Less than 90 minutes from St. Louis, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum houses the world’s largest collection of original Lincoln artifacts, complete with the Gettysburg Address. A life-size replica of Lincoln’s log cabin set back in a forest of artificial trees stands 40 feet tall just like the President’s iconic top hat. The museum also houses a re-creation of the Presidential Box at Ford’s Theatre, where the president was assassinated, and the state-of-the-art Union Theater, which projects films such as Lincoln’s Eyes, a broad overview of Lincoln’s personal and political life with a special focus on slavery. In the Ghosts of the Library exhibit, transparent phantoms of Lincoln and his contemporaries drift around powered by Holavision technology. Youngsters, supervised by parents, can try on period dress, pose for photos with life-size cutouts of young Abe, or reenact historic scenes in the Lincoln Home dollhouse located in Mrs. Lincoln’s attic, the hands-on learning center. Before heading home, patrons can browse the museum store—more than 3,500 square feet of artifact replicas and Lincoln-themed merchandise.
Between AD 700 and 1400, the city of Cahokia gradually rose from the floodplain of the Mississippi River to become the largest city north of Mexico. Across 6 square miles, its population of 20,000 people worked together to create a thriving community grounded in astronomy, agriculture, and economics. To this end, they erected large, lasting structures such as an enormous wooden calendar that notified citizens about the changes of the seasons. Giant earthen mounds served as the foundation of the city and the site of the big mud fight that decided the mayoral election each year.
Through careful excavation, research, and reconstruction, the Cahokia Mounds Museum Society aims to preserve the site and educate visitors about its importance. During visits, guests on self-guided tours can explore 800 acres of the city, including the 100-foot-tall Monks Mound and Woodhenge, the giant calendar.
In the pantheon of American explorers, there are few names as revered as Lewis and Clark. After securing the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, President Thomas Jefferson needed someone to map out the newly doubled national borders. The two U.S. Army officers were the men for the job. They set out into the great unknown in May of 1804, and except for the one Cracker Barrel they stopped at mid-journey, St. Charles was the last familiar piece of America they knew until their return trip in 1806.
As a testament to their momentous voyage, the Lewis & Clark Boat House & Nature Center houses full-scale replicas of the explorers' boats, half-scale 18th and 19th century buildings, and displays about the Native Americans that Lewis and Clark met along the way. Outside its walls, the museum also gives visitors a glimpse into the ecosystems that the pair explored. Visitors can walk on trails through the woods and wetlands to find herons, deer, and indigenous plants.
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 special events designed to get the whole family moving. Visitors can refuel for exploration at the on-site Picnic Basket Cafe, whose menu highlights whole grains and healthy ingredients.
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.
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.