When it was first established in the early 1850s, the neighborhood known as Lucas Place was a piece of farmland on its way to becoming the first clearly defined wealthy suburb of St. Louis. Much has changed since then, as the city has expanded around the neighborhood and many of the elegant buildings have made way for more modern incarnations. One building, however, has largely stayed the same.
Built in 1851, the Campbell House was the home of renowned fur trader and businessman Robert Campbell and his family. The Campbells would continue to occupy the house until 1938, acquiring furniture, paintings, clothing, and other period artifacts to fill the house over the years. The family also took a detailed set of interior photographs in the 1880s that were only rediscovered in the late 20th century. These photographs would prove to be of great historical importance, as they formed the basis for a massive renovation project that would result in the opening of the Campbell House Museum.
Today, the Campbell House Museum attracts visitors from St. Louis and beyond, many of whom come to get a glimpse of what the city was like before modern conveniences such as electricity. The house retains many of the family's original possessions, as well as library books and state archives that offer a further glimpse into 19th-century American life.
Since 1971, World Aquarium has stuck to its not-for-profit mission to protect marine life and promote the public's understanding of the aquatic world through educational programs, exhibits, and research. The aquarium unsurprisingly favors a hands-on approach; visitors often get close enough to high-five the flippers, fins, or pincers of many of its more than 10,000 animals.
Tour guides wind through exhibits on sea and freshwater animals, showcasing creatures such as sea turtles, sharks, stingrays, and fish from rivers and lakes around the globe. While peering into the faithfully reconstructed habitats, visitors absorb valuable information on how to conserve water, protect aquatic resources, and peacefully resolve conflicts between Siamese fighting fish.
This three-story home might look unremarkable from the outside, but inside it holds a wealth of St. Louis history. The Eugene Field House & St. Louis Toy Museum opened in 1936 and has since been named a National Historic Landmark, because it once housed not one, but two men important to American history.
The Building: A line of 12 rowhouses were built here, in 1845, and Roswell Field and his family lived there for 14 years, from 1850 until 1864. Today, it's the last of the row left standing, and it's been lovingly restored both inside and out to appear much as it did in the late 19th century.
The Home: Decorated in period furnishings, including many that belonged to the Field family, the first floor holds an era-specific double-parlor entertaining space. The second features the master bedroom.
Dred Scott: The second floor also holds Roswell Field's study, which doubles as an exhibit on the landmark case of Dred Scott, a slave seeking freedom for whom Roswell acted as attorney as the case made its way to the Supreme Court.
The Toys: Eugene Field, Roswell's son, made a name for himself in the literary world, first as a humor writer for daily newspapers, then as a children's poet. Most people will probably know him for penning, among many, "Wynken, Blynken, and Nod." He was also an avid toy collector. The third floor displays a rotating collection of toys dating back to the 1780s, plus two and a half centuries' worth of books.
Past Exhibit: Over 200 "Liberty of London" dolls from the 1950s, which include famous people from politics, literature, and science.
On loan from the Museum of Leonardo Da Vinci in Florence, the Da Vinci Machines exhibit debuts in North America with more than 60 interactive models based on the polymath's original 500-year-old concepts. Peruse replicas of major inventions, each handcrafted by three generations of Florentine artisans, including the air screw, an early ancestor to the both the helicopter and the propeller beanie, and learn the secrets behind the mechanical lion, a robotic lion given as a gift to the king of France. Visitors young and old are fully encouraged to touch the war machines, flying machines, and nautical and hydraulic devices for insight into their functionality, and accompanying explanatory notes, illustrative panels, and computer programs help modern minds glean further understanding into Da Vinci's wide-reaching genius and favorite emoticons.
Today's Groupon gives adventurous art-lovers a yearlong individual membership with all the perks, at the award-winning Contemporary Art Museum for $20. Get a membership to take advantage of the museum's most ambitious group show since its grand opening: For the blind man in the dark room looking for the black cat that isn't there.
Laclede's Landing Wax Museum has been scaring and astonishing sightseers since 1983. Behind its 1885 cast-iron façade, the museum harbors more than 200 life-size figures across five levels and 10,000 square feet of museum space. The display of doppelgangers includes presidents, superheroes, historic figures, and movie stars, allowing visitors to gaze upon scores of famous faces without taking the rigorous paparazzi entrance exam. In the Chamber of Horrors, fictional villains old and new, including Freddy Krueger and the Phantom of the Opera, test the mettle of onlookers. Patrons can stop by the museum's gift shop before leaving or replenish the energy spent arguing with the statues with the help of ice cream, hot dogs, and other snacks at the ice-cream parlor.