Free. Such a wonderful word, and not one usually associated with big-name destinations. But in St. Louis a wealth of no-ticket (and small-ticket) attractions leaves travelers with a little dough to spend on restaurants or other activities.
Forest Park, which hosted the 1904 World's Fair, has some of the best free attractions in St. Louis, including art, science and history museums, plus the zoo. The Gateway Arch charges admission (for a ride to the top), but the Museum of Westward Expansion at its base doesn't. The new Citygarden (left) mixes art with play -- also for free.
Click ahead for 16 of our favorite experiences in St. Louis. Want to share your own? Add a comment below!
Larger than New York's Central Park and chock-full of activities, this sprawling 1,293 acres attracts locals and visitors. Crowds arrive for seasonal events such as the Great Forest Park Balloon Race (greatforestparkballoonrace.com) and the St. Louis Wine Festival (stlouiswinefestival.com). But the park's plenty busy other times, too. Kids can climb on gigantic turtles in the turtle playground or take a hayride through the park.
A shuttle bus connects many of the park's museums, all of which are free. Tour the park by foot, bicycle, paddleboat or even Segway. For general information on Forest Park, visit the Forest Park website (314/289-5300; stlouis.missouri.org/citygov/parks/forestpark/). For specifics on the park's attractions, click ahead.
Forest Park 
Lush landscaping makes the top-notch Saint Louis Zoo as pleasant as it is popular (and general admission is free!). Six sections encompass a wide range of environments from the sub-Antarctic to tropical rainforests. Even if you don't come with the kids, definitely spring for the sea lion show tickets ($3); the show is worth it. Also popular: The Penguin & Puffin Coast exhibit (left) and the 10-acre River's Edge, which winds through wildlife from four continents (314/781-0900; stlzoo.org).
Saint Louis Zoo 
Engaging exhibits at the Missouri History Museum explore the city's colorful history, including Lucky Lindy's record-breaking flights and the 1904 World's Fair. Visitors walk through St. Louis's history from the Great Fire of 1894 to the state's internal struggles during the Civil War. The museum also highlights St. Louis-born playwrights, artists, and musicians such Tina Turner and Miles Davis (314/746-4599; mohistory.org).
Great shopping and world-class attractions await in the Gateway City of St. Louis. Start your day at the Arch, then continue on to experience Busch Stadium, the St. Louis Art Museum and Forest Park.
During the 1904 World's Fair, this Beaux Arts-style building held the Palace of Fine Arts. Today visitors come for collections that include works by Picasso, Monet and van Gogh. Another highlight of the Saint Louis Art Museum is the ancient civilizations collection, with intriguing pieces such as a doorknocker from a palace in Cairo, parts of a Mayan ballgame and the mummy Amen-Nestawy-Nakht (314/721-0072; slam.org).
An Art Deco greenhouse holds seasonal floral displays in Forest Park. Built in 1936, the Jewel Box reopened in 2002 after a $3.5 million renovation. The 17-acre site in Forest Park has tropical trees, flowers, foliage plants and water features year-round. Special shows include ones for Easter, Mother's Day and Christmas (314/531-0080; stlouis.missouri.org/citygov/parks/jewelbox).
Jewel Box 
Dynamic exhibits, including an Omnimax theater and life-size T. rex, engage more than 1.2 million visitors a year at the Saint Louis Science Center. Visitors help power the energizer ball machine that shoots balls through a three-story obstacle course. Other exhibits allow visitors to dig for fossils, play a laser harp or create a robot. In the life science lab, kids can view their cheek cells under a microscope and learn how investigators use fingerprints to solve crimes. Don't forget to visit the Planetarium, where more than 9,000 stars are projected onto an 80-foot dome (800/456-7572; slsc.org).
