20 Fun FREE Things to Do in St. Louis: Gateway to Fun

Judy Antell Avatar
St. Louis arch at sunset - SheBuysTravel

Some sections of this post are sponsored by Groupon.

As a college student in Missouri, I took full advantage of free things to do in St. Louis. The Anheuser-Busch Brewery tour topped the list. Visiting as a mom on a return trip, I discovered even more free things to do in St. Louis.

Returning to a place where you used to live can be jarring. I spent five years in St. Louis, Missouri, in college and graduate school, but hadn’t been back since my 10th college reunion.

In my absence, St. Louis blossomed with breweries, a new Busch stadium for the baseball Cardinals, fantastic vegan food, more green spaces and museums (among them, City Museum and The Magic House), and more free things than you could cover in a weekend, making it a terrific cheap family vacation destination. So plan a long trip to the Gateway to the West and see all the free things to do in St. Louis.

SheBuysTravel Tip: If you’re visiting during the holidays, check out these fun things to do for Christmas in St. Louis.

things to do in St. Louis
The Saint Louis art museum is beautiful inside and out and just one free thing to do in St. Louis. Credit: Judy Antell

1. The Museum at the Gateway Arch

The Museum at the Gateway Arch, formerly known as the Museum of Westward Expansion, is one of the top things to do in St. Louis. The hands-on museum, updated in 2018, is worth a visit, even if you don’t want to go up in the arch.

You can learn about colonial St. Louis through the competition to build the Arch. There are plenty of interactive elements and things to touch to keep kids interested.

SheBuysTravel Tip: Looking to make the most of your travel budget while maximizing the fun? With a wide range of deals on local activities, dining, and experiences, Groupon helps you stretch your budget by offering discounted options near you.

Afterward, take a walk along the riverfront, and take pictures of the arch.

SheBuysTravel Tip: Though the museum is free, the ride to the top of the Gateway Arch requires a paid ticket. The single-seat ride is fun and the view from the top is impressive. There is also a new virtual reality experience (on the ground) that you have to pay for.

things to do in St. Louis
Check Groupon for discount tickets to Cardinals baseball games in St. Louis. Photo credit: Judy Antell

Free Isn’t Everything

Disclosure: The following section is sponsored by Groupon.

If you can save on the majority of things you do while visiting St. Louis, it might mean you can splurge on a couple of must-do paid activities. Even then, it’s possible to save if you buy your tickets through Groupon.

We found deals on a variety of things to do in St. Louis, including tickets to a St. Louis Cardinals baseball game (as low as $8) go-kart racing (up to 20 percent off) and teen-friendly attractions such as a virtual reality experience. Groupon is also the place to find discounted skip-the-line tickets to St. Louis attractions such as the Miller Park Zoo and the ultimately trending Selfie Room.

And you gotta eat while you’re in town, right? Check Groupon for discounts on food, drinks, food tours, ice cream treats and more.

Read More: 15+ Fun Things to Do in Saint Joseph Missouri, Home of the Pony Express

2. St. Louis Zoo

The St Louis Zoo is one of the best zoos in the United States, and admission is always free. I used to run track in college, and my long runs would involve a visit to the polar bears. Those polar bears now enjoy fancy digs with a glass viewing wall of the pool where the bears frolic.

St. Louis makes a terrific girlfriend getaway in Missouri and the zoo is definitely one of the things to add to your itinerary.

SheBuysTravel Tip: There are now some paid attractions at the zoo, but early risers take note: During the first hour of operating, the Children’s Zoo and carousel are free. You can always see the grizzly bears, penguins, apes and big cats.

Forest Park, in front of the free St. Louis Art Museum. Photo credit: Judy Antell

3. St. Louis Art Museum

Another Forest Park attraction, the St. Louis Art Museum has free family Sunday programs and free daily tours. Among the more than 34,000 works of art are collections of armor, sculpture, decorative arts, and ancient through modern art. The museum is truly a gem. Highlights include Picassos, Impressionist paintings, German art, Warhols and Georgia O’Keeffes.

Admission to the museum is always free. Special exhibits charge a fee, but even those are free on Fridays.

Read More: Enjoy Downtown Luxury at Four Seasons St. Louis

4. Kiener Plaza

This downtown St. Louis green boasts a colorful playground, two water features, and free weekly Sunrise Yoga classes. There are also evening boot camps and family-friendly days with storytelling and lawn games. Kiener Plaza offers great photo ops of the Gatweay Arch framing the Old Courthouse.

