Afternoon: St. Louis Science Center
After you’ve had your fill of the outdoors, head inside one of the top 10 science centers in the U.S., according to Parents magazine, where you’ll find 700 interactive exhibits (like the Animal Clinic, where kids can hold large cockroaches). General admission is free, as is parking at the James S. McDonnell Planetarium. Just take the Skybridge that connects it to the main building.
Evening: The Saint Louis Art Museum
Fridays are best for exploring The Saint Louis Art Museum and the 34,000 objects in its permanent collection, which spans all genres and media. While admission is always free (as is the parking in one of the two lots across from the museum), the special exhibits that usually require an entrance fee are free on Fridays. The museum is closed on Mondays and open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day except Fridays, when it extends its hours to 9 p.m. The last Friday of the month is reserved for SLAM Underground, a lively (and free!) celebration of art and music with activities, live bands, DJs and signature cocktails. Or, if you are traveling to St. Louis in the summer, spend an evening at the Muny. At this 11,000-seat outdoor amphitheater, which celebrates its centennial in 2018, enjoy one of the many theater productions (such as The Wiz and Jersey Boys) offered each summer. The last nine rows (1,450 seats!) are free and available on a first come, first served basis.
Where to Eat and Drink: Dressel’s and Mission Taco
There are many free things to do in St. Louis foodwise, and lots of restaurant deals. Dressel’s (whose tomato bisque and truffle grilled cheese combo was featured on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives) offers a daily happy hour featuring half-price apps starting at 3 p.m. For late-night munchies, specials at Mission Taco ($2 tacos!) start at 10 p.m.
Day 2: Downtown, Soulard, Lafayette Square
If you’re looking for some Cajun culture, Soulard is home to the largest Mardi Gras celebration outside New Orleans. Downtown’s Busch Stadium is St. Louis Cardinals territory — get discount tickets here. Lafayette Square delivers Victorian and Second Empire-style mansions complete with mansard roofs; glimpse their interiors during home tours in June and December.
Morning: The Gateway Arch
Sitting on the banks of the Mississippi River is the Gateway Arch, the tallest man-made monument in the United States. Its newly renovated interactive museum, located underground, opens in July 2018. The museum is free, and a tram ride to the top of the Arch for epic views of the city is $13 for adults, $10 for children.
This sculpture park on the Gateway Mall includes works from Keith Haring and Julian Opie within a large manicured garden. For a little fun, go wading in the park’s spray plaza, where 102 jets shoot water straight into the air. Entrance to Citygarden is always free — and if you go on Sunday, there’s no charge for metered parking.