One of the best parts of my job is that I’ve had the opportunity and privilege to visit hundreds of theme parks, attractions, museums and other leisure destinations over the past 25-plus years. From billion-dollar theme parks to homegrown museums created by local volunteers to everything in between. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed visiting each and every one of these visitor experiences, as each provides insight into the myriad of ways in which guests can be entertained and educated.
So, you would think that when someone asks, “What’s your favorite attraction?” this would be an impossible question to answer – almost like asking a parent to name their favorite child. Not for me. My answer always comes quickly and is always the same – City Museum.
For those who haven’t had a chance to visit this unique hybrid attraction, City Museum is a one-of-kind art installation/museum/attraction/performance venue/aquarium/bar/event center housed within a hundred-year-old warehouse in downtown St. Louis, Missouri, USA.
Local artist Bob Cassilly and his then-wife Gail Cassilly took the former International Shoe Company factory and transformed it into a magnificent, Gaudi-esque walkthrough art installation, filled with magical tunnels, slides, climbers, bridges, and castles built from repurposed architectural and industrial objects found within the former factory and the greater city (thus the name, “City Museum”).
The allure of the attraction is not only its unique aesthetic and diverse offerings, but its opportunities for discovery. As you explore each floor, you’ll find grand galleries and secret passages. You’ll find local artifacts, next to playgrounds and ball pits. Venture to the rooftop where you’ll find an old Ferris wheel and a school bus precariously perched over the side of the building.
Running through all 10 floors of the building, you’ll find the hand-sculpted Enchanted Caves, which feature a variety of sculptures staring out from the walls, including mythical creatures, historic Egyptian royalty and a 1925 Wurlitzer organ. Make your way through the caves to find a number of slides located at various heights, designed within chutes originally used to quickly transport shoes.
A wonderful aspect of City Museum is that it’s fun for all ages. By way of example, the very first time I visited the facility was during an evening event for a museum conference, right after the museum opened in late 1997. To see one curator or academician after another sliding down the 10-story slide squealing with delight tells you all you need to know about how the attraction connects to guests of all ages and backgrounds.
The museum also features free daily performances by Circus Harmony, an internationally celebrated social circus, featuring acrobats, jugglers, clowns, and magicians. A resident school teaches students valuable life skills as they learn how to work together to put on the shows.
Hungry or want to enjoy an adult beverage? There are plenty of food and beverage offerings throughout the museum, all presented within amazing environments. Have a wine slushie within a 19th-century cabin; enjoy popcorn, nachos and Bavarian pretzels within a re-purposed bank vault or relax with a snack at the Rooftop Café. The museum’s food offerings and dining environments are as diverse as the rest of the facility.
I not only love City Museum for its unique guest experience, but for its authenticity, its innovation and outright boldness. City Museum is a living testament to the power of creativity and paved the way for current attractions such Meow Wolf or Area 15, proving that when you combine artistic expression with “why not?” the possibilities are endless.
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