Statue at the Old Courthouse in St. Louis - SheBuysTravel
The Old Courthouse, where Dred Scott sued for freedom, and one of the free things to do in St. Louis. Credit: Judy Antell

5. The Old Courthouse

NOTE: The Old Courthouse is currently closed for renovations.

The Old Courthouse, where Dred Scott sued for his freedom, is open daily. Take a free National Park Service Ranger-led tour, or explore on your own. The 19th-century building is beautifully restored. Don’t miss exhibits on Lewis & Clark, native Americans and colonial St. Louis Missouri.

The courthouse is part of Gateway Arch National Park.

Did you know you can takes tours free in St. Louis?
The dome of the Old Courthouse is one of the architectural things to do in St. Louis. Photo credit: Judy Antell

6. St. Louis Public Library, Central Library

The stunning Beaux Arts Central Library, designed by Cass Gilbert. offers free tours of the meticulously restored 1912 building. You can also explore the building, which occupies a full city block, on your own.

7. Light Show at Union Station

Union Station, a National Historic Landmark, has a free light show every day. The grand lobby of the St. Louis Union Station Hotel has a soaring 65-foot-high ceiling. The light spectacle is about 1o minutes long, and recurs every hour, on the hour, from 5 p.m. to  10 p.m. daily. I highly recommend this stunning and delightful show.

SheBuysTravel Tip: The St. Louis Union Station Hotel is a great place to stay while you are in St. Louis. You can even watch the light show from the atrium on the upper floors; kids watch in their pajamas.

8. Missouri History Museum

The Missouri History Museum has a continuing exhibit on the 1904 World’s Fair, with photographs and artifacts. Check out the new Soccer City exhibit, timely with the new soccer stadium downtown.

Another exhibit features panoramic photos of St. Louis from the early 20th century. You can learn how the Mississippi River led to St. Louis’ prominence.

9. St. Louis Science Center

This is a terrific science museum that is just as much fun for adults as it is for kids. You can build a bridge, the Gateway Arch or a skyscraper; learn about ecology and the environment, or take a trip to Mars. There are hundreds of interactive exhibits and daily demonstrations of different scientific principles.

Admission to the general science center exhibits is free. Tickets to the planetarium and Omnimax carry a fee, but on the first Friday of each month, there are free tickets for the Omnimax.

The Science Center, the St Louis Zoo and St. Louis Art Museum are all in Forest Park, St. Louis’ answer to New York’s Central Park.

10. Anheuser-Busch Brewery

Tour the original Anheuser-Busch Brewery, built in 1852. The free tour of the Budweiser home is family friendly. You see the Clydesdale horses, and kids get free soft drinks. Adults get to sample beer for free. The daily tours last about an hour. There is a free trolley from Busch Stadium ballpark daily.

11. Schlafly Tap Room & Music

Another brewery tour, this low-key tour is offered on Sundays. Just show up and ask. You get to see the largest locally-owned independent brewery in St. Louis, and learn about the ways the corporate behemoth (see above) tried to squash the growing craft brewery scene in the Midwest. We were the only people on our intimate, hour-long tour, and we could have had as many free beers as we wanted after (one sufficed). Kids can take the tour, and get a free soda.

Stick around after the tour; the outdoor patio often hosts free live music. Schlafly Bottleworks in Maplewood also offers free tours on Saturdays and Sundays.

12. Soulard Farmers Market

Anheuser-Busch Brewery is in Soulard, which has a year-round farmers market. The Soulard Farmers Market started in 1779. There is plenty to buy, of course, but you can just walk around the market, see flowers and local produce and score a few samples.

13. Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum

Washington University’s Kemper art museum has a large collection of contemporary and modern art. You can see works by major artists including Willem de Kooning, Berenice Abbott, Matisse, Max Beckmann and Picasso.

Whimsical bunnies in Citygarden. Photo credit: Judy Antell

14. Citygarden

Citygarden, an urban green space, has sculptures, lush plantings and water fountains that kids can play in. There are also free concerts mid-day on Wednesdays, June-August, and free yoga on Saturdays. There is a coffee shop, Kaldi’s, with excellent drinks and sandwiches. Food trucks arrive in summer.

