Though built as a private home in 1901, the Victorian mansion stood vacant for years—until its first children's hands-on exhibits opened to the public more than 30 years ago. Since then, The Magic House's curators have worked to engage children of all ages in learning and creative thought through a range of interactive multimedia exhibits. Their exhibits enable visitors to service cars, climb treehouse ladders, and go fishing in a child-centric community, or play with pumps and pipes in a waterworks playground. They can also climb a three-story fairy-tale beanstalk or use detective skills, fingerprint analyses, and secret passageways to solve mysteries.
Museum staffers also organize a range of themed birthday parties, during which attendees play and complete special tasks as time travelers, scientists, or fairy-tale nobility. Family programs encompass monthly visits from outside professional artists, and educational sessions on car and bike safety. Visitors can refuel for exploration at the on-site Picnic Basket Cafe, whose menu highlights whole grains and healthy ingredients.
Though kids need to frolic and play, they must also learn financial responsibility if they're ever to grow up and pay for their parents' dinner. At Hammer's Food & Fun, an electronic game card opens the door to Hammer’s array of indoor rides and arcade games, teaching kids the mystical power—and responsibility—contained within a magnetic stripe. Indeed, after games such as Big Bass Wheel and Space Balls dispense points redeemable for prizes, kids can retain the balance on the card for future visits—an educational precursor to saving money in a grownup bank's vault filled with 50/50 raffle tickets. Before exploring the indoor attractions—which range from go-karts and mini golf to inflatable bounce houses and a checkered dance floor—families fill their bellies at Hammer’s extensive buffet. Made fresh daily using local beef from Twin Hills Farm, slices of pizza in more than 20 varieties sit on circular trays, and elsewhere, a line of sweet desserts taunts the salad bar filled with crispy vegetables trying desperately to sprout ice-cream-flavored leaves.
Laumeier Sculpture Park transports contemporary sculpture and its attendant acolytes from the traditional confines of the museum gallery to an outdoor art sanctuary. Casting Circle members traipse through 105 acres of sculpture by artists such as Tony Tasset, Ernest Trova, and Mark di Suvero before wielding their 10% discount during celebratory sprees at the museum shop. Members also enjoy discounts on iPod-guided audio tours, which fill noggins with tidbits of information during strolls through the park or confuse burglars when played through roof-mounted loudspeakers. Educational events, workshops, and classes dot the park’s schedule, and art camp nurtures the artistic pursuits of children as old as 15 during summertime sessions.
Open year-round, Kirkwood Ice Skating Rink plays host to public skating sessions, lessons, and hockey games for fledgling wintertime athletes. The rink bathes in natural light, which pours through translucent panels to illuminate and spotlight skaters as they make their elliptical loops. Just beyond the rink's edge, a concession area serves hot eats worthy of consumption in the adjacent, fireplace-equipped warming area. A jam-packed monthly schedule details one-and-a-half and two-hour public skating sessions seven days a week, allowing skaters to get their icy fix regardless of conflicting guitar lessons or power lunches with dapper climatologists.
Inside a 9-acre family fun center, orb-tossers young and old drive spheres down Concord Lanes' 32 glossy lanes, and outside, miniature-golf enthusiasts putt their way around a desert-themed 18-hole course. Tepees, outcroppings, and an active waterfall cover the pintsize fairways and greens, creating a unique layout that was named the Best Miniature Golf by the Riverfront Times.
Nearby, nine batting cages hurl baseballs and softballs at varying speeds, and three sand volleyball courts await bouts of friendly competition. Overlooking the sandy courts, an outdoor deck invites guests to lounge in the sun with casual fare from the Coyote Canyon Salon and Cafe. The indoor section pumps jukebox tunes as pool balls sink into the pockets of the billiards table or a passing kleptomaniac.
At Shrewsbury Lanes, 10 white appendages await punishment from careening spheres at the end of 24 polished alleys. Automatic scoring screens keep count at every lane so that rollers can concentrate on picking up seven-ten splits, savoring hot eats from the snack counter, and grabbing cold beers or daily happy hour cocktails from No Bul's Bar. During birthday packages, revelers can bounce between bowling alleys and party rooms, which are stocked with hot dogs, drinks, and chips. Shrewsbury Lanes also hosts leagues for bowlers who enjoy more serious competition or nostalgic adults who were raised inside trophy cases. The roar of ransacked pins echoes throughout the facility until 11 p.m. on weekdays and 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.