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.
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.
The Museum of Alaska Transportation and Industry traces its roots back to 1967, during the centennial celebration of Alaska becoming a territory of the US. At this time, it exhibited only six retired railroad cars that served as troop carriers during World War II and formed the Centennial Train, a traveling historical exhibit. Today, nearly 50 years later, the museum stays put at its 20-acre location that includes a train yard and an exhibit hall, where the staff collects, conserves, and restores artifacts relating to the state’s industrial history.
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.