From Shakespeare to science and beer to barnyards, there’s more to do in St. Louis than the Gateway Arch. Did we mention that the activities are free?
Many people experience intense wanderlust that they feel they can’t satiate because of the expense. For these cash-strapped explorers, the Gateway to the West is the perfect destination; inexpensive lodging is readily available, the cost of a night out can be made more than manageable, and—perhaps best of all—many of the cultural experiences and activities have free admission. Here is just a sampling of the many wonderful free attractions St. Louis offers.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
It’s incredible that the Saint Louis Art Museum (SLAM) offers free entry when you consider what’s inside; with about 33,000 works that span time and cultures, visitors get a dose of history, sociology, anthropology—the list goes on. Permanent collections include works from Africa, Europe, Islamic art, art of the Pacific Islands, Native American art, and much more. In the sculpture garden, patrons can walk the paths and observe how landscape design and master sculpture harmoniously combine. Select exhibitions and events might have a cost associated, but for the most part, your experience here is free.
PRACTICE YOUR OLD ENGLISH AT THE SHAKESPEARE FESTIVAL ST. LOUIS
Originally, the performance group, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis, put on a free play once a year in Forest Park for any and all who wanted to attend. The group has since expanded and now offers everything from Shakespeare in the Streets—a free performance that’s literally held on the streets in select neighborhoods, where the play has been adapted to address issues and concerns in the area—to their education tour, a performance for schools in which they adapt Shakespeare plays to address issues faced by teens. To catch any of the free street performances or the festival, check out their website.
The iconic mechanical dinosaurs that greet you upon entering the Science Center are just an introduction to the amazement that awaits beyond. Select exhibits are ticketed, as is the OMNIMAX Theatre, but with more than 700 hands-on displays, where you can test the laws of physics, explore space, learn about weather and pollution, and more, grown-ups and kids alike are sure to be fascinated—for free—by what’s in store.
General admission to this enchanting museum is usually $11, but the fee is waived from 5:30–9 p.m. on the third Friday of every month for families with up to two adults and four children. Additionally, active duty U.S. military members and their immediate family always get in for free, as do foster families. Although officially a children’s museum, everyone’s eyes light up upon entering, no matter their age. Some favorites include the three-story slide, bubbles that are so big you can stand inside them, and an electrically-charged ball that makes your hair stand on end when you touch it. As you can likely tell, photo opportunities abound here.
As it’s consistently ranked among the top zoos in the country, the Saint Louis Zoo is a point of pride for locals, many of whom make regular visits themselves. From the interactive exhibits, to the many shows and demonstrations, it’s hard to believe that admission has always been, and likely will always be, completely free. Some of the shows and attractions are ticketed, but prices are often kept to $5 or less; if you get there right when the zoo opens, many of these are also free for the first hour. The zoo also offers many free after-hour events, including the Jungle Boogie concert series.
TACKLE THE ST. LOUIS BEER SCENE ON A LOCAL BREWERY TOUR
St. Louis is home to many breweries of varying sizes, but there are two that give exceptional—and free—tours, both of which include tastings at the end for the 21 and older crowd. Anheuser-Busch was founded in St. Louis in 1876 and has been a fixture in the city ever since. The tour includes an inside look at the facility, a visit to the Clydesdales, and insight into their brewing procedures and process. For a more intimate tour, with just 20 people or less, visit Schlafly Bottleworks every Friday afternoon. Schlafly was established in 1991 and was at the forefront of the craft brewing movement. They emerged from the shadow of their very successful and much older competitor to become an equally beloved city staple. Learn more about the general history of beer in the city and Schlafly’s own history and brewing process.
This is one of the top spots for pet lovers of all ages, with a baby-animal petting area, twice daily cow-milking demonstrations, an animal barnyard and play loft area (with chicks, piglets, and baby rabbits that visitors can pet), canine agility shows—and we haven’t even gotten to the part where you can pet puppies and kittens to your heart’s content. And, yes, it’s all free. There are also wagon rides, interactive exhibits, and, to top it off, visitors are welcome to bring their dogs.
Usually, garden admission is only free for those younger than 12. For everyone else, it costs $12. However, the garden extends their hours to host the Whitaker Music Festival, a series of free outdoor concerts held every Wednesday in the summer. On these nights, admission to the gardens is free after 5 p.m. The concert doesn’t start until 7 p.m., so if you don’t mind not being close to the stage, you’ll have plenty of time to roam the grounds and take in the acclaimed Japanese Garden, the English Garden, the Victoria District, and other horticultural displays. Additionally, St. Louis city and county residents get free admission every Saturday between 9 a.m. and noon.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.