Friday, September 12, 2014

Visiting St Louis...Take 2


Do you remember the post I shared of great family-friendly places to visit in St. Louis?  Well we made our trip and tried a few of these places for ourselves.  Had a ball.  And I am finally sitting down to share with you our experiences.

First.  St Louis is a fabulous place to take a vacation.  There are so, so, SO many things to do - and many of the options are free!

Since we were meeting a group of friends, we made reservations at the same hotel as them by the airport.  I didn't realize what a blessing this would be.  The airport proved to be in the middle of all our stops making driving much easier.  Next, God provided us with a room with huge windows overlooking the runway.  Who knew that my kiddos could watch planes take off and land for hours on end?  Plus, they were able to see the metro transit run.  So, if you are looking for a hotel I suggest near the airport for location and be sure to request runaway view for entertainment.

source - wikipedia

Our first stop was the Magic House.  I can see why local families purchase memberships.  This place is amazing and you could easily spend hour upon hour, for several days at this children's museum.  There were so many things to see and do that we really didn't enjoy the last few rooms as much as we should have because we were tired!  The kids could have easily spent an hour in every room...and there are a LOT of rooms. 

Parking is free so no need to try find a close parking spot nearby and walk.  You can park in the Magic House's parking lot.

Let me hit on a few of our favorite spots. 

Kids' Construction Zone allows kids to be the builder.  Buckle on a tool belt.  Add a hard hat and safety vest.  The walls are open allowing the child to see plumbing and wiring that is typically hidden. 

For older kids, Can You Solve the Mystery? and Forensic Lab set up a scenario for the child to solve a mystery.  The kids liked the secret passage way. 

Children's Village won everyone's vote.  It is a village run by children consisting of places like a market, bank, pizza parlor, and hospital.  Did I mention how cool this area is?  I will never forget Peanut pretending to take orders for me at the Pizza Parlor.  Priceless.  Sweet Pea loved taking my money at the bank.  The Market allows the kids to gather groceries, purchase, and pretend to check out others' groceries.  In the hospital, babies are available to bathe, diaper, and rock.  Our kiddos loved being able to do things that they see grownups do every day. 

The Art Studio has several art medias available to print, draw, and create. 

Educationally, the Star-Spangled Center area is really cool.  The kids see the inside of a courtroom, the oval office, and legislative chamber.  This would be fabulous to combine with a unit on government.  While we walked through these rooms we talked about the three branches of government. 

Next time we visit, we will begin with the South Wing instead of the North so we have more energy to enjoy the second half of options the museum has to offer. 

Be sure to check for coupons online before taking a visit.  We were able to find ones without use limit which substantially helped the cost! 

While you could easily spend hours at the museum, we only stayed 3-4 hours because everyone got tired playing so hard.  Because it gets busy, I would suggest getting there at opening and stay until right before everyone is too tired.  There is a great outside garden if you desire to take a picnic lunch or eat a snack.

Magic House is geared to preschool and early elementary aged children.  While Bubs (age 10) enjoyed Magic House, it was the City Museum that stole his heart.

Actually it is comical to me.  The Magic House allows children to pretend to be adults.  City Museum allows older kids and adults to be children. 

source -

I'll be honest.  The City Museum is hard to explain.  Think huge playground with great heights, slides, and tunnels.  Inside an old shoe factory, I find the name museum to be a misnomer.  It's a place where an artist took a ton of random junk, placed it in specific places to create a massive indoor and outdoor jungle-gym. 

We began with the outdoor play area (pictured above).  It is amazing.  Since I am afraid of heights, I walked around on the lower levels and watched my husband, kiddos, and our friends climb, slide, and tunnel several stories about the firm ground. If you look closely at the top of the picture above you can see people climbing through a wire tunnel. The tunnels allow you to climb to an old airplane, tower, bus, and more exotic things.  There are several slides of varying length and slope outside.  You definitely want to hit this area when the temperatures are coolest.

Inside are more slides including a 10 and 5 story spiral slide.  On the 1st floor there are more tunnels and climbing areas but we didn't spend a lot of time here as there were so many people!  The museum houses an aquarium on the 2nd floor but there is an additional cost to view it.  The 3rd floor contains a indoor skate park - minus the "skates" part.  Just the ramps and walls.  The kids (and lots of adults) enjoyed running around in this area. 

We were told by friends that it was worth the extra money to go on top of the 10 story building and visit the "Atop of the City."  On the roof is a ferris wheel and a bus that hangs out over the edge of the building, among other things.  Unfortunately it didn't work into our schedule - plus seeing the bus dangling over the edge was enough for me to lose all desire!

Parking is pretty crazy.  You enter this tight, low ceiling parking garage.  It took my husband several tries to manuever our mini van into the parking spot that they wanted us to use.  This was after refusing the first option due to too tight of quarters.  Upon purchasing tickets, you are given a bracelet to wear which allows you to leave the museum for the parking lot if need be.  If you find yourself needing something, it is easy to get to your vehicle instead of trying to carry something with you.  You could also take a lunch, leave it in the car, and eat in the parking garage. 

Two cautions. 

Because of the jungle-gym atmosphere, it is very important that you wear proper clothing and shoes.   I was so thankful that I wore tennis shoes.  Do not take a purse and a skirt would be unforgiving. I felt sorry for every mom I saw pushing a stroller.  Honestly, I am very glad that our kiddos weren't any younger.  (Peanut definitely pushed the envelope at age 3 1/2.)  City Museum is not a place I would want to take young children.  Because the slides and tunnels go in several directions, it would be very easy to lose a child. 

Second caution.  If you are germaphobe, City Museum may not be the place for you.  Honestly, the place on the day we visited wasn't very clean.  People lay down, climb on, and touch everything.  I felt like a good shower was in order when we left and I am the opposite of a germ freak.

In all of that you may be wondering why we liked the place.  I will repeat is hard to explain.  My kids would return in a heartbeat.  Just to see their faces as they climb and slide would make me take them again. 

The third place that we visited was Ted Drewes Frozen Custard on Route 66.  When we pulled up to the parking lot we were shocked at the lines of people waiting to get their dessert.  People parked blocks away.  It truly was amazing.  We went ahead and got in line just because the place is so famous.  Thankfully we found a local person who explained that there are many short lines and they serve people very quickly.  She wasn't lying!  The taste was like any other custard I have eaten - similar to delicious, rich, thick ice cream.  What was astonishing was the price.  We paid half what we would have at the custard place in our town. 

Magic House.  City Museum.  Ted Drewes.  All fabulous places - in their own right - to visit in St. Louis. 

I'd love to read you experiences.  Be sure to leave a comment.

Want to know about more places to visit in St. Louis and how to have a successful vacation?  Be sure to check out - Family Friendly Must-See in St Louis and Hotel Rooms, Vacation, and Kids:  16 Tips to Success.

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