Talk about a great deal: Gorgeous free museums balance a lively professional sports scene. Pretty parks, the blues, ethnic foods and great breweries await in St. Louis neighborhoods.

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Day 1

Start your day at the Gateway Arch to ride up in a Jetsons-like pod.

Gateway Arch
Gateway Arch

Learn about local history and sample dishes at noteworthy restaurants on EAT St Louis Food Tours.

A major restoration returned the Stifel Theatre to its Art Deco glory; entertainers have included Jimmy Fallon and the Blue Man Group.

For dinner, classic Cajun and Creole spices flavor jambalaya and alligator at Molly's in Soulard.

Unwind in a cozy room at the St. Louis Union Station Hotel; the luxury 1894 property is within walking distance of the MetroLink.

St. Louis Union Station Hotel
St. Louis Union Station Hotel

Day 2

After indulging in the hotel's breakfast buffet, walk around the nearby Citygarden (download the iPhone app to hear the stories behind the artwork).

Citygarden
Citygarden

Downtown, you'll find great catfish po'boys, gumbo and sweet potato pie at BB's Jazz, Blues and Soups.

The 79 acres at the Missouri Botanical Garden provide an oasis from the city's bustle; stroll the serene Japanese Garden and look for Dale Chihuly's striking glass sculptures.

Tours at Anheuser-Busch show the how-to of beer making.

Attention to detail at Charlie Gitto's reveals itself in the service and from-scratch items like three-pepper cream seafood pasta or six-layer lasagna; but always start with  toasted ravioli-rumored to have been created in St. Louis.

More information: (800) 325-7962; explorestlouis.com

Five Great Places to See for Free in Forest Park

Missouri History Museum Explore the history of St. Louis and the state.

Missouri History Museum
Missouri History Museum

Saint Louis Art Museum See works by Picasso and van Gogh.

Saint Louis Zoo Six zones encompass a wide range of environments, including Sea Lion Sound, a butterfly garden and a Caribbean Cove.

Saint Louis Science Center Among the highlights are a life-size T. rex  and a planetarium. Try your hand at the controls of a flight simulator.

The Jewel Box  Fifty-foot-tall glass walls open to floral displays in this greenhouse known for its fountain. Free on Mondays and Tuesday until noon.

Bring the kids

Yes, it's surreal, but the mishmash of a ball pit, the world's largest pair of men's briefs and an exhibit about architect Louis Sullivan seems to work for kids and adults alike at City Museum. Don't miss the Enchanted Caves and 10-story spiral slide.

City Museum
City Museum

Bucket List

Busch Stadium The Cardinals, perennial World Series contenders, play in front of 46,000 fans. The retro-style stadium has great views of the action, and fireworks follow every home run. For more celebrated moments, visit the Cardinals National Hall of Fame in Ballpark Village.

Blueberry Hill Hickory-seasoned burgers, 18 draught taps and 62 bottled beers draw crowds to this popular club in the Delmar Loop. Hit the jukebox for a familiar tune, or wait for rock 'n' roll star Chuck Berry-he plays here once a month.

The Muny This theater stages outdoor musical productions in Forest Park.