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I am a home schooling mom to three amazing kiddos.  We primarily use the Montessori pedagogy to guide our journey.  We also enjoy aspects of classical education and are part of Classical Conversations community. 

I write a Montessori column for Practical Homeschooling Magazine.

I am still a geek at heart and at times miss my former career as an Information Architect/SharePoint Specialist.  I don't have much free time but if I do, it is spent on comic books and video games.
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The City Museum

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Today we decided to visit the City Museum.  Even after experiencing the City Museum for ourselves, I still find it difficult to explain what it is.  It’s part art haven and part adult playground.  Nearly every square inch is open to exploring.  It has a profound sense of freedom with few rules and limited supervision.  Not only that, but every last detail is gorgeous and has been touched by an artist.  There is beauty everywhere.  I can assure you that my photos and muddle description will not properly capture it.

There was a buzz of energy that hit us as soon as we pulled into the parking lot and viewed the incredible outdoor structures.  Entering the building is a bit overwhelming.   Every square inch begs to be looked at and explored.  The museum occupies three floors on the inside.  It also has a large outdoor and rooftop area.  Unfortunately, the rooftop was closed for the season.  They do not provide maps of any kind nor is there much signage.  Instead, they encourage you to explore and discover the museum for yourself.

We didn’t know where to begin so we wandered a bit and found ourselves in the skateless park on the third floor.  This area is similar to an indoor skate park with various ramps and pipes except they meant to be run on.  I was surprised at how much fun it was.  I loved running around the edges of a large bowl.

This was the ONLY picture I took in the skateless park.  I think I was too busy running around like a 5 year old myself having fun.  :-)  Matt and Lockelan are in one of the half pipes.  It was fun to slide down the sides. 

From there we went to see the circus.  Given that it was a weekday in the off season, Circus Harmony did not perform.  Instead, we got to see Christian the Magician.  His show was hilarious.  They have a small concession stand there as well so we all enjoyed a snack.
Waiting for the show.

Christian the Magician performing a levitation.

We then found ourselves in a small area of toddler town which is specifically designed for ages 6 and under.  The vast majority of it was closed due to major upgrades.  However, the kids were thrilled with the small section that was available.  It had several slides, a ball put and a number of metal structures to climb on.  Looking back, I think it was helpful that we stopped here near the beginning of our visit.  The structures in the other areas required a similar style of climbing and this afforded Elora and William an opportunity to practice on a smaller scale.




After we explored several hidden passageways, we came across an opening to one of the museum’s many slides.  We decided to give it a try and it took us back to the first floor.


We then decided to explore there for a while.  We went into an area that looked like a cavern and then climbed around in a tree.  Everywhere we looked there was another passage, pathway or metal structure to climb.  It was hard to tell where most of it went.   Elora and William wanted to climb into every nook and cranny and I can’t say I blamed them.  I felt bad for saying no so often but given their ages, I couldn’t risk losing them.  I would have climbed in after them but a number of the passages would have been tight even in my *ahem* former girly figure.  I was also surprised by how unnerving I found some of the tunnels I did agree too.


I found a small opening and after managed to come up in the middle of the miniature train display.
Even the ceiling is worth staring at.
Small cavern area.
One of the slides we discovered was a straight drop and the kids were too short to ride.  I decided to go on my own while the kids stayed with Matt and rode the roller slide.  To my dismay, the exit was below the floor.  The only options to exit the room was an extremely narrow passage that required turning sideways and dropping 20 lbs or crawling through a tiny tunnel.  I had no idea how long each options was or what came next.  I opted to crawl and somehow fought my urge to panic, finally emerging from a small hole in the floor.
There were several small pools with turtles and catfish.

While this looks like a lovely display on the other side of a water feature, it's actually a route up to one of the slides.  I almost missed it until I noticed the non-slip mat on the ledge of the water.
The view from one of the trees.  This metal structure is a theme throughout the building.

Yes, this is Matt climbing up the structure with Lockelan in the Ergo.  And yes, he's asleep.
If you look closely, you can see Elora climbing through the tunnel near the middle of the picture.
And here is the same tunnel  from the 1st floor.  It's attached to the ceiling.
William wanted to explore every passage.

