could access that space, and thinking about how crazy it would be to army-crawl under this walkway three stories in the air, I suddenly heard someone call, “Sarah!” from behind me. It was our new German student, who’d been in the States all of a month, calling out, “Can you find an exit for meeee?”

And... that’s the City Museum. Right there. It’s quirky and wonderful and kind of dangerous and something that solidly sums up this gritty but artistic city. So yeah, what’s it a museum of? This city. The City Museum.

Will I be going back? Uh, duh. Ferris wheel on the roof.


Christal said...


Tina said...

That school bus hanging off the 10 story high roof is the kind of stuff that make up my school-related nightmares...*shiver*

Tina said...

Were you able to help the German student??? Surely G.S. did get out, I hope!

Sarah said...

Nope, we left her in there. ;) There was an exit about eight feet further down, she just couldn't see it from her army-crawl perspective!