It's really easy to spend a lot of money during the holidays—between all of the food, decorations, and gifts, costs can add up quickly. However, there are many ways to enjoy the Christmas season without ruining your budget, especially if you attend these free holiday events and celebrations in the St. Louis area.
From wandering through well-decorated holiday houses to checking out the holiday lighting displays around the region, the following events and celebrations are completely free of charge and open to one and all this year.
Also, if you don't mind spending a little cash, there are many popular holiday events worth the price of admission and are certain to bring a little extra joy to your Christmas season.
Anheuser Busch Brewery Lights
Anheuser Busch celebrates Christmas each year by decorating the brewery complex near Soulard with thousands of lights.
The Brewery Lights will kick off the holidays with a public lighting ceremony on November 22, 2019, at 5 p.m. and then will be open every Friday through Sunday until December 30, 2019. In addition, Brewery Lights is also open on December 23, December 26, and December 30, 2019.
The brewery hosts free walking tours, along with free samples of AB products during Brewery Lights.
Alton Christmas Events: Christmas Wonderland
Get in the holiday spirit at the annual Christmas Tree Lighting in Alton, then stick around to drive through the "Christmas Wonderland" of four million lights they're hosting throughout December at Rock Springs Park.
For the Tree Lighting Ceremony, though, everyone gathers at Lincoln-Douglas Square for caroling and the lighting of the community Christmas tree. Visitors can enjoy free cookies and hot chocolate, and free pictures with Santa. Christmas Wonderland is open nightly beginning the day after Thanksgiving until December 29, 2019.
St. Peters Tree Lighting and Holiday Lights
Celebrate the beginning of the holiday season in St. Peters with the annual tree lighting and Christmas celebration, taking place on December 6, 2019. The event begins at City Hall at 6:30 p.m. and there will be musical performances, a visit from Santa, and plenty of activities for the kids.
Ameren Festival of Lights
There's plenty of free fun at the Ameren Missouri Holiday Festival of Lights in downtown St. Louis. Kiener Plaza is the place to be this year for the lighting of the downtown Christmas tree and light display.
The celebration also includes a visit from Santa Claus and fireworks. The event runs from 4:00 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. on November 23, 2019.
The Way of Lights at Our Lady of the Snows Shrine in Belleville, Illinois, is one of the area's biggest Christmas light displays—and it's free! More than a million lights are used to tell the story of Jesus' birth. The Way of Lights is open November 22, 2019, until December 31, 2019.
The drive-through outdoor light displays are open every night, including Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year's Eve, but the Shrine's restaurant and gift shop are closed on the holidays.
Ameren Thanksgiving Day Parade
For thousands of St. Louisans, Thanksgiving begins downtown at the annual Ameren Missouri Thanksgiving Day parade. Marching bands, floats, giant balloons and more make their way down Market Street beginning at 8:45 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day itself.
Santa Parade in Belleville
On November 29, 2019, Belleville, Illinois, welcomes the holiday season with a Santa Parade down Main Street. The parade features more than 100 units including marching bands, floats, and dance troupes beginning at 10 a.m. and lasting into the early afternoon.
Christmas Traditions Festival
From November 29, 2019 through December 24, 2019, celebrate Christmas the old-fashioned way on Main Street in historic St. Charles. You'll see carolers and beautiful decorations every weekend as you make your way down this historic district. On Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, all the shops and restaurants stay open until 9 p.m. to accommodate holiday guests.
Bethalto Christmas Village
The Bethalto Christmas Village is a free, family-friendly event in Bethalto's Central Park. Stroll through Christmas themed cottages, enjoy live music, and see a live nativity scene every Friday and Saturday evening beginning the day after Thanksgiving.
Francis Park Tree Lighting
Join residents and visitors in the St. Louis Hills neighborhood for the lighting of the Francis Park Christmas tree. The towering tree is located along Nottingham Avenue near Childress, and the event is from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. on December 7, 2019. The holiday party features dinner, drinks, and community engagement for a standard price to cover costs and raise funds for community initiatives.
Lebanon's Winter Wonderland
The Metro East community of Lebanon, Illinois, hosts a free Christmas light display in Horner Park each year. This year from November 22, 2019, through December 31, colorful lights and hand-painted scenes will be used to create a Victorian-style holiday show for the whole family. The drive-through display is open Sunday through Thursday from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Admission is free, but donations are accepted.
The Jewel Box in Forest Park is beautiful any time of the year but really shines during the holidays. During the Christmas season, the giant greenhouse is filled with red, pink, and white poinsettias in honor of the holidays.
You can take in the display Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Admission is free Monday and Tuesday before noon, and only costs $1 during other open hours. The Jewel Box is located at the intersection of Wells and McKinley in Forest Park.
Photos with Santa
Bring your camera and take free photos with Santa Claus at the historic train station in Kirkwood on December 5, 12, and 13, 2019.
Then, after you're done telling Santa your Christmas list, walk through downtown and see all the holiday decorations and lights that the rest of historic Kirkwood has to offer.
Maplewood Christmas Tree Walk
The annual Christmas Tree Walk features caroling, the lighting of the town tree, and visits from Santa as well as a contest of neighborhood window displays.
There are also carriage rides for $5 for up to four people. They have free hot chocolate to warm you up. The celebration runs from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. in downtown Maplewood on December 6, 2019. After the event, check back at the Maplewood website for window display winners and then go check them out in a driving tour of lights in the area.
Godfrey's Snowflake Festival
The cold weather is just the right setting for the Snowflake Festival in Godfrey, Illinois. This free, old-fashioned festival features carriage rides, caroling, hot cocoa, and pictures with Santa. Everyone is asked to bring a toy item to donate for Toys for Tots, but the event itself is free. The Snowflake Festival runs from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday, December 6, 2019, at Glazebrook Park.
Holiday in Blue
The U.S. Air Force Band of Mid-America performs a series of free holiday concerts in St. Louis and the Metro East every year. The concerts are free, but you do need to get complimentary tickets in advance. Performances for the 2019 season are on December 10 in Mascoutah, IL; December 13 in Belleville, IL; and December 14-15 in St. Louis.
Jazz for the Holidays
On December 8, 2019, UMSL’s Jazz Ensemble performs holiday favorites during its annual free concert at the Touhill Performing Arts Center. The concert begins at 3 p.m. and features some of the best jazz standards to put you in the holiday mood.
Winter Festival Weekend
The St. Louis Art Museum will explore winter holidays from around the world at its Winter Festival Weekend. The event includes entertainment, live performances, treats, and art activities and runs from December 14-15, 2019, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Victorian Christmas Walk
Experience a Victorian Christmas in Bethalto, Illinois at the Victorian Christmas Walk. The event, held each year on the second Sunday of December, includes carriage rides, bell choirs, and strolling musicians. There's also a visit from Father Christmas, holiday treats, and free Christmas concerts from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. The Christmas Walk is held at the Bethalto Village Center near Village Hall.
92.3 WIL Radio hosts the Jinglefest concert at the Family Arena in St. Charles on December 7, 2019. The concert features hot new country acts. Tickets to the concert are free and are available on a first come, first served basis at local First Bank, T-Mobile, and other participating locations.
Fine Arts Christmas Concert
Enjoy traditional hymns and other holiday music at a special Christmas concert at St. Paul's United Church of Christ at 115 West B Street in Belleville. It's a classic Christmas concert featuring the church's Chancel Choir, B Street Band, Men’s and Women’s Ensembles, Glory Ringers (handbells), sing-along carols, and more. The concert begins at 7 p.m. on December 21, 2019.