St. Louis was named the “Best City for Cheapskates” a couple of years ago. While we no longer top the list, I still believe St. Louis is the best place in the country to do things for free. Here are my top seven things to do, all for free, all in St. Louis, with or without kids.
I also love that in St. Louis, you can bring your own food and drink almost anywhere! This includes the Muny, Cardinals games, the zoo, and more.
1. Forest Park
Forest Park is the main park of St. Louis (bigger than Central Park!) and it is a jewel. It’s kind of cheating to include it because the park is home to the next three free things on my list, but also has even more. It’s home to the St. Louis Science Center, the St. Louis Art Museum, the Muny, the Missouri History Museum, and the St. Louis Zoo, (all free!) among other things. It was home to the 1904 World’s Fair and still hosts many special events, like Shakespeare in the Park, the Great Forest Park Balloon Race and more. Plus it has all that a park has to offer, with athletic fields, playgrounds, golf courses, restaurants, paddle boats rentals, a skating rink, and picnic areas. You could literally take a vacation to Forest Park.
The St. Louis Zoo was rated the third best in the country last year. The prices to visit the top two? $16.95 in Omaha and $48 in San Diego. Ours? Free. And like I said, feel free to bring your lunch in a cooler. Also, for the first hour of the day, many of the paid attractions, like the carousel, children’s zoo, and ray petting exhibit are free!
We loved coming here as children and I still love visiting as an adult. We often stop in to see a couple of things and then head back out, knowing we can come back any time for free. My personal favorites are the prairie dogs, hippos, and sea lions. We haven’t been to the new polar bear exhibit yet, but I’m looking forward to seeing it!
Even if you’re not a huge art lover, stop in for an hour to see your favorite pieces and then head out, knowing you got your money’s worth. They also host special activities and music at SLAM Underground the last Friday evening of the month (still free) and play movies on Art Hill on the weekends in July (again, free). If you want to see a special exhibit, just get your tickets for Fridays. They’re free.
I love the Impressionists, Gavin likes the armor, and we both enjoy the American art. The new building that houses the modern art and special exhibits is beautiful. (And has what are probably the nicest public bathrooms in Forest Park.)
4. The Muny
The Muny is a St. Louis institution, celebrating its 97th season this year. It’s the country’s oldest and largest outdoor musical theater and is impossible to explain to someone who’s never been. It seats 11,000 people, almost like a sports stadium. You even sing the National Anthem before the show, no kidding. The majority of the shows are not traveling, but cast, designed, and costumed in house for the week to ten days that they run. And they are good.
While there are obviously paid tickets (we have season tickets and love them), the Muny has free seats as well! They are first come-first serve and all the way in the back, so arrive early and bring your binoculars. Whether you are a teen on a date, going with your young kids who might fall asleep, or just want to save your money, the free seats are a great option.
5. Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis (aka the “New Cathedral”)
This cathedral is gorgeous. Like, Europe gorgeous. They are ready for tourists, so don’t feel weird about stopping by. I have yet to see a picture that does it justice because it is impossible to capture the beauty (and sheer volume) of the mosaics that adorn almost every surface of this church.
They started building it in 1907 to replace the outgrown Basilica of St. Louis aka the “Old Cathedral” downtown (where we wed), finished the building in 1914, consecrated it in 1926, and finished the mosaics in 1988. You’ll understand why it took so long when you see how many tiles there are.
My favorites: the rear dome with American Saints, the narthex with images showing the life of St. Louis, and the small side chapel to the right of the altar.
Do you like beer? Or rather, do you like free beer? If so, this tour is for you. You get to see the classic Clydesdale horses, learn how beer is made, admire some beautiful architecture, and my favorite, watch the bottling line. And after your entertaining and educational tour, you get free beer. There are a lot to choose from, too! We joke that we take everyone who comes to visit us on this tour, because what could be better, or more St. Louis? Bonus points if, after the tour, you go to Gus’ Pretzels just across the highway and splurge on some 50 cent snacks.
CityGarden is a fun place to visit and the newest attraction (by a lot!) on my list. You can walk through quickly and see the art, bring your kids to play in the splash pad, or even have lunch. It’s downtown, close to the Arch, Convention Center, and Busch Stadium. If you have a long restaurant wait time or just some general time to kill downtown, I recommend checking it out.
This week our box contained:
- Cherry tomatoes
- Yellow onions
- Green beans
- Yellow potatoes
My bag was so heavy when I was walking back to my car this week. Feeling that weight and seeing the variety and colors both make me smile.
On this week’s schedule:
It’s pretty clear that everyone loves swatching as much as I do. That is to say, not very much.
Especially because this is my third try to get gauge with this Wool of the Andes Sport. I knit the first very diligently, washed it, measured it, and saw that it was too big. So I went down a needle size and knit a couple of inches before figuring out it was still too big and ripping out. So this is my third swatch with this yarn. Augh!
