This Museum Should be Called Phobias "R" Us


This week is Spring Break. We didn't plan to go anywhere this year. I thought we could stay home and relax and just hang out without the pressures of packing and traveling. It seemed like a good idea the first day. By the second day, I was begging the Hubs to take us somewhere - anywhere. 

I had some criteria though:
  1. Less than a 5 hour drive (I go batty on road trips and we couldn't afford to fly anywhere since I didn't get my act together.)
  2. Someplace with kid-friendly activities.
  3. A hotel with a separate bedroom for the kids, free wifi, free breakfast, and an indoor pool.
The Hubs came back with the following:

St. Louis – just a few hours down the road. The kids had never been and from what he could find online, there seemed to be a lot of stuff for them to do. He searched for a hotel and came back with one that met one out of my four criteria: indoor pool. “But it's a such a good deal!” he argued. Uh huh. With the Hubs he always sacrifices my wants for the sake of the "good deal."

It was the Hilton next to the airport and Gomer couldn't have been happier. He thought this was the “fanciest” hotel he's ever been in because it had a piano bar in the lobby with a real live person playing the piano. (He's used to staying in those places with the do-it-yourself waffle maker and all the Nutrigrain bars you can steal in the lobby.) Also he was thrilled to be so close to airplanes. “Look at that one! It's landing right beside us!” Apparently, I need to take my kid to the airport a bit more often.

After an uneventful drive (thank goodness) we headed to the City Museum. Whenever I mentioned to friends we were going to St. Louis, everyone said, “You must go to the City Museum. But . . .”

But what?

“It's a little . . . crazy,” they'd say. “You have to be able to let go.”

“Let go?” I'd ask.

“You'll see. It's not for everyone.”

I'd seen a few pictures online and I knew there was a huge outdoor playscape that the kids could climb through. Maybe they meant that. It didn't seem that bad in the pictures.

When we finally arrived and I got up close and personal with the playscape, I took a closer look at what my children were going to climb through.

Oh. My. God.

Miles of rebar, metal fencing, platforms, and salvaged shards of iron welded together to form a giant human hamster run with some sharp, rusted edges, and spots that were so small, they literally had to slide through on their backs in a few places. That was just the outside. The inside was 600,000 square feet and had much of the same, only the runs disappeared into the walls and ceilings and suddenly my kids would pop up out of the floor – literally. It was insane.

I'm not quite sure why this place is called a "museum," because there isn't much there except human ant colonies. There are no maps ("Just explore!" ie, get lost). There are no signs (it took me 10 minutes to find a freaking bathroom). There are very few official looking people who look like they might be in charge.

My kids had a blast and I slowly went crazy. I've said before that I'm not a helicopter parent, but holy shit, this place was terrifying. I would put my child down a rabbit hole and have no idea where he was going to pop back out. I watched kids (and adults) crawl through cages and all I could think about was, Where are the fire exits and how would I get my kids out of here if I had to? The only thing that reassured me was that almost everything was made of metal or concrete, so there wasn't much that would burn, but still.

Adolpha was a genius at finding hidden holes and disappearing underground before I could tell her I loved her one more time.

When you arrive at the Museum, you get a wristband that says something to the effect that they are not responsible for any injuries or your death and oh by the way, please put a phone number on here where we can reach you in the event that your child gets lost. The Hubs had to stop me from putting three phone numbers on their bracelets.

As soon as we walked in the door, the kids found a little hole to disappear down. The Hubs followed them. I took five steps into the pitch black and the quickly narrowing tunnel and I started to have a panic attack. Or at least I think it was a panic attack. I don't know. I've never actually had one. I'm not one to get nervous by much, but small, dark spaces or high, wide open spaces pretty much do me in. I yelled into the tunnel, “I can't do it, Hubs! I'll see you guys at the end!” and I backtracked before more people came along and wedged me in there.

Yup. I bailed on the Hubs. It was like Sophie's Choice, only there wasn't a choice. I sacrificed the Hubs. I figured he'd be better without me freaking out. 

