The City Museum in St. Louis is unlike any museum I’ve ever been to. It’s not about exhibits but exploration.
At the City Museum sculptures are not behind the safety of a velvet rope or glass but ready to be touched, climbed on, and slid down. Taking in the City Museum is transformative, turning adults into children and children into explorers. I arrived on the birthday of the late sculptor and founder of the City Museum, Bob Cassilly. My guide, Tracey LaRiccia, told me it was “A special day for the museum,” but as always it was filled with the sounds discovery and the screams from explorers throwing themselves down slides.
Cassilly, also famous for his hippo sculptures in Central Park New York City and the turtles in Forest Park St. Louis, opened City Museum in 1997. He and his crew of talented artist turned the former International Shoe factory into this playground, inspired by his childhood and built of donated and recycled materials. Left over concrete from near by construction, a cooling coil from the Anheuser-Busch brewery, hundreds of bottles from the closed bottling plant, and old leather tanning barrows all contribute to the experience. Even the animals in the aquarium are donated; many were rescued or donated from private collections.
Inside the aquarium you can crawl through a plastic tunnel and come face to face with giant turtles and sharks.
Climb down from the main floor in to the caves of Cassilly’s imaginations filled with dragons made of left over concrete from local contraction jobs. Then look up…
From inside one of the Fraggel Rock style caves you can look up to see the side of the old shoe factory - where Tennessee Williams once worked - complete with two shoe shoots, one of which has been converted into a 10 story slide.
SEE IT FOR YOURSELF
Want to explore the Swamps, caves and tree houses of the City Museum yourself? Give yourself at least 2 hours; bring kneepads, an empty SD card and a full battery. Saturday night it is open until 1am with lights turned down low for exploration by flashlight. Official Website: City Museum, St. Louis
Less a museum, more a bizarre fantasy world created by artists and engineers.