The Most Fun, Budget-Friendly Things To Do In St. Louis, According To Tripadvisor

With amazing barbecue and world-class cultural attractions, plus being the home of Anheuser-Busch beer and the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team, St. Louis is a buzzing Midwestern city with something for everyone. Plus, far away from the skyrocketing prices of the coasts, it's also a much more affordable destination for families, couples, and friends alike to get away to a new place. For this reason, there's a seemingly endless list of cheap and even free things to do in St. Louis, making it easier than ever to "Meet Me in St. Louis."

That list can also get overwhelming, especially in a city as large as St. Louis, so we rounded up the most fun, budget-friendly things to do in the Gateway to the West. To determine which attractions made the cut, we examined which St. Louis attractions had the most and highest reviews on Tripadvisor to see which were true steals. We've included more in-depth information about our methodology at the end of this article.

The Gateway Arch

St. Louis was instrumental in the development of the United States to the west, which is what the Gateway Arch — the tallest monument in the country — honors. Visitors can head 630 feet into the air to see it all thanks to a tram, and with unparalleled views of St. Louis at the top, it's no surprise that the Gateway Arch is one of the best things to do in the city. It's been a must-do staple in St. Louis since it was erected in 1965. "The whole family enjoyed going up to the top of the Arch," said one Tripadvisor reviewer.

To learn more about the history of the Gateway Arch, the monument has an onsite museum and several galleries marking the city's history for over two centuries. Moreover, entrance to the museum is free. Visitors can learn about the culture of indigenous people who lived in what is now St. Louis, how Thomas Jefferson pushed for westward expansion from St. Louis, how Americans thought that the country had a calling to expand, and more, including how steamboats transformed the city into a center for commerce and how it then became a manufacturing epicenter. Of course, visitors can also discover how the arch was built. It's one of the many indoor attractions that make St. Louis one of the most underrated winter getaways in the U.S.

St. Louis Zoo

There aren't many places to see 500 species of animals, all for free (although parking is $10), but that's what the St. Louis Zoo offers, making it one of the best zoos to visit across America. With over 16,000 animals, including elephants, zebras, gorillas, and lions, the zoo has earned nearly 9,000  glowing reviews from travelers. "Even though it was really cold, we still had a great time at the zoo. Beautiful grounds to walk around and it's all free!" said one reviewer on Tripadvisor before adding, "The zoo staff are very knowledgeable, friendly and willing to answer all questions and talk with you as long as you would like."

The St. Louis Zoo has been a favorite in the city since it opened its doors in 1910. Besides seeing animals, visitors can enjoy other activities like a stingray touch tank, animatronic dinosaurs, and a train tour that takes visitors past some of the zoo's most popular animals. For families who want to get up close and personal, the zoo also offers behind-the-scenes tours of exhibits featuring hippos, grizzly bears, penguins, sloths, and more. There's also a vet hospital tour where visitors can learn how zoo veterinarians care for everyone from the largest to the smallest animals. Animal lovers will also enjoy the animal nutrition center tour, where visitors learn how the zoo feeds each resident.

Missouri Botanical Garden

St. Louis is a bustling city, but it has a green respite in the Missouri Botanical Garden, which costs just $16 to visit, making it another fantastic cheap thing to do in Mound City, and the attraction received five stars through nearly 4,500 reviews on Tripadvisor. The botanical garden dates back to 1859, when it was established as a gift from a local businessperson. As old as the garden is, some of its 4.5 million plants are even older, dating back to the 1700s. The tropical plants are housed in a dome-shaped greenhouse called the Climatron, which has been the highlight of the botanical garden to many since it opened in 1960. Soaring up 70 feet into the air, it stretches a half-mile across.

Outside of the greenhouse, visitors can also explore the biggest traditional Japanese garden on the continent and other interesting areas through its nearly 80 acres. The gardens are romantic spots that help make St. Louis one of the best romantic getaways in the Midwest. One favorite garden for families is the Children's Garden, which was established in 2006 and shows kids the fun of gardening and the beauty of plants across its 2 acres. Throughout the space, kids can explore a limestone cave, ride down a slide, comb through wetlands, hop on a traditional St. Louis steamboat, and find a hideaway in a tree house.

City Museum

It isn't always easy keeping kids entertained during a trip, but St. Louis City Museum does the work for you. This is no ordinary museum, as at this family-friendly playground built by artists, kids and adults alike can interact with exhibits by sliding, crawling, jumping, spinning, and climbing on them, all for just $20 per person. That reasonable price for a day of fun has led to more than 6,500 largely joyful reviews on Tripadvisor.

