The City Museum

September 26, 2004

Want a place your guests will never forget? Plan your next event or corporate meeting at St. Louis’ City Museum, where the most amazing, creative spaces ever conceived are incorporated into one of the most remarkable museums on earth.

By Kristi Ruggles

Want to throw the kind of corporate event where the CEO pummels down a three-story slide seconds behind the administrative assistant from human resources? Want jugglers, palm readers, belly dancers?

Consider City Museum.

“We’re the ‘anti-facility facility,’” said Erica Abell, facility rental coordinator for City Museum. “We’re definitely more of a party space, the place where people come to unwind after an intense day and crack open their executive shells.”

City Museum, at 701 N. 15th St. in St. Louis, is a play land for guests of every age. It is a space that accommodates private parties, corporate events, weddings, sharks, and pony rides. It offers companies the space and essentials to conduct a strategic planning session, then opens the doors to spouses and children for a great meal and a trek through tunnels, caves, and a glass-bottom boat that allows guests to peer into a 13,500-gallon aquarium from point-blank range.

“It’s eye candy all-around,” said museum director Elizabeth Parker. “You can’t get bored.”

The museum, which occupies a former shoe factory built in the early 1800s, is a collection of “recycled, recovered and reshaped treasures.” It is not a museum in the traditional sense but the interactive sense. Guests can muse, climb, play, work, dine and dance.

“People come here to loosen up and play together,” Abell said, “When they leave, they are probably going to be better able to work together, too.”

Abell, rental coordinator, said the museum has space for up to 2,500 guests for a reception. If a group plans a sit-down meal, the museum can accommodate about 800 people scattered throughout the building. A mezzanine on the first floor can seat 100. Architectural Hall fits about 350, and the Vault Room & St. George’s Chamber – a long name for one room – can seat 200.

Most parties fall between 200 and 300 people, Abell said, because that’s what the museum can accommodate on its biggest party nights – Friday and Saturday.

Event planners can piece together their parties by renting additional areas in the museum, such as the Museum of Mirth, Mystery and Mayhem, the Enchanted Caves, the Architectural Museum, Cabin Inn the City, everydaycircus and MontroCity.

The circus is guests’ tickets to the jugglers, stilt walkers, mimes, clowns and hula-hoop contests, almost all of which is individually available. MontroCity is an outdoor jungle gym taken to the extreme. It includes an airplane recovered from the flood of 1997, a Ferris wheel and a “crawling structure” that makes the climbing toys at fast food places look like back yard swing sets.


Opposite, the Vault Room dressed for a tropical night. Above, a hall of mirrors leads guests to a delightful view of their event.

Event space looks out onto MontroCity, which also includes a huge fire in the winter and a splash pond in the summer.

“Everybody turns into a big kid when they’re here,” Parker said. “The governor had an event here recently and I called him and said, “Governor, don’t forget to wear your sliding pants.’ He makes a game of it trying to lose his security detail when he’s going down the slides.”

The space does indeed invite playfulness, such as the birthday party for a cosmetic surgeon, in which go-go dancers performed atop blinking pedestals and table centerpieces featured mannequin legs adorned in fishnet stockings and boas.

The museum can, however, pull off an elegant and sophisticated affair. Soft lights and rose petals can play against the stone carvings to create an enchanted mood. Table décor can be subdued white linen with orchids. Or, you can ask for the abrasively pink tablecloths with toy parrots. It’s all there at City Museum.

Polly Jordan, a customer service assistant for Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals, said Mallinckrodt held a joint staff meeting and team-building event at City Museum this spring; the day drew heavily upon the props that few other event spaces offer. Staff members had to build a nest to protect a raw egg, and they had to carry the nest all day. In this case, they carried it through MontroCity, where they retrieved flags from points throughout the structure.

Family members joined Mallinckrodt employees for dinner and playtime.

“We had the run of the place,” Jordan said. “It was a great place for families to find something for everyone to do.”

Others who have used the space include Cirque du Soleil, Washington University and Bank of America.
Abell serves as point person at the museum for party organizers and party providers. She offers organizers a list of seven caterers, almost all of whom also offer event-planning services. They are Orlando’s; LaChef and Co.; Patty Long Catering, Inc.; Ces & Judy’s Catering; Wolfgang Puck; Windows on Washington; and Metropolitan Catering. Abell describes each caterer as companies that “consistently surpass the expectations of my clients.”

The museum offers daytime rentals – 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. – and evening rentals – 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. Some parts of the museum are not available to groups during daytime hours, such as the Enchanted Caves and the mezzanine. Abell can provide details.
And don’t forget to wear your slide pants. MM&E

(Kristi Ruggles is a contributor from St. Louis, MO.)

Abell 314-231-City 231-2489, ext. 117.

About the author

Joe Clote

Joseph W. Clote is owner of Publishing Concepts, LLC a communications and marketing firm based in Saint Louis, Missouri. Mr. Clote is Group Publisher of MeetMed™ and Missouri Meetings & Events™ (MM&E) magazine, a quarterly publication read by thousands of meeting and event professionals, and producer of the St. Louis and Kansas City trade shows under the MM&E name. Mr. Clote has extensive sales and marketing expertise in the travel, tourism, fine art, insurance, and software development industries.