When it comes to taking your kids out for some family fun, what's better than free?
Our go-to free destination is the Saint Louis Zoo, but it's not on this list. Don't get me wrong – we love the Zoo with a passion. We are members and go so much we're actually on a first name basis with the anteaters. But the Zoo's reputation proceeds it; everyone knows it's awesome.
So here are the first five of my top ten list of my favorite kid-friendly, free gems of the city. Minus the Zoo, but it's implied.
1. Lone Elk Park. I'm starting with my favorite, just in case your boss walks in and you have to minimize the screen before you're finished reading. The reason I like Lone Elk Park so much isn't the adrenaline that pumps through your veins as you wonder if a bison or elk is going to attack your mini van, or the beautiful scenery that abounds.
I like it because you spend the whole time in your car, thus eliminating the need to dress your children before you go. Really. I throw them in their car seats in their underwear or pj's and off we go. I'm not sure if that's legal or not, but it's the perfect activity for rainy or cold days.
2. Missouri History Museum. The History Museum has incredible free programs throughout the summer and occasionally in the winter. We've been to story hours, a day-glo hoola hoop show, movies and concerts galore. In case you can't make the programs (or your kids are too old) the exhibits are free on Tuesday afternoons from 2 to 8 p.m. for St. Louis County residents. I took my kids to Mammoths and Mastodons exhibit a few months back; they loved it.
3. World Bird Sanctuary. Now, I'm not going to sugar coat it – my kids don't give a hoot about birds (that really just came out with no planning, I swear). But I love them (birds, that is. Well, and my kids), and it gives me some interesting scenery to look at while they run up and down the gravel path. The World Bird Sanctuary is rarely crowded, and the handlers are usually out and about to give nerds like me some interesting bird facts. There's also a nature center with a snake. We don't go in that.
4. The Missouri Botanical Garden. St. Louis County residents get in free to the garden on Wednesday and Saturday mornings, and we go with friends almost every week when the weather is nice. Parking is also free but get there early if you want to park in the lot – it fills up quickly. My kids love feeding the enormous coy, and also love the Children's Garden (also free on Wednesday and Saturday mornings). The Children's Garden is expansive, though, and I have three under three so if I'm flying solo I usually just opt for a stroll around the breathtaking grounds.
5. Suson Park. This park is actually a working farm with cows, pigs, horses, sheep, and a lot of colorful locals sitting on coolers fishing presumably for their dinner. Something about going here makes me want to listen to Guns-N-Roses on the car ride home. There's a nice walking path, and a playground in case your kids want to blow off some steam.
Stay tuned next week for the conclusion of my top ten list of awesome free family things to do in the 'Lou! In the meantime, share some of your favorites below!
Photos taken of the bison at Lone Elk Park, silly fun at the World Bird Sanctuary, and the beautiful grounds at the Missouri Botanical Garden by Hannah Mayer. Photo of child fishing at Suson Park courtesy of the St. Louis County Parks Department.