Getting Out + About on a Budget in STL is So Doable!

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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. 
 
 
 

The St. Louis Zoo 

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. 
 
 
 

The Missouri Botanical Gardens

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. 
 

 
 

The History Museum 

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. 
 
 
 

The Science Center 

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. 
 
 
 

Suson Park and Farm

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. 
 
 
 

Willoughby Farm, St. Louis, MissouriWilloughby Farm

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. 
 
 
 

The Butterfly House 

Free admission from 10-12 on the first Tuesday of every month with proof of St. Louis City/County residency. 
 
 
 

Frisco Train Store

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. 
 
 
 

Powder Valley Conservation Nature Center

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. 
 
 
 

Grant’s Farm

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. 
 
 
a statue of a Clydesdale in front of a historic building at Grant’s Farm in St. Louis, Missouri
 
 

Purina Farms

Advanced registration is required and it is open Wednesday through Sunday. Although it is a little drive out west, it is a great opportunity to go down on the farm for a few hours. 
 
 
 

Local Libraries 

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. 
 
 
 

Parks 

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? 

 
 
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Katie is a Des Peres mom of two young boys, Trace (2014) and Henry (2016). Katie stays home with her boys most of the time but also spends a bit of time away as a high school lacrosse coach. Katie enjoys connecting with other moms to run, meet at parks, explore new restaurants, listen to live music and discuss books. Katie and her boys can be found enjoying many activities around St. Louis including the Science Center, Zoo, Magic House, Museum of Transportation, Urban Fort and Frisco Train Store, but what they enjoy most is just being outdoors. They have tried many of the parks around St. Louis City and county and also love hiking trails at Laumeier Sculpture Park, Powder Valley and Shaw Nature Reserve. Katie and her family love all that St. Louis has to offer for families of young children and can most often be found taking advantage of all of the many opportunities.

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