Frolic for free in St Louis
ST LOUIS, Aug 28 — This city in the heart of the American Midwest isn’t as famous as its cousins on the coast. Its landmarks can’t rival the Golden Gate Bridge or the Empire State Building and the scenery here is nowhere near as awe-inspiring as the peaks of the Rockies or the falls of Niagara.
St Louis might have been dealt a poor hand by nature but it makes up for this in other ways. It’s a gorgeous city — think historical churches, cute brownstones and plenty of French architectural flair — and it oozes tonnes of authentic Midwestern charm. But the best thing about St Louis is the city’s democratic approach to having fun. Here, having fun doesn’t mean flashing your cash. It’s unlike certain theme parks, where you cough up an arm and a leg just to get in — and then discover you have got to stump up the other arm and leg for your hot dog and fries.
And we’re not talking about the free entertainment you find in a mall basement on a Saturday afternoon, either. These are some world-class, award-winning destinations that will please even the most jaded traveller. Here are the top picks for spending a week in the gateway city:
Explore Forest Park
This is the jewel in the city’s crown. This green oasis, 300 acres larger than New York’s Central Park, once hosted the 1904 St Louis World’s Fair. It’s now home to dozens of pleasant walking and cycling trails, fishing lakes and plenty of museums — from the Missouri History Museum to the St Louis Science Centre.
Spend a day exploring the grounds and wrap it up with a refreshing pint or two by the charming Boat House restaurant nestled on the shores of the Post Dispatch Lake.Admission to Forest Park, Science Centre and museums is free, though there may be a fee for a few select museum exhibits.
Go to the zoo
The St Louis Zoo has been rated America’s best zoo by Parenting Magazine and Zagat and it’s easy to see why. Well-designed enclosures allow visitors to get up close and personal with the animals and sections such as the Flight Cage and the Children’s Zoo go one step further. In the Flight Cage, birds are free to walk, fly and swim around visitors. The Children’s Zoo is essentially a huge petting zoo — kids can climb with a pygmy goat, stroke a hedgehog or even handle a snake!
Admission to the St Louis Zoo is free and visitors get free admission to the Children’s Zoo between 8am and 9am daily.
Visit the iconic arch
Commonly known as the Gateway Arch, the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial commemorates St Louis’ role in the westward expansions of the United States. The museum inside the Arch takes you through the history of the Old West and kids can learn more about Lewis and Clark’s expedition through ranger-guided tours filled with hands-on experiences. Don’t miss a trip up the Arch itself in one of its creaky, claustrophobia-inducing lifts — the view from the top is worth the ride.
While you have to pay to ride the lift, entrance to the Arch grounds and the Museum of Westward Expansion is free.
Catch a play or two
When it comes to enjoying those balmy summer nights, St Louis has got it sorted. If the Bard is your kind of guy, the Shakespeare Festival St Louis stages a different play every summer in Forest Park. If you’d rather watch a musical, The Muny (also in Forest Park) has been pleasing crowds since 1918. This summer’s offerings included “Chicago”, “Alladin”, “Dreamgirls” as well as “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”.
Admission to the Shakespeare Festival is free, and The Muny gives away about 1,500 free tickets to every performance — although if you want to sit right up front, be prepared to pay about US$62 (RM200) for the best seats. — Today