The Magic House

When I first stepped into The Magic House, it was like watching the spark of curiosity ignite in my children’s eyes. This isn’t just any museum; it’s a vibrant, hands-on wonderland designed specifically with kids in mind. Located in the heart of the Metro East, The Magic House offers an immersive experience that blends learning with play in a way that’s nothing short of magical.

One of the most captivating aspects of The Magic House is its vast array of interactive exhibits. From the moment we walked in, my kids were catapulted into a world where they could touch, play, and explore to their heart’s content. STEM education is at the forefront here, with exhibits that simplify complex concepts into fun, engaging activities. For instance, the Electro-Static Generator show not only dazzles with its visual spectacle but also teaches the basics of electricity and its applications.

For younger adventurers, The Magic House has a special area designed just for them. The For Baby and Me exhibit is a safe, stimulating environment perfect for toddlers and their caregivers. It’s heartwarming watching the little ones toddle around, interacting with exhibits crafted to support their developmental milestones. It’s clear that the museum understands the importance of nurturing curiosity from the earliest age.

Another standout feature is the Children’s Village, a mock town where kids can slip into various roles, from firefighters to grocery store clerks. This role-playing adventure is not only a blast for the kids but also educates them about community roles and responsibilities in a very hands-on manner. Watching my children negotiate in the marketplace or team up to “put out a fire” was not only adorable but showed me how such interactions can foster teamwork and social skills.

What’s remarkable about The Magic House is its commitment to making education accessible and enjoyable. Regardless of age, children find something that captivates their interest and challenges their minds. The museum’s staff are incredibly welcoming and knowledgeable, offering tips and interesting facts that enhance the visit even further.

During our visit, I couldn’t help but observe the diversity of exhibits catering to a wide range of interests and ages. From art to science and everything in between, The Magic House truly has something for everyone. It’s a place where learning feels like play, and play is infused with learning, making it a must-visit destination for families in the Metro East area.

National Great Rivers Museum

Stepping into the National Great Rivers Museum, I was immediately struck by the blend of education and adventure it offered. Nestled by the mighty Mississippi, this museum is more than just a building; it’s a gateway to understanding the powerful rivers of our nation. It’s impossible not to be awed by the sheer size and importance of these waterways, and the museum does an incredible job of bringing this to life for visitors of all ages.

The heart of the museum is its captivating exhibits. From interactive displays that teach kids about river ecosystems to real examples of the flora and fauna that call the Mississippi home, there’s no shortage of hands-on learning opportunities. The museum’s approach is both educational and entertaining, ensuring that young visitors remain engaged while soaking up knowledge. One exhibit, in particular, caught my attention. It allows kids to simulate navigating a barge down the river, offering them a taste of the challenges and rewards of river navigation. This hands-on activity not only teaches about the river’s role in commerce but also hones problem-solving skills in a fun setting.

Educational programs at the museum are top-notch, blending classroom learning with real-world exploration. During our visit, we witnessed a group of schoolchildren participating in a guided tour that included a visit to the adjacent Melvin Price Locks and Dam. This practical aspect of learning about river management and conservation efforts added a level of depth to the museum experience that’s hard to find elsewhere. Children left with not only a greater understanding of river ecology but also the importance of environmental stewardship.

Age GroupEngagement LevelEducational Value
School AgeHighVery High

For families looking for an enriching day out, the National Great Rivers Museum offers a unique blend of education, adventure, and fun. It’s a place where the wild beauty of America’s rivers is brought to life, inspiring a new generation of conservationists and river enthusiasts. Whether it’s marveling at the engineering marvel of the locks and dam or getting up close with local wildlife, the museum offers something for everyone. It’s a testament to the importance of rivers in our everyday lives and an invitation to explore the natural wonders that flow through our country.

Historic Museum of Torture Devices

Venturing further into our exploration of kid-friendly museums in the Metro East, I stumbled upon a place quite unlike any other—the Historic Museum of Torture Devices. Now, before you raise your eyebrows, let me explain. This museum, nestled in the heart of the region, offers a fascinating, albeit slightly eerie, glimpse into the darker aspects of medieval history. But, it’s done in a way that’s educational and surprisingly suitable for older children, especially those with a budding interest in history.

