18 Fantastic Free Things To Do In St. Louis

Sunset over the St. Louis skyline with the Gateway Arch in the foreground.

Ready to explore St. Louis without breaking the bank? Awe-inspiring art, historical treasures, and more fill this Midwestern city with a wide range of activities that won’t cost you a dime.

After paying for airfare and accommodations, admission to attractions can quickly become another considerable expense when traveling the world. Home to the Smithsonian Institute and towering monuments, Washington, DC, offers the most free things to do in the United States. And in America’s heartland, St. Louis is only second to the nation’s capital in providing the same. From impressive museums to historic sites — including one of the United States’s UNESCO World Heritage sites — stretch your travel budget to the max by checking out these fantastic free things to do in St. Louis.

A travel collage highlighting free activities and attractions in st. louis, missouri.

    

Have You Visited St. Louis?

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Visitors observing art at the St. Louis Art Museum.
Photo Credit: Dan Donovan.

1. Saint Louis Art Museum

1 Fine Arts Dr. St. Louis, MO 63110

Behind a statue of the city’s patron saint, mounted on his horse with his sword raised toward the heavens, you’ll find the city’s most prominent art museum. Perched on a green hill overlooking the grand basin in Forest Park, in what was the Palace of Fine Arts during the 1904 World’s Fair, the Saint Louis Art Museum contains more than 34,000 works of art from a wide range of cultures spanning 5,000 years of human history. Admission to the museum’s permanent collection is always free, and visitors can enjoy complimentary admission to special exhibits on Fridays.

Visitors viewing modern art exhibits in a gallery with a large geometric shape on the wall.
Photo Credit: Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum's Facebook Page.

2. Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum

1 Brookings Dr, St. Louis, MO 63130

Enjoy more fantastic art in the Gateway City by venturing to the Kemper Art Museum on the Washington University campus. This free St. Louis attraction, one of the country’s oldest teaching museums, showcases impressive works from American and European artists spanning the 19th to 21st centuries.

Sage Advice: If you love art museums, but regularly travel with someone who is less enthusiastic about them, check out these tips.

Missouri History Museum in St. Louis with a vibrant sunset in the background.
Photo Credit: Explore St. Louis.

3. Missouri History Museum

5700 Lindell Blvd, St. Louis, MO 63112

In a stately building constructed with the proceeds from the 1904 World’s Fair, the Missouri History Museum shares the rich history of St. Louis from 1764 to today. Learn more about the Louisiana Purchase, which essentially doubled the nation’s size, the 1904 World’s Fair, Charles Lindbergh’s historic transatlantic flight, and the Civil Rights Movement in St. Louis. 

Sage Advice: Although entrance to the museums at Forest Park is free, expect to pay approximately $10 to $15 per attraction to park in the adjacent parking lots. Or, if you’re willing to walk a short distance, free curbside parking is often available. 

Dinosaur sculptures in a snowy landscape in front of the St. Louis Science Center.
Photo Credit: Saint Louis Science Center's Facebook page.

4. Saint Louis Science Center

5050 Oakland Ave, St. Louis, MO 63110

In the southeast corner of Forest Park, the Saint Louis Science Center is one of the largest science museums and planetariums in the United States and one of the only free science museums in the nation. More than a million people visit the domed, futuristic-looking building each year to explore everything from prehistoric life to the solar system. 

Sage Advice: While admission to the Saint Louis Science Center is free, there is a fee for specific experiences, including planetarium shows, OMNIMAX movies, and flight simulators. 

Giraffes at the St. Louis Zoo.

5. Saint Louis Zoo

1 Government Dr, St. Louis, MO 63110

Stretching along the southern part of the beautiful park in what was the World’s Fair Flight Cage, the St. Louis Zoo is one of the best zoos in the Midwest, exhibiting 500 species of fish, birds, mammals, and other animals in spacious, natural enclosures. While the St. Louis Zoo is one of the US zoos with free admission, allowing guests to see everything from ants to zebras for free, there are fees for specific activities like riding the carousel or attending the annual Wild Lights event.

A building in St. Louis's Forest Park under a clear blue sky.
Photo Credit: Sage Scott.

6. Forest Park

5595 Grand Dr, St. Louis, MO 63112

Not only was this urban park the site of the 1904 World’s Fair, but it’s larger than New York City’s Central Park. In addition to its museums and zoo, the 1,300-acre greenspace in the heart of St. Louis offers much to see and do. Take a self-guided audio tour, enjoy a bird walk led by the St. Louis Audubon Society, or rent a boat and paddle across the Post-Dispatch Lake. 

Two individuals playing oversized chess outside the World Chess Hall of Fame in St. Louis.
Photo Credit: McElroy Commercial Photography.

