A vacation should leave you feeling happier and more relaxed.  From the articles I keep reading, too many Americans end up overspending on their vacations which creates stress when the credit card bills arrive.  There is simply no reason to do this to yourself!  Almost any town or city in the United States has a number of free attractions that are appropriate for people of all ages.  I live in the St. Louis metro area and there is no shortage of free and/or very low cost attractions in my area.

Here are 10 free attractions in the St. Louis area that are worth exploring on your next Midwest Vacation:

Laumeier Sculpture Park located at 12580 Rott Road in St. Louis County is open daily from 8 a.m. to sundown. The Aronson Fine Arts Center is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The park is free and open to the public year-round, with the exception of special events.  Laumeier is primarily an outdoor venue with artworks spread throughout the park.  There are 3 short walking trails and dogs are welcome in the outdoor galleries but must be leashed at all times.  Visit http://www.laumeiersculpturepark.org/visit for more detailed information about exhibits, special events, and classes.

Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site is just 8 miles from downtown St. Louis near Collinsville, Illinois. Entrance is free of charge although donations are welcomed.  The remains of the most sophisticated prehistoric native civilization north of Mexico are preserved at this site.  The site includes an interpretive center with museum exhibits, auditorium, gift shop, restrooms and a snack bar.  Outdoors are self-guided tours, guided tours, trails and the 100 foot high Monks Mound, the largest earthwork in North America.  Because so much of this site is outdoors and involves a lot of walking, comfortable shoes, hats, sunscreen, bottled water and insect repellent are highly recommended.  Visit their website for detailed information:  https://cahokiamounds.org/

The World Bird Sanctuary is home to a wide variety of different birds and animals including bats, condors, eagles, falcons, reptiles and owls. Established in 1977, the sanctuary works to preserve and protect bird species from around the world.  They have contributed to bringing the Bald Eagle, Peregrine Falcon, and American Barn Owl back from the brink of extinction through their breeding programs.  Families can walk through acres of the sanctuary to see these birds and animals and learn about the importance of conservation.  They offer the Amazing Animal Encounters show every Saturday and Sunday from Memorial Day through Labor Day at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.  Admission to this show is free and sponsored by Ameren.  There are a number of hiking trails throughout the sanctuary ranging from easy to moderate difficulty. The World Bird Sanctuary is located off of the intersection of Interstate 44 and Route 141 in Valley Park in St. Louis County.  Entry to the sanctuary and parking are free.  They are open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.  For more details, visit https://www.worldbirdsanctuary.org/

The St. Louis Zoo in Forest Park is frequently ranked as one of the top zoos in the country. The Zoo is recognized for its innovative approaches to animal management, wildlife conservation, research and education.  More importantly, it’s a fun place to visit year round.  Because the Zoo is a major attraction and free to all, parking is often a problem.  There is limited free street parking near the entrance.  All-day parking is available on the Zoo’s North Lot on Government Drive and South Lot on Wells Drive for $15.00 per car.  Visit their website for up-to-date information on special events and operating hours: https://www.stlzoo.org/

The St. Louis Science Center is free to enter and experience. The center also has ticketed attractions including films at the OMNIMAX Theatre and James. S. McDonnell Planetarium shows, rides, and simulators.  There are two entrances to the St. Louis Science Center:  The Oakland Avenue Entrance at 5050 Oakland Avenue and the McDonnell Planetarium Entrance in Forest Park.  Check the website for more specific directions.  The Science Center is open every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.  Check their website for seasonal hours and special events:  https://www.slsc.org/

The St. Louis Art Museum is located at One Fine Arts Drive in in the heart of historic Forest Park. The Saint Louis Art Museum is one of the nation’s leading comprehensive art museums with collections that include works of art from virtually every culture and time period.  Admission to the museum is free every day.  Admission to main exhibitions is usually free on Fridays.  The museum is closed on Mondays.  Free parking is available.   Visit https://www.slam.org/hours-location-parking/ for information about current exhibits and special events.

The Missouri History Museum was founded in 1866. This museum is nationally recognized and offers a variety of special exhibits and programs for people of all ages.  The museum is located in Forest Park at the intersection of Lindell Blvd. and DeBaliviere Ave.  Open every day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (extended hours on Tuesdays).  Admission is always free and the museum is only closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.  Visit their website for up-to-date information about exhibits and special events: https://mohistory.org/society

Grant’s Farm has been a popular St. Louis attraction since 1954. Grant’s Farm is the 281-acre ancestral home of the Busch family, named for Ulysses S. Grant who originally worked a portion of the property.  Admission is always free.  There are fees for carousel rides, camel rides and animal shows. Parking is $15.00. Grant’s Farm operates seasonally, so always check their website before planning a visit at:  https://www.grantsfarm.com/.

The Katy Trail is the longest developed rail-trail in the United States. Katy Trail State Park attracts people of all ages.  Whether you are a bicyclist, walker, or equestrian, the trail offers a place to enjoy nature and discover some Missouri history along the way.  The park is 240 miles long and runs between Clinton and Machens with 26 trailheads and four fully restored railroad depots along the way.  The section between Cooper County and St. Charles County has been designated as an official segment of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail.  Visit the website for detailed information about trailheads and facilities:  https://mostateparks.com/park/katy-trail-state-park

The Missouri Botanical Garden is a world-class attraction and has free admission for children ages 3-12. Founded in 1859, the 79-acre Missouri Botanical Garden is the nation’s oldest botanical garden in continuous operation.  The garden is located at 4344 Shaw Blvd. in St. Louis city and is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.  Admission for adult residents of St. Louis city and county is $6.00 per person.  Louis City and County residents receive free general admission on Wednesday and Saturday mornings from 7 a.m. to noon (must show proof of residency).  General admission for non-residents is $14.00 for adults and free for children under 12 years of age.  If you have a current AAA membership card, you will receive $1.00 off general admission for up to three family members. There is free, onsite parking in front of the entrance. The garden hosts a number of special events and festivals throughout the year including Chinese Culture Days, the Whitaker Music Festival, the Japanese Festival, and Garden Glow.  Check their website for full information about the garden and all of their special events at https://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/

With so many free or low-cost attractions, the St. Louis region may be the right place for your next budget friendly vacation!