First stop was the Missouri History Museum in Forest Park. This great place boasts free admission and free parking – super! I’m going to talk about the exhibits that we saw here in the order I most enjoyed them:
1) A Walk in 1875 St. Louis
Whoa. This was an awesome exhibit. It was based around an 1875 pictorial map of St. Louis (don’t know what that is? Click here.) with every other wall covered in humorous, interesting, and visually-striking factoids. Nothing will stop a kid in their tracks and make them read an exhibit panel like colorful facts about the disgusting waste disposal of our ancestors. You really could have spent a couple of hours in here reading everything.
2) State of Deception: The Power of Nazi Propaganda
This one was from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. I particularly enjoyed that it steered the exhibit towards a discussion about how we can be provoked by propaganda – especially when put out by something as successful as the Nazi machine. I’d love to see an exhibit focusing on more modern propaganda to really make people think about what they see and hear every day. I’m also not ashamed to admit that the little man found the videos of Hitler speaking absolutely hilarious; he loves it when anyone throws their arms around and yells.
3) The 1904 World’s Fair: Looking Back at Looking Forward
Great artifacts in this one, but it didn’t really hold our attention as much as the first two. It did open up a fun conversation where I explained the concept of a world’s fair to the daughter. You probably don’t want to visit a museum with this historian.
4) Seeking St. Louis
This exhibit was on the second floor and was clearly an older, more permanent exhibit. The content wasn’t as appealing for my family, but I really appreciate the amount of touchable things at little-kid-level. The little man can’t get anything out of a text panel, but he can – and will! –touch anything you put in front of him. I am a big fan of cultural intuitions doing anything they can to get the little ones (and those challenged in some way, like the little man) involved.
Lunch! It was utterly forgettable, so I’ll skip it.
Next stop was the Grand Hall of Union Station. We pulled into the (pay) parking lot and headed into what was supposed to be a little shopping mall. Well. . . I think it was probably really, really neat when it first opened, but now it is just another monument to one of those failed 80s-90s revitalization movements. The second floor featured a nice array of boarded-up storefronts. Of course, if you are in the market for sequin purses, tacky souvenirs, or vapor supplies this is the spot for you!
We walked to the end of the Midway, found no elevator access on that end, and found all of the doors into the station proper blocked with signs saying the entrances were for hotel guests only or key carded (the hotel is not a failed experiment like the rest of the place). Hmm. So, we walked back down the Midway, up the elevator, and back down the Midway again, only to be confronted with the same signs.
Wanting to be good, rule-following people, we headed out the side door and to the front of the building. Grumbling all the way. The front door had the same sign. Screw the hotel; we went in.
Totally worth it! Gorgeous. We enjoyed the Grand Hall lobby for a while and indulged in some Starbucks. Confession: I absolutely love sitting in large hotel lobbies while people watching and sipping on something delicious. Mix in the Grand Hall atmosphere and I was in heaven.
Last attraction of the day was the City Museum. I don’t even know if I can explain this place – it is part playground, part art installation, part museum, part amusement park. My husband described it best when we compared it to the movie Little Monsters. You know, the one from the 90s* with Fred Savage and Howie Mandell? Well, the City Museum – especially the darker inside bits – looks a whole lot like the monster land that you could get to by going under your bed.
This place was geared to very active children and wasn’t 100% accessible (impossible to be so considering what it is), so it didn’t have a ton for the little man to do (although he had a great time in the toddler area with squishy blocks). This was all about the daughter. And the dad. But mostly the daughter. This place was really amazing. I highly recommend it just for the unique factor alone.
Dinner was deep dish pizza at Pi Pizza, our best meal of the trip. Afterwards all four of us collapsed into bed by 9:30pm.
*I looked it up. It is 1989.