Editor’s note: This list is from 2018 so it may be a bit outdated. Check out this list if you’re looking for free and cheap summer fun in 2019.
Looking for something fun to do this summer? Start here.
From free movies and festivals to playgrounds with splash pads, check out this list of free things to do around the metro-east and St. Louis.
Summer kickoff freebie: If your child earned at least one A on their last report card, Raging Rivers will give your student a free ticket between June 2-30. This deal is a one-time offer.
Free movies and shows
- Lincoln Theater Summer Movie Series. 10 a.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 103 E. Main St., Belleville, lincolntheatre-belleville.com, 618-233-0123. The series kicks off Tuesday, May 29.
- Fire and Light Show at Union Station. 1820 Market St., St. Louis, stlouisunionstation.com, 314-621-5262. Show times are daily at 12:30 p.m., 1:30 p.m., 5 p.m., 6 p.m., 7 p.m., 8 p.m. and Friday and Saturday only at 9 p.m.
- Edge 5 Theatres Summer Movies Series. 10 a.m. Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 701 S. Belt West, Belleville, edge5theatres.com, 618-236-2101. The series kicks off May 28.
- Marcus O’Fallon Cine Free “Incredibles 2” Party. Come see the movie, dress like your favorite superhero, coloring stations, make-your-own superhero mask and free snack. This event is free for adults, too. 10 a.m. to noon, June 16 and 17, 1320 Central Park Dr., O’Fallon, 618-624-7363.
Movies on Main on Collinsville. 7 to 10 p.m., 229 W. Main St., Collinsville. This summer’s outdoor movie series kicks off on Saturday, June 9 and continues every other Saturday through to Aug. 4. Guests are encouraged to bring lawn chairs, and/or blankets. The series kicks off with Despicable Me 3.
- Movie Night Monday at Ballpark Village. The begins at 6 p.m. June 18, “Peter Rabbit”; July 16, “Paddington 2”; Aug. 20, “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle”; Sept. 17, “A Wrinkle in Time”. 601 Clark Avenue, St. Louis, stlballparkvillage.com. 314-345-9481.
- Troy Park Summer Movies. Tri-Township Park District, 410 Wickliffe St., Troy. Entertainment kicks off at 6 p.m. with the movie starting at 8 p.m. June 22, “Jumanji”: Jungle theme, petting zoo; Aug. 10, “Wonder”: Back to School, Anti-Bullying; Sept. 21, “Star Wars”: Lightsabers, free school supplies. troymaryvillecoc.com. 618-667-8769.
- Movie in Park Fairview Heights. “Paddington 2” at 7 p.m. July 20, Moody Park, 525 S. Ruby Lane, cofh.org, 618-489-2040.
- O’Fallon Public Library Movie Matinee. “Coco,” 120 Civic Plaza, O’Fallon, at 2 p.m. May 27, ofpl.info, 618-632-3783.
- The Muny. 1 Theatre Drive, St. Louis, muny.org, 314-361-1900 The Wiz runs June 19 to 25. For more information contact the theater. Gates to the free seats open at 7 p.m. each evening.
Foodie family fun
Why pay for a tiny bowl of mac ‘n cheese if you don’t have to? Here’s a few places where kids eat free. Tuesday is the best night.
- Syberg’s, 1310 Central Park Drive, O’Fallon, 618-622-0801. Children eat free from 5-8 p.m. on Tuesdays. The restaurant brings in a balloon artist on family fun night.
- Olive Street Cafe, 12710 Olive Blvd., St. Louis, 314-485-8710. Open from 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. for breakfast, brunch and lunch, this restaurant is a 15-minute drive from the Magic House. Kids eat free every day.
- Pizza World, 1535 Johnson Road, Granite City, 618-451-1111. Children eat free at the buffet from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5-9 p.m. Tuesdays.
Playgrounds with splash pads
- Leon Corlew Park. 333 S. Main St., Edwardsville, betterplacetoplay.com, 618-692-7538.
- O’Fallon Family Sports Park. 301 Obernuefemann Road, O’Fallon, ofallonparksandrec.com, 618-624-0139.
- Schranz Memorial Park. 377 Honeysuckle Lane, Swansea, swanseail.org, 618-234-0044.
- National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows. 442 S. Demazenod Drive, snows.org, 618-397-6700.
- Citygarden. 801 Market St., citygardenstl.org, 314-241-3337.
- Kiener Plaza. St. Louis, stlouis-mo.gov, 314-622-4800.
- Tower Grove Park. 4256 Magnolia Ave., towergrovepark.org, 314-771-2679.
