Over 20 FREE St. Louis places to visit with kids during summer vacation

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ST. LOUIS, Mo. – Summer vacation is here for St. Louis area students. Many families are looking for free activities to do during the break. But, what can you as COVID restrictions ease? Do you need a mask or a reservation?

The good news is that the region is full of fun for kids and parents. St. Louis also was named as one of the top spots for a staycation. So, you know there must be something fun to do around nearly every corner.

We see the trends on Google every day. People are looking to get out and explore the area. So, I made up this list of some fun places to go. There are probably a few I missed. Send me an email so I can add your suggestions to this list or future articles.

Free local activities to do this summer:

  • St. Louis Arch – When was the last time you visited this national monument? Kids won’t forget the trip to the center of the region on the Mississippi River. Plus, the museum under the Arch was updated just a few years ago. There are some COVID protocols like limited tram rides to the top. But, you don’t need to go all the way up to enjoy this place. ​
  • Malcolm W. Martin Memorial Park – Possibly the most “Instagram- worthy” park in the region sits directly across from the Gateway Arch in Illinois. Make sure you schedule your visit to coordinate with the Gateway Geyser. Water erupts daily at noon for 10 minutes from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
  • St. Louis Zoo – One of the best zoos in the nation is located in Forest Park and admission is free. Don’t forget to set a reservation before going.
  • St. Louis Science Center – You will also need a reservation before visiting this free educational and regional wonder.
  • Cahokia Mounds – This is a place that you may have visited during a school field trip and forgot about. It was once the site of one of the greatest cities in the world. So, it probably deserves a return visit. Plus the views from the top of the mounds are spectacular.
  • Albrecht Nature Playscape – There is a new place to explore in Forest Park. Check out this 17-acre new playscape near the World’s Fair Pavilion and the Jewel Box.
  • Mastodon State Park – Looking for a place to cool of and explore nature? The creek at this park in Jefferson County park is refreshing. Go swimming, relax in the clear waters, or just explore the woods at this natural wonder.
  • Old Chain of Rocks Bridge – Take a hike through history on this mile-long span across the Mississippi. The former Route 66 roadway features breathtaking views of the St. Louis skyline, river, and the little castles that double as water intake towers. Don’t forget to detour over to the beach for some fishing or exploring.
  • Pere Marquette State Park – The Great River Road rolls right up to this park that offers something for everyone.
  • Fort Belle Fontaine – This former fort near the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers has gone through a lot of changes over the years. One of the most significant was a public works project in the 1930s to transform it into a summer resort. The ruins of that project and the site’s latest transformation make for an interesting day in north St. Louis County.
  • Melvin Price Lock & Dam – The Army Corps of Engineers is in charge of keeping barge traffic flowing on the Mississippi River. They offer free tours of the facility and there is a lot to learn.
  • Grant’s Trail – Take a bike tour through several miles of south St. Louis County on these new trails built for riders of any age.
  • Take the ferry to Grafton – Rainy day? Put your car on a boat to take the kids out for a ride on the Great River Road.
  • Suson Park – This unique St. Louis County park features a farm full of animals to visit. It is also a place many kids go to on field trips that they won’t mind returning to.
  • Central Library – History, art, and education meet at this beautifully restored library with rotating exhibits. Great for rainy days.
  • St. Louis Riverfront Bike Trail – This trail takes you all the way from the Arch to the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge. Along the way you will see industry, nature, and everything in between. Make sure to stop at Rootwad Park. It was built by the same people behind the City Museum. The price is free.
  • Historic St. Charles – Walk the brick streets and take in all the history.
  • Columbia Bottom Conservation Area – Rollover dusty roads to each conservation area, go bird watching, hiking, fishing, and more at this unique destination. Don’t forget to see the sunflowers growing in huge patches later this summer. Definitely a hit on social media.
  • Lone Elk Park – Load the kids in the car and go for a ride in this unique park to see the buffalo and elk. Great for rainy days.
  • Grant’s Farm – This Anheuser Busch experience is technically free but you will need to pay for parking. Reservations are required.
  • St. Louis Art Museum – Yet another reason to visit Forest Park.

More STL Places to visit:

Here are some more activities that charge for admission. Many of them are very popular and more affordable if you purchase a season pass:

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