Exploring: Missouri History Museum’s New History Clubhouse is COMPLETE!!
Hello weekly air conditioned and educational activity, you’ve been missed.
Remember that incredible children’s exhibit I raved about last year? I claimed it was amazing and really fun and the perfect place to spend a morning with the wee ones? Well we were there once a week until it closed over the winter to be transformed into the “permanent” exhibit. Well get ready, because the Missouri History Museum’s History Clubhouse has reopened and is about 100 times more fantastic than before!
Welcome to the History Clubhouse, the Missouri History Museum’s new, permanent, children’s exhibit all about historic St. Louis. Turning the corner to find this entrance gave me goosebumps…yes, I am THAT much of a nerd about our city. The massive arch hovers over a streetcar, complete with lights, just like the ones that once traveled all over St. Louis. The whole entryway is blanketed with gorgeous original murals by local artist Cbabi Bayoc, colorfully depicting everything from the Fox Theater to Fred Bird. The museum commissioned replicas of St. Louis architecture that are featured in this first room, each one offering an educational fact or activity. Pull blocks out of the Wainwright Building, slide a door on the Old Courthouse, see a train through the window of Union Station. Basically this is little kid heaven.
“MOM! The Arch!” “Mom, here’s another mini-arch!” “Mom, there’s the castle!” (castle = the Compton Hill Water Tower). Ethan thinks St. Louis landmarks are pretty exciting. Finn lit up and started squirming too, anything with toys and big kids running around gets him going. Alas, he got snugged in the Ergo while we checked it all out.
Bear with me on the photos, I had a wiggly baby strapped to me and was dealing with my nemesis, low light interiors. Add to that a lot of action and I was totally out of my element…some day I’ll learn!
Ethan walked in like he owned the place, and went right for the block table which included all the St. Louis landmarks, just tiny-size, plus dozens of other building materials tucked away in those blue bins.
We walked right through the streetcar to enter the main exhibit, looking through the windows for a glimpse of old St. Louis…I have no clue how anyone drove with streetcars careening down all the main thoroughfares. My St. Louis-born grandma has told me many stories of shopping or going to a show via streetcar, it was a pretty huge part of our city’s transportation system that, sadly, no longer exists (though there is a project to bring some back in the near future!)
Last year, when the staff at the museum told us they were building a “permanent” exhibit, I didn’t really know what that meant. Everyone I knew thought the temporary space was off-the-charts great. But walking into the newly built space this morning was all the explanation I needed. It is really incredible and clearly permanent.
The high-ceilinged room is split into sections. You can serve high tea at the World’s Fair cafe, go fishing from a canoe in Cahokia Mounds, or check out the huge steamboat. No really, there is a steamboat right behind those shipping crates.
Fishing at Cahokia Mounds was a big draw, Ethan has been talking about it since we saw the renderings of the space a few weeks ago. “Mom, I can’t WAIT to fish at the History Clubhouse” was repeated. A lot. After catching at least three dozen fish, all of which he claimed were catfish, he walked around demanding everyone should be cooking their fish on the campfire.
Just being in this part of the exhibit made me sad we’ve yet to visit Cahokia Mounds, this totally unbelievable thing that’s just across the river in Illinois. (Don’t worry, it’s on our summer to-do list, and you’ll hear alllll about it.)
The riverboat was a huge success. Every kid wanted to run through the boat, spin the paddle wheel, and look through the telescopes on the bow. A mural on the wall gives a beautiful depiction of the Eads Bridge construction, as well as a look at a steamboat-lined Mississippi River. That brick pillar is a replica of the Eads Bridge and each side tells the story about Eads and the bridge’s design.
A few little girls put on frilly dressed, donned parasols, and had dinner in the boat’s fancy dining room. Bow ties and jackets were available but Ethan held firm in his no-dress-up policy (which apparently has an Elsa dress clause).
The most popular riverboat feature? The horn. There was a non-stop soundtrack of riverboat bellows that, after about 20 minutes of constant honking, no one noticed. The lovely steamboat replica, smartly encased in glass, had Ethan mesmerized for a bit and was a nice talking point to explain what the heck a steamboat is!
Finally, at the very back of the exhibit, is a huge room featuring a small stage, kid-sized tables and chairs, books, and shelves of toys. The bright open space is perfect for the weekly story time and all the other wonderful programming the Missouri History Museum offers for children and families (all of which are on my calendar as well as on their website).
We were so honored to be invited for this sneak peek before the official opening! It was my equivalent of a movie premier, just all kid-friendly-St-Louis-City-love style. Ethan played and explored for over an hour without asking for a snack, always my indicator of a fun adventure. When it was time to go, he found at least seven more things to check out on our way out the door.
The staff at the history museum has really done a fantastic job listening to what St. Louis families want while providing an educational experience for all ages. This children’s exhibit is totally amazing, rivaling the Smithsonian Museums in DC—all of which we have visited multiple times. Sure there’s no Washington Monument when you walk out the front door, but there IS Forest Park which is the perfect place for a post-museum picnic or run through the playground fountains.
We will be spending some hot summer mornings here! I recommend adding it to your list too, regular hours will be daily from 10am to 4pm. And don’t miss this weekend’s grand opening!! There will be face painting, magic shows, crafts, live music, puppet shows, and appearances by the adorable Glory The Gargoyle (with whom Ethan is a little obsessed). Check out the schedule of events.