The Getaway
Free and Cheap Things to Do in St. Louis

St. Louis, Missouri, is one of the richest and most interesting tourist attractions in the Midwestern United States. Everyone knows about the Gateway Arch, a popular and alluring destination. But St. Louis has so much more to offer than the Arch alone. From experiences that will immerse you in the city's beer culture to a number of unique and memorable museums, make sure you check some of these places out on your next St. Louis adventure.

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01 Explore the Missouri Botanical Garden

The Missouri Botanical Garden is the second largest in North America. Throughout the years, it has been an important hub of research and innovation in the science community. It's also a pretty awesome place to visit, boasting jaw-dropping sights of its over 6.6 million specimens. With a program of several educational and fun events, including Chinese Culture Days and summer classes, it's easily one of the most attractive spots for a tourist visiting the St. Louis area.

02 Walk around the historic Soulard neighborhood

The Soulard neighborhood has a unique and diverse history. Named after Antoine and Julie Soulard, surveyors for the King of Spain in the late 18th century, it has since become an important site for the blues music of the 20th century. Not only that, it features a lively outdoor market and a park with a playground, and a 1920s American bandstand.

03 Visit the Saint Louis Art Museum

The Saint Louis Art Museum is one of the most important in the United States. This three-story building in Forest Park is home to works by Picasso, Monet, and Van Gogh, among many other high-profile names. It features nine sections, including a section for American art, one for Asian art, one for Islamic art, and one for modern and contemporary art. From exhibits displaying stunning suits of armor to a garden filled with gorgeous sculptures, the Saint Louis Art Museum provides an immersive, enriching experience.

04 Catch a game at Busch Stadium

If you're a sports enthusiast or simply looking for a fun and affordable way to spend your day in St. Louis, catching a game at Busch Stadium is a must-do experience. Home to the St. Louis Cardinals, one of Major League Baseball's most storied franchises, this iconic venue offers a fantastic atmosphere for fans and visitors alike.

To secure cheap tickets, consider attending a weekday game or purchasing seats in the upper deck. If you're flexible with your schedule, last-minute deals can often be found on various ticket resale websites.

05 Check out the City Museum

In addition to excellent traditional museums, St. Louis hosts a number of off-the-wall museum experiences. One of the most fun of these is the City Museum, which focuses on repurposed architectural and industrial objects. The City Museum is a unique, hands-on experience that will you have literally crawling through a variety of weird and wonderful exhibits.

06 Take a tour of the Anheuser-Busch Brewery

St. Louis is a great city for anyone who loves a good beer. The Anheuser-Busch Brewery is the highlight of its beer culture, hosting fun and informative tours. Along with behind-the-scenes looks at the brewing process, the brewery offers experiences to sip beer and eat tasty food at their food and beer pairing dinners and in-house restaurant, the Biergarten.

07 See the animals at Grant's Farm

With free beer tasting, Grant's Farm is also a good location for lovers of beer. Those who abstain will still be delighted by the wide range of animal life on display, ranging from cute and cuddly creatures to the more dignified. Animal sightings begin as soon as you arrive, as you can see several great bovine animals while taking a tram ride through Deer Park. You'll see cows with enormous horns and Clydesdale horses and even have a chance to bottle-feed baby goats.

08 Visit the Old Courthouse and Dred Scott statue

Alongside the iconic Gateway Arch is the Old Courthouse of St. Louis. The courthouse is a beautiful building with striking domed architecture, making for an excellent photo op. But it's also home to important history. It is where Dred Scott sued the government for the freedom of him and his wife, and those historic proceedings took place in this building. Though the Supreme Court would ultimately decide against them, Dred and Harriet Scott's fight for basic human dignity was memorialized in the form of statues on the south lawn of the Old Courthouse.

09 Take a stroll through Lafayette Square

Lafayette Square is a great destination for those looking to immerse themselves in the city's tree-lined streets. With colorful, vibrant homes, this neighborhood offers sights of beautiful architecture and a picturesque park. It also has notable social establishments and hosts fun events, like outdoor film screenings and baseball games played on a vintage-style field.

10 Attend a free concert at the Missouri History Museum

As wonderful and enriching as travel is, it's no secret that it can be exhausting on your wallet. Luckily, St. Louis has a number of attractions that are free. General admission to the Missouri History Museum will cost you nothing and provide numerous memorable experiences in return. Their exhibits are diverse and unique, such as Soccer City, which details the history of the sport in St. Louis. In addition to its lively and informative exhibits, the museum regularly hosts free outdoor concerts, such as its Twilight Thursdays Concert Series.

11 Check out the World Chess Hall of Fame

Another great free option is the World Chess Hall of Fame. This unique museum highlights the renowned game and how it interacts with history, art, and culture. From chess-based interpretations of important literary works to informative tours and exhibitions featuring pieces used in classic games, historic replicas, and more, the World Chess Hall of Fame is an alluring attraction for anyone who is fascinated with this great game.

12 Marvel at the Arch

Although the Arch is St. Louis' most famous landmark, the term doesn't just refer to the giant metal structure looming over the Mississippi River. First, there are the grounds, which are the site of dozens of city festivals and celebrations. Most notably, Fair St. Louis, beginning every year on the 4th of July, includes live music, vendors, and multiple activities for people of all ages, all for free, except for anything you buy from a booth.

