When I first moved to St. Louis several months ago, I was concerned about the cost of living as well as the cost of everything else. Being raised in Alabama, I am used to things being a little on the cheaper side. I mean our property tax for over five acres was only $356 per year. So moving to St. Louis to me meant that the little pleasures in life that were normally free of charge, might have to change.
I couldn’t be more wrong. To my utter surprise, there are more free things to do in St. Louis and surrounding areas that anywhere else I have lived and/or visited. It seems that the tourism council truly has recognized what tourists and natives alike crave – free entertainment. With price gouging becoming more commonplace than ever before, it is a very unexpected surprise for consumers to find out that there are literally hundreds of activities and events in the St. Louis metro area that cost little if any money.
Probably one of the most spectacular, and free, attractions St. Louis has to offer is the world-renowned St. Louis Zoo. This amazing and breathtaking exhibit has been in operation and pleasing millions of families since 1910. The zoo first “came about” in 1904 with the Louisiana Purchase Exposition by showcasing an extremely large elliptical bird cage (which is can still be visited today), it was during that time the city of St. Louis set aside 77 acres in Forest Park for a zoo and then christened the St. Louis Zoological Society in 1913. It is, however, the state legislation that became the true hero’s in this wonderful tale of animals and shows, they stated that “the zoo shall forever be free,” and they have kept to their promise. To this day millions of people, both St. Louisans and visitors, have enjoyed the promise made nearly one hundred years ago.
Alongside of the beautiful cost of admission ($0.00), guests of the St. Louis Zoo are greeted by a wide array of animals from around the world. Love Llamas? Well, the zoo has an over-abundance of the lovely creatures. Have a fetish for snakes? You will absolutely loose your mind when you step foot into the lavish indoor exhibit that showcases a wide variety of snakes, and other reptiles/amphibians in a vast array of wall décor that is just as mesmerizing as the animals on exhibit. The Saint Louis Zoo currently is home to over 9,200 animals in over 800 different species. According to their site (http://www.stlzoo.org), this number does not include 120,000 cutter ants and 1,700 partula snails.
While at the zoo, you will find it to be separated into seven different categories. All of which contain a quite distinctive personality. When you enter “The River’s Edge”, you will take a walk in the wild, strolling alongside elephants, cheetahs, and hyenas. Lovingly, and properly titled, “The Wild” you will begin an excursion through polar ice caps to tropical rain forests. You will be able to waddle alongside penguins, take countless naps with bears, and journey backwards in time with great apes. Probably one of the most exciting and memorable “sections” of the zoo is “Discovery Corner.” It is here you will be able to pet friendly bunnies and goats; follow a butterfly’s compellingly beautiful dance, and interact at numerous hands-on exhibits. One this that is most prevalent at the St. Louis Zoo, is the ability to have fun – and by doing so, you will learn something. If only high-school biology could be this enthralling.
At the Saint Louis Zoo, you will be both engrossed in the massive exhibits, taken away by the shear beauty of the animals, and absolutely astonished at the amenities and beauty this place exudes. There is no where else in the United States, and the world for that matter, that you will create more memories and enjoy more laughs at than at the Saint Louis Zoo. If you are planning on visiting Saint Louis, this must be the very first attraction you visit (yes, even before the arch).
Another remarkably unique and pristine attraction that is free of any type of admission cost is the Saint Louis Art Museum. Located in Forest Park, literally across a dream-like field echoing with the ancient sorrows of weeping willows and the beckoning shadows of massive trees in all varieties, the museum is home to some of the world’s most priceless works of art.
The Saint Louis Art Museum was founded in 1879, and at the time was named St. Louis School and Museum of Fine Arts, which was an independent entity within the local Washington University. In 1904, during the World’s Fair, the museum moved from its downtown location to its current resting place. Once glancing at the stunning architecture, it is clear that this building is home to glorious works of art, as the building is considered a work of art in itself. Designed by famed architect Cass Gilbert, he designed the museum in a Beaux-Art style. Upon the building is the famous inscription “Dedicated to Art and Free to All.” It is this museums commitment to free admission that makes it possible for everyone, both native to Missouri and those native to other states or even countries, to enjoy and absorb the soul-stirring art on display. With a per-capita attendance that is consistently rivaling that of some of the nations top art museums, the Saint Louis Art Museum guarantees an experience that will penetrate your soul and take you times that span generations, centuries, even millenniums.
Lastly, if you have children, you absolutely must visit the Saint Louis Science Center. Filled with countless exhibits, this destination fulfills the inquisitive nature that all humans obtain – including that of free admission. The Science Center is generally targeted to entertain and fill your children with knowledge. The hands on exhibits fill this massive space, leaving your children absolutely enthralled and consumed in the numerous opportunities to explore and learn.
Located in Forest Park, about a mile from the Art Museum, the Science Center showcases such exhibits as a Dinosaur display which includes a life size mechanical T-Rex. Other exhibits include a planetarium, Cyberville with Internet access, Lego Mindstorms, a DNA Zone, and a Science Park. You and your child will definitely not go one moment without seeing something you’ve never witnessed before, learning something you previously did not know, and be tingled by ever type of sensation known to humankind.
There are literally hundreds of other things to do in Saint Louis that cost little or no money. The key to having a successful vacation is to do your research. Talk to locals, and visit various city guides, which are available to the public via Internet Access. Remember, St. Louis is far more than just an Arch – it is a destination full of excitement, and the excitement is that of FREEdom.
Saint Louis Zoo
DIRECTIONS BY CAR:
From US-40/I-64 – take Hampton Avenue/Museums/Zoo exit.
From I-44 – exit Hampton Avenue. Follow Hampton north one mile to the Zoo.
From I-270 – take I-170 south the U.S. 40/I-64 east to Zoo/Museum exit.
Parking on the Zoo’s two lots is $9 per day. Limited street parking around the perimeter of the Zoo is also available for free. RVs, buses and motor homes can park on the South lot only (Wells Drive) for $18 a day.
Saint Louis Science Center
5050 Oakland Avenue
St. Louis, MO. 63011
DIRECTIONS AND PARKING:
Our main entrance is off of Oakland Avenue, half-a-block west of Kingshighway. From Highway 40/I-64, exit south on Kingshighway, exit 36a, then immediately go right on Oakland for half a block. From I-44, exit 286 north, on Hampton Ave. for almost a mile, then go right at the light on Oakland for a mile, half a block past Macklind. Lot parking behind the Science Center is at $7 per vehicle for the whole day.
Our Planetarium entrance is in the Southeast corner of Forest Park. From I-44 and from Highway 40/I-64, exit north on Hampton Ave. Turn right on Clayton Avenue into Forest Park and follow the Planetarium signs for half a mile. The Planetarium building is on your right. Limited free parking is available adjacent to this building and elsewhere in the Park.
Saint Louis Art Museum
1 Fine Arts Drive, Forest Park
St. Louis, MO 63110
DIRECTIONS AND PARKING:
Forest Park is accessible via I-64/Rte. 40. From the west and east, exit right (34D). Continue north into the park, and then follow signs to the Art Museum. From I-44, west and east, exit right (286). Continue north on Hampton Ave. into the park, and then follow signs.
Free parking is available in paved lots around the Museum as well as on the surrounding streets.