Tuesday, May 5, 2009

City Museum

What? You were looking for one of my lame attempts at a title? Sorry, I've been reserving them for weird Facebook status updates. And/or I couldn't come up with one. I'm going to let a jury of my peers decide on that, but first, let me plead my case.
How the hell do you describe City Museum? If you haven't been there and you're looking for what type of experience you might have - do not continue reading this. None of the following will make sense. I've tried to explain what it is when Chicago friends come to town. I usually just end up sputtering a series of umms and ahhs. And then I say something along the lines of, "Well, it's not really a museum in the 'traditional sense'..." Undeterred, they usually stare at me for more info and that's when I just leave it at, "There's a big slide."

And there is! It's gigantic, but I'm getting ahead of myself. What you need to know about City Museum is that it's like a gigantic unguarded playground of weirdness. You pay the ten bucks to get in and then you pretty much have the run of the place. What you have a run of is a bit harder to describe. It's like being dropped into a real-life cartoon. And you know how what happens in cartoons would hurt in real life? Yeah, there's that danger there. And maybe that's what makes it so fun. Kids are allowed to run free and many of the nooks and crannies only an 8 year old could fit in, but it's certainly not for kids. I will say you do have to be fairly athletic and retain some childlike imagination to have fun. You definitely can (and probably will) get hurt. But isn't exploring a cartoon world worth it?

Excuse the cartoon references because I would guess that's a little misleading. There are parts of this place that are very industrial. Specifically the gigantic spiral slide. This building is at least 10 stories tall and in the middle of it is a gigantic open space with dozens of these steel twisty slides and stairs. At first glance none of it makes sense but it can't be any more impressive as your eyes follow them skyward. This building originally was a shoe factory in the early 20th century but I'm not completely sure these were used for manufacturing. They certainly look original... Either way they are perfect for sliding. If you can climb all the way to the top ( I run and it's a little bit tough) you can take one of those spiral slides all the way back down to the bottom. It's quite a ride but keep your hands and feet close to you. I bruised my knee up nicely the first time. Then I went again.

The outside is even crazier. There's a whole industrial playground to explore that includes a castle of some sort, old airplanes, and wait for it... a Chucky Cheese style ball pit... for adults! Add a giant blow-up moonwalk and I could finally realize my dream of being a 9 year old for the rest of my life. I choose 9 because that was how old I was when I could ride my bike as far as I wanted. That way my adult 9 year old self would still be able to go to the grocery store and such.
There is so much more to this place but continuing would just confuse you more. Plus, it'll be much more fun as a surprise. Keep in mind some of what I described may change. I've been there a few times now and it seems they are always closing parts and reopening new interactive "exhibits." One of the most fun times I've had there was on a Friday "Flashlight Night." You walk in, get your ticket, and they hand you a flashlight. Go at it. This is obviously meant for teens/adults. First of all, it's open till 1:00 AM and second there is a full bar open inside. Yes, you can get drunk, skip the buffoonery, and get straight to the injuring yourself at the City Museum. As you would suspect the bar itself is different. It's a transplanted cabin of Daniel Boone's son. They even have live music. Last time I was there it was of the Bluegrass variety which is, in my book, awesome. If you haven't seen my book it's generally just a list of things with equal signs that lead to the word awesome. Here's an excerpt:
The German word for rabbit is "Hassenpfeffer" = Awesome!
I've sold 2 copies. One to my Mom and the second I bought as a birthday gift to my dog, Oscar. Anyway, this post has gone decidedly off topic. Let me leave you with this... If you want to see some craziness, go to City Museum. I can't imagine you'll be disappointed unless you hate seeing things that make you think, "I can't believe they are getting away with this." If I were to declare something a St Louis treasure, so far, this is it.

Fine, jury of my peers... I couldn't come up with a title, I admit it. But come on, you can't describe it. It's like a real-life Alice in Wonderland injury factory in there. Hmm, that actually wouldn't have been too bad. 


Court Fortier said...

Who does that crazy guy trying to steal a bite of that giant artificial burger think he is anyway?!?!? Oh, I guess it was me... Though it was too cold to do the outdoor "industrial playground" when I was there, I still enjoyed myself to bits. The 6 story slide was definitely my favorite at the time.

Next time I have the pleasure of visiting StL, I'm going to make it a point to do the Friday night flashlight extravaganza.

And a, Vogelzang = awesome, to all of you...

Brooke said...

whoah...that looks amazing.a place where you can get drunk and injure yourself? that's the kind of thrill-seaking that speaks to my teenage garbage-mountain climbing self. i think that kind of fun is illegal in illinois!

i'm assuming since you link everything, your book is non-existant. if not, you can sell a 3rd copy.

Jim Barnthouse said...

Brooke, you have no idea. It's unbelievable.

Yeah, the book is non-existent. Although there has been a huge uptick in people finding the blog through googling "Jim Barnthouse book". Maybe I should write one!!!