- Tilles Park. 9551 Litzsinger Road, stlouisco.com, 314-615-4386.
Call ahead for opening dates. Most splash pads in the region open Memorial Day weekend.
- Cahokia Mounds. 30 Ramey St. Collinsville, cahokiamounds.org, 618-346-5160. Interpretive Center open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Grounds open daily from dawn until dusk.
- Missouri History Museum. 5700 Lindell Blvd., St. Louis, mohistory.org, 314-746-4599. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and open late every Tuesday night until 8 p.m.
- Old Courthouse. 11 N. 4th St., St. Louis, nps.gov/Jeff, 314-655-1600. The courthouse is open from 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.
Animals and more
Willoughby Farm, 631 Willoughby Lane, Collinsville. Check out over 30-acres of wild-life preserve. The trails at the farm are open from dawn until dusk. Farm hours: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily unless otherwise posted. Farm House: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. Barns: 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday or by appointment.
- Saint Louis Zoo. 1 Government Dr., St. Louis, stlzoo.org, 314-781-0900. The zoo is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday through Sunday.
- World Bird Sanctuary. 125 Bald Eagle Ridge Road, Valley Park, worldbirdsanctuary.org, 636-225-4390. The sanctuary is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
- Suson Park. 6073 Wells Road, St. Louis, stlouisco.com, 314-615-5000. The park is open from 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.
- Grant’s Farm. 10501 Gravois Road, St. Louis, grantsfarm.com, 314-843-1700. The farm is closed on Mondays.
- Purina Farms. 500 William Danforth Way, Gray Summit, purina.com, 314-982-3232. During the summer, the visitor’s center is open from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.
- Treehouse Wild Life Center, 23956 Green Acres Rd., Dow, treehousewildlifecenter.com, 618-466-2990. Visit the resident animals and meet recovering ones at this wildlife center.
- Lone Elk Park,1 Lone Elk Park Rd, Valley Park, stlouisco.com, 314-615-4386. You can see bison, wild turkey, waterfowl, elk and deer here. The park officially opens at 7 a.m. in the summer and closes at sunset.
More free attractions
Eckert’s Summer Concert Series. 7 to 9 p.m. at the Belleville farm, 951 S. Green Mount Road, eckerts.com. 800-745-0513. Concerts take place every Friday and Saturday night from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Dogs are allowed as long as they are on a leash. You might want to bring your own lawn chair as the provided tables and chairs fill up fast. No outside food or drinks. The summer series kicks off with Corb Lund.
- Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate Company. 5025 Pattison Ave., St. Louis, chocolatechocolate.com, 314-338-3501. Free tours are offered from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. every half hour Monday through Friday. Tours are also available 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday. Pro tip: Call ahead for reservations. The factory is June 30 through July 8 for maintenance.
- Excel Bottling Plant Tour, 488 S. Broadway, Breese, excelbottling.com, 618-526-7159. The soda plant offers free tours to the public. Call ahead if you plan to go. The soda factory offers tours by appointment on Wednesday afternoons and Saturday mornings. The plant is open every day from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., except for Wednesdays and Sundays.
- Brussels Ferry. Route 100, Brussels, 618-786-3636. The ferry operates 24 hours a day.
- St. Louis Science Center. 5050 Oakland Ave., St. Louis, slsc.org, 314-289-4400.
- National Great Rivers Museum. Lock and Dam Way, Alton, meetingoftherivers.org, 618-462-6979.
- Picnic at Art Hill in Forest Park. 35-43 Fine Arts Drive, forestparkmap.org, 314-367-7275.
- The Planet Walk. 6177-6691 Delmar Loop, loopplanetwalk.com, 636-978-8907.
- Magic House. 516 S. Kirkwood Road, St. Louis, magichouse.org, 314-822-8900. This attraction is free from 5:30-9 p.m. every third Friday of the month.
- Powder Valley Nature Center. 11715 Cragwold Road, St. Louis, nature.mdc.mo.gov, 314-301-1500. This attraction is closed Sundays and Mondays.
- The Jewel Box. 1 Wells and McKinley Drives, St. Louis, stlouis-mo.gov, 314-531-0080. This greenhouse is free from 9 a.m. until noon on Mondays and Tuesdays.
- Laumeier Sculpture Park. 12580 Rott Road, St. Louis, laumeiersculpturepark.org, 314-615-5278.
Summer reading programs are always an option. Check with your local library for a schedule.
