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Free Things to Do in Forest Park, St. Louis, Missouri

Updated on February 2, 2016
Polar bear at the St. Louis Zoo
Polar bear at the St. Louis Zoo

Forest Park

Located in St. Louis, Missouri, Forest Park is more than just a park. Forest Park draws the most visitors of any attraction in the St. Louis area, and you can experience much of it for free. All of these attractions offer free admission for all ages, and some have other fees for optional exhibits or services.

  1. The Zoo! The Saint Louis Zoological Park is home to more than 19,000 animals, and is over 100 years old. Almost all of the major attractions are free of charge, but expect to pay a few dollars if you want to visit the Children's Zoo, for example, or take a ride on the Zooline Railroad, which will take you around the zoo when you're tired of walking. Of all the paid attractions, the most expensive is the Zooline Railroad at $7.95 per adult (all-day pass), and most of the paid attractions run about $4. Many paid attractions are free during the first hour the zoo is open, and/or offer free admission to children under 2 years old. There is more than enough to fill an entire day with all the free exhibits at the St. Louis Zoo.

A statue of King Louis IX of France, which stands in front of the Art Museum
A statue of King Louis IX of France, which stands in front of the Art Museum

2. The Art Museum. The St. Louis Art Museum sits atop Art Hill in Forest Park and houses a variety of collections and exhibits, including some visiting exhibitions. Admission to the Art Museum is always free, and daily guided tours are also free. On Fridays, the museum offers free admission to featured exhibitions that usually require purchased tickets. The Museum also hosts special events such as lectures and artist talks, which are priced per event (some are free).

Inside the Science Center
Inside the Science Center

3. The Science Center. One of only two free science centers in the U.S., the St. Louis Science Center is comprised of a planetarium and a science museum. General admission is free for all ages. Ticket purchase is required for special exhibits, the Omnimax Theater, and the Planetarium, and range from $5 for child admission to the Planetarium, up to $15.50 for adult admission to the theater.

4. The History Museum. The Missouri History Museum focuses on the history of the city of St. Louis and the state of Missouri. General admission to the museum is free, but some special exhibits require an admission fee. The museum also offers some events and activities at other locations, some of which charge fees for tickets.

5. The Muny. The Municipal Theatre Association of St. Louis is an outdoor amphitheatre with 11,000 seats, 1,500 of which are free during their Broadway-style musical performances. Free seating is offered on a first-come, first-serve basis, and the Muny allows lining up beginning at 4pm before the gates open at 7pm. If you want to purchase tickets instead, prices start at $14.

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Which of these places in Forest Park would you most like to visit (or go back to)?

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The Mainstage of the 2015 Shakespeare Festival St. Louis
The Mainstage of the 2015 Shakespeare Festival St. Louis

More free events

Forest Park also offers some free events that run on certain days or for certain lengths of time, as opposed to a whole season or throughout the year.

  • Shakespeare Festival St. Louis: Running for a little over 3 weeks in June, the Shakespeare Festival offers free lawn seating to every performance. The Mainstage is located in Shakespeare Glen in Forest Park. Reserved seating ranges from $5 on preview nights to $20 in the 5 front rows.
  • The Great Forest Park Balloon Race: usually held on 2 days in September, all events associated with the race are free to watch for all, and include skydivers, fireworks, and the race itself.

Watching a movie on Art Hill
Watching a movie on Art Hill
  • Art Hill Film Series: hosted on Fridays in July, these movies are displayed on a giant projector screen and are free to watch. Lawn seating is the only seating available, with the front sections designated for lawn blankets only. (photo)
  • The park!: Forest Park is still a park, just with lots of cool stuff going on. There are lots of open spaces for a picnic or a nap in the sun, and sidewalks and trails for walking, bicycle riding, and running.

OK, but will it cost me money to park my car?

Most of the attractions in Forest Park have paid parking lots, but some lots are free. Street parking is generally free within the park, just obey the signs. If you're willing to walk a few minutes to get to your destination, you can find parking.

How are all of these wonderful things really free?

Taxes. A cultural tax in St. Louis City and St. Louis County allows the Zoo, the Art Museum, the Science Center, and the History Museum to offer free general admission for everyone, even to people who don't pay the tax. These places also make some money through concessions, merchandise and souvenirs, parking fees, and charitable donations.

So, the next time you find yourself in St. Louis, check out one of these awesome places or events. If the weather is nice, the St. Louis Zoo is a great free destination. If it's cold or rainy, one of the museums or the Science Center will serve you well. If you live in or near St. Louis, plan on attending one of the seasonal events. If you're on a budget but still want to visit some top-notch attractions and events, Forest Park is for you.

Forest Park Map


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