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The Coolest Place in Saint Louis

The Coolest Place in Saint Louis has got to be the City Museum, off 15th and Washington (in a courtyard off to the side—look for the airplanes suspended above the entranceway, outside).

Part children's museum, part art gallery, and part brainchild of a person or people with a large amount of imagination, this was one of the most fun places I've ever been.

I saw the museum at a rather odd time: 9 p.m. on a weekday, in the midst of a huge private party with hundreds in attendance and several loud bands going in different parts of the building. In the darkness, the hubbub; it may have been different than during the day with a lot of kids around.

The first thing that caught my eye was a terrific exhibit of old opera and theater posters from France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands, going as far back as an early Toscanini performance from 1888, and through at least the 1950s. For a classical music lover and traveler like me, that was a terrific start. And there are cool things like an old bank vault, a Seth Thomas bell-tower clock with the workings exposed, gargoyles in all shapes and sizes, statuary (including a two-headed lion eating an assortment of fruits and vegetables) and various cool Saint Louis memorabilia.

But the coolest part, by far, was the Enchanted Cave, a multistory extravaganza that converted what appeared to be an old industrial, airshaft into a whimsical, phantasmagoric collection of spirals and twists, of wire, stone, and metal. Tunnels to crawl though, slides and all the way through, real and mythical animal and plant forms carved out o the flowing stone: dragons, giant trees, a hand around a giant horn of plenty, chutes, stairways to hidden passages, mysterious wells, all in a dark eerie environment that felt like the catacombs scenes in Phantom of the Opera.

At the very bottom, a family of stone dinosaurs guard the treasure: a huge quartz geode lit in such a way that it looks like diamonds. Be sure to look up and down from the various levels as you explore.

There was much more, including an aquarium (closed for the evening), an area for kids to paint, and assorted catwalks and equipment all in and around the building.

Definitely an experience not to be missed. You can take a virtual tour, in continuous-loop panoramic photography (where I discovered I somehow missed the entire first floor, one of the coolest parts—just have to go back, I guess).

St Louis City Museum
701 N. 15th Street
St Louis MO 63103

Open most days 9-5, Friday and Saturday evenings until 1 a.m. $12 per person, $6 extra to add the Aquarium.

Shel Horowitz, Editor of Global Travel Review and owner of, is the author of the e-book, The Penny-Pinching Hedonist: How to Live Like Royalty with a Peasant's Pocketbook, and the creator of the Ethical Business Pledge campaign.

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