Festivals, events and culture
- Belleville Memorial Day Parade and Walnut Hill Cemetery Memorial Program — 10 a.m. Monday. Downtown Belleville. The parade begins at the Notre Dame Academy grounds at South Second St., heads east on Main Street until Mascoutah Avenue, then continues south on Mascoutah Avenue to Walnut Hill Cemetery. A ceremony will take place at 11 a.m. at the cemetery.
June 1 — Shriners Parade. 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. Belleville. Parade Route: West Main Street from 17th to Douglas Avenue. Check out the music and food ahead of the annual parade. Come early to find a good spot along the parade route.
- June 1-2 — 31st Annual International Horseradish Festival. 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday. Main Street, Collinsville. Food and crafts. This event also features a wine and bloody mary garden, appearance by a Clydesdale horse from Anheuser-Busch, Glow Run, Little Miss Horseradish Pageant, bags and washers tournaments, a fishing derby. See full schedule of events and entertainment at internationalhorseradishfestival.com.
- June 2 — Metro East Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America Picnic. 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. Belleville Citizen’s Park, 341 Citizen’s Park Drive, Belleville. The picnic features food, games and a short program about gun violence.
- June 2-3 — The 48th Annual Fort de Chartres June Rendezvous. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Fort de Chartres State Historic Site near Prairie du Rocher. Participants dressed in period clothing, camps, crafts, music, entertainment and more. Event is hosted by Les Coureurs des Bois de Fort de Chartres and sponsored by Les Amis du Fort de Chartres, with additional support from the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. Admission is free. $5 parking fee each day.
- June 3 — Waterloo Optimist Car Show. 8 a.m. registration. Sunday, Monroe County Courthouse grounds, 100 S. Main St., Waterloo. Hot Wheels races for kids, 50/50 drawing, food, refreshments. Free to the public; fees for vehicle entries. Proceeds benefit local youth groups. www.waterlooiloptimist.org.
- June 3 — 26th Annual Antique Tractor Show. 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Monroe County Fair Grounds, Route 156 West, Waterloo. Opening ceremonies are 10 a.m., “chain in the box” at 11 a.m. and egg race at 1 p.m. This event features tractor parades, blacksmith demonstrations, train and wagon rides, petting zoo and corn drive.
- June 7-9 — 2018 Marissa Coal Festival. 5-10 p.m. Thursday, 5 p.m. to midnight Friday, 9 a.m. to 1 a.m. Saturday. Marissa Village Park. Event features rides, food, booths, live music, tournaments and more. Parade at 4 p.m. Saturday.
- June 8-9 — Edwardsville Route 66 Festival. 6:30 to 11:30 p.m. Friday and 8 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Saturday. City Park, downtown Edwardsville. Vendors, food, live music. Metro Milers 10K Run and Trailnet Route 66 Bicycle Ride at 8 a.m. Saturday. Car show at 4 p.m. Saturday. www.edwardsvilleroute66.com.
- June 9 — PrideFest 2018. Noon to 10 p.m. Saturday. West Main Street, Belleville. This event features food, vendors, merchandise, pride wear, live music and more. The High Heel Drag Race and Drag Show starts at 8:30 p.m. www.metroeastprideswi.org/pride-guide.html
- June 9 — Plein Air Paint Out. 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. Maeystown. For all artists who love to paint in the open air. The public is invited to come and watch the artists at work. More information can be found at www.maeystown.com.
- June 10 — Military Heritage Day 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday. Downtown Waterloo. The festival features a military vehicle car show, demonstrations, reenactments, live music, rock climbing wall to benefit PTSD and more. The event is being held in celebration of Illinois’ Bicentennial.
- June 15-16 — New Baden June Jamboree. Friday and Saturday. New Baden Village Park. Sponsored by New Baden Sons of the American Legion. Rides, live entertainment. Parade at 5 p.m. Saturday. 5k walk/run at 8 a.m. Saturday. Mud bog; car and motorcycle show on Saturday. www.newbadenil.com/june_jamboree.html
- June 15-16 — Maeystown Homecoming. Friday and Saturday, Maeystown. Parade at 6 p.m. Saturday. June 19 — Porta Westfalica German Festival. 4 p.m. Tuesday, Courthouse Square in downtown Waterloo. Free. Pork sausage, potato pancakes and a German Biergarden. Parade with floats and marching bands at 6 p.m. The Waterloo German Band and Waterloo Municipal Band will perform.
- June 19 — Porta Westfalica German Festival. 4 p.m. Tuesday, Courthouse Square in downtown Waterloo. Free. Pork sausage, potato pancakes and a German Biergarden. Parade with floats and marching bands at 6 p.m. The Waterloo German Band and Waterloo Municipal Band will perform.