Walking through the museum, I found myself both captivated and educated by the extensive collection of artifacts on display. The museum houses over 100 authentic torture devices, ranging from the infamous Iron Maiden to the slightly less well-known Scavenger’s Daughter. Each exhibit is accompanied by informative plaques that delve into the historical context, use, and evolution of these devices. It’s a stark reminder of the human capacity for both ingenuity and cruelty.

The museum isn’t just a collection of artifacts, though. They’ve gone to great lengths to make the experience immersive and interactive for visitors:

  • Guided Tours are available, where knowledgeable guides share gripping tales and lesser-known facts about medieval life, justice, and punishment. These tours are adept at engaging kids, making history come alive in ways that textbooks simply cannot.
  • Interactive Exhibits allow children to (safely) explore replicas of some devices, understanding their mechanisms without any of the grim details. It’s hands-on learning that sparks curiosity about engineering, design, and history.

Furthermore, special emphasis is placed on educational value. The museum provides a unique perspective on historical progression, societal changes, and the evolution of justice. It encourages critical thinking among young visitors about how far we’ve come and the importance of humane practices and empathy in society.

It’s worth noting that the museum takes a sensitive approach to its subject matter, ensuring that while the reality of history is not sugar-coated, it’s also not presented in a way that would unduly upset or disturb younger visitors. Age-appropriate guides and information make this museum an unexpected addition to a family-friendly itinerary in Metro East, offering a potent mix of educational content and historical intrigue.

The Gardens at SIUE

After exploring the unique and slightly eerie Historic Museum of Torture Devices, I couldn’t wait to delve into something more serene and universally appealing. That’s when I discovered The Gardens at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE), a hidden gem within the Metro East’s array of kid-friendly museums and attractions. Spanning over 35 acres, this lush, sprawling space offers more than just a visual feast of native and exotic plants; it’s an interactive educational experience that captivates children and adults alike.

My first impression of The Gardens was its sheer tranquility. As I meandered through the various sections, each dedicated to a different plant family or ecological area, I was struck by how each garden told its own story. The meticulously maintained landscapes provided the perfect backdrop for a day of exploration and learning. And best of all, entrance to The Gardens is completely free, making it an accessible option for families looking to enjoy nature without breaking the bank.

What truly sets The Gardens at SIUE apart, however, are its educational programs and events geared towards children. From workshops on gardening basics to hands-on science activities, there’s no shortage of opportunities for kids to engage with the natural world. My personal favorite was the Pollinator Garden, where children can learn about the importance of bees and butterflies in our ecosystem through interactive exhibits and guided tours. Observing their wide-eyed wonder as they flitted from one colorful bloom to another was a joyous experience.

But The Gardens aren’t just for kids. I found the Sculpture Walk especially captivating. This outdoor gallery features a diverse collection of contemporary sculptures set against the natural beauty of the gardens, offering a unique blend of art and nature. The sculptures themselves vary widely in style and material, making each visit a fresh experience as you discover new details and perspectives.

What’s remarkable about The Gardens at SIUE is their commitment to sustainability and education. They serve not only as a public space for enjoyment and leisure but also as a living classroom for SIUE students and a valuable resource for research in horticulture, ecology, and environmental science. This intertwining of leisure, learning, and conservation efforts makes The Gardens a must-visit destination in the Metro East region, showcasing the beauty and benefits of sustainable living.


Exploring kid-friendly museums in the Metro East has been an adventure. From the intriguing Historic Museum of Torture Devices to the peaceful embrace of The Gardens at SIUE, there’s something for every curious young mind. The Gardens, with their blend of art and nature, not only offer a breath of fresh air but also a unique educational experience. It’s been a joy uncovering these gems and I’m excited for families to create lasting memories while learning and growing together. Here’s to many more educational adventures in the Metro East!

We’re Bruce and Karen Carlson. We recently moved to the Metro East area of Illinois. This area is east of St. Louis from the Mississippi River north to Alton, east to Carlyle, back south to Waterloo and the Mississippi River, finally north to Columbia. The center is Fairview Heights, Swansea, Belleville, Shiloh, and O'Fallon. Not to be forgotten is Southern Illinois University (SIU) in Edwardsville. It’s a whole new world out there. Our goal with this website is to share our exploration of the Metro East area. As we find businesses and services we use in our daily lives, we’ll share how these businesses and services have helped make our lives better and easier to live.

We’re calling our move to the Metro East area retirement, but we’re not quite sure what that means. By sharing our story with you, we hope you too will gain a better sense of what the Metro East area has to offer and how their businesses and services can improve your lives and build a better community.