Budget Friendly Summertime Fun

The long, hot days of summer can make you do crazy things… like upgrade to floor seats for Beyonce. Or sign up to purchase a Model 3 Tesla. Or purchase two years worth of season tickets to the Fox Theater because you learned that Hamilton: The Musical is touring in 2018.

Whatever the reason, if you’re a parent and your wallet is out of formation due to an unexpected warm-weather splurge, don’t despair; we happen to live in a fabulous city filled with family-friendly activities that will perk up your schedule without sacrificing your bank account. You just have to know where to look— and occasionally, be willing to fight for a shaded parking spot.

If your kids are early risers, plan a morning trip to the Saint Louis Zoo; general admission is always free (so is parking, if you’re willing to hike a little) but the Children’s Zoo is also free until 9AM! The Missouri Botanical Gardens also offers free admission on select days until noon for city and county residents, plus they have a newly renovated, indoor (read: air conditioned!) recreation area right near the Children’s Garden.


Many parks across the city have splash pads nearby— convenient on afternoons when playground equipment gets too hot to handle. As temperatures climb, you may prefer to opt for educational indoor activities at places like the History Clubhouse in the Missouri History Museum (they offer weekly storytimes in both English AND Spanish), the Contemporary Art Museum (they host a free playdate on the first Wednesday of each month), or the Science Center (check out the new Makerspace area and the GROW exhibit!)

Free story times, art classes, concerts and theatrical performances occur daily across our city. Sign up for’s daily “things to do” email to have local, family-friendly fun delivered daily to your inbox.

If the A/C in the car goes out, or if you just can’t be bothered to locate matching pairs of shoes for everyone in your family, there is still plenty of fun to be had indoors, or in the green space around your home.


In the past, I’ve been notoriously bad at keeping plants alive, but my daughter’s love for the outdoors has inspired me to try my hand at gardening— and to my surprise, it’s been a success! Whether you choose food or flowers, a garden plot or containers, don’t be afraid to get down in the dirt with your kids. Even the cheapest seeds will usually produce a few sprouts, given the right elements— and what an exciting day when you finally get to cut a spray of wildflowers to bring inside, or eat strawberries right out of your yard!

Speaking of eating, by lunchtime, my kids are usually too busy playing to stop and sit down to eat, so we usually graze on finger foods: deli meats, canned beans, cheese, crackers, yogurt, trail mix, fresh fruit and veggies (from the garden, when possible!) are daily go-to’s— and they look even more appetizing given a unique presentation.


Here are a few other ideas to curb boredom inside your home:

• Hand out plastic knives and then supervise the washing and dicing of easy-to-chop fruits and veggies. Your kids may even dare to taste fruit salad or fresh salsa if they helped to make it!
• Make your own popsicles using your favorite juices or fruits. (IKEA has cheap molds!)
• Venture outside when it rains. Every kid deserves a chance to deliberately splash in a muddy puddle. Take umbrellas and rainboots— or don’t!
• Paint outside with water. Any brush + cup of water = the world is your canvas.
• Join a summer reading club at any library branch and read, read, read. To really make those pages come alive, grab a non-fiction or historical fiction book and find a perch under the arch or near the Mississippi River and let your imagination run away.
• Rent a personal audiobook mp3 player from the library. My 4 year old doesn’t nap anymore, but she had an hour long quiet time two days in a row while listening to Mr. Popper’s Penguins! (How do you think this blog got finished?)


What’s your favorite flavor of free summertime fun?