When it comes to looking for free things to do, St Louis is one of the best cities in the world. The city is stuffed with glorious national landmarks, awe-inspiring wildlife attractions and art and sculpture museums that won’t cost you a dime.
1. St Louis Zoo
A trip to the zoo is always a recipe for a good time no matter what age you are, but for those travelling with children, it is a must-see attraction. While admission to the Zoo is free, certain attractions like the children's petting zoo and train ride, are only available for a small fee.
For those approaching the zoo from Hampton Avenue, the first thing they will be greeted to it the giant rust-colored steel sculpture that lies in its southeast corner. From within the steel bushes and trees, 60 different animals poke their heads out to visitors. This massive statue made from 100 tons of steel is the largest sculpture in any zoo within the United States.
If being inches away from a hippo or a penguin isn't enough, the zoo also offers a "Behind the Scenes" tour. This tour takes visitors into the habitats of certain animals and so they can safely interact with them for a small fee.
2. The St Louis Science Center
The St Louis Science Center provides free fun for the whole family. The centre focuses on hands-on learning through exhibits, experiments and different classes on the various sciences. The facility hosts around 700 different exhibits that are spread out over several buildings.
In the main building visitors will find a massive life-sized T-Rex and Triceratops. These are located right by the fossil lab, where visitors can enter and learn all about the proper way to uncover old bones without harming them.
The biggest attraction of the Science Center in St Louis is the planetarium. This massive building is located just across the covered bridge of the main building. Be sure not to rush past the bridge into the planetarium though. There are mounted radar guns up there so visitors can try their hands at catching speeders on the highway below.
Within the planetarium, guests are treated to views and information about the night sky in an hourly show. The planetarium building also hosts the Starbay exhibit, which shows what it is like to live and work on the International Space Station.
3. Grant's Farm
Like the St Louis Zoo, Grant's Farm is another free place to see animals from all over the world. Visitors encounter over 1,000 animals from six continents. Grant's Farm takes its name from the 18th President of the United States, Ulysses S Grant, who founded a portion of the farm. It has been a St Louis treasure for five decades and has hosted over 20 million visitors.
There you can see North American bison, European antelope, Asian deer and African zebra. In several of the lakes located on the property, guests will see fan-tailed goldfish and brilliantly colourful Japanese Koi.
Adults 21 years old and above can visit the Bauernhof Building on the farm’s Busch family estate, for complimentary samples of Anheuser-Busch beer. Guests can also take tours of the farm in the Busch family's renowned carriage collection. These horse drawn carriages are slow, but there is no better way to see the massive grounds of the farm.
4. Anheuser Busch Brewery Tour
This free tour isn't for those travellers with children, but it is a must-stop for those who enjoy beer.
In 1857, the youngest of 22 children, Adolphus Busch, immigrated to the United States from Germany. He married Lilly Anheuser in 1864 and then joined his father-in-law in his brewery business as a salesman. Eventually Busch rose through the ranks all the way to partner and president of the company.
This fascinating story is told along the tour of the Anheuser-Busch brewery in St Louis. Of course, any tour of the brewery wouldn't be complete without a good sampling. After the lengthy and informative tour is over, adults 21 years old and above can adjourn to the Hospitality Room where they can sample a few frosty beverages.
5. Cahokia Mounds
The Cahokia Mounds is an important American archeological site. This site was once home to one of the most advanced ancient civilizations above the Mexican border and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The site was once home to a sophisticated ancient culture that existed along the Mississippi River around 1200 A.D. The civilization built hundreds of houses spread out on top of over 100 earthen mounds.
Today, archeologists dedicate their lives to finding artifacts of this civilization. Visit the interpretive centre to se recreations of what would have been the daily life among these people. You are certain to recognize the parallels between this civilization and that of the Aztecs of Mexico – it seems like a little piece of Mexican history made it all the way up to Missouri.
Don’t miss the opportunity to climb atop Monks Mound, the largest of the earthen mounds. On top, you’ll be treated to panoramic views of the area, including downtown St Louis with the Gateway Arch in the distance.
6. Laumeier Sculpture Park
In 1968 after the death of her husband Henry Laumeier, Matilda Laumeier donated some land and large house of cut stone to the people of St Louis. In 1975, it was proposed that the park could be used as an exhibition spot for sculpture, and the Laumeier Sculpture Park was born. This beautiful park has grown to encompass 70 different sculptures by artists of international fame. All of the sculptures that sit within Laumeier Sculpture Park are a testament to human creativity.
7. Missouri History Museum
The Missouri History Museum stands at the entrance of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, which is today referred to as Forest Park. This area served as the staging ground for the 1904 World's Fair. It is one of the largest urban parks in the United States.
At the entrance of this massive park the Missouri History Museum hosts many exhibits detailing the rich history of the area. Such permanent exhibits include Seeking St Louis and Many Voices: Reflecting on American Indian Objects. Guided tours take place hourly.
Visitors who enjoy reading can also take advantage of the Missouri History Museum Library and Research Center that has compiled a comprehensive collection of documents regarding the history of the area. It is a rare thrill for bibliophiles to get their hands on old diaries and manuscripts from the 1800s when St Louis served as the last beacon of civilization before the Wild West.
8. World Bird Sanctuary
The World Bird Sanctuary is a unique free St Louis attraction that hosts over 200 different species of birds and other animals. The mission of the World Bird Sanctuary is to preserve biodiversity and secure the future of bird species in their natural environment. Through the work of dedicated volunteers, the staff focus upon field studies, captive breeding and rehabilitation. Visitors are invited into the nature centre, where the birds wild in.
9. Museum Of Westward Expansion
Though the tramway up to the top of the Gateway Arch costs $10, located below is the Museum of Westward Expansion, where admission is free. Guests can enjoy the massive monument, which is the tallest in the United States, before heading into the museum to learn about it. It hosts a slew of exhibits on the 19th century pioneers like Lewis and Clark and the Native Americans they encountered along the way. This museum houses many of rare artifacts from that time and has them on display for the world to see.