We finally decided to break for lunch.  Since the one restaurant that was open was a peanut and cheese paradise, I took Lockelan to the car with me to eat our allergen free lunches while Matt took Elora and William for pizza and cookies.  Trying to eat in a minivan with a 17 month old is a bit unpleasant.   He squirted his veggie pouch all over my seat and decorated the front half with a mixture of corn and grape quarters.

We decided to head outside to explore.  As with everything at the City Museum, it took some effort to figure out how to get out there.

Starting the journey upwards.

Looking up.

Matt was able to find stairs in many places which made it easier to  bring Lockelan along.

One of the spiral ramps.  We're starting to gain some height.  In fact, Elora has decided to crawl up this pathway.

William is more adventurous and is comfortable walking.

We made it to the first plane.

This is a view from the plane of the parking lot.  It's such an unassuming parking lot.

Matt and Lockelan found a way too.

A view of the first plane from the second plane.

This cockpit had more controls remaining.  William was in awe.

The body of the plane.

We decided to take the spiral stairs down.

As an alternative, we could have shimmied through a metal tube like this one.

This is the dragon slide.  We rode that one earlier.

Going across a walk way.  There is actually a passage underneath the walkway  that requires you to crawl the length.

What looks like beautiful metalwork is actually another tunnel to somewhere.

The large outdoor ball pit.

This is for 6 and under.  There is a larger pit to the right.  I didn't think we would ever get them out.

We then went back to another section of the first floor called the caves.  We somehow missed it the first time around.  It literally felt like you were in a large cave, free to explore at will.  There were various holes everywhere; some barely noticeable until someone would come climbing out.  The experience was further enhanced by the sound of a pipe organ the played continuously in the background.  I followed the older two into several tunnels and lived to tell about it.  We heard that there was a ten story slide in the area but we had no clue how to find it.  We explored various winding paths that took us both up and down levels until we finally found the winding staircases to take us up to the top of the 10 story slide.

You could spend all day exploring each and every path.

This is the best shot I could get because it was quite dark.  It was amazing!
The 10 story slide.
The slide spiraled the entire way down.  It was a long ride!  I went first and waited for the older two at the bottom.  Matt brought Lockelan down with him.  He laughed the entire way.  William wanted to go again but we wanted to take a break before climbing ten stories of stairs again.  It wasn’t a popular decision and poor William screamed the entire way back out of the caves.  It was a testament to how exhausted he was as that is very unusual behavior for him in public.

At the end of the 10 story slide.

Since the day was winding down we decided to head back to the third floor to ensure we hadn’t missed anything.  We wandered around a 50s style café with several classic pinball machines.  We then found the mini train and let Elora and William ride.  I was a bit sad that I was too tall because it looked like fun.

These chairs were amazing.  You can rock in any direction without tipping.
I want one!
Everything was wonderful to look at... like this mosaic turtle hidden in one of the exhibits.
The mini train ride.
Elora and William took this path by themselves since someone familiar with the building was able to tell us where they'd end up.
I don't know why the museum has a Big Boy but we certainly had to have a picture.
The Monster Slide that goes from the 3rd floor to the 1st floor lobby.  How else do you leave the museum?
The final ride.
Such an unassuming sign...
There's a fire truck outside because...

This was the last photo I took from the parking lot.  You can see some of the outdoor structures here, include the two planes.
It was near closing time so we prepared for the long ride back to our resort.  Our exit bordered on dramatic simply because everyone was too tired to be rational.

Since we got back at a reasonable time, I ran some laundry and Matt ran to activity center to rent a movie for us to watch.  It was nice to have some adult time after the children went to bed, even if bedtime ended up happening later than we would have liked.
  
You can learn more about the City Museum here.  I cannot recommend it highly enough.  Truly, I am nearly obsessed with it now.  It is worth traveling to St. Louis to visit with or without children in tow.  There are a number of areas we were not able to visit, including the legendary rooftop which was closed.  The museum also connects to an aquarium.  We wanted to visit that as well but we simply ran out of time.
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