Guest post by Melissa Jones
I’ve always enjoyed traveling and have brought the love of traveling to my children as well! We live in the Midwest, about equal distance from St. Louis, Nashville, Louisville, and Indianapolis, so those are cities we have been lucky enough to visit on several occasions. However, as a parent, my favorite big city to visit is hands-down St. Louis, Missouri!
St. Louis is one of my favorite places to visit with my kids because there is such a variety of things to do there! We can hit museums, the zoo, the Arch, professional baseball games (Go Astros! Yes…I know…they are not from St. Louis), and so much more.
However, part of the enjoyment of making a day trip or a weekend getaway trip to St. Louis is that there is so much available to see or do for free or very cheap!
Additionally, we typically pack our lunch and stay at a local hotel with free breakfast and free supper to lessen the expense of our trip even more!
There seem to be endless activities in St. Louis, but here are some of my favorite free and cheap things to do in St. Louis with my family!
The St. Louis Zoo
The St. Louis Zoo is located in the Forest Park section of St. Louis. The zoo is free to enter, though you have to pay to park if you want to park close to the zoo. However, there is plenty of free parking if you don’t mind walking just a bit.
The St. Louis Zoo is a beautiful zoo and one of my personal favorites. It is a large zoo with lots of walking paths. The exhibits are nicely done and they have a wide variety of animals. They have sea lions, penguins, kangaroos, tamarins, okapi, rhinos, polar bears, and even exhibits of just bugs! There is something for everyone!
The St. Louis Science Center
The St. Louis Science Center is also located inside Forest Park and is also free. There are two entrances to the science center, one on each side of the highway. There is paid parking at the main entrance and free parking in a smaller parking lot at the planetarium entrance.
The St. Louis Science Center has a great combination of permanent and special exhibits. You can walk across an indoor bridge above the highway that has radar detectors so you can check the speeds of the cars going by and glass openings in the floor so you can watch the cars go by below you.
There is an exhibit that shows you how the builders made the St. Louis Arch and give you the opportunity to build your own Arch out of soft blocks.
The St. Louis Science Center also has an IMAX theater and planetarium, both of which have a small fee to attend even though the museum itself is free.
The St. Louis Art Museum
Again, more free things in the Forest Park area of St. Louis! The St. Louis Art Museum is more than just your typical art museum. They have the stereotypical art exhibits that include various painting and statues, but they have additional exhibits to meet everyone’s tastes.
There is a pottery exhibit, exhibit on swords and armor from medieval times, and a mummy and sarcophagus, as well as changing art exhibits of various kinds.
The St. Louis Art Museum is definitely a museum to take the kids to because it has such a wide variety of art and culture and it is a great way to introduce children to such concepts. (Plus, it’s free. If they absolutely hate it, they have still be exposed to wonder art exhibits and you are not out of any money!)
The Museum at the Gateway Arch
The Museum of Westward Expansion is the actual name of the museum under the St. Louis Arch and it is exactly what the name says.
There are regular museum-type exhibits, as well as docents dressed in attire from that time period showing different aspects of what life was truly like at that time.
The tram ride to the top of the St. Louis Arch is definitely something everyone needs to do in their lifetime due to how iconic the Arch is and because the view is beautiful and simply amazing!
Cost: The museum is free, but the tram ride to the top of the St. Louis Arch is $12 for adults and $8 for children ages 3-15.
Chocolate! Chocolate! Chocolate!
Chocolate! Chocolate! Chocolate! is a small family-owned chocolate factory and store that a friend suggested I visit one time several years ago!
You can call ahead to do a factory tour and it is a fun and neat experience! Again, it is a very small factory at their shop, basically the size of a very large room.
It was definitely not what I expected when I thought of a factory tour, but it is worth stopping by to see the factory and check out their chocolates. Plus, there’s a bonus! You get one free chocolate sample per person with each free tour!
Grant’s Farm is owned by Budweiser and is where they house their Clydesdale horses when they are not fulfilling other duties, like parades and commercials.
You are able to tour the farm, see the horses and other animals on the farm, and see the actual Budweiser carts the horse pull. Additionally, for those 21 and older, there are free samples of Budweiser beer at the end of the tour.
Cost: Grants Farm is free to tour, but there is a cost for parking and special activities. For example, there is a nominal fee for extra activities such as carousel rides, camel rides, and feeding the goats.
Cardinals Baseball Games
Cardinals’ games are definitely not free, but they are super fun with the kids! Tickets range in price depending on where you choose to sit, what day you choose to go, and whether you want an all-inclusive meal to add to the experience.
However, seeing a Major League Baseball game is definitely worth doing at least once in your lifetime. Additionally, there are many free items and activities available before the game once you are inside Busch Stadium.
Check the Cardinal’s calendar of events before you purchase your tickets! They give away jerseys, bobbleheads of the players, and other random items when you enter the park on special days. On Sundays, they have free ice cream or other frozen treats.
If you are a AAA member, there are usually free goodies, such as koozies or keychains, available at the AAA booth. Plus, there are places to sign up for the Cardinal’s credit card and get a free Cardinals items (blankets and beach towels in the past) just for signing up!
Cost: Tickets to 2020 games are not available, but check back for 2021 games.
The Magic House
The Magic House is St. Louis’ children’s museum. They offer amazing exhibits and hands-on activities that are beyond compare and there are activities for all ages.
Some of the exhibits are permanent, but there are also many exhibit areas that offer new and exciting experiences every time you visit! There are water exhibits, nature exhibits, and STEM exhibits, as well as a wide variety of other permanent exhibits such as a static electricity room, bubble room, and play areas for the babies and toddlers.
Cost: General admission is $12 per person (child or adult). However, in the past, admission is free with children’s museum pass from another museum who offers reciprocity.
Now it’s time to have fun and check out some of these amazing locations in St. Louis!
Like I said before, St. Louis is definitely worth a visit! Reminiscing about all the fun we have had in the past makes me ready to go back again soon!!
Travel tip! Always check each facility’s hours of operation before attempting to go to any of the amazing activities discussed above. Most entertainment facilities, such as zoos and museums, require you to reserve a spot with them before you go whether there is free admission nor a fee.
Here’s a little bit about this author!
My name is Melissa Jones. I’m a clinical psychologist, mom of seven, and blogger. My Family Centered Life blog focuses on family fun, parenting, and travel. I have also recently released my parenting book on Amazon—How Many Times Do I Have to Repeat Myself? Simple Steps to Stress-Free Parenting and Better Family Relationships. Check it out!
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