From the iconic to the quirky, these museums and historical institutions are often about more than just the past.
Museum at the Gateway Arch
The crown jewel of all things St. Louis is, of course, the Gateway Arch and its newly remodeled grounds and museum. After extensive renovations, the museum beneath the iconic monument reopened last year. You can see relics of the region’s past there, from the American Indian peace medal collection to a reconstruction of the Old Rock House. And don’t forget to take a tram ride to the top of the Arch and peek through one of 32 windows for a panoramic view of downtown and the Metro East. Or take a helicopter tour or riverboat cruise to get a whole new perspective.
Where Gateway Arch National Park • How much Museum admission is free; tram rides are $10-$13 • More info gatewayarch.com
Missouri History Museum
Plan a visit to the Missouri History Museum earlier rather than later this summer: A historical fashion exhibit in the museum’s atrium, “Threads,” closes on July 14, and “Muny Memories: 100 Seasons Onstage,” ends June 2. “Flores Mexicanas: A Lindbergh Love Story,” opens June 1, and a traveling Pulitzer Prize photographs exhibit opens Aug. 3, with a focus on the Post-Dispatch photographers who won the prize in 2015.
Where 5700 Lindell Boulevard, Forest Park • How much Free, though there is a fee for some exhibits • More info 314-746-4599; mohistory.org/museum
Campbell House Museum
This house, built in 1851 in a once-elegant neighborhood in downtown St. Louis, was the home of Robert and Virginia Campbell and their family. Robert Campbell was a fur trader and businessman who was friends with President Ulysses S. Grant and entertained him in the home. The home contains hundreds of original Campbell possessions, including clothing, furniture, carriages and letters.
1508 Locust Street; 314-421-0325; campbellhousemuseum.org
Cardinals Hall of Fame and Museum
Tour this museum’s seven galleries to walk through the history of the Cardinals franchise. Call some of the team’s most memorable moments in a broadcast booth, view stadium models of Sportsman’s Park to the current Busch Stadium and hold an authentic bat used by a Cardinals baseball great.
Ballpark Village, 601 Clark Avenue; 314-345-9880; cardinals.com/museum
George B. Vashon African American Museum
Learn about 250 years of African American history in St. Louis by viewing items collected by retired educator Calvin Riley Jr. The mansion currently has exhibits on William “Lacy” Clay Sr. and Du-Good Laboratories.
2223 St. Louis Avenue; 314-749-6322; georgevashonmuseum.org
Griot Museum of Black History
This museum uses life-size wax figures, documents and other memorabilia to tell the stories of African-Americans who have a connection the region. Visitors can see an authentic slave cabin, “board” a section of a slave ship, solve puzzles and watch documentaries.
2505 St. Louis Avenue; 314-241-7057; thegriotmuseum.com
HealthWorks! Kids Museum St. Louis
Slide down the “55” foot long “Interactive Dude,” and learn about human anatomy at the same time, play in pretend dental and doctor’s offices, “brush” a giant set of teeth and learn how to keep your body healthy.
1100 Macklind Avenue; 314-241-7391; hwstl.org
The Historic Daniel Boone Home at Lindenwood Park
Tour this home and the historic village in this 300 acre site to learn about Daniel Boone and others who lived during his time. The dozen buildings on the site originated within 50 miles of here. The home on the site belonged to Boone’s son Nathan, though Daniel spent much time there and died in the home in 1820.
1868 Highway F, Defiance; 636-949-7535; sccmo.org
Holocaust Museum and Learning Center
Learn about Holocaust survivors who immigrated to St. Louis and learn about the history of the Holocaust through photographs, letters, and artifacts. Learn about bias, stereotypes and discrimination in an exhibit that shows the lessons of Holocaust have not been fully learned.
12 Millstone Campus Drive; 314-442-3711; hmlc.org
Inside the Economy Museum
Half the fun of visiting this museum is setting foot inside the 1920s-era limestone Federal Reserve Building in downtown St. Louis: The self-guided tour is full of interactive displays that aim to educate visitors about the value of cash in the global economy, how inflation affects us, and what features of paper money are designed to prevent counterfeiting. Visitors of any age will appreciate the free gift at the end: a small bag of shredded money.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, 1 Federal Reserve Bank Plaza; 314-444-7309; stlouisfed.org
International Photography Hall of Fame and Museum
Check out work by great photographers, historic photographic prints and cameras, and learn about hall-of-famers’ contributions to the field at the 6,000-square-foot museum and gallery in Grand Center. A permanent exhibit profiles members of the International Photography Hall of Fame since 1965.
