Even though St. Louis is arguably best enjoyed when the weather allows for picnicking under the Gateway Arch and cheering on the Cardinals baseball team (aka "the Cards") at Busch Stadium, the Midwestern metropolis offers plenty of winter events and activities, too. The cold weather attracts bald eagles to the region, and tourists flock to the waterfront to spot them diving for fish. Meanwhile, several winter festivals and free entry to museums pack the season with all-ages entertainment—little to no money needed.
Missouri History Museum
Every season, the Missouri History Museum curates a new exhibit, whether it be a collection of Pulitzer Prize-winning news photos or 50 years' worth of Blues hockey memorabilia. During the 2020-2021 season, it will showcase the St. Louis suffragette movement with "Beyond the Ballot," an exhibit dedicated to the history of the city's many nicknames, and a tribute to the river called "Mighty Mississippi." Continuing exhibits include the "1904 World's Fair," which was hosted in St. Louis, "History Clubhouse," an exhibit for children, and "Seeking St. Louis," which depicts the city's history through photos. The Missouri History Museum is free to visit year-round.
Eagle watching is St. Louis' main event during winter. The national bird migrates (by the hundreds) to this sliver of the Mississippi River to winter between December and early March. The Missouri Department of Conservation hosts free Eagle Days at which binoculars and scopes are provided for group bird watching. In 2020, the season has been reduced to one in-person event at the Runge Conservation Nature Center on December 30, but you can often spot the eagles yourself by driving along the Great River Road near Alton.
Free Movies at Ballpark Village
Once a month during the winter, Ballpark Village shows a free family movie on the indoor 40-foot screen at Fox Sports Midwest Live! In 2020 and 2021, the schedule features "Hotel Transylvania 3" on December 19, "Incredibles 2" on January 16, "Deep" on February 13, and "Solo" on March 13. All movies start at 6 p.m. Local charities are often in attendance, accepting donations in exchange for access to extras like face painting and photo ops.
Maple Syrup Making
February is maple sugaring season in Missouri. The weather conditions—below-freezing temperatures at night and above-freezing temperatures during the day—are ideal for this regional tradition. You can learn how to make your own maple syrup by taking a class at Rockwoods Reservation in Wildwood. Missouri Department of Conservation workers show visitors how to find sugar maple trees, tap them, and boil the sap to make syrup. Check the calendar ahead of February for updates.
Star Party at the Science Center
The Saint Louis Science Center is an anytime adventure, with its 700-plus exhibits focusing on everything from paleontology to space. It's especially fun to visit during the free Star Parties at the James S. McDonnell Planetarium, on the first Friday of each month. At these group stargazing events, members of the St. Louis Astronomical Society set up telescopes for public viewing and are available to answer questions. In 2020, however, all Star Parties have been canceled.
The Saint Louis Art Museum