The City Museum has been a popular St. Louis playground for over two decades after being built inside a 600,000-square-foot former shoe factory. The attraction was spearheaded by sculptors Bob and Gail Cassilly, who used 29,000 discarded items from all over the world to create what the museum is today. For example, former spiral chutes once used at the warehouse were used to create slides, while a century-old Wurlitzer organ is in the center of a cave-like hideaway. A 3,000-pound praying mantis statue is on the roof next to a colossal slide, which funnels visitors to a Ferris wheel. There's even a 76-foot-long pencil — making it the world's largest — and a treehouse that spreads through several floors of the museum. To see everything here and also learn how it got there, hop on a one-hour tour of the museum every first Saturday of the month at 1 p.m.

Busch Stadium

Fans of Major League Baseball and the St. Louis Cardinals flock to Busch Stadium, which has been the home of the team since 2004, the same year that the team won the World Series – making it the first team in nearly a century to win the championship in its first season at a new home. Depending on where visitors want to sit, they can grab a ticket for just $6.90, which is less than the price of many game-day eats. This low price for a seat in one of the stadium's 46,000 seats makes Busch Stadium a fantastic cheap thing to do in the city, and nearly 5,000 Tripadvisor users agree. "If you are in the area and a baseball fan, it is a must-see," said one Tripadvisor user. "The stadium and immediate surroundings are awesome if you are or aren't baseball fan. We caught a game and just sat back enjoyed the views, tastes, and smells of a great American ballpark!"

Visitors can also explore the retro-style stadium at one of its one-hour tours, which cost $20 per person. On the tour, visitors will see all of the essential features of the stadium up close and also visit the Cardinals Hall of Fame and Museum at Cardinals Nation. Or, opt for the $12 360-tour, which lasts about 40 minutes and showcases the best vantage points of the stadium, like those from the press dining room, Budweiser Terrace, and the Scoreboard Patio.

The Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis

In St. Louis, it's free to step upon the same ground and see the same sights that Pope John Paul II walked and saw in 1997 when he visited the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis to designate it as a Cathedral Basilica, granting it special privileges. The cathedral is undeniably gorgeous, and Tripadvisor users have given it more than 3,000 positive reviews. Even before the pope's visit, the basilica was a special place in the hearts of St. Louis residents and a longstanding one. After years of setbacks and $1 million of fundraising, it was finally constructed in 1907. This was just the beginning, as work continued for nearly another century.

The work was eventually completed, but new features are always being added. For instance, the Sacred Heart Shrine of Jesus joined the basilica in 2007, which includes a mosaic made by the Mosaic Studio in the Vatican, a white Carrara marble arch, Sicilian Diaspro marble columns, and bronze doors. The basilica also includes a replica of Michelangelo's "Pietà," the original which dates back to 1499 and was made over two years of work. "La Pietà" showcases Jesus's body laid across the Virgin Mary, which can be seen in the hallway of the basilica opening onto the Blessed Sacrament Chapel.

Grant's Farm

Imposing Clydesdale horses and Anheuser-Busch beers have always gone hand-in-hand. At Grant's Farm in St. Louis, owned by the Busch family since 1903, visitors can see the horses, other animals, historic homes, and more. With free admission and $16 parking, this storied farm is yet another popular cheap thing to do in the city, having earned 4.5 stars and nearly 2,500 reviews on Tripadvisor. Upon arriving at the farm, visitors can hop on a tram to take them through the lush Deer Park, home to more than 900 animals, before disembarking at Tier Garten. Here, two activities steal the show — baby goat bottle feeding and free beers to all guests over 21 years old, the latter of which has been a favorite feature of the farm since it opened to the masses in 1954.

To make a visit even more special, guests are encouraged to book either a Clydesdale close-up or a behind-the-scenes tour. On the 75-minute Clydesdale tour, which costs $26 per person, visitors can see the beloved Anheuser-Busch Clydesdales in their stables and how they live and are cared for at Grant's Farm. Or, opt for the two-hour behind-the-scenes tour, which costs about $400 per 12-person group and gives visitors an inside look at Grant's Farm's most famous attractions like Grant's Cabin, the outside of the Busch family home and the animals that call Deer Park home.

Forest Park

Having a green space for residents to find a quiet space, a fresh breeze, and relaxation under trees isn't uncommon in American cities. But in St. Louis, Forest Park stands out above the rest. One of the most-visited urban parks in the country, Forest Park attracts 13 million people every year, and it's often called one of the best in its class. It is also completely free to visit. With over 2,500 5-star reviews, it's clear that Tripadvisor reviewers appreciate Forest Park's forests, lakes, streams, and other natural features. Forest Park has 30 miles of trails and is the perfect place for a run, bike ride, or a stroll.