I wandered around for a while trying to find the end of the tunnel they went down. Finally, I asked a worker where they'd pop out. She told me it might be the second or the third floor, she couldn't remember. I went up to the third floor and found two excited kids and a slightly woozy Hubs. "That was rough," he exclaimed. "It's a good thing you backed out when you did. I tried a few times, but I had people right behind me. Twice I got stuck and I wasn't sure I'd ever make it out! Oh my God, Jen!"

Oh my God is right. I think I would probably still be stuck in a dark hole somewhere in the bowels of that building if I'd gone down the hole with them. I can't imagine going to that museum if you had any sort of phobias, because this place has something for everyone:

Afraid of crowds? This place is jam-packed with people and there is no place you can go to find a quiet spot for yourself.

Afraid of losing your kids? Send them down a chute and then try to figure out where they'll pop out.


Afraid of small spaces? Crawl through this hole under the floor that warns you it gets down to only 18 inches wide.

Afraid of the dark? Jump on this pitch black slide.

Afraid of heights? Climb out on the wing of this reclaimed airplane that's several stories above the concrete ground.

Those are my kids crawling through rebar tunnels 4 stories off the ground!
Just throw a few snakes and rats down those holes and I think that will cover every fear a person might have!

This is the greatest museum ever and we can't wait to go back again when the roof deck is open this summer. Yeah, you can climb through more twisted metal on the roof - just make sure your tetanus shots are up to date!



37 comments:

Marcella said...

Ha! I love the City Museum but you must be up to date on your tetnus shot. And you need to have a solid adult to kid ratio. I went last week and it was 1:1. Perfect. Last fall I went and it was me with my 3...I lost them for 20 minutes but they stayed together. You went at a bad time of year, its better in the summer b/c the rooftop is amazing with giant slides and a ferris wheel. Love that place, but want to dip my kids in a vat of purell and have a stiff drink afterwards :)

Unknown said...

The thought of that "museum" made me clench my chest and gasp for breath. I have the claustrophobia of a crazy person, like I-can't-sleep-with-the-sheet-and-blankets-tucked-at-my-feet kind of crazy, and never in a million years would I go inside one of those tunnels.

I'd send my kids, though, and they would love it. "Good luck! Mommy loves you!"

Unknown said...

I may or may not have had a panic attack just reading about this place. I'll never tell.

Design Lab 443 said...

Yes, the city museum is awesome, but it is a one parent per kid ratio for our family. There is no way I can keep an eye on both kids at that place, keeping an eye on one is hard enough. But the kids love it, so many new things to explore with each visit. Glad you liked it! Come back to our town anytime!

monkey momma said...

I practically started hyperventilating just reading that. I don't think I could "let go" like that...

Susan said...

Yay for St. Louis! It is such a great town for families: city museum, zoo, magic house, science center, etc. Have fun!

Gentry said...

That sounds like a place I could say to my husband - "Hey - I heard about this awesome thing in St. Louis. Maybe you and the little man should have a guys' weekend."

Then I would do nothing. Absolutely nothing. Hmmmmm

Unknown said...

I'm definitely one of those people that the museum is not for. I was getting claustrophobic just reading your post, and I don't get claustrophobic easily! The way you described the playscape, and then the picture of it, oh my gosh it looks and sounds like it belongs in some creepy horror movie or something. I can't explain it very well. I would never go in any of those tunnels. I'd be so afraid of getting stuck or lost or having a panic attack because it's too dark.

JMc said...

Oh I'm glad I'm not the only one that freaked out, lol. I took my daughter two years ago because we heard from everyone "oh you have to go to the City Museum" blah blah blah. It drove me crazy not being able to see her at all times. Or even know what general area she was in. I went with her through the ceiling part and we went down a pretty fun slide...they didn't tell you that you needed to be the size of a super model to get out at the bottom of the slide also into pitch black concrete walls. Thank goodness I had on skinny clothes that day!! I seriously went back to see if there was a warning of some kind at the top of that slide.

HeliconiaPink said...

THANK YOU SO MUCH! You just validated my craziness a little bit. That place KILLS me. My daughter has ADHD. Before she was on meds for it, we went there. She disappeared into those catcomb cave things and I lost her for almost 2 hours. When I asked the "employees" for assistance, they were no help. I almost crapped my pants...

