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.
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.
Though the Miniature Museum of Greater St. Louis is itself quite large, it houses a collection of artistic miniatures that encapsulate life inside a mansion or a replica of Bevo Mill in a few square inches. The museum's staff collect, preserve, and even sell some of the most impressive miniature works to be found, from dolls and their houses to re-creations of the St. Louis IX Basilica. They put together bustling displays featuring tiny, elegant domiciles completely outfitted with to-scale furniture, made period appropriate to match the house's design. Miniatures, dolls, and figurines with clothes to match wander the hallways, staring at their surroundings in a perpetual wide-eyed wonder that's shared by their visitors.
Something new is always happening at Saint Louis Science Center, where hundreds of staff members and volunteers ignite visitors’ passion for science and technology with educational exhibitions and special events. The center houses a four-story Omnimax Theater, a hands-on life-science lab and atrium, and a variety of constantly changing exhibitions that draw 1.2 million visitors every year. More than 9,000 stars revolve around the 80-foot domed ceiling of the James S. McDonnell Planetarium, whose two levels of exhibits explore the future of space travel, life on the international space station, or Pluto’s bureaucratic search to regain planetary status.
Where can you learn the stories of Civil War soldiers, discover little-known facts about famous figures such as Chuck Berry, and see St. Louis Cardinals artifacts from the 1960's Busch Stadium all in one place? The Missouri History Museum boasts an expansive collection of photographs, artifacts, and maps that reveal some of the nation's and state's most intimate stories. Originally built as the first national monument to Thomas Jefferson, the site now offers exhibits that include items such as the sister plane to Charles Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis and images of the buildings and grand palaces that were erected for the 1904 World's Fair.
In addition to rotating exhibits, events such as lectures, genealogical workshops, theatrical performances, and movie screenings offer guests a bridge to the past and a new perspective on the future. The museum is also planning a 2014 exhibit to commemorate St. Louis's 250th anniversary, which will unfold via 50 people, 50 places, 50 moments, 50 images, and 50 objects representing the city's richness and diversity.