3415 Olive Street; 314-535-1999; iphf.org
Jefferson Barracks Telephone Museum
Housed in a restored 1896 Army officer’s building at Jefferson Barracks, the rooms of the Telephone Museum are filled with a dizzying array of phones, including a candlestick telephone from 1905 that was the first automatic dial phone, a collection of novelty phones, like one shaped like Charlie the Tuna, and several interactive dials, switches and doo-dads.
12 Hancock Avenue; 314-416-8004; jbtelmuseum.org
Laclede’s Landing Wax Museum
Five levels of this historic building with a cast iron facade offer more than 250 wax figures of people and creatures. Categories include the life of Christ, musicians, a chamber of horrors, super heroes and presidents.
L720 North Second Street; 314-241-1155; stlwaxmuseum.com
Lewis and Clark Boathouse and Museum
This self-guided museum includes dioramas that depict the Lewis and Clark expedition, displays of Missouri River habitats, full-scale boat replicas of the ones used during the expedition, and trails on its picturesque grounds along the Missouri River.
1050 South Riverside Drive, St. Charles; 636-947-3199; lewisandclarkcenter.org
Lewis & Clark State Historic Site
This site commemorates Camp DuBois, the 1803-1804 winter camp of explorers Lewis and Clark. The kid-friendly displays include a model of the winter camp and a keelboat for exploring
1 Lewis and Clark Trail, Hartford; 618-251-5811; campdubois.com
Miniature Museum of Greater St. Louis
This museum, across the street from the Bevo Mill, has two floors full of dollhouses, dioramas and miniatures ranging from a model of St. Louis’ Old Cathedral with tiny, working chandeliers to a haunted house lit with black lights to a French armorer’s shop complete with an ivory-inlaid crossbow. Kids will love pressing buttons to light up the displays, and when they leave, they get a little souvenir — we mean that literally — in a tiny shopping bag.
4746 Gravois Avenue; 314-832-7790; miniaturemuseum.org
Missouri Civil War Museum
This museum, housed in the 1905 Jefferson Barracks post exchange and gymnasium, tells the story of Missouri’s role in the Civil War. The museum opened in 2013 as the state’s premier Civil War museum and has received several preservation awards.
222 Worth Avenue; 314-845-1861; mcwm.org
Museum of Contemporary Religious Art
This museum, on the campus of St. Louis University, is “the world’s first interfaith museum of religious art that engages religious and spiritual themes.” The museum is located in the Fusz Memorial Chapel, which was once used by Jesuits studying at the university.
3700 West Pine Mall Boulevard; 314-977-7170; slu.edu/mocra
This kids’ museum has more than 30 exhibits to explore, including an interactive video wall, a zoo vet clinic, a magnetic ball wall, a seaweed swamp, and a dinosaur dig. Don’t forget to bring your socks, or purchase a pair at the door.
283 Lamp and Lantern Village; 636-220-7930; stlmyseum.com
National Blues Museum
Learn about and celebrate the blues through a variety of exhibits, including listening stations, costumes, instruments, and short films. Record your own blues song and catch a live concert.
615 Washington Avenue; 314-925-0016; nationalbluesmuseum.org
National Museum of Transportation
Trains, trolleys, airplanes and cars: If it has wheels, you can bet that it’s represented with a cool artifact at the National Museum of Transportation, now in its 75th year. This museum is a treat for adults and kids, who can ride a miniature train or hand-pedal a car through a miniature village. See the “All Ford Cruise In” show June 8 and “Cars With Class” on Father’s Day, June 16.
When 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday • Where 3015 Barrett Station Road • How much $12, $5 for children age 3-12, $10 for seniors and military; fees for rides and Creation Station • More info 314-965-6212; transportmuseumassociation.org
Scott Joplin House State Historic Site
Listen to a player piano and explore the flat where ragtime composer Scott Joplin lived from 1901 to 1903. The adjacent Rosebud Cafe, a replica of a turn-of-the-century bar, is available for rent.
2658 Delmar Boulevard; 314-340-5790; mostateparks.com
The Soldiers Memorial Military Museum reopened in November after a $30 million renovation and is run by the Missouri Historical Society. The galleries explore St. Louis involvement in military conflicts from the American Revolution until today.
1315 Chestnut Street • 314-818-6780; mohistory.org/memorial
World Chess Hall of Fame
This museum explores the history and game of chess through displays, rotating exhibits, tournaments and programming. M.C. Escher: Infinite Variations is on display through Sept. 22; U.S. Chess: 80 Years is there through Oct. 27. Outside, see the 20-foot high king piece, certified by Guinness World Records as the World’s Largest Chess Piece.
4652 Maryland Avenue • 314-367-9243; worldchesshof.org