MM3 said...

OMG, thanks for the warning. We are there next week. I'd need a few bottles of pharma products to make it through that.

Raabster said...

Wow. I had no idea such a place existed. I'm not sure if the Rascal would like such a place...but I'll put it on our travel list, just in case!

ohiogirl1975 said...

I love St. Louis, but thankfully I've never been to the City Museum. I needed Valium to get an MRI done, so there would be no way I'd go in any of those things you talked about or showed pictures of. I'm getting shaky just thinking about it!!!

Bethmasters said...

Its really much more tolerable if you take OTHER peoples children to the City Museum. And it also helps if they are fifth graders whom you'd prefer to lose, anyway. I chaperoned two groups here and it was great, but the buddy system was in place and I figured if I sat by the exit, no one could get abducted. Only be visit to the first aid room, too...pretty sweet.

Lynn said...

I took my quadruplets there three years ago. They were five. A good solid 5 1/2 even. No maps. Just two less-than-helpful grandparents and me. We were on the roof. The good thing about the roof is that if you sit by the elevators, they can't get off the roof without your knowing.

We went outside. I sat at the entrance to the building. The kids couldn't go in, and thus exit the building without my knowing.

Inside? It was a crap shoot. I ended up by the door. Not like the four 5-year-olds are going to stick together or anything. At the end of the day, I needed a good masseuse.

Dyanne @ I Want Backsies said...

I went to City Museum with a group of middle schoolers. I tried to keep track of them. Really, I did. Finally threw in the towel and sat on a bench and waited. And waited. And waited. We left with the same number of kids we arrived with, so I consider it good.

Anonymous said...

I used to live in St. Louis, 14 years ago. I don't remember the City Museum, it must be new. PLEASE go up in the ARCH and writer a blog post about it afterwards! I would love to hear what you have to say about that experience.

angie said...

LOL- I once had to follow my 2 year old through one of those narrowing tunnels. I just knew I would get stuck! I decided then and there if my kids went back, they had to take themselves!

angie said...

PS- sorry the weather is crummy. But if you come back in the summer it will be a delightful 95 with 80% humidity!

Krysti said...

Your panic attack reminded me of my one and only one. Like you, I'm not really claustrophobic. Exceedingly tiny spaces I'm not crazy about (but really, who is?), but for the most part I'm good.

My dad took me to Germany the summer before my senior year because I had taken German in school for years and was tired of him going without me. Seeing as I was with him, his best friend, and his best friend's son, we did a lot of military sightseeing. On this particular day, we ended up at Hitler's last bunker (I don't even remember where it is). We went downstairs into the underground area, and there was a completely dismantled, empty warhead. It was an open area and you could duck into the surrounding rooms, which weren't that generously sized but still liveable. I remember we had to go down this narrow staircase to get there, and there were these creepy dummy guys nearby showing some sort of military scene.

After being down there for maybe ten minutes, I became convinced that the warhead was not really dismantled and would explode, and we were all going to die. I pressed my back against the wall and sat there panicking for a while until my dad found me. He brought me upstairs so I could start breathing again, and I lost it. I spent the rest of the time they were wandering around on the other side of the car, looking over a cliff at the skyline.

To this day I get chills when I think about that hellhole and I haven't the slightest idea why I got so freaked out.

On another note, my fellow teachers and I are taking a field trip to a museum on Thursday. Your post makes me a tad wary, but thankfully I've been to this museum several times and I know we won't die.

I think.

Janine Huldie said...

I just had a panic attack reading this let alone actually being there, lol!!!

Maria said...

First off, thank you for calling it rebar and concrete. So many people get that wrong and it drives me bonkers.

Secondly, I've only been to the City Museum for an after-hours swing dance function. As an adults-only event it was totally awesome. Libations certainly helped let go of phobias and the bank vault doors were a huge hit.

Anonymous said...

No way! Not even remotely - it took me years to even be able to get into an elevator without getting nervous - let alone watching my kiddo disappear and wonder where he will come out! I bet you were soooo glad to leave that place!

Kris at AintNobodysMama said...

