Missouri is often called one of the “flyover” states. The thought is that it’s not worth an actual trip. That couldn’t be further from the truth—especially regarding St. Louis. In this city, you’ll find tons of family activities, and a lot of them are free! Many of these are located in Forest Park.
- Gateway Arch National Park
St. Louis is most known for the iconic Gateway Arch. You can see it from anywhere in the city, but many don’t realize the arch is part of a National Park. The park includes a free museum about the role of St. Louis in the Westward expansion and a movie about the building of the Arch. There is a charge if you want to ride to the top of the Arch, but feel free to pull up a blanket and picnic on the grass in the park.
- Grant’s Farm
I fondly remember yearly trips to Grant’s Farm when I was a kid visiting cousins in St. Louis. Seasons bring various complimentary activities and events. You can always count on seeing the Budweiser Clydesdales up close, touring Grant’s Cabin, animal encounters in the barn, and the Deer Park Wagon tour. Everything is extremely family-friendly. They even have a Baby Care Center with a calming room.
- Saint Louis Zoo
It’s rare to find a Zoo without an admission charge. The St. Louis Zoo offers a day’s worth to do with 16,000 animals to see. Some things do cost, such as rides and shows, but they are optional. An Adventure Pass (currently $17.95) will cover all of these if you’d like to do it all. Check on animal feeding times when you arrive. It’s a good opportunity for question-and-answer time with the workers.
- Saint Louis Art Museum
The Saint Louis Art Museum is not only free of charge, but they also give complimentary tours with changing themes each month. Exhibits are ever-changing. They include a variety of topics, from Modern Art to specific genres such as African American and Indigenous Art. The galleries change with newly acquired work. In the summer, there is the Art Hill Film Series, with free movies on Art Hill. There is also usually a special event with a small charge of $5 to $10 at the museum.
- Saint Louis Science Center
You’ll find the Saint Louis Science Center will have something for every member of the family to enjoy with 700 interactive exhibits that are complimentary. This museum has some very special events with admission charges. I saw the King Tut exhibit there. They also have a charge for the Planetarium. The Science Center has a summer camp for kids over five.
- Missouri History Museum
If you ever doubted the importance of the history of Missouri in the United States, the Missouri History Museum will prove you wrong. The collections are set for families to visit together and spark conversations. Among the exhibits, you can find there is Soccer City, which goes back to the first soccer game in St. Louis in 1875, and the #1 in Civil Rights Exhibit. Leave time for the kids to have interactive play in the History Clubhouse.
- City Gardens
In the middle of downtown St. Louis, City Gardens is one of the city’s newest complimentary attractions. It spans two blocks of interactive art, which includes 24 sculptures. Children don’t need to worry if they are there on a hot day since two pools, one with a spray and the other a waterfall, are part of the installation. Check out the tilted granite disc, a section of the nearly three-acre park.
- White Haven
White Haven is the name of the former family home of Ulysses S. Grant, the 18th president of the United States. The property is now a National Historic Site, and all the activities are free of charge. You can tour the home, visit the museum, and watch a film that will tell you more about its history, which includes the Grants’ life with enslaved workers. You’ll learn about slavery at that time in St. Louis.
- Mary Meachun Freedom Crossing
Also examining slavery in the area is the Mary Meachun Freedom Crossing. Meachun was an abolitionist who helped many African Americans escape from Missouri to Illinois. Her husband, John Berry Meachun, had purchased freedom for himself, his wife, and his children. Mary Meachun was aware that not all were so lucky. The site is on the Mississippi Greenway and is part of the National Park Service’s “National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom.”