City Museum

This quirky children’s museum invites visitors to crawl through whales, climb into tree houses and whiz down three-story slides.

The City Museum has playgrounds, aquariums and factories among its many hands-on exhibits. Quirky artifacts, such as “The World’s Largest Underpants,” are found alongside slippery slides and live animals. There’s even a daily circus show. 

These exhibits take up 600,000 square feet (54,500 square meters) of the old International Shoe Company building in downtown St. Louis. Artist Bob Cassilly transformed the space using objects found on the streets, such as chimneys and old car parts. The museum is largely aimed at toddlers to teenagers, although there are art displays and an architecture exhibit to keep all ages occupied.

The first floor includes an underground cave system and an underwater display. Walk through a life-sized model of a whale, then crawl down into the caves, or up into elaborate tree houses. A 5,000-gallon (19,000-liter) fish tank houses aquatic life from local waterways.

A shoelace factory on the second floor is a nod to the building’s heritage. Watch how laces were made in the 1800s, and you can even order a custom-made pair to take home. There’s also an interesting display of vintage opera posters. The biggest attraction, however, is a large aquarium, with stingrays, sharks, alligators, sea snakes and turtles. Get a different view of the ocean’s greatest predators in a small glass tunnel that runs through the shark tank.

The daily circus show, with experienced acrobats and trapeze artists, is on the third floor. (Check the museum’s website for show times.) Next door there’s a small Natural History collection. The Beatnik Bob’s exhibit has memorabilia from the 1950s, including vintage pinball machines. After exploring these exhibits, ride the slide back down to the first. 

In summer the rooftop has a Ferris wheel and playground with splash pond. 

On your way out, stop by MonstroCity, a multilevel jungle gym just outside the main entrance.

City Museum is open Wednesday through Sunday. Opening times vary so check the website before visiting. Wear sturdy shoes with a closed-in toe and heel. Parking is limited, so public transportation is a good option.

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