We all know that big cities are known for great museums, zoos and other attractions, but they usually come with a hefty price tag. St. Louis, Mo., is unique in the fact that so many of the great things to do in the city offer free general admission.
As with anything that comes “free,” there are plenty of other chances to spend your money. So, please check the websites and do your research before you go so there are no surprises. Below is a list of 10 fun and free things to do during your trip to St. Louis.
St. Louis Zoo — Open year round, the world-famous St. Louis Zoo is home to many unique animals. The polar bears at Polar Bear Point are a big highlight. Besides general admission, there are options to buy add-on safari passes which include the children’s zoo, the zoo line railroad, the stingrays, the carousel, 4-D Motion Simulator and a Movie in the Living World. Please note: Those with a AZA reciprocal pass holders receive half off the Safari Pass. www.stlzoo.org
St. Louis Science Center — Get ready to dig for dinosaur bones and strain your brain in the optical illusion/brain teaser section of the science center. This is a great place for kids and adults alike. General admission is free, but there are fees for the IMAX and some of the other special exhibits. Check the website for different parking options, but note if you have a ASTC passport card, you will get free parking in the main lot off Oakland Ave. and six free tickets to the Discovery Room, which is geared for kids age 1 to 8. www.slsc.org
Jefferson National Expansion Memorial (Old Courthouse) — Although the official museum under the arch is under construction, there is still much to see in the Old Courthouse. This is where you can purchase tickets to ride inside the arch if you choose, but there is no charge for any of the exhibits in the Old Courthouse which is run by the National Park Service. If you have children with you, make sure they get a Junior Ranger book from the rangers to earn their own free badge. A separate badge can be earned at the Arch, too, also at no charge. There is a metal detector in the Arch area, so leave your weapons and pepper spray at home. www.nps.gov/jeff
Grant’s Farm — Grant’s Farm is a part of the Anheuser Busch Family and named for President Grant who worked a portion of the 281-acre farm in the 1800s. Today you can enjoy complimentary admission to the farm, tram rides and the shows. There is a $12 parking fee for cars. The highlight of the farm is the Budweiser Clydesdales who reside there in the stables. The stables are home to more than 50 Clydesdales during their “prep school” time. You will also enjoy animals such as zebra, bison, parakeets and deer. Take a peek at Grant’s cabin that was built by President Grant is 1880. www.grantsfarm.com
Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Center — The center is serviced by the National Park Service and offers free parking just past the entrance to Grant’s Farm. Free tours are offered on the top of the hour of White Haven, the home where President and Julie Grant raised their family. The former slave plantation is a beautiful site to see. While waiting for your tour to begin, you can watch the 22-minute video about Grant’s life on the farm and view the museum housed in the old stables and take a step back 150 years ago. Don’t forget about the Junior Ranger program for the kids. www.nps.gov/ulsg
Art Museum — The St. Louis Art Museum is free for general admission and even the featured exhibits are free on Fridays with a limit of six tickets per person. With many rotating exhibits at the museum, there is surely something new to see each time you visit. The most recent collection is from the late C.C. Johnson Spink and Edith Spink. There are many works of Asian art that can’t be seen anywhere else. www.slam.org
Anheuser Busch Brewery Tours — This really should be higher on the list because it is indeed, completely free (even parking) and you get free beer! What more does a tourist need? Enjoy a 45-minute complimentary tour of the Anhesuer Busch brewery and grounds. You will see the beautiful landsaping — the tulips are incredible in the spring — plus the world famous Clydesdales outside and in their immaculate stables. You will also get a behind-the-scenes look into the brewing process. Enjoy one beer sample during the tour and then redeem your wooden token for a free pint of your favorite Busch product on tap. Take home a souvenir from the gift shop or create your own six-pack from the unique bottled beers. www.budweisertours.com
Missouri History Museum — Missouri is very proud of its history and this museum showcases that. A walk in 1875 is the latest featured exhibit which takes you back in time to how St. Louis appeared in that era. Check the website for special events like the twilight Tuesdays fall concert series. www.mohistory.org
Citygarden — A unique combination of horticulture, art and modern design, Citygarden is an urban experience in downtown St. Louis. Download the free iPhone app and use the cellular audio tour to get the most out of your experience as your tour Citygarden. There are water features that children are encouraged to enjoy, but please use common sense and respect the beauty of the grounds. Pool monitors are on duty daily during summer months. Have fun, cool off and enjoy all that Citygarden has to offer. www.citygardenstl.org
Cathedral Basilica — The amazing architectural masterpiece is more than just a church in the central west end. It is home to the largest collection of mosaics in the entire world. You can request a free guided tour during the week or on Sundays after noon mass. Serving as the spiritual center of the St. Louis Catholic Archdiocese, the church is designed to remind everyone that God reaches into our earthly lives. www.cathedralstl.org
These highlights are just the beginning of the features the great city St. Louis has to offer. Spend some time enjoying St. Louis while keeping your wallet full!