Inside the Arch is the free Museum of Westward Expansion, which includes artifacts, photographs, films, and displays from a century of American movement across the continent. Finally, you can take a tram to the very top of the Arch. If you get the Tram & Cruise Combo, you get a ride to the top and a steamboat cruise up the Mississippi River for one low price.

13 Trek through Forest Park

Forest Park in St. Louis could be the subject of its own article; there are so many things to do there--and almost all of them are free! There's the zoo, four world-class museums, numerous festivals throughout the year, and then there's the park itself. Bigger than Central Park in New York, Forest Park is filled with rolling green hills, walking paths, sculptures, playgrounds, picnic areas, and concert areas. It is filled with attractions like golf courses, a skating rink, restaurants and cafes, historical sites, and a nature reserve. For active visitors, it has a small lake with boats available to rent, athletic fields, bike trails and bike rental, fishing, sledding on the hill in front of the art museum, and more. A family could make an almost completely free vacation just by going to Forest Park.

14 Take in a show at the Shakespeare Festival St. Louis

One of the many events that take place in Forest Park is the Shakespeare Festival St. Louis, which mounts at least one major Shakespeare play on the stage in Shakespeare Glen. This world-class production is completely free every summer and is a destination in itself for arts-loving travelers. Every ShakesfestSTL production features a 90-minute pre-show called The Green Show, which features jugglers, local musicians, entertainers, and a family craft area, all free while you're waiting for the main attractionWho can resist jugglers evenen if your kids aren't into Shakespeare yrs?

15 Take a crash course at the Museum of Transportation

Americans have had a love affair with transportation since we first climbed into covered wagons to traverse the continent. The record of human transportation is preserved in the Museum of Transportation, whose tagline is, "It's a moving experience!" You can see classic cars, historical airplanes and even climb on one of over 70 train locomotives. During nice weather, a mini-train runs throughout the grounds. For those with smaller kids, Creation Station offers a hands-on experience learning about the different kinds of transportation. Though the Museum of Transportation isn't free, at $8 for adults and $3 for children, we definitely consider it a thrifty attraction.

16 Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site

Cahokia Mounds is across the river from St. Louis, Illinois, but it's worth the short drive. This remarkable ancient site is the location of the largest and most developed pre-Columbian settlement north of Mexico and has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visitors can see the remains of a civilization that eventually grew to around 100,000 people before dying off in the early 1300s. The city was built around a series of 120 mounds that served various functions for the civilization, and visitors can tour the mounds most days of the year. There are also frequent activities at the site, and the Interpretive Center provides more information and interactive learning about the Mound Builders. Admission to the site is free, but there is a request for a small donation to help with site upkeep.

17 Paws for a while at Purina Farms

Guests may not expect a day spent at Purina Farms to be that exciting, but they always end up surprised by how much fun they had! The main attraction is the extensive petting zoo, where animal lovers of all ages can experience cats, dogs, goats, pigs, cows, and other farm and domesticate animals. Kids can also play in the barn haylofts, try milking cows, and join their families on a wagon ride around the beautiful acreage. They also have special events, theme days, classes, an on-site veterinary clinic, and community outreach. Visitors are also welcome to bring their own pets along. Purina Farms is free for animals and their humans, but they do have an excellent gift shop if you'd like to spend some money!

18 Experiment and Explore at the St. Louis Science Center

The St. Louis Science Center is one of the most well-known and exciting family-oriented attractions in St. Louis. It was originally a planetarium, but over 50 years has expanded to the sprawling, experiential facility it is now. It's always free, and the exhibits are geared toward many different age groups--including kids, but not limited to them. The exhibits are often historical and often appeal to older patrons who can sometimes remember the scientific developments being presented. In addition, they are almost always exploratory and hands-on. If you visit the St. Louis Science Museum with your family, make sure to allocate at least several hours and stay to eat at the cafe or watch an Omnimax film. If you live in the area, you'll also want to check out the summer programs for kids and teens!

19 Make a night of it at the Muny Amphitheater

At 11,000 seats, the St. Louis Municipal Opera Theatre, or "Muny" for short, is the nation's largest and oldest outdoor musical theater. Muny seasons run from mid-June to mid-August, always with a selection of well-known titles—like Fiddler on the Roof, 42nd Street, and Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella—as well as equally entertaining but lesser-known works, like 1776, Kinky Boots, and Paint Your Wagon. The best part is that they keep about 1500 free seats available for every show on a first come/first served basis, giving audiences a chance to see a number of nationally and locally recognized performers in a three-month cavalcade of musical hits.

20 See the St. Louis Zoo

The St. Louis Zoo is probably the most well-known free attraction in St. Louis and draws visitors from all over the world. It has even been named the Top Zoo in the Nation and the Best Free Attraction in the Nation by several different publications! It was opened in 1904 for the World's Fair and has been the pride of the city ever since. There is no charge for admission, but there are some special attractions and events that require purchasing tickets. One such low-cost feature is the Emerson Zooline Railroad, where for $7.95, you can buy tickets to ride the train and tour the grounds as often as you want all day.

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