Every Midwestern city has its gems, but St. Louis takes the crown when it comes to free things to do. Here are some of the best deals (but do factor in parking fees) in St. Louis:
1) Saint Louis Zoo Go early to what’s considered one of the top zoos in the nation. Its has 19,000 animals living on its 90 acres. Though visitors have to pay for extras, such as Sea Lion Show and Zooline Railroad, you can enjoy the Children’s Zoo, Conservation Carousel or stingray touch tank for free during the first hour of the day. Don’t miss the underwater tunnel at Sea Lion Sound, where joyous sea lions swim around and over you. (314) 781-0900; stlzoo.org
2) Gateway Arch Pose for pictures beneath St. Louis’ iconic arch (at 630 feet tall, the nation’s tallest monument). You'll have to pay if you want to ride to the top of the Arch, however. The CityArchRiver redevelopment project in the area is scheduled to wrap up in 2017. (314) 982-1410, gatewayarch.com
3) The Muny Line up early to snag one of the 1,500 first-come, first-served free seats in the last nine rows of St. Louis’ beloved Forest Park amphitheatre. Make it a date night with musical classics or bring the kids for shows like The Little Mermaid. Entrance to the free seats opens at 7 p.m. (314) 361-1900; muny.org
4) Ballpark Village. If you want to see a St. Louis Cardinals game with fans without paying for a seat, head across the street from Busch Stadium. The Ballpark Village entertainment complex (including a Cardinals Hall of Fame Museum and Cardinals National Restaurant) left the old ball stadium’s diamond intact so fans can run the bases and watch games on the big outdoor screen (314) 345-9481, stlballparkvillage.com
5) Saint Louis Science Center Delve into the mysteries of space, try your hand at dinosaur excavation, go head-to-head with a round of mindball, or clock the speed of drivers rushing below you on the skyway across Interstate-64. (314) 289-4400; slsc.org
6) Saint Louis Art Museum Art and history lovers won't want to miss this three-story museum—built as the Fine Arts Palace for the 1904 World’s Fair. Explore items such as Egyptian mummies, Turkish rugs, and works by Picasso, Van Gogh and Max Beckmann. (314) 721-0072; slam.org
7) Missouri History Museum Dig into the stories of the 1904 World’s Fair, Charles Lindbergh’s transatlantic flight, Cardinals baseball and breweries in this museum, built as the first national monument dedicated to Thomas Jefferson. (314) 746-4599, mohistory.org
8) Forest Park. Sure, you’ve probably hit the museums, but leave time to stroll or bike one of America’s biggest urban parks (bigger than NYC’s Central Park). Picnic by one of the lakes, catch a free play, or check out the Jewel Box, a vintage tropical greenhouse (pictured below) that’s only $1 admission or free on Monday and Tuesday mornings. (314) 289-5300; stlouis-mo.gov/citygov/parks/forestpark
9) Grant’s Farm Kids in particular love seeing farm animals and the regal Budweiser Clydesdales up close at the former Busch family estate. Admission is free but parking is $12. (314) 843-1700; grantsfarm.com
10) Riverfront Trail Enjoy an 11-mile stretch of the Mississippi River and public art along this trail running from the Gateway Arch to the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge. (314) 436-1324
For more information: St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission (800) 325-7962; explorestlouis.com
Science Center and Jewel Box photos courtesy of St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission; Grant's Farm photo courtesy of Grant's Farm; Ballpark Village photo courtesy of BPV.
Read more about Lisa’s favorite experiences and destinations at 10000Likes.com.