ST. LOUIS - School lets out for good in just a couple of weeks, and for parents the lazy, hazy days of summer can get crazy expensive, but summer fun doesn't have to drain your bank account.
Five on Your Side found ways to have a family adventure every single day for free. It just takes a little planning and organization, but relax! We've done most of the work for you.
The sights and sounds of summer will soon be all around us. Carnivals, ice cream, road trips and rollercoasters are essential summertime fun, but the price tag on all that fun in the sun can give parents the summertime blues.
But it doesn't have to. You can let the good times roll without breaking the bank.
"You can absolutely find something fun for the whole family in St. Louis every day of summer," says Chelle Dohrmann with the family activity website Kids Out and About.
Dohrmann, a St. Louis native and mother of two, manages KidsOutandAbout.com. On her website, you can search a calendar for things to do in St. Louis and use a free filter to find how and where to take advantage of little-known perks.
Sure, we all know the St. Louis Zoo and many museums are free, but did you know there are ways to get into the Children's Zoo and The Magic House free of charge?
Related: VIP access to the St. Louis Zoo
"A little known secret is that the first hour that the zoo is open every day you can get into the children zoo for free, you can ride the carousel for free," Dohrmann says.
For a family of five, that's a savings of $35! For that same family of five, a trip to the Missouri Botanical Garden, with extra tickets to the special Children's Garden, would run close to $50. But these classic family outings don't have to cost an arm and a leg. Dohrmann says that the garden along with its Children's Garden is open to the public for free on Wednesday and Saturday mornings.
Photos: Spring has sprung at MoBOT
You can ride along with the elk and bison and keep your dollars and cents at Lone Elk Park. It also won't cost you a thing to see more bald eagles than you've likely ever seen at the World Bird Sanctuary across the street. It would be nice to leave a donation at both places, though.
Watch dogs doing tricks at Purina Farms--Free! Grant's Farm, aside from parking--FREE! Monday night movies at BallPark Village, eyeball one of the best outdoor art installations in the world at Laumeier Sculpture Park or splash the day away at CityGarden. Free, free, FREE!
Photos: Laumeier Sculpture Park
The world-famous Magic House in Kirkwood? That's never free, right? Wrong!
"The third Friday of every month The Magic House has free admission," Dohrmann said.
The Butterfly House in Chesterfield is free until noon the first Tuesday of every month for St. Louis City and County residents.
And that's on top of about a gazillion others you may or may not know about. Not a complete list, but just to get you started: Brewery Tours at Anheuser-Busch, the Missouri History Museum, the St. Louis Art Museum, Cahokia Mounds (do it! It's amazing) and the Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site.
We've listed even more below:
For the artistically inclined -
Art Hill in Forest Park:
Summer Art Hill Film Series presents free movies in the park throughout the summer months. The party starts at 6:00 p.m. with DJ music, an art-making activity and food trucks serving tasty treats. Coolers and picnic baskets are welcome for your dinner on the hill before the film starts at 9:00 p.m.
Enjoy a show at America's largest and oldest outdoor musical theater. Tickets for 1,500 seats, the last nine rows of the theater, are given away on a first come, first served basis for every show!
Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum:
Explore one of the oldest teaching museums in the country. It's part of the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University.
Contemporary Art Museum:
Spend a day exploring a collection of modern, contemporary art in the Grand Center Arts District.
Admire a collection of art originally put together by Emily Rauh Pulitzer and her husband Joseph Pulitzer Jr. to showcase their private collection.
For the animal lover -
St. Louis Zoo:
Visit the elephants, penguins, cheetahs, grizzly bears and all the other animals at the St. Louis Zoo. Admission to the park is free, but there are fees for some exhibits and shows.
Take a ride on a camel, pet more than 900 animals and meet some of the famous Budweiser Clydesdales!
Wild Bird Sanctuary:
Explore over 300 acres of peaceful Missouri forest that are home to eagles, falcons, hawks, owls and lots of other creatures!
Photos: The World Bird Sanctuary
Enjoy a wagon ride, milk a cow, pet baby animals and learn all about pets.
Photos: Springtime at Purina Farms
For the discoverer -
St. Louis Science Center:
Learn about the environment, space, dinosaurs and so much more at one of the top five science centers in the United States.
Experience hands-on learning at St. Louis' children's museum. Admission is free every third Friday of the month from 5:30 to 9 p.m.
Photos: The Magic House
Delmar Loop Planet Walk:
Learn about the planets by exploring a scale model of our solar system on the Delmar Loop.
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