I have a sneaking suspicion this swatch (on size 2 needles!) is still going to be too big. If it is, I quit. At least for now.
I finally picked up Go Set a Watchman from the library last night. I just finished The Book of Speculation this morning, so I’m all set to start later this evening.
1. What’s your favorite grocery store splurge?
Oh man, this one is tough. I usually allow myself one small splurge per shopping day, which is every other week in our house. Gavin has dubbed it the “shopper’s privilege” since I let him pick if he accompanies me to the store, which he hates doing. Gavin goes for cookies, but my favorites are chips or ice cream.
2. How’s your penmanship?
I have always liked my handwriting. I went to an all-girls high school where handwriting was obviously very important and most of my friends and I had similar (if not nearly identical) handwriting. It’s been fun to watch them diverge over the past nine (NINE?) years.
3. Do you have a “Summer Bucket List?”
Not a true list, but we do have things we like to do every summer here in St. Louis!
So far we’ve done Shakespeare in the Park, the zoo, the Muny (two shows left!), many picnics, several trips to Ted Drewe’s, the Botanical Gardens, Fair Saint Louis, bike rides, and more.
Plus some trips, some weddings, several birthdays, Cow Appreciation day at Chick-fil-A, and a lot of yard work.
4. What’s the best thing on the radio right now?
Prairie Home Companion! Almost anything else I like on the radio I don’t listen to via radio, because in this respect I am all millenial. Podcasts forever.
5. Ice cream or frozen yogurt?
Ice cream. Or frozen custard. Or gelato. Frozen yogurt is an okay alternative to any of the aforementioned superior desserts.
This week we got:
- Yellow potatoes
- Cherry tomatoes
- Zucchini and summer squash
- Green beans
- Green onions
The variety of the tomatoes we received this week is just gorgeous! There is so much beauty in vegetables. (And yes, they are botanically fruits. But so are zucchini.)
And here’s some of how we’re using it.
New fabric two weeks in a row?!
While we were on vacation and spending the day in the Amana Colonies, we stopped in at Heritage Designs. I haven’t been to too many brick and mortar quilting stores, so it was especially fun to look around.
They had quite an extensive sale selection, where I found these!
A fat quarter (in my alma mater’s colors!) from Betty Dear by Darlene Zimmerman.
Two yards (bolt end) of this grey print that I think will be great for blending from Juggling Summer by Brigiette Heitland for Zen Chic for Moda.
And finally, two yards (another bolt end) of this fun triangle print from Technicolor by Emily Herrick for Michael Miller Fabrics.
I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I usually get out of a knitting slump by knitting a dishcloth or two. What I usually don’t do is knit six.
But that’s what I did this time.
First I made a Linoleum Dishcloth using small balls of leftover yarn. I’ve knit this once before, but only using three colors instead of five.
Then I made a Clover Tweed using dark green and a small leftover ball of variegated yarn. This one might be my favorite of all that I knit and I will definitely be making this pattern again.
After that, I still wasn’t ready to quit so I cast on a Harmonic Mosaic Cloth. I have made one of these before (a LONG time ago) and like how easily memorized the pattern is while still giving great results.
I let Gavin choose the next one out of my queue and stash. He chose a Garter Rib Dishcloth in light blue. This one is pretty tiny; next time I would add a pattern repeat to get more of a “usual” dishcloth size. This is a two-row pattern and therefore very easily memorized.
Next, I knit a Little Tent Dishcloth, which turned out huge. I would definitely remove a pattern repeat if I were to make this again.
And last of all, a Checker-Square Garter Dishcloth. I removed a pattern repeat, which made it the perfect size. I wish it were a charted pattern though! Knitting from row-by-row instructions makes for very tedious TV knitting.
And there you have it: six new dishcloths and a happily knitting Kate.
Last weekend, we went on a trip with my brother-in-law, Clayton, to Iowa City. Here’s what we did!
1. On our way up, we stopped in Hannibal, MO because Clayton and I had never been and my husband has only been once, in grade school. We paid to see the historic sites at the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum, but it seemed fairly expensive ($11) for what we saw. The museum a few blocks away was the best part. We had lunch at Java Jive and then walked down to see the river, which was very high.
As we were driving away, we saw signs for an observation lookout and parked the car to walk up. Our feelings: not worth the climb. Also, we walked all the way from the bottom, which was unnecessary since there were places to drive almost the whole way up. The butterfly garden after the first set of stairs was pretty cute though.
2. After getting to our hotel, we headed to dinner at Pullman. Gavin and I went half-and-half on the fried chicken and burger. The fried chicken was delicious and Gavin could have eaten twenty of the biscuits with honey. I thought the meat of the burger was the weakest part (sad) but the toppings and fries were delicious.
