I always knew I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. It was a dream of mine since I was in high school and, although I always pursued my personal goals, I knew that if and when I had the opportunity to have kids of my own, I definitely wanted to stay home with them while they were little. However, I use the words “stay-at-home” quite loosely. While I wouldn’t be going to work, we would, in fact, be doing very little staying at home. I was eager to adventure with them and lucky to live in a community that makes that extremely easy.
St. Louis is a true gem for young families and stay-at-home parents. While there are endless places to take kids in St. Louis, my goal was always to do so on a budget. With the intention of spending as little money as possible, my littles and I have always been on the move and found great ways to spend our time outside our house in St. Louis. Here are some of my favorite tips and places to get out and about on a budget.
Get there early. Park on the street. Pack a lunch. Pay no attention to the food and toy stands. We never spend money at the zoo, but there have been years where we chose a membership so we could ride the train and see the shows.
Free admission when you enter between 7 and 11 am on Saturdays and Tuesdays with proof of St. Louis City/County residency. The Children’s garden is $5 for kids 3-13 but is still free on Saturday mornings.
History Clubhouse is a fun interactive area for younger kids. It is open 10-12 and 1-4 daily and is free every day. Tip: Play at the playground outside before or after. It is a great playground tucked in Forest Park and is rarely busy.
Free admission every day. Indoor and outdoor activities. Park on the Forest Park side or on the road to avoid the cost of parking. This is a great place for the winter as kids can get out a lot of energy in the long wide corridors.
A great, free, down on the farm feel tucked right into South St. Louis County. Play on the playground, pack a picnic, and spend time visiting the animals in the barns. Bring quarters to feed the animals.
Located in Collinsville but still such a quick drive. This darling farm and conservation area is a great free morning out. Visit the animals, check out the tractors, have a picnic, and explore the beautiful and well-maintained grounds.
Incredible train store in Valley Park loaded with train tables for hours of play. Playing with the trains is free, but consider a donation or make a purchase to keep this wonderful small business going.
Perfect for a chilly morning. Take a little walk on one of the paved trails (you can go as short as .3 mile). All trails are stroller-friendly as long as you are willing to push up some steep hills. Go inside to visit the conservation center and enjoy some of the fun interactive exhibits.
Be brave and ride your bike or take a walk on Grant’s Trail. Skip the cost of parking. Say no to ALL the things. Drink a free beer or two. You can eat a picnic at the tables in Grant’s Farm while drinking said free beers. If you are feeling extra, you can feed several animals for under $5.
St. Louis County Library recently remodeled many of the children’s areas to include activities that keep kids entertained for a nice morning or afternoon out. Slcl.org has links to the various locations.
St. Louis is full of tons of beautiful parks. Pick an area and do a search and you will definitely find a great one to explore. St. Charles county seems to be just chock full of awesome parks to discover.
These options were our top choices when my kids were little. We live in the Kirkwood area, so we always had a Magic House Membership (which we buy half off on Black Friday). We also have often bought a Museum of Transportation membership which pays for itself in just a handful of visits. With just a couple of yearly memberships (totaling less than $150), picnic lunches, and a myriad of tips and tricks, we have kept busy for over six years now without ever spending very much money. My kids are happy as can be and we get out all the time because St. Louis is a young family and stay-at-home parent mecca.
What is your favorite way to enjoy all that St. Louis has to offer while sticking to a budget?