Sunday, November 21, 2010

Kids of all ages flock to our own little Disney

You know you've always been a little bit envious that the kids are allowed to play in McDonald's Playland and adults are not. Admit it, you've had a teeny hidden desire to climb through a tunnel and investigate WHY mothers can't get their toddlers to come down out of the little airplane area. Well, I had the opportunity to visit the most fun place in town. Talk about tunnels, hidden nooks and crannies, airplanes, ferris wheels and so much more.

Typical teacher on a field trip exiting the school bus? Where might I be? What is your guess? If you think this was an educational adventure you would be correct. But if you think this is a field trip, you would be wrong.

No, not a school related function. I was at St. Louis City Museum in downtown St. Louis for a grandchild's birthday party. The front end of the bus is suspended off the roof of a ten story building, and yes, visitors are allowed to sit in the driver's seat, open and close the front door which is fenced in. And yes, although I have lived in St. Louis all of my life and have always said, "I'll never do that!" I did.

Then, I ventured further up on the roof where there are platforms and towers and outdoor tunnels which are actually coils and springs. Notice the person climbing through the spiral tunnel?

The praying Manthis looks like it is about to snap my head off. Thirteen stories high, eleven year old Morgan and her birthday guests rode the ferris wheel. No, I did not attempt that.

This place is simply indescribable, although I will try. If you or your children are not ADHD before entering, you all will be by the time you leave. In my opinion, this is not a place to turn toddlers loose or even try to keep track of them, although I saw lots of little ones. This is a kid's playground and I mean kids of all ages, mostly preschool through high school and lots of adults who haven't outgrown childhood, or want to return to that free, explorative time in their lives. The City Museum is a place where a kid (of any age) can be a kid.

Words really don't do it justice; this is something you have to see to believe, and like Disneyland, spending all day is never enough.

This is not a museum of exhibits that children look at, although there are animals and birds on display that have visited the taxidermist. This is not a place where you have to whisper. In fact the noise level is worse than a kindergarten classroom at indoor recess. This building used to be home of The International Shoe Company, a huge warehouse in downtown St. Louis. The fifth floor has residential lofts/condos, but the first three floors have been converted to a giant playland. There is a human hampster wheel to stand and spin in. So many families cooperated to keep the big wooden wheel spinning, and they left there laughing. There is an area where children and adults can sculpt with clay, paint, design, cut, color and paste recycled materials and let their creative juices flow, and then take their creations home. There are demonstrations of glass blowing, and pottery making and a shoestring machine which is always noisily chugging multicolored threads to create three foot long shoestrings. There is a kiddie train for young children, a free aquarium, (also a paid aquarium) an inside and outside ball pit, think huge rubber balls and twenty kids squaring off tossing balls at one another. There is a real bank vault to explore, exhibits to view, some significant architectural pieces rescued from regional and national historic buildings.

The man-made cave is one of the highlights for kids of all ages, but be sure if you go, that you are not too big to fit through the tiny passageways, tunnels and underground crawl spaces. Kids absolutely squeal with delight as they investigate every corner, every stalagmite, stalagtite, lizards painted onto oddly shaped tree branches. This place is a an artist's dream. The entrance or exit, (depends on which way you go in or out of the caves,) is a giant, concrete whale's head/mouth. Visitors can actually tell friends they've been inside a whale.

There is a real circus; the Children's Everyday Circus has several performances, and the acrobats are local children of all ages who have mastered the smae kinds of moves as those of circus performers under famous Big Tops.

I haven't even begun to describe the outdoor jungle gym or the ten story indoor slide which usually has a long line. The outdoor jungle gym is a series of welded spirals, coils, that arch overhead, connect to real airplanes, take you to the roof where you can slide down to the next level. All of this takes place several stories above people who are seated below. Don't be fooled by the image of the tree; you are by no means at ground level, or even tree level; this is a potted tree. A cell phone dropped from a kid's pocket six stories above my head and crashed to the ground beside me. Up on the roof, there is a lily pond where kids walk the footpath of protruding lily pads (stepping stones) and walk under the water streams without getting wet, Yeah right!

This is a paradise for the young or the young at heart. Imagine skating ramps where kids use only their bodies to maneuver the twists and turns, running, slipping and sliding down vertical drops where gravity pulls you down the ramps and slides. Oh my it is hard to describe. Adults have claimed to have played hard at this museum and come away with bruises that are like badges of honor. It is a playground for adults on weekends from 9:00 p.m.-1:00 a.m.

If you go, I will tell you one thing to look for. Check out the bathroom exterior wall on the first floor. It is constructed of thousands of metal lab specimen trays, and by specimen, I mean mice. If you find yourself a floor up at the deli, check out the support posts decorated with thousands of watch bands. Or valances made of mens' ties. The mosaic fl;oor tiles are incredibly detailed. Look high and low and you will be amazed by Bob Casilly's and his crew's creativity. I could keep going, but some things are better seen than said/read.


Bookie said...

I do NOT think I would like getting into that school bus! :)

Sioux Roslawski said...

I went to the City Museum this summer, and even though I had been before, the ferris wheel on the roof, the bus, and many other things were new to me. I went down the 10-story slide (leave your purse with someone else),went on the bus, slid down the outdoor slide, and so on. You're right--it's a playground for kids as well as adults...The creator of the City Museum is working on "Concrete Town" (or perhaps it's "Cement Town") at an abandoned plant along Riverview, not far from the water treatment plant. I understand there are problems with the permits, so I'm not sure what kind of progress they've made. However, if and when it's completed, I will certainly be checking it out, based on their previous inspiration...

Susan said...

OMG Linda. You are surely a braver soul than I am! Yikes. That museum looks awesome but not for someone who is scared stiff of heights. Oh zowie. So glad you had F-U-N! Thanks for sharing. Great photos by the way. Susan

BECKY said...

I was there years ago on a field trip with Mark's grade school class. It's a lot "wilder and crazier" now! I'm with Claudia and Susan about the heights! No freakin' way!! Glad you had fun!

Chatty Crone said...

I would LOVE to take my nine year old grandson there someday. AWESOME for him - awesome for me to WATCH him.


Lisa Ricard Claro said...

Wow. Wow. And Yikes! My kids would have loved that place when they were younger. I couldn't handle it at all. Shuddering now just from the pics. I don't even like getting on a ladder! You're the cool teacher, going for it. Those kids must think you rock!

Linda O'Connell said...

Thank you all for your comments.

Pat, you can't think about it until afterwards :)

Sioux, I like your sense of adventure!

Becky, you wouldn't recognize the place now.

Sandie, you should bring your grandson here. It is amazing.

Lisa, it is never too late, you know.

I used to be afraid of heights. I had to crawl off the Grand Gorge Bridge years ago, but after cruising the sea in a ten story high ship, heights no longer bother me. Amazing!

Tammy said...

Wow, Linda, what fun!!! It's probably been about 8 years since I've been there, and it looks like it just keeps getting better. I would describe it as an art-museum-ment park. It represents a lot of what I love so much about St. Louis.