When in St. Louis, don’t miss the City Museum

So, not wanting to celebrate the Anheuser-Busch-mandated holiday of New Year’s Eve but not wanting to sit around at home on a Friday night either, a good idea came up: Go to the City Museum.

It claims to be unlike any other museum you’ve ever seen. While that may be debatable, it does have something for everyone.It’s a very hands-on museum designed for exploration. The first level is almost like a catacombs, with secret passages and the like. Wear comfortable tennis shoes. You’ll need them.

The other two levels are a bit more museum-like but still hands-on. Each level has a large slide that goes down to the lobby. Yes, adults can fit in the slides too. I know because I went down each of them about three times.

You’ll find a level of art and artifacts and various activities. Included is a very large, elaborate, and critically acclaimed HO-scale model railroad that was built by St. Louisan Pete Fordyce in the 1950s. Fordyce was a frequent contributor to Model Railroader magazine and the layout is reasonably famous, as far as model railroads go. Anyone who ever built a plastic model kit as a child will be impressed with it; a model railroader could probably stand there for hours studying the techniques.

The top floor has a very large exhibit dedicated to architecture. The artifacts include doors, windows, cornices, and even entire storefronts. Most artifacts have signs telling where they came from and why the building was demolished–sadly, usually for something stupid and generic like a chain store or a gas station. There are exhibits about the histories of door hinges and doorknobs. How can hinges and knobs be interesting? They weren’t always the boring, bland mass-produced affairs you see at Home Depot today.

Outside, there are lots of things for kids (big and small) to climb on. I didn’t climb much; as much as I would have liked to climb up to that airplane and go inside it, climbing up three stories on semi-open girders to get there is more than my nerves can take. Judging from the number of people climbing on it, I’m in the minority and that’s a good thing.

I absolutely recommend it. At night when the admission is only $5, not only is it cheaper than going to the movies, but you’ll get some exercise and if you’re not careful you just might learn something. During the day it’s far less expensive than going to an amusement park.

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