St. Louis, Mo

moWhen you talk to other explorers about what U.S. cities they’re planning to visit, Saint Louis, Missouri isn’t one that comes up very often.  What a shame.  The St. Louis that I found could easily give Portland, Austin, or Nashville a run for their money.   Saint Louis showed us its effortlessly cool and understated side in a recent visit.  Of course we went up in The Gateway Arch.  Eero Saarinen’s monument to modernism gets more impressive every day, and it’s a must-see for any visitor to St. Louis.  But we also paid a visit to two other places that most folks don’t even realize exist;  City Museum and Paint Louis – a seemingly endless graffiti wall.

How do I begin to describe City Museum?  It’s difficult to describe.  Wikipedia took a stab at it; City Museum is a museum consisting largely of re-purposed architectural and industrial objects, housed in the former International Shoe building in the Washington Avenue Loft District of St. Louis, Missouri, United States.  That doesn’t quite hit the mark though.  City Museum, founded by artist Bob Cassilly and his then-wife Gail Cassilly, is one part kids museum, one part curiosity museum, and all fun!  This place is an adventure from the moment you walk in the door, with a 7-story slide that starts on the rooftop, to the ‘World’s Largest Underpants’, there is something for everyone.  City Museum is truly for kids of all ages; from 2 – 82.  Be prepared to crawl, and climb, and slide, and sweat.  For those adults who may have developed claustrophobia, there are plenty of chairs to watch the fun from the sidelines, and bonus – they serve beer and cocktails!  I took a tumble in the Human Hamster Wheel and somehow escaped unharmed.  I slid around in the skateless skate park, and got annihilated in the ball pit.  Yes, it truly is fun for all ages!

The next stop was a two-mile-long graffiti wall affectionately called Paint Louis.  This isn’t an ‘official’ park or museum.  Situated on an industrial access road alongside train tracks that run below the bridge, even the skaters who were filming in the deserted downtown park were unaware of this gorgeous display along the river.  It’s often referred to as a ‘legal graffiti wall’ but it seems there’s still some debate.  Nonetheless, it is a truly impressive display of artwork.  It all starts on a flood wall on S. Wharf Street and continues for 1.9 miles.  Paint Louis 2014, a four day event featuring world class graffiti artists, break dancers, emcee’s, and DJ’s. starts on August 29th.  Stop by and gain a whole new appreciation for street art in Saint Louis.

How is it that Saint Louis has managed to fly under the radar while so many other cities are clamoring to be the next ‘uber-cool’ hipster city?  However they’ve managed this feat, I hope they can keep it up.  Saint Louis has proven to me to be the coolest, most unpretentious and fun city that I’ve been to in years.  If you haven’t been, it’s worth a look!

By Kelly Koeppel