Even those who don't care much for nature can find fun in Forest Park. Five important city attractions – the Missouri History Museum, The Muny, the St. Louis Art Museum, the St. Louis Science Center, and the St. Louis Zoo — are all housed within its 1,300 acres. "Forest Park was far larger than I expected, and it was good to see it is heavily used by locals (walking dogs, playing lawn games, bicycling) as well as tourists like ourselves," said one Tripadvisor user, adding that "St. Louis made a wise choice to preserve the area and protect it from commercial development."

St. Louis Art Museum

The St. Louis Art Museum may have had modest beginnings when it opened its doors in 1879, but in the many decades that have passed, it's become a cultural force to be reckoned with. Today, the museum houses artwork from nearly every continent, covering 5,000 years of history. Amazingly, anyone can also see these priceless works, as the St. Louis Art Museum is free to visit, making it one of the best free museums to visit across the U.S. Visitors have awarded it 4.5 stars across nearly 1,500 reviews, such as this one from Tripadvisor: "The museum collection is wide-ranging and substantial, well-worth a half-day to survey. A beautiful museum in gorgeous Forest Park."

Although it's nigh on impossible to see all its 27,000 works in one trip, visitors can check out guides on the St. Louis Art Museum website showcasing which pieces are most popular with both curators and visitors. Some of the collections include Ancient Egyptian art, prints, drawings, photographs, arms and armor, masks, sculptures, coins, and much more. While the museum does have some exhibits with extra costs, visitors can see any exhibit for free on Access for All Free Fridays. On many of these special days, additional events like live music, film screenings, and open artist studios are also held.

The Magic House

St. Louis isn't just an affordable haven for adults looking for art, food, sports, and history — it's also an educational playground for kids. The Magic House, technically a children's museum but really a collection of kid-friendly spaces and experiences, encourages young visitors to learn and explore. With hundreds of exhibits, it's easy for families to spend hours here, and an entry fee of just $14 per person has made the Magic House a popular budget activity with Tripadvisor users, who gave the museum 4.5 stars across more than 1,300 reviews. The Magic House is even more affordable on Free Family Nights, held every third Friday of the month. As the name says, the museum is free for a family of up to two adults and four kids on these nights.

Some of the exhibits designed to spark the imaginations are WonderWorks, which brings kid-friendly machines such as microscopes to life; Jack and the Beanstalk, which allows kids to climb up a 40-foot "beanstalk;" and the Children's Village, where kids can think about what they want to be when they grow up by fixing a car, working in a restaurant, and fishing. Temporary exhibits also regularly make their way to the Magic House.

St. Louis Science Center

The St. Louis Science Center has more than 700 exhibits and 10 galleries, as well as a planetarium and OMNIMAX Theater — yet this is another world-class spot in St. Louis that's free to visit, making it one of the few nonprofit science museums in the United States. That has earned the museum a prime spot in Tripadvisor's collection of the best cheap things to do in St. Louis, having garnered 4.5 stars and more than 1,500 reviews. It's been an integral attraction in the city for decades and was formerly known as the Museum of Science and Natural History.

A few of the favorite exhibits at the museum include Dream It. Build It., which has 15,000 building planks for visitors to create their own buildings and those inspired by St. Louis landmarks. Elsewhere, Artifacts of Wonder showcases some of the museum's 10,000 historical artifacts, and Inside The Vault displays the personal collections of passionate collectors.

Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site

Former United States President Ulysses S. Grant once called St. Louis home, living at a farm called White Haven, which is also where he met his wife. Julia Dent. Today, visitors can learn about Grant's history and home by visiting the restored house, which is free to visit. Tripadvisor users have given White Haven 4.5 stars through more than 500 reviews.

Visitors can also receive a 40-minute guided tour of White Haven for free or take a self-guided free tour inside the farm's horse stable, which dates back to 1872. Inside the stable, visitors can explore several exhibits detailing Grant's life, from his long marriage to Dent to his service and tenure as the 18th president of the United States. A 20-minute film is also shown every half-hour inside the Visitor's Center, detailing the highlights of Grant's life, making for an informative way to start a visit to the historical site.


St. Louis, Missouri, is an affordable and fun Midwestern city with tons of cheap or free things to do for everyone, from a family with young kids to a couple searching for a romantic getaway. To narrow down the best of the best budget-friendly things to do in St. Louis, we examined which city attractions garnered the highest and most reviews on Tripadvisor. With so many spots to choose from, we only included attractions that had scores of 4.5 or more stars across more than 500 reviews, although the sites on our list have up to 5 stars and over 13,000 reviews.