In my family, a visit to The Magic House is always a treat. This children’s museum appeals to kids age 1 through elementary school, although teens and grownups will find parts of the museum enjoyable as well. It’s packed with exhibits such as a three-story Jack and the Beanstalk-themed climber, an art studio, a replica of the Oval Office, an electrically charged ball that will make your hair stand up, and a child-sized village for imaginative play that features a market, animal clinic, baby hospital, library, bank, and more.
Before You Go
It’s good to know a few things as you plan your trip to The Magic House.
1. It gets crowded. The first time my family visited when my daughter was 2 years old, we arrived mid-morning on a weekday during the summer. The place was packed with vacationing families, day cares, and day camp groups, and I half-jokingly referred to the place as The Mad House. Now that I’m older and wiser, I strategically plan our trips here. I like to go on days when students are off in our local school district where my oldest daughter attends (usually for a teacher professional development day) but while most other schools in St. Louis County and the surrounding areas are in session. If a good number of kids are in school on the day we go, it helps reduce crowds. Try to avoid visits during spring break or Christmas break unless you enjoy chaos.
2. Arrive early. Even on the less crowded days, it helps to arrive at opening time. You’ll have an easier time finding parking and you can visit the more popular exhibits before they get busy.
3. Give yourself at least half a day, or more, to explore and play. If you try to fit your visit into the morning hours only, as I’ve attempted in the past, you’ll feel rushed. There is so much here that to see it all properly and allow your kids time to play, you’ll want to plan to spend most of the day here … or as long as your kids can handle until they need naps.
What to do
You can’t go wrong anywhere you go in The Magic House, but my kids have some favorite spots.
Children’s Village – This is a favorite exhibit for both my 9-year-old and 5-year-old daughters. They could spend half the day in this large space. There’s a fully stocked grocery store with play food and real (empty) food containers, shopping baskets, and cash registers. There’s a pizza parlor with pretend oven, counter, tables, play pizza, and dishes. The baby hospital features realistic dolls (male and female) and scales, stethoscopes, and hospital bassinets. My kids like the fishing pond where they can use magnetic poles to catch and release play fish. There’s also an auto mechanic, ice cream stand, power plant, and tree house.
*Note: This exhibit is one of The Magic House’s most popular places, so it’s best to visit first thing in the morning before it gets crowded. If you have multiple young children, be aware that this is a large space and it can be hard to keep an eye on everyone.
Wonder Works – Next door to the Children’s Village is a special space for kids ages 1-8 featuring slides, climbers, sand play, a fish tank, water play, and hands-on and interactive activities. This area is fun but gets crowded fast, and it can be hard to keep an eye on everyone in your group.
Future Play – Kids color a picture of a building or vehicle, scan it, and watch their drawing appear on two large screens in what is called “Sketch Town.” They can put their pictures in another scanner that makes a printout that can be cut and pasted to form a three-dimensional model. Even my 9-year-old, who is not as interested in art projects, enjoyed seeing her picture come to life on the screens.
Art Studio and Make-It Workshop – Paint, draw, make crafts from recycled materials, and use a real sewing machine.
Jack and the Beanstalk Climber – This three-story climber is themed around the classic children’s story. It’s good for the preschool crowd and older. A large staircase circles around the climber, so you can follow your kids and watch them.
Star-Spangled Center – My 9-year-old liked sitting at the desk in the replica of the Oval Office, and both of my kids liked sitting in the judge’s chair and witness stand in the mock court room. This exhibit features an electronic voting machine kids can use, where they answer questions such as, “Should school lunches only offer healthy food choices?” My older daughter also got a special paper and collected stamps of national landmarks scattered around the exhibit.
Kids Construction Room – This exhibit is outdoors and it was a little cold when we recently visited, but that didn’t bother my 9-year-old. Kids learn how a house is built and what’s inside the walls, they can try their hands at building, and sit in a construction vehicle.
Bubble Room – Kids can blow giant bubbles and even stand inside a bubble.
Math Path – Play number games, work with geometric shapes and patterns, and estimate how many pieces of candy are in a large display.
Solve the Mystery –This is one of the less crowded exhibits, and it caters to longer attention spans. The story goes that several pieces of valuable artwork have been stolen from an estate, and kids must piece together clues to find the culprit. My daughters didn’t get into it as much, but they did like crawling through pretend ductwork and going down a slide at the end.
Where to Eat
The Picnic Basket Café in The Magic House sells sandwiches, soups, salads, and snacks at reasonable prices. My daughters like the soft pretzels with cheese dip.
You also can bring your own food and eat at a picnic shelter just outside the museum, or you can drive off the property and eat at a number of restaurants in the area and return to the museum, where your admission stickers given upon arrival are good for the whole day. Just be aware that the parking lot fills up, and if you leave the property for lunch and return, you may have a harder time parking.
Admission and Hours
Admission is $11 per person for visitors age 1 and older. You can also visit for free from 5:30 to 9 p.m. on the third Friday of every month, but just know that this is a crowded time.
If you participate in the St Louis County Library’s summer reading program, one of the prizes often is a pass for a free evening at The Magic House, on specific dates that you must register for. One year when we participated in the library’s reading program, we scored a free Magic House pass for each of our children that was good to use on any day at any time. Woot!
The Magic House keeps varying hours based on the time of year. Your best bet is to check their website when you plan your visit. Their school year hours are more limited, with doors usually opening at noon. However, they offer extended hours for a few weeks in the spring for spring break, and doors open at 9:30 a.m. There also are summer hours and holiday hours. So again, just check the website.
And be sure to have fun!
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Tags: Family Trip Tuesday