St. Louis' City Museum Lands on Multiple USA Today Top Ten Lists

Apr 14, 2021 at 5:16 pm
St. Louis' favorite art-installation-turned-surrealist-jungle-gym is rightly getting national recognition. - SCREENSHOT VIA YOUTUBE
St. Louis' favorite art-installation-turned-surrealist-jungle-gym is rightly getting national recognition.

Here in St. Louis, we already know that City Museum (750 North Sixteenth Street, 314-231-2489) is one of the best places on the planet. A dizzyingly ambitious tribute to the fine arts of surrealist sculpture and hitting your head on things, the former shoe factory is a beloved playground for metro-area adults and children alike.

And word is getting out. So much so, in fact, that USA Today has placed the whimsical wonderland in not one but two categories of its "10Best" reader's choice poll this year.

City Museum is in the running for both Best Children's Museum and Best Immersive Art Experience — at present it is at No. 10 in the former category and No. 3 in the latter. It's not the first time the storied space has been recognized by USA Today — in 2020, City Museum landed at No. 2 on a list of the Best Children's Museum — but it is the first time it's been honored in more than one category.

According to a press release, staff and crew were ecstatic to learn they'd been honored by the national publication.

"We’re thrilled to be in the running for two different categories. It was a surprise," General Manager Rick Erwin says. "Between this and the increase in attendance we’ve seen over spring break, things almost feel normal.”

That increased attendance, especially, is welcome news. City Museum had a particularly rough 2020, with COVID-19 safety precautions forcing the institution to dramatically change its operations. Shutdowns kept the doors closed for months at the beginning of the pandemic, and even when it was able to reopen it had to do so with a reduced capacity — and reduced revenue.

Additionally, the lack of travel as a result of the virus kept tourists from stopping in. At one point last year, a message on City Museum's website noted that in normal times more than 70 percent of the business' income comes from tourism to the city of St. Louis — but since tourism was down dramatically due to the pandemic, management had to drastically cut hours of operation in order to save money, opening for a while only on the weekends.

But between the decreasing case numbers, increasing revenue and, now, national attention, it would seem the beloved local institution is finally turning a corner.

“We wouldn’t have survived the pandemic if it weren’t for locals coming back out to support us," Erwin says. "People who hadn’t visited in years were buying memberships just to help us keep the doors open. Now we see folks asking their friends to vote for us, unprovoked. We notice. It means a lot.”

USA Today readers are encouraged to vote for their favorites in each category up to once per day. The Best Children's Museum winner will be announced on May 7, and the Best Immersive Art Experience winner will be announced on May 21.

For once, we're not looking at a "lesser of two evils" voting situation — there are few institutions in the world so deserving of such high praise. Now get out there and make sure City Museum gets the accolades it so rightly deserves.
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