Then we walked around the University of Iowa’s campus, including through a few buildings.
Then we headed to lunch at La Regia Taqueria. We knew it was going to be good when we saw every kind of people eating the same tacos. And it was. I recommend the carnitas, while Gavin thought the fried fish was the best.
4. After lunch, we went to the Mormon Handcart Trail which is just a short paved path in a park with some informational plaques. There was a field of wildflowers next to it, so it was a lovely, if quick, walk.
And then we headed to the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library. Pro tip: even though things look far apart on the map, they’re not. Just park in one lot, either at the library or the national historic site, and you can walk to the other. We didn’t know anything about Hoover as a president going in, so the videos and exhibits at the library were very informative. Did you know his wife invented the concept of Girl Scout cookies? We saw his gravesite and took a little walk through a prairie nearby.
We also enjoyed walking around his childhood neighborhood, especially the blacksmith’s shop and Quaker Meetinghouse.
That evening we had dinner at Nodo downtown and then listened to some of the free summer concert.
5. The next morning, we headed to Amana and got there before anything opened. In the rain. For what was supposed to be hike and bike weekend.
Hike and bike weekend was unfortunately cancelled (especially because it only rained for an hour!) but we were determined to stick it out anyway. We watched the video and then headed to the museum, where I really enjoyed seeing the artifacts, but will admit it was a LOT of reading. One of my favorite items was this sauerkraut-cutting machine.
Most fascinating to me was their tradition of everyone having the same style of headstone and being buried in the order in which they died instead of in family areas. I found it so interesting because my father-in-law’s hometown of St. Rose, Illinois does the same thing! Their headstones aren’t as simple, but they are all identical and people are buried in rows in order of their death. I’d never heard of such a thing before marrying Gavin, so seeing it elsewhere was crazy.
Then we walked around Amana, ate lunch at the Ox Yoke Inn, and drove through the other villages to see the Communal Kitchen, broom shop (complete with Iowa’s largest solid walnut rocker), and their Church. At the church, a woman who still practices their religion talked about where it came from (people thought the Lutheran service was too fancy) and what services were like then and what they are like now. It was interesting to hear how they handled their services, but unimaginable to us as Catholics.
If you want to see the older style trades being practiced, I wouldn’t recommend going to Amana on a Saturday. The woolen mill was not in operation and there wasn’t anyone demonstrating at the furniture store, either. We still enjoyed looking at the goods and then had a beer (or root beer) at the Millstream Brewing Company.
6. We had expected Amana to take all day when we thought we’d be making a four mile round-trip walk to our lunch, so when that part of the day was cancelled, we had some extra time. We decided to go see Inside Out. Afterwards, we got a pizza and ate it on the hotel’s back deck.
7. The next morning we went to mass at St. Mary’s in downtown Iowa City, where we saw three baptisms! Then we grabbed some Jimmy John’s and headed right home. We had a lot of fun, but as any homebody knows, the end of a vacation is pretty great too.
This week our CSA box had:
- Red potatoes
- Zucchini and summer squash
- Cherry tomatoes
- White onions (pretty sad, due to all the rain we’ve had this year)
And here are some of the recipes we’ll be eating this week to use this week’s produce, along with what’s left from last week.
1. At what temperature do you keep the thermostat set? Summer, winter, day, night?
We’re tightwads in the winter — we set it to 60 at night or when I’m working in the office, 65 when I’m home but not in the office, and 68 when we’re both home. If we want it warmer in the office, Gavin has a small space heater we can use to heat one that one room.
In the summer, we set it to 77 when we’re both home and 80 when I’m home by myself during the day. Not quite as tough as our winter temps, but St. Louis weather means our house gets seriously humid if we don’t set it low enough to keep the AC kicking on somewhat regularly.
Gavin got a Nest thermostat for Christmas from my parents a couple of years ago, so we can luxuriously set the temperature from our computers or phones and change our schedule any time we want. We live in the future!
2. What is your favorite frozen beverage?
Definitely Icees, especially white cherry!
3. Where do you keep your keys?
Either in my purse on our entryway table or in the dish on our entryway table. Boring.
4. Have you ever really been lost?
Yes. When I lived in Greenville, SC for a summer internship during college, I would get incredibly turned around if I so much as tried to take a different route home from the grocery store. I didn’t have a smart phone or a GPS and was never near anywhere good to go ask for directions, so it was very scary to get lost like that! I had to pull over and call my mom a few times so she could help me get back home.
5. What is the last movie you saw in the theaters?
Until this weekend, the answer was Brave at the dollar theater, and Toy Story 3 at the real theater. SO LONG AGO! But this weekend we went to Iowa City with my brother-in-law and while we were there, we saw Inside Out. More to come about my weekend with them, not at Edel, soon!