I haven’t been to St. Louis since a high school class trip to Six Flags. I barely remember the trip: roller coasters, dinner at the Spaghetti Warehouse (I think?), and a rickety ride up the Gateway Arch. That’s it. So we were excited to go visit family there over spring break and to explore the city anew. Our first morning included a hearty breakfast at the Goody Goody Diner, and that fueled us for our first stop…
…the City Museum. If you’ve been there, you’ll know all about the place. If you’ve never been, it’s almost hard to describe: museum, playground, industrial park, history center, sculpture park, parkour course. It’s the type of thing every kid needs, a place with minimal rules where they can run and play, get a little scratched and banged up, and have an adventure.
The building is an old shoe factory that’s been renovated into a place for kids – and adults – to explore. There’s no map – you have to find your own way. One of the main floors has an ocean theme. We took the kids in there and they just disappeared. There are caves and bridges and paths and slides. They would disappear down a hole and reappear on a bridge somewhere else.
The fun part about the place is decor. Every surface has been covered in some way, so you’re constantly discovering little details. These are the walls outside the bathrooms, lined completely with stainless steel pans.
Our favorite section was the giant playground outside, made from re-purposed fire trucks, planes, and miles and miles of rebar. This is the top-most bridge, connecting a plane and a small tower. It’s about five stories off the ground.
There are also ball pits.
Here’s Owen and I climbing on the wing of the tallest plane.
Here’s that bridge I showed you. I was dumb enough to climb through it; I almost got stuck.
My perspective in the tunnel. You can see clear through it to the ground far below.
A look down another tunnel. See how it connects to more bridges and stairs and tunnels.
We didn’t even experience all of the museum! There’s a rooftop complete with a fire truck and a ferris wheel, but it wasn’t open yet for the season. Of course, we noted the use of old letterpress type as the elevator signs.
We left the City Museum after nearly three hours of exploring. We were exhausted and sore, in a good way, so we revitalized ourselves with a visit to Fitz’s. I knew of Fitz’s from an old friend would bring us bottles of root beer in Michigan. But there’s something nice about going directly to the source.
They serve food at the Fitz’s restaurant, but one of the main features is the root beer floats. They. Are. Massive.
You can try all sorts of drinks at the restaurant, both alcoholic and non. I ordered a bottomless soda so I could try the root beer, orange soda, cream soda.
You can also sit and watching the bottling line. It’s mesmerizing.
Outside we found a statue of Chuck Berry covered with flowers and mementos. (“Chuck! Chuck! This is your cousin, Marvin Berry! You know that new sound you’ve been looking for?”) The St. Louis native passed away about a month before.
We lucked out with beautiful weather that first day, perfect for exploring the City Museum and hitting up a other landmarks.
And you can’t go to St. Louis without visiting the Arch, right? We easily found parking close to the arch, with a beautiful view of the Mississippi River.
The Gateway Arch had just re-opened after months of renovations, and they’re still working on the Museum of Westward Expansion underneath it.
We opted not to go up it that day, but maybe on a return visit. Still, it’s a magnificent sight to see along the river and against the city skyline.
Our last stop of the day was Sump Coffee. We walked in and spotted the glass Kyoto towers and knew we were in the right place.
We loved the menu in particular, drawn like a subway map to help you choose between hot coffee, cold coffee, and how you want it prepared. Great explanation for anyone new to coffee.
We ordered a cortado and a Kyoto-style cold brew. Both excellent.
Love the hip branding, too. A very worthy stop!
That’s the beginning of our adventures. Read on for Part 2!