Richard Serra sculpture, Joe, named for the benefactor of the Pulitzer Arts Foundation. Photo credit: Judy Antell

15. Pulitzer Arts Foundation

The Pulitzer Arts Foundation calls itself an art museum “devoted to presenting the art of today and works from the past within a global context.” The fabulous light-filled building, designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Tadao Ando, is alone worth a visit.

things to do in St. Louis
Wander the paths through Park-Lite, part of the Pulitzer, which is filled with native plants. Photo credit: Judy Antell

Be sure to walk through the spiral sculpture, Joe, in the courtyard. The Pulitzier’s footprint has expanded beyond its building. It includes Park-Like, a garden of native plants and pathways, and Spring Church, an open-air pavilion, both across the street.

free things to do in St. Louis
The virtual reality experience at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis. Photo credit: Judy Antell

16. Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis

Right next door to the Pulitzer Arts Foundation, the Contemporary Art Museum has a social justice mission. In addition to offering free access to its galleries and community-driven art project, CAM has free programming like family days with lots of interactive programming. The current exhibit, Jacolby Satterwhite, includes immersive art, a virtual reality experience, videos and paintings.

free things to do in St. Louis
The Walls off Washington. part of the Grand Center Arts District. Photo credit: Judy Antell

17. Grand Center Arts District

Both the Pulitzer and CAM are part of the Grand Center Arts District, which also includes The Walls off Washington. These open-air galleries are open 1pm to sunset, Wednesday through Saturday, and for special events with live music.

18. The Muny

Summer theater doesn’t get any better than this. The outdoor shows, at a band shell in Forest Park, have week-long runs. The musicals include venerable hits like Meet Me in St. Louis and Gypsy and more current fare like Jersey Boys. Every performance has free tickets, available first come first served.

19.  Soldiers Memorial Military Museum

The Soldiers Memorial Military Museum explores stories of St. Louis soldiers from the American Revolution to current wars. There are artifacts and memorabilia in this renovated Art Deco building. Put this on your list of educational things to do in St. Louis.

20. St. Louis Walk of Fame

See plaques of the famous people who grew up or lived in St. Louis. In the Delmar Loop, a restaurant and nightlife district (and the live music hub) walking distance from Washington University, there are 140 plaques embedded in the sidewalks. Honorees include Chuck Berry, John Goodman, Yogi Berra and Cedric “The Entertainer.”

My name was not there. Yet.

Bonus: Wander the Central West End, with art galleries and boutiques. Tower Grove, home to the glorious Missouri Botanical Garden (paid admission), has grand Victorian houses lining the streets.

Where to Stay Near St. Louis, Missouri

There are lots of options for hotel stays near St. Louis, including vacation rentals.

How many of these fun things to do in St. Louis have you seen? What is your favorite?

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q: What are some other free things to do in St. Louis besides the Anheuser-Busch Brewery tour?

A: Some other free things to do in St. Louis include visiting the Gateway Arch, exploring Forest Park, checking out the St. Louis Art Museum, and going to the Missouri History Museum.

Q: Is St. Louis a good destination for families with kids?

A: Yes, St. Louis is a great destination for families with kids. There are many free and low-cost things to do in St. Louis that kids will love, such as the City Museum, the St. Louis Zoo, and the Magic House.

Q: What are some good vegan restaurants in St. Louis?

A: Some popular vegan restaurants in St. Louis include Lulu’s Local Eatery, Tree House Vegetarian Restaurant, and Seedz Cafe.

Q: Is it easy to get around St. Louis without a car?

A: Yes, it is possible to get around St. Louis without a car. The city has a good public transportation system, and there are also bike rental options and ride-sharing services available.

Q: When is the best time to visit St. Louis?

A: The best time to visit St. Louis is in the spring or fall, when the weather is mild and there are many outdoor activities available. However, the city is also a great destination year-round.

Judy Antell is an empty-nester mother of 3 who spends a lot of time visiting her daughters. Why don’t they live in Brooklyn? Judy and her husband love to travel, by bike, car, or plane, whether to see their kids or have friend or couple adventures, mostly centered around vegetarian food.
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6 responses

  1. This is a wonderful list to have when you need a destination to have in Saint Louis!

  2. The city museum is great too.

    1. I love that place too. But it’s not free

  3. My memories need refreshing too—-University years for me were also Missouri, in the center of the state in Columbia. Your eye for free (and remarkable) is quite refined! Thanks for the specific tips.

    1. You will have to ‘show me’ Columbia!

  4. 4.5

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