One of the best ways to spend a day outdoors in St. Louis, the Missouri Botanical Garden (MOBOT) is an urban oasis for locals and tourists alike. The garden offers 79 acres of green-themed wonders, from the Japanese gardens to the tropical plants inside the Climatron. The winding paths are ideal for leisurely strolls, and the Children’s Garden is a great place for kids to run off the candy you thought you’d agreed not to give them. MOBOT has a menagerie of signature of events year-round, ranging from the summer nights Whitaker Music Festival to the holiday Garden Glow.
KEEP IN MIND
Go in the spring when everything is in bloom - you won’t be sorry. Parking is free, but sometimes limited depending on the crowds. Additional off-street parking is also available. Entrance fees vary by time and day, so check the website before you go. (It’s free to St. Louis city and county residents on Wednesday and Saturday mornings.)
Forest Park opened in 1876 and it’s been a jewel of St. Louis ever since. Covering over 1,300 acres (that’s bigger than Central Park, yo) in the heart of the city, Forest Park was once home to both the 1904 World’s Fair and 1904 Summer Olympics. Today it’s a cultural hub, holding the Saint Louis Zoo, Missouri History Museum, Saint Louis Art Museum, and The Muny outdoor theatre. There are plenty of pathways that are perfect for exploring on foot, bike, or electric scooter. Plus, you can do things like paddle boat on the lake. Its beauty and activities draw in locals as much as tourists – so you know it’s worth the trip. There isn’t a better place to be in St. Louis on a beautiful day.
Forest Park hosts dozens of events each year, from the raucous LouFest music festival to the family-friendly Hot Air Balloon Glow and Balloon Race. In addition to all the cultural attractions, you’ll find golf courses, tennis and racquetball courts, a children’s playground, softball and soccer fields, and Steinberg Skating Rink, which does double duty as a beach volleyball court in the summer. Heads up--with so much to do inside Forest Park, the roads and parking lots can get packed between Memorial and Labor Days. Ubering is never a bad idea.
Just a 40-minute drive from downtown St. Louis, Castlewood State Park contains some of the region’s best hiking trails and most dazzling views. Outdoor enthusiasts, extreme hiker dudes, and the casual day tripper all come to this 1,818-acre oasis of lush forest and meandering river for its excellent hiking, fishing, birdwatching, mountain biking, and equestrian use. There are eight hiking trails, but the River Scene Trail, a 3.25-mile loop, is the park’s most popular and offers awe-inspiring views of the Meramec River from atop tall limestone bluffs.
Leave the swimsuit at home--strong currents and high bacteria levels make this section of the Meramec a less-than-ideal place to take a dip. Castlewood remains one of the most popular recreational destinations in the area, so expect crowds on pleasant days.
If sipping on a fresh fruit smoothie, browsing locally grown veggies, and free yoga is your idea of a Saturday well-spent, head to the Tower Grove Farmers’ Market in the spring and summer. This friendly market combines farm vendors, food trucks, artisans, free yoga, occasional live music, and a playground for kiddos--all within the beautiful Tower Grove Park. Make sure to stop at Kitchen Kulture’s breakfast sandwich stand—it’ll be the one with all the people in line—and get a perfect bacon-and-egg start to your day. We can’t think of a more perfect place to spend a sunny Saturday morning than in fresh produce paradise.
The market is relatively small, so think of it as more of a supplement to a grocery store visit rather than a replacement. Vendor prices can also be on the higher side, but we think it’s worth it for the delicious fresh flavors and welcoming environment.
Once home to Ulysses S. Grant and later the Busch family, it’s a historic mansion and animal reserve-meets mini theme park-meets event venue. Wholesome family fun starts here, with a menagerie of buffalo, elk, and the famed Anheuser-Busch Clydesdales to name a few. Visitors 21 and older will cheer complimentary samples of Anheuser-Busch products in the hospitality room of the The Bauernhof, and everyone can appreciate the unique history of the property. This vast landmark is tough to define with too fine a point—you’ve just got to experience it.
Admission is free but parking costs $12. The Farm’s hours of operations aren’t set in stone--always check the calendar as the times change seasonally.
“Animals Always” is its motto, and with over 18,000 wild animals across 90 acres, it doesn't disappoint. The best part? Unlike most of the nation's zoos, this exotic kingdom boasts free admission and a calendar of special events. From Boo at the Zoo in October to Wild Lights during the holidays, the zoo is a hot spot for meeting humans, too. The sprawling layout and varying enclosures and animal houses are just as fun for kids as they are for hipsters and grandparents (and hipster grandparents).
Between June and August, the summer heat and “school’s out” crowd can be a little much, making fall or spring the best time to visit. If you can catch the sea lion show during the fall.
For a night out with the family or a date, going to The Muny is a one-of-a-kind experience. This magical outdoor theatre is a landmark in Forest Park, bringing talented actors and actresses to St. Louis each summer for beloved musicals from The Wizard of Oz to Mamma Mia!. Since 1919, a season of shows has been performed on The Muny stage to great acclaim each summer, and seeing one for yourself should be a must on your summer to-do list.
It gets very warm during the summertime shows; experienced Muny-goers bring their own personal fans or line up for ice cream during intermission to cool off.
St. Louis is a baseball town, and even if you’re not a fan, catching a game at Busch Stadium is a must (unless it’s mid-July when the weather is brutal--in that case, you’re excused). The Cardinals are typically one of the best clubs in baseball, but regardless of the team’s playing, nearly every game is a sell out. Our only advice is not to wear Cubs gear, unless you like people angrily staring at you.
Just steps from Busch Stadium, you can pre- or post-game at Ballpark Village. Although it’s busiest during baseball season, Ballpark Village offers a wide variety of entertainment options year-round, including restaurants, bars, and the Cardinals Hall of Fame and Museum. During the summer, this venue provides an oasis for sports fans looking to cheer on their favorite team and avoid the sticky summer humidity. Those who couldn’t care less about sports can still have a great time getting rowdy in one of the bars (riding that mechanical bull) or enjoying live music.
Parking can be tough. Your best bet is to ride the MetroLink or pay to park at one of the many surrounding lots or garages for $7-20, depending on how close they are to the stadium.