Another fine example of why it's a very good thing I ain't nobody's mama! Lol

Kathryn said...

I LOVED the City Museum... but I went as an adult with no children. I can see how it could be a nightmare with kids. Probably one of those places like Disney World when it is just more fun without children.

You probably should go to the St Louis Zoo instead next time. It's really lovely.

=)

meechla said...

Jesus, sounds and looks like something from the set of "Escape From New York."

ilikebeerandbabies.com said...

OMG! I love the City Museum. We used to have a loft right by it!

Anonymous said...

While I can relate to the phobia's, I LOVE the City Museum and so do my kids. It is one of the coolest places in the world. You will never see anything like it again. And please tell me you found 10 story slide...and the bar. You know they sell booze there, right?!?

Tankersmom said...

Yep. Can not bring myself to do it. Have taken my kids to the zoo, Magic House and Butterfly Garden a ton of times, but the City Museum has one too many horrors for me. First of them, losing sight of my kids where there may be perverts.

Anonymous said...

I'm from St. Louis and this is where we always take people visiting, but after we make sure they are in jeans and t shirts and tennis shoes. They built it when I was in middle school and it has just expanded since then, and so I still love going and finding all the new things. But when i worked at a summer program and we took them there for a field trip...well I felt your panic of losing the kids, mostly because they weren't my kids. I eventually found a bench, made sure they all had watches, and gave them 20 minute intervals where they had to come and check in.

I hope you go back and maybe have more fun since you will better know what to expect. And the roof is awesome. But...ummm...if afraid of heights? Don't go on the ferris wheel. My husband did have a panic attack up there. hah

Anonymous said...

I was just at the Hilton STL Airport on Wednesday night ;) The Hampton up the road meets all your criteria except indoor pool (it had an outdoor one) and several Hamptons have indoor pools (always free wifi and breakfast). Just FYI for your next trip! Despite staying in St. Louis relatively frequently, I've yet to do the Arch or City Museum, and I'm not quite sure I ever will now!

Lynn said...

I always tell myself that NOBODY really wants my children. Really. And they are more likely to be harmed by someone they know than a random stranger in the bowels of The City Museum. It helps me quiet those mommy voices in my head.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the review, now I know where to take my husband when I'm ready for him to die. That would definitely kill him "naturally."

Unknown said...

We took the kids last year. The kids and I had a blast inside. It took the hubs a while to let go enough to have fun. I kinda panicked when I lost them outside - they were 8 and 2. The roof is awesome, but I would not recommend you try the 10 story slide if you're claustrophobic.

Unknown said...

I love this place, despite being utterly terrified of heights and loud noises. I would recommend this place to anyone who doesn't have acrophobia, necrophobia (fear of dead bodies. I'm not 100% sure but I think I might have seen shrunken heads in one part of the museum), scopophobia (fear of asylums. I swear I also saw a strait jacket there too), or claustrophobia.
One more thing I should mention is KEEP YOUR VALUABLES WITH YOU. My family got our car broken into in the museums' official parking lot during a wedding reception and we never really recovered from the incident mentally.

angie b. said...

Not sure when this article was posted, but it simultaneously brought back good memories and cracked me up. My then significant other took me to the museum on my 41st birthday and I had a BLAST! It was late-night in mid-October and my inner kid flipped out when I saw all of those tunnels, slides, and cool antiques!

Even with my germophobia (I figured, "What the hell," I'll shower and wash my hair when I get home), I was climbing sliding, and running like a 10-year old, as my then BF smiled and tagged along.

Admittedly, the bus (partially hanging off the building--or maybe it just felt that way) freaked me out a little, but I had such an adrenaline rush that I braved walking to the end of the bus that overlooked the edge of the building, and then looked down as my heart sank to my feet.

At the time, I had been in STL for a few years and wondered how I could possibly have not known about this place until then. I've since left the state, but would love to come back visit the museum. It's FAN. TAS. TIC! And next time, I'll wear knee pads. Lol

JT1222 said...

Last time we went I had my oldest (15) wear a “Where’s Waldo” shirt. At the end of the day, the employees were radioing each other asking where’s Waldo? Lol
It was our 2nd visit and definitely not the last.

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