The Magic House, St. Louis Children’s Museum
- 516 S. Kirkwood Road
- Kirkwood, MO 63122
- (314) 822-8900
What to do in an unfamiliar city? Why, reach out to friends that live there of course!
I sort of had our trip to St. Louis planned out a few weeks in advance. My family took a couple of vacations there when I was in Middle and High School. I knew there were some things I wanted to do and some things I didn’t. That still didn’t stop me from reaching out to friends who either live there or grew up there.
One of the things I never would have found was our Saturday entertainment. The weather was kind of iffy so we didn’t want to be outside. The City Museum was an option, but a friend of ours suggested something that would be even better for kids.
The Magic House, St. Louis Children’s Museum is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a house full of magic and wonder for the kids. With L, we’ve been to a number of Children’s Museums. We know it’s always a safe bet when traveling and L always has so much fun.
The Magic House is located in the St. Louis suburb of Kirkwood. It’s about 15 minutes southwest of the city center down Interstate 44.
We chose to head to Kirkwood for lunch first and then head over to the museum. Our route took us to the northeast side of the museum which is where the main parking lot is. On weekends, it looks like there is also parking at Nipher Middle School next door. If that lot is open for Magic House parking, that’s actually the place to park. The entrance to the museum is on the northwest corner of the building in what can be considered the front of the original house. We had to walk all the way around the building to get in from where we parked in the very last row in the main parking as far away from the door as possible.
Admission to the building is $10 for anyone over the age of 1. B is still under 1 so he was free. It cost us $30 for the three of us to get in.
The layout of the museum is a little odd and very disorienting at first. As you can gather from the name, it’s an old house that’s been added on to. The original structure dates back to 1901 and the George Lane Edwards family. The name might not sound familiar, but it might if you knew the family is behind the brokerage firm A.G. Edwards & Sons…so there’s clearly history in this house.
While the original Victorian Mansion is pretty large, it’s not large enough for a major city’s children’s museum. The building has been added on to five times since 1979 when the property opened as a museum.
All those additions make for an odd layout. You’ll probably see me write that a few more times because it was just so jarring. The map was a little hard to read and there weren’t a lot of signs pointing you to the other exhibits.
Right away when we got in the door, L found a climbing structure that went from the bottom floor all the way up to the third. She hopped in right away and we chased her up several flights of stairs to get to the top. It’s one of those climbing platforms you see at a lot of child oriented places nowadays with a netting around carpeted platforms. L made it all the way to the top then she and another little girl took over as “the winners” until we convinced her we still had a lot to see and there was going to be other things to do.
When we got her out, I wanted to see the model train area. They had some really great train areas set up, but the quarters were pretty tight. The kids all squeezed in to see the trains but the adults were kind of taking turns because there was enough room for the kids running around and all the adults who just wanted to enjoy the amazing craftsmanship.
We headed back down to the main floor and played with a few of the musical instrument type things they had in the atrium area. I noticed another room with the lights off and thought that might be fun. I dragged L in there only to have to fight with her later to get out.
The room was really cool and focused on light. There was a table with colored blocks. If you set two of the same colors on the table, it would form either a road, a railroad or the path for an airplane. There was a giant hopscotch game and a place to scan a picture you colored to that would print it out with instructions how to turn it in to a 3-D bus or airplane. All of the color pictures also ended up on a screen on the other side of the room. Finally, and where we lost L, was in a giant area with large lighted balls. The kids were running around and jumping off the balls. I’m not really sure what the point was, but she loved it and we had a really, really hard time getting her out of there.
We tried to continue our way through the museum, but after a potty stop, we really just kind kept running in to dead ends. The museum was pretty packed and it was hot, so there was very little patience from us. We only had a couple of hours before I had to meet the guys at a baseball game so I was a little cranky and I really was frustrated by how hard it was to find things.
We ended up heading towards a giant play area that L would have loved…but we couldn’t even get in the room. We pushed her towards what we thought was a hallway to more exhibits, but it dead-ended at a giant three story slide. L saw that and wanted to go down, so I pointed her towards the staircase and she climbed up by herself. There was a little bit of a line so it took five minutes or so for her to come down and once she did, we just pointed her towards where she wanted to go from the beginning.
The really cool thing about The Magic House is the Backyard Magic. They have special exhibits out in this garden area and while we were there, it was Sandcastle Beach. L saw the beach area as we were walking from the parking lot and kept asking to go play out there. After getting frustrated by the sheer number of people and lack of directions inside, we headed outside and let her finish out the day playing in the sand.
This was actually a really cool exhibit as they moved a beach to a parking lot and kept the sand just wet enough to make sandcastles with. There was also a World-Champion sand sculptor working on a huge castle in the area as well. We were able to get B out of J’s carrier and put him in the sand while L and I built a castle nearby. Eventually L ended up finding kids to play with and she left me, but that was fine.
We spent just about two hours at The Magic House. I left with a mixed impression. I’m sure it’s a great children’s museum, but there were just too many people there to really enjoy ourselves. The layout is….odd…to say the least. Some could call it charming…or unique…and it’s both. If there weren’t as many people there, I may have been able to figure it out, but I always felt like I was either in the way or getting run over as I was trying to figure out how to get from building to building.
I’d like another crack at the Magic House…maybe on a weekday when less people are there. They have a lot of great stuff and a lot of stuff we didn’t have time to see. It doesn’t even compare to someplace like Indy, but it is a nice little place….once you figure out your way around.