Risky Places We Love: City Museum – St. Louis

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City Museum, St. Louis: suspended airplane

Is it wrong to plan an entire trip around one museum?  If it is, I don’t want to be right.

I can’t remember where or when I first heard about  City Museum in St. Louis, Missouri, but from the first mention I knew it was a place The Risky Family had to visit.  City Museum is a one-of-a-kind place, an ever-changing tribute to the endless possibilities of urban play.

City Museum, St. Louis: praying mantis slide

City Museum was created in 1997 by sculptor and entrepreneur Bob Cassilly.  Housed in a former shoe warehouse in downtown St. Louis, the museum features floor after floor of repurposed castoffs.  Bridges, tile, vehicles, rebar, stones, ramps, sculptures, airplanes, even a ferris wheel … anything is candidate to be turned into a playground for adults and kids alike.

We spent a good part of a day there and didn’t explore half of it.  But the nooks and crannies we did explore were amazing, exhilirating, and yes, a little bit scary.

Teetering high above the St. Louis skyline on the rooftop ferris wheel …

City Museum, St. Louis: rooftop ferris wheel

Climbing at seemingly impossible angles …

City Museum, St. Louis

City Museum, St. Louis: praying mantis climber

Trying not to fall in the water …

City Museum, St. Louis: stepping stones

Exploring dark places …

City Museum, St. Louis: maze

If we lived in St. Louis we would be here ALL THE TIME.  That being said, I can see how this museum might not be everyone’s cup of tea.  At ages 6 and 11, and arriving at the museum early enough to where it wasn’t overly crowded, I felt comfortable letting the kids roam on their own a bit.  This isn’t a place where you can keep the kids in sight at all times, not unless you follow them everywhere.  And by following everywhere you are committing yourself to some very high and sometimes very small spaces!  With that in mind, I can see how coming here with younger children could be overwhelming.  (If any of you visit the museum with young ones and have some tips to share for other readers, please do so!)  For older kids, though, I think this is exactly what the creators intended – a place to play with calculated risk, plenty of opportunities for independence, and loads of fun!

City Museum, St. Louis: skate ramp

You can view more photos from our visit on my flickr page.  City Museum is located at 701 North 15th Street, St. Louis, Missouri 63103.  Please check the website for hours and admission information.



  1. Oh my – we loved this place for our 8 year old. This was the first place I had ever been that I remember thinking I’m literally going to implode because I can’t control watching my younger kids. My husband was following around our 3 year old until he disappeared in a rabbit hole that we had no idea where it came out! At the same time, my 5 year old daughter wearing her pink cowgirl boots (no other shoes would ever suffice) and slipped and fell and busted open her head. So I went with her to get doctored up in the first aid area while my husband tried to find where the 3 year old rabbit had gone and we left our 8 year old with no instructions because we couldn’t find him! I remember the anxiety of realizing how much I couldn’t control this place, that I couldn’t set boundaries that seemed safe – which is exactly why it is a child’s dream come true! Many years later we now live in South Africa and our kids live the risky life every day here – sometimes more than we would like when it comes to violence and crime, but yet as in all things, we have faith that they will get through it and are stronger for all of these “risky” experiences. When we come home once a year to visit American family we see how hyper paranoid everyone is and we realise how over protective we were when we lived in the US. It’s great to be relaxed parents finally, letting our kids explore and knowing that it is so much more riskier in other parts of the world. Hope everyone gets a chance to experience the City Museum with their kids and feel like all is totally out of their control while they’re there and realise it was only the illusion of control anyway! Throw off the mantle and have fun exploring!

    • I love it: “It was only the illusion of control …” So true in so many different situations! Thanks so much for your comment. I can imagine there is a subset of parents, whether it’s because of the age of their kids or their tolerance for losing control, for whom City Museum is NOT their happy place! But I’m so glad it exists for the rest of us. Did your 8-year-old ever even notice you were missing?! We are (hopefully) headed to Europe next summer. I’m really looking forward to immersing ourselves in another culture for many reasons, but a big one being the chance to observe how other parents handle risk and parenting. I have a feeling we’re in for an eye-opening experience! Thanks so much for reading.