Guest Post By Jacob @DollarDiligence Follow him to follow his journey and get updates from his blog. All photos are property of MDefined.com.
According to a recent survey, 58% of Americans have either planned a summer vacation already or believe they will take one.
With the sun shining and temperatures rising, it’s tempting to spend your days sitting on your patio eating watermelon and watching your kids play in the sprinkler. But most families plan on hitting the open road for a vacation this summer. Vacations can be an expensive line item in a family’s monthly budget. And, many young parents are having trouble affording vacations due to increasing travel costs and even student debt.
If you’re still trying to figure out where to go – there’s good reason to plan a vacation to St. Louis since there are many fun things for a family to do in the city. That’s likely why around 25.88 million people visit St. Louis every year and around 45% of parties travelling to St. Louis include children. St. Louis’ popularity as a family vacation spot might be because St. Louis offers more free attractions than any city other than Washington, D.C. That allows families with kids to have action-packed and affordable vacation.
Here are three of St. Louis’ top free family attractions that will help you save money while having a blast on your family trip.
The St. Louis Zoo
Voted America’s top free attraction in USAToday’s Readers Choice Awards,, the St. Louis Zoo has over 17,000 exotic animals representing almost 600 different species. The zoo is big – taking up over 90 acres in the Forest Park area. It’s size and scope are likely why over 3 million people visit each year.
Some highlights of your trip to the zoo might include the Tasmanian Devil Den, Polar Bear Point, Stingray Cove, Penguin and Puffin Coast, the children’s zoo, or the conservation carousel with hand-carved wooden animal figures. The park also features some endangered and rare animals including the Amur Leopard, the Chinese alligator, the Amur tiger, the Speke’s gazelle, the Asian elephant, and the tree kangaroo.
While admission to the St. Louis Zoo is free, there are some fees for various exhibits or attractions including the railroad, the children’s zoo, the conservation carousel, parking, 4D movies, the sea lion show and the stingray area. But if you get there early you can save! During the first hour after opening, there is no charge for the carousel, the children’s zoo, and the stingrays exhibit.
The zoo’s hours are 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday to Thursday and 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Friday through Sunday.
The St. Louis Science Center
Do your kids like science? The St. Louis Science Centre is also free for families and has over 700 hands-on exhibits. Some highlights include live science demonstrations, a life-sized animatronic Tyrannosaurus Rex and Triceratops, a makerspace area where you can create and explore, a discovery room, an Omnimax movie theater, a planetarium, and a flight simulator. There’s even a human hamster wheel that powers an enormous ball machine that you can try out!
One cool thing that kids will enjoy is the StarBay that has exhibits showing what it’s like to live and work at the International Space Station and information about the mission to Mars. While the science centre is free, there are costs for things like parking, the Omnimax theatre, the children’s Discover Room and special exhibits.
The St. Louis Science Centre is located in the Forest Park area and is open Monday through Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and on Sunday from 11:00 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.
The World Bird Sanctuary
While the zoo offers you a chance to see a number of different animals, the World Bird Sanctuary is a uniquely entertaining and educational opportunity for kids to learn more about birds. It is a free attraction with around 200 animals over 305 acres. The World Bird Sanctuary is one of North America’s largest bird conservation facilities. The sanctuary helps with public awareness regarding bird species worldwide.
The sanctuary’s goal is to preserve and protect bird species for future generations and they offer a number of different services, and educational programs in order to do that. By spending a day at the World Bird Sanctuary, you’re likely to see birds that you’ve never seen before and learn about why they might be endangered and what you can do to help birds thrive. This is a great learning experience for your kids and a fun afternoon!
While the sanctuary is free, you have to pay a small fee for tours of the wildlife hospital. The sanctuary is open daily from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
There ya have it! St. Louis is a great place to take a family vacation. Though it isn’t too expensive to begin with, there are always ways to save. Check out the above locations for a fun and frugal vacation!