St. Louis families and tourists are in luck, St. Louis is filled with amazing parks, gardens and museums, many of which are free! St. Louis, Missouri is among the top travel destinations for free family activities. This midwest state is a great place to visit in the spring or summer to enjoy many of the free outdoors activities but there is plenty to do inside on cold winter days as well.
1) The St. Louis Zoo
Starting with the St. Louis crowning jewel, the St. Louis Zoo is among the top rated zoos in the world and it is one of the only free zoos in the United States. This zoo is home to more than 5,000 animals from all seven continents, offering a new and unique experience every time you visit. In addition to being a free place for families to visit and make lasting memories, it is among the top innovative zoos for its amazing animal enclosures that bring the animals closer to you than ever. Get up close and personal with polar bears, otters and hippopotami in their water tanks! The zoo has several great inexpensive add-on features as well such as a train ride through the zoo and a children’s exhibit with a petting zoo. Admission is free. While there is a fee for parking on the lot, there is plenty of walkable free parking in the surrounding areas as well.
While you are at the zoo don’t forget to hit these stops:
River’s Edge: Discover black rhinos, Asian elephants, cheetahs, giraffes and more.
Puffin Cove: Get very close to many kinds of penguins!
Children’s Discovery Corner: See goats, guinea pigs, insects and kangaroos. (Paid)
Historic Hill: Check out the zoo’s bird house, herpetarium and more.
Polar Bear Exhibit: Stand next to a polar bear swimming with just a pane of glass between you!
2) The St. Louis Science Center
The St. Louis Science Center is a large family friendly educational attraction with many hands-on activities. You can easily spend all day here and even eat lunch or catch an OMNIMAX movie. Learning activities including engineering, life science, biology and amazing rotating exhibits. There is even a larger than life animatronic dinosaur display in the basement. There are several floors full of science exhibits to explore and the fun is good for kids of all ages and adults alike. You can walk across a glass bridge over a historic St. Louis highway and watch the cars go by or participate in a building block arch-making challenge.
3) Purina Farms
Have you ever wanted to pet a baby cow or hold a piglet? Perfect on a clear sunny day, Purina Farms lets families watch, pet and learn about farm animals. This is the number one attraction for animal lovers! They also have amazing dog trick shows at different points in the year. Activities at this free attraction are:
- Wagon rides
- Hayloft Play area
- Cow milking demonstrations
- Dog shows
- Interactive pet exhibit
- Baby animal petting area
4) Laumeier Sculpture Park
Take your kids to a sprawling 105 acre park filled with contemporary art sculptures. Pack a picnic and bring the kids to this exciting outdoor spot for lunch. The Laumeier Sculpture Park has massive outdoor grounds and indoor galleries filled with more than 80 different sculptures, many of which are larger than life and include plaques that tell you how the sculpture was made.
5) Missouri History Museum
Easily one of the top ten family friendly attractions in St. Louis, the Missouri History Museum is full of fun and educational exhibits. Admission is free for all ages and let’s you get a glimpse of the past including honoring the famously innovative St. Louis World’s Fair.
The museum’s collection includes both national artifacts, such as Missouri and St. Louis related materials like local colonial and native artifacts, Louisiana Purchase Exposition artifacts, and items relating to Charles Lindbergh and his trans-Atlantic flight in the Spirit of St. Louis aircraft. In fact, a replica of the Spirit of St. Louis can be found in the museum. A large number of artifacts from the Lewis and Clark Expedition are also housed in the museum.
6) World Bird Sanctuary
Walk through hundreds of acres of nature conservation park on trails that take you past amazing wildlife exhibits. This sanctuary is mostly home to birds but includes some reptiles and small mammals as well. Throughout the year you can watch animal encounters shows where staff talks about the conservation efforts and educates tourists on each animal. Get a good look at bald eagles, great owls and more. You can find all of these exciting animals:
7) St. Louis Art Museum
For parents and older kids, the St. Louis Art Museum has more than 30,000 paintings, drawings, and sculptures. There are young children friendly tours on Sundays. Stroll through the marbled hallways full of breathtaking historic paintings and small sculptures from around the world. The Saint Louis Art Museum is one of the principal U.S. art museums, with paintings, sculptures, cultural objects, and ancient masterpieces from all over the globe.
8) Grant’s Farm
Open in the spring, summer and fall months, Grant’s Farm is another great family oriented place to see animals from all over the world. The 281-acre farm is home to hundreds of animals, including the famous Budweiser Clydesdales. When you arrive, a train ride takes you to the middle of the park. When you get out you are free to explore the outdoor exhibits. Admission to Grant’s Farm is always free to everyone
9) Missouri Botanical Gardens
The Missouri Botanical Garden is a gorgeous collection of fragrant,colorful gardens. The 750-acre botanical attraction is home to three conservatories, several formal gardens, 23 demonstration gardens, international gardens, a Victorian District garden and more. General admission is usually paid but residents of St. Louis are granted free admission every Wednesday and Saturday before noon. The garden is host to many festivals throughout the year, the biggest of which is the Japanese festival held each summer with vendors, food, music and performers as well as special plant exhibits and a lantern festival.
10) The St. Louis Arch and Museum
Last but not least, you can’t leave out the St. Louis Arch, gateway to the west. The Gateway Arch is a 630-foot monument that was built to celebrate westward expansion in the United States. Admission to the arch and accompanying museum is free but you do need a ticket to ride a small egg shaped elevator to the top.