Things to do in St. Louis for Free

By: Kathie Sutin

January 20, 2014

Whether you’re a high roller or an average Joe on a budget, there’s something magical about the word “free”. Everyone, no matter his or her income, adores getting something gratis. Take a look at our favourite St. Louis attractions, none of which will cost you a penny.

Free doesn’t have to mean boring or unimpressive, in fact in St. Louis it is totally the opposite. Things to do in St. Louis for free include the city’s major cultural institutions – he highly acclaimed Saint Louis Art Museum, the  St. Louis Science Center with its unique Boeing Space Station and the Missouri History Museum, originally built as the first monument to President Thomas Jefferson.

They are all located in Forest Park, the city’s crown jewel 1300-acre park, almost double the size of New York’s Central Park. Although fees may apply to special exhibitions at each attraction, general admission is absolutely free.


St. Louis prides itself on the fact that outside of Washington DC, the city has more free world-class attractions than any other American city, even the Gateway Arch, the nation’s tallest manmade monument, has an aspect that is free.

City Garden at night | Things to do in St Louis for Free

By day Citygarden is a welcome oasis in the heart of downtown St. Louis and by night it glows with colours © Jim Trotter/St Louis Convention & Visitors Commission

The Westward Expansion Museum chronicles 100 years of St. Louis history right beneath the Gateway Arch. Otherwise, visitors pay a small fee to ride the tram up the 630-foot tall monument for sweeping views of downtown St. Louis and the Mississippi River.

Other free attractions in downtown St. Louis include the Basilica of St. Louis, King of France (“Old Cathedral”), St. Louis’ oldest church; the Old Courthouse, where the Dred Scott decision helped fuel the path to the Civil War; Soldier’s Memorial military museum and Citygarden, a new urban garden that delights children with fountains they can wade in and adults with fascinating, sometimes off-beat, sculptures.

Cathedral Basilica | Things to do in St Louis for Free.jpg

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, also known as St Louis Cathedral or the New Cathedral © St Louis Convention & Visitors Commission


Nearby, visitors can tour the massive Cathedral Basilica Saint Louis (aka the New Cathedral) housing the largest collection of mosaics outside of Rome.


Free, too, is Grant’s Farm, the ancestral estate of the Busch family of beer-brewing fame, where visitors can enjoy animal shows, take a tram ride through Deer Park, visit the Bauernhof area and the Clydesdale stables and view the historic “Hardscrabble”, a cabin, built by Ulysses S. Grant and his friends for his bride, Julia Dent, a St. Louis area resident.

Fort Bellefontaine | Things to do in St Louis for Free

Visitors to historic Fort Belle Fontaine, the first U.S military installation west of the Mississippi River © Don Donoval/St Louis Convention & Visitors Commission

For lovers of the great outdoors there are plenty of things to do in St. Louis. The area has a great network of biking, jogging and hiking trails, including the Riverfront Trail which takes visitors from the base of the Gateway Arch seven miles north to the Chain of Rocks Bridge. The bridge, featuring an odd 30-degree curve, was once part of the historic Route 66. It’s now closed to cars but provides a bike-and-pedestrian link between St. Louis and Illinois across the expanse of the Mississippi River.


Beyond Forest Park, 100 city and county parks beckon visitors with a wide array of activities from Suson Park with a farm that visitors can tour and Lone Elk Park where visitors can drive their vehicles through a wildlife refuge area to view bison and elk, to Laumeier Sculpture Park, filled with fascinating giant outdoor sculptures.


Free fun in St. Louis gets even better in 2014 as the city celebrates its 250th anniversary with a year-long “Birthday Bash” of free events that will turn the “Gateway to the West” into “Cakeway to the West.”

Grant's Farm with Clydesdales | St. Louis

The world-famous Clydesdales pass in front of Grant’s cabin at Grant’s Farm in St Louis © St Louis Convention & Visitors Commissio


Travelling to St. Louis? Then book a flight with Virgin Atlantic and Delta to one of over 80 US cities.

Have you been to St Louis? What was your favourite free/low-cost experience? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Written by Kathie Sutin


Kathie Sutin

As an award-winning freelance journalist--Missouri Professional Communicators (formerly Missouri Press Women) named her Missouri Communicator of the Year for nine straight years--Kathie Sutin has covered everything from construction to transportation. But her favourites are writing about travel, food and people. Born in Chicago and raised in Michigan, the long-time St. Louisan is thoroughly grounded in the Midwest. Though she loves busting myths about “flyover country,” she also enjoys writing about each and every of the 50 United States, all of which she’s visited, and about foreign destinations.

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