The 630-foot Gateway Arch soars above downtown, reflecting sunlight and glowing different colors depending on the time of day. Insiders know to cross the grass and line up at the south entrance, which generally has a shorter wait at the security check because it's farther from the parking lot. Visitors can take a four-minute tram ride through the hollow arch legs to get a panoramic view from the top. Don't miss the free Museum of Westward Expansion below the arch (877/982-1410; gatewayarch.com).
Gateway Arch 
"The Muny," as locals call it, stages family-friendly outdoor musical productions. The site dates back to 1916, when a Shakespeare troupe flattened an area between two large oaks for their performance of As You Like It. Muny is now the largest outdoor musical theater in the United States and hosts about a half-dozen musicals each year (314/361-1900; muny.org).
Municipal Theatre 
In 2009 Citygarden made its debut in downtown St. Louis. It mixes park and sculpture to create a life-size playground. Visitors can climb, splash or just sit and enjoy any of the two dozen sculptures and fountains. This massive urban playground has 235 trees and more than 4,000 perennials. It feels fresh, fun--and worth a couple of hours in a city that has plenty of cool places to play (citygardenstl.org).
City Garden 
For a taste of Italy, head to The Hill neighborhood (10 minutes South of Forest Park). Charlie Gitto's claims to be the birthplace of toasted ravioli, bite-sized nuggets of fried golden goodness served with red sauce for dipping (pictured at left; 314/772-8898; ws.com). Missouri Baking Company offers slices of another signature St. Louis delectable: gooey butter cake (314/-773-6566). Hometown fave Cunetto House of Pasta serves a big selection of cooked-to-order fettucine, cannelloni and more (314/781-1135; cunetto.com).
The Hill 
Free tours include product sampling in the Hospitality Room if you're over 21. But everyone gets to see the historic Brew House (left) and the Clydesdale Stables, where you'll meet some of the company's 250 horses (314/577-2626; budweisertours.com).
City Museum's eclectic exhibits blend fun for kids with constant surprises for adults. Housed in the 600,000-square-foot former International Shoe Company, the museum offers an impressive variety of attractions, including an old bank vault, working vintage shoelace machines, an Enchanted Caves area built into the factory's spiral conveyor tunnel system, an aquarium, a skateless park play area, giant slides, and an interactive sculpture called MonstroCity where kids can crawl, jump and climb through a maze of materials (314/231-2489; citymuseum.org).
City Museum 
More than 75 acres of formal gardens, greenhouses and woodlands flourish in the heart of the city, surrounded by the Tower Grove neighborhood. Do visit the Japanese strolling garden, one of the largest in the Western Hemisphere. Come early in the morning and you'll have the Missouri Botanical Garden nearly to yourself, save for a few amateur photographers (314/577-5100; mobot.org).
Ten minutes south of downtown in Soulard is about as close as you can get to feeling like you're in New Orleans without being in Louisiana. The district is also known as Frenchtown, and takes pride in its annual festivals, including Bastille Day and a huge Mardi Gras parade. The Soulard Farmers Market is St. Louis' largest farmers market (314/621-6221; soulard.org).
Historic Soulard 
Whether you bleed red and blue, or just like baseball, you'll enjoy a tour of Busch Stadium, which opened in 2006 -- the same year the Cardinals won the World Series. The tour includes the Party Room, the Redbird Club, the Press Box, the Cardinals Club, and the Cardinals Dugout (314/345-9000; stlcardinals.com). If you want to see the Cardinals in action, check the team's website for game schedules and ticket information.
The lively, bohemian Delmar Loop neighborhood (visittheloop.com) is home to Blueberry Hill (the club where Chuck Berry plays; 314/727-4444; blueberryhill.com) and the cool new Moonrise Hotel (314/721-1111; moonrisehotel.com). Along South Grand Boulevard (southgrand.org), locals come for the Tower Grove Park Farmers Market and Bazaar, (314/772-3899; tgmarket.org) plus great ethnic restaurants (Afghan, Ethiopian, Vietnamese and Mediterranean, to name a few).
Delmar Loop