7. World Chess Hall Of Fame

4652 Maryland Ave #1, St. Louis, MO 63108

A few blocks from the northeast corner of Forest Park, with the world’s largest chess piece marking the spot, the World Chess Hall of Fame celebrates one of the world’s oldest games. This free museum includes an impressive display of unique chess boards, including the chess pieces used in Bobby Fischer’s legendary win against Boris Spassky at the 1972 World Chess Championship.

Sage Advice: Although there is no admission fee, visitor donations help fund museum exhibits and educational programs. 

The gateway arch in st louis.
Photo Credit: Sage Scott.

8. Gateway Arch National Park

11 N. 4th St, St. Louis, MO 63102

Covering 90 acres under the towering 630-foot-tall silver arch symbolizing the gateway to the western United States, the Gateway Arch National Park stretches from the Old Courthouse to the Mississippi River. And while you can expect to pay about $35 to visit America’s first national park, exploring one of the nation’s newest national parks is free.

An exhibit at the museum in the Gateway Arch featuring a bronze statue of Thomas Jefferson.
Photo Credit: Sage Scott.

9. Museum At The Gateway Arch

11 N. 4th St, St. Louis, MO 63102

Built into the base of St. Louis’s famous arch, the Museum at the Gateway Arch is another fantastic free thing to do in St. Louis. Recently updated, interactive exhibits guide visitors through 200 years of American history, from the Native Americans who lived here long before Europeans arrived to St. Louis’s vital role in America’s westward expansion.

Sage Advice: Although there is a small fee for the tram ride to the top of St. Louis’s most famed attraction, it’s reasonably priced and delivers unparalleled city views.

View of the Old Courthouse from inside the Gateway Arch.
Photo Credit: Sage Scott.

10. Old Courthouse

11 N. 4th St, St. Louis, MO 63102

The Gateway Arch National Park is more than a skyscraping stainless steel arch and museum. It also includes the Old Courthouse, a beautiful building in which two pivotal trials helped advance civil rights in the United States. In the mid-1800s, an enslaved man, Dred Scott, sued for his freedom. And two decades later, women’s suffragist Virginia Minor sued for the right to vote. Although both Scott and Minor lost their cases, the rulings helped ignite the flames that would ultimately lead to the Civil War, granting freedom to all enslaved Americans and the passage of the 19th Amendment, giving all American women the right to vote.

Please Note: While the Old Courthouse is currently closed for renovations, you can still admire its architecture and grounds.  Follow the progress of the renovations on the National Park Service website.

The gateway arch towers behind the steeple of the Basilica of St. Louis in Missouri.
Photo Credit: YayImages.

11. Basilica of St. Louis

209 Walnut St, St. Louis, MO 63108

In the shadow of the city’s symbolic arch, the Basilica of St. Louis (also known as the Old Cathedral) was the first cathedral west of the Mississippi River. You can step inside and respectfully admire the historic building for free (just remember it is an active parish). You can also visit its museum for a small fee.

Visitors observing a display at the Soldiers Memorial Military Museum in St. Louis, Missouri.
Photo Credit: Missouri Historical Society.

12. Soldiers Memorial Military Museum

1315 Chestnut St, St. Louis, MO 63103

Housed in an impressive art deco building about a half mile west of the Old Courthouse, the Soldiers Memorial Military Museum honors the nation’s brave military men and women. An engraved black marble monument lists the names of the St. Louisans who perished during World War I. And prominently displayed nearby is the bell from the USS St. Louis, a naval ship from World War I that brought troops home from Europe. A wide range of exhibits featuring uniforms, personal effects, hand-written notes, and other items tells the personal stories of other men and women who gave their lives for the United States from World War I through the Vietnam War.

A modern sculpture at Citygarden in St. Louis, Missouri.
Photo Credit: Sage Scott.

13. Citygarden

801 Market St, St. Louis, MO 63101

With water features and trees drowning out the hustle and bustle of the surrounding city,  Citygarden sculpture park is an oasis in Downtown St. Louis. Just a short walk from the Old Courthouse, this lush square city block is filled with fragrant flowers, comfortable benches, and a variety of public art installations.

Sage Scott standing next to an oversized sculpture of a deer at Laumeier Sculpture Park​ in St. Louis.
Photo Credit: Sage Scott.

14. Laumeier Sculpture Park

12580 Rott Rd, Sappington, MO 63127

Another impressive free attraction pairing the great outdoors with beautiful art is the Laumeier Sculpture Park. Take a long, leisurely stroll in this unique 100-acre, open-air art museum, curl up with a book on a bench, or enjoy a picnic.

