When the weather’s nice, it doesn’t take long to tear through our first 15 Free Things to Do in St. Louis blog.
Thanks to the River City’s influence in shaping American arts, entertainment and history, St. Louis is more than just the Gateway to the West. With our historic glimpses at America’s progressive, adolescent years; we’re also the gateway to the best modern day attractions, events, and natural wonders that make for an excellent alternative to Netflix programming and will only cost you your time.
From Dred Scott and his pursuit of freedom to Virginia Minor and her fight for the right for women to vote, there’s no shortage of history inside the architectural masterpiece that is the Old Courthouse. Now, the famous landmark is part of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial and features historical exhibits and events.
Considered an urban oasis in downtown St. Louis, Citygarden is home to events and galleries, but, at its heart, is simply two square blocks of renovated space that went from nothing to a beautiful park and garden for families to gather. With a collection estimated at $12 million, Citygarden’s 24 sculptures are a focal point that attracts visitors all year round.
While the economy may not seem like the greatest jumping off point for a day full of entertainment, this interactive experience within the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis actually shows you the fun side of the role you play every day in our economy with nearly 100 exhibits featuring hands on displays, games, sculptures and videos. Blending education with entertainment is an easy way to keep your whole family engaged.
We know what you’re thinking…‘Why would I want to hang out in a cemetery on vacation?’ Because Bellefontaine Cemetery isn’t just a cemetery. It’s a beautiful piece of St. Louis history, landing itself on the National Register of Historic Places in 2014. The cemetery grounds, spread over 314 acres, houses the remains of many of the people that built St. Louis into the great town it is today. It’s also a fully accredited arboretum that’s home to over 180 species of trees, flowers and shrubs. Combine this with the hundreds of mausoleums, tombs, and monuments that grace the grounds and you’re in for a photographer’s dream!
Now, let’s go a little to the West and visit the places near Forest Park.
Who could have known that the greatest collection of mosaics lived inside a hundred year old building in the Central West End? Yes, the Cathedral Basilica contains over 41.5 million glass tesserae pieces and covers over 83,000 square feet. The images of King Louis IX of France, Old and New Testament scenes from the Bible and more are so impressive that even Pope John Paul II once had to stop by and take a look.
Every summer make sure you check to see when the annual Shakespeare Festival St. Louis program takes place. You won’t want to miss these free shows in Forest Park that let you bring your own food and drink in while enjoying mainstage productions of the Bard’s various masterpieces. This summer, shows run from May 22nd through June 14th.
You’ll find no shortage of art to view in St. Louis, but the Pulitzer Arts Foundation takes it a step further by using their exhibits to encourage open discussions about art, architecture and culture through different programs and partnerships between the creators and their audience in the hopes of inspiring visitors to be more creative in their daily life. Book a Daily Art Tour this summer and unleash your creative side.
You can never have enough chocolate, and this St. Louis company makes it clear with their name. Now, you can visit the factory Monday through Saturday for a free tour that shows the candy kitchen and watch chocolate enrobers make the decadent treats right in front of you. Engage all your senses as you immerse yourself in the wonderful world of chocolate.
If you’ve already done the Anheuser Busch Brewery Tour a few times, don’t forget that St. Louis is home to another nationally-renowned brewery that hosts a unique tour and complimentary tasting of its own every Saturday and Sunday. Schlafly even hosts free beer schools every Friday and has an in-house restaurant to chase those beers with some delicious food.
These attractions are a just a few minutes outside of the city limits, but totally worth it.
Those with ornithophobia (or fear of birds) need not apply. This collection of over 200 birds of prey and various other animals housed within 305 acres offers a unique wildlife experience. Created to raise awareness for the plight of endangered birds and offer them a natural environment to thrive, the World Bird Sanctuary is one of the largest facilities for the conservation of birds in North America.
Located in Valley Park, Lone Elk County Park is a great place to disconnect from your work life and reconnect with wildlife. Expect to see bison, turkeys, waterfowl, elk and deer across the 546 acre landscape as you enjoy your lunch or a casual walk down the trail, but unfortunately you won’t be able to bring your own pet along on this adventure because no domesticated animals are allowed.
Connected to Lone Elk Park and the World Bird Sanctuary, Castlewood State Park features many different trails for hiking or biking and adventures for all different kinds of explorers, including your pets. If you have your fishing license, you can cast a line against a beautiful wildlife setting on those days when a bright computer screen just isn’t the view you’re looking for.
You rarely have to travel far to find forested areas to hike through in St. Louis, and the Powder Valley Conservation Nature Center is an easy trip since it’s located nearby in Kirkwood. Before you head down one of three paved trails beset upon an oak hickory forest, visit the nature center for interesting naturalist information and exhibits to help guide you along your adventure.
Suson Park may seem like just another park at first glance… until you see the Animal Farm. All year round, your family can catch a glimpse of horses, cows, sheep, pigs and more as you walk through the homestead. And while it isn’t free, Suson Park also features Farm Fridays where you and the kids can participate in hayrides, face painting, barn tours, pony rides and more.
Operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the National Great Rivers Museum is your definitive guide to the mighty Mississippi River. Besides being the first big word you could spell, the Mississippi River plays a big role in our lives and our ancestors’ lives. This 12,000 square foot museum offers interactive displays and exhibits to impress the ecological importance and cultural significance of one of the most famous rivers in the world.
Our final entry is technically in Illinois though it’s only a stone’s throw away from downtown St. Louis. The Lewis and Clark State Historic Site commemorates the Camp River Dubois site where the famous explorers camped in the early 1800s. Besides the historical ties to important figures in St. Louis and American history, the site offers many interactive exhibits and displays to enjoy.
Be sure to stay tuned to the Family Attractions Card blog and stay up to date with all of the activities happening around the city. You can even use your Family Attractions Card to get great deals and discounts on all kinds of attractions and local businesses.
Guest Blogger Peter Cartier, a freelance writer, contributed to this blog.