By Tom and Patti Burkett
For years we’ve had the City Museum of Saint Louis on our list of travel stops, so recently when we went to visit out park ranger daughter in the Ozarks we piled into the vehicle and drove the two hours north. We were advised to arrive early, because the museum is a popular destination for school groups. We’d echo that advice for anyone attending. The museum is in downtown
St. Louis, just a few blocks from the Gateway Arch. The adjacent parking lot will suit a class B or smallish class C RV. Anything bigger, and you’d better look for parking elsewhere.
Bob and Gail Cassilly built the museum in 1997. It’s housed in an old warehouse, and the structures inside are made from reclaimed parts of buildings, factories, and industrial demolition. Everywhere you look is art, too, mostly sculptures by the Cassillys and other local talent. Fanciful animals, objects morphing into other objects, tiny landscapes, and greatly magnified everyday things appear around every corner or above your head or below your feet as you move through the museum. The walls and floor are riddled with holes that lead to ladders and slides connecting one level to another, or providing a way to get in between levels to special little surprises.
One section features large pieces of architectural facades—the ones you usually see ten stories above you from the street. Here you can look at them close up and see how they’re constructed and applied. Nearby is an exhibit of the work of Louis Sullivan, whose distinctive buildings can be found across the country. He is a St. Louis ho metown boy. The central core of the building contains a ten-story slide, and there are several others that will whisk you down two or three levels in a moment. Visitor of any size can enjoy the sliding and climbing features, but knee pads are a distinct plus, and they’re for sale in the gift shop.
MonstroCity, a multistory climbing apparatus including an airplane runs up the side of the building, and the roof features an amusement park. There are ball pits, blacklight caves, giant pieces of industrial equipment you can operate, tubes that travel through waterscapes, a miniature railroad, and countless other things to discover among the levels. And it’s always changing, with new things being added and connections between one place and another appearing and disappearing from one visit to the next.
When you come to visit, don’t miss the Gateway Arch if you haven’t already seen it. The visitor center movie describing the construction process is fascinating. A few miles east of the museum is the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, a stunning edifice built a hundred years ago. Like the City Museum, it has been added to steadily since its original construction, and features many chapels, intricate mosaics, striking stained glass, and soaring architecture.
The city of Saint Louis is at the crossroads of North America, and sits on many roads heavily traveled. It was the starting point for Oregon Trail journeys, as well as Lewis & Clark’s expedition, and continues to be a continental hub for river, rail, and communication systems. In all likelihood, you’ve been through it or driven past it many times. Even so, this historic and hardworking city will yield up some undiscovered gems to the traveler willing to poke around just a bit off the beaten path
You can listen to Tom and Patti Burkett as they deliver a weekly Off-the-Beaten-Path report each week on the RV Podcast. Subscribe to the podcast to discover all sorts of helpful RV Lifestyle info via Apple Podcasts, or Android Podcasts, or your favorote app.