A young goat standing among blue flowers on a green lawn at Grant's Farm in St. Louis.
Photo Credit: Grant's Farm Facebook Page.

15. Grant’s Farm

7385 Grant Rd, St. Louis, MO 63123

If the first thing that comes to mind when you think about St. Louis is Budweiser, then the second thing might be the magnificent Clydesdale horses. Since Anheuser-Busch no longer offers complimentary tours that allow you to meet the iconic draft horses and sample the Bud, fellow animal (and beer) lovers will want to visit Grant’s Farm. Surrounding a log cabin built by President Ulysses S. Grant, this free attraction is an animal reserve with a beer garden full of history!

Sage Advice: Like many of the free things to do in St. Louis, there is no admission fee to visit Grant’s Farm. But expect to pay $15 for parking.

An exhibition of model aircraft on display at the Boeing Prologue Room in St. Louis.
Photo Credit: Boeing.

16. James S. McDonnell Prologue Room

6300 James S. McDonnell Blvd, Building 100, Berkeley, MO 63134

Although this free attraction is only open to the public during the summer months of June, July, and August, the Prologue Room at Boeing’s St. Louis headquarters encompasses more than 100 years of aviation history and honors the pioneers of flight. See actual-size Mercury and Gemini capsules and large-scale models of several iconic planes, including Air Force One.

A team of Clydesdale horses in front of St. Louis Union Station.
Photo Credit: St. Louis Union Station Facebook Page.

17. St. Louis Union Station

1820 Market St, St. Louis, MO 63103

St. Louis Union Station is a bustling hub of history and entertainment, where the past meets the present in spectacular fashion. There’s no fee to explore this iconic landmark or enjoy the dazzling Fire & Light Show or the Grand Hall Light Show — both free experiences that illuminate the station with a blend of storytelling and technology. Union Station also offers a variety of attractions for a fee. From the St. Louis Aquarium to the St. Louis Wheel, and even a mini-golf course, there’s an adventure around every corner.

Sunset at Cahokia Mounds, a UNESCO World Heritage site in the United States.
Photo Credit: YayImages.

18. Cahokia Mounds

30 Ramey St, Collinsville, IL 62234

Just across the Mississippi River in Illinois, but still in the Greater St. Louis metro area, Cahokia Mounds is one of just 24 UNESCO World Heritage sites in the US. This impressive pre-Columbian indigenous community, designed around complex mounds, raised crops, traded goods with other native cultures, and was more populous than London by the 13th century. 

Frequently Asked Questions About Free Things to Do in St. Louis

Exploring St. Louis doesn’t have to cost a cent. From museums to parks and historical sites, there’s a wealth of free activities waiting to be discovered. Here are answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about St. Louis’s free attractions.

What in St. Louis is free?

St. Louis boasts a variety of free attractions including the Saint Louis Art Museum, Missouri History Museum, Saint Louis Science Center, Saint Louis Zoo, and the Gateway Arch National Park, among others. Scroll up for a full list of free things to do in St. Louis!

Are museums free in St. Louis?

Yes, many museums in St. Louis offer free admission. This includes the Saint Louis Art Museum, Missouri History Museum, and the Saint Louis Science Center.

Does St. Louis have a free zoo?

Absolutely! The Saint Louis Zoo, one of the best in the Midwest, offers free admission. Visitors can see everything from ants to zebras at no cost, but there is a fee to park in the parking lot.

What is the unique attraction in St. Louis?

The Gateway Arch stands out as one of St. Louis’s most unique attractions. Symbolizing the city’s role in the westward expansion of the United States, it is the world’s tallest arch and Missouri’s tallest accessible structure.

Can you go to the St. Louis Arch for free?

Yes, you can explore the Gateway Arch National Park and visit the Museum at the Gateway Arch for free. However, there is a small fee if you wish to take the tram ride to the top of the Arch, and the breathtaking views are worth every penny!

What are Your Favorite Free Things to Do in St. Louis, MO?

How many free things to do in St. Louis have you done on this list? Do you have a favorite activity that’s missing from this list? Share your thoughts, tips, and experiences in the comments section below.

Portions of this article originally appeared on TravelAwaits.

St. Louis Arch along the Mississippi River in St. Louis

Looking for more information to plan your St. Louis vacation? Check out my additional recommendations to help you plan your trip to St. Louis including what to see and do in St. Louis, the best places to stay in St. Louis, where to eat in St. Louis, and more!

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2 thoughts on “18 Fantastic Free Things To Do In St. Louis”

  1. Michael A. Thomas

    One correction: Your description of the Old Cathedral (Basilica of St. Louis) gives the address of the NEW Cathedral — also free, also beautiful, but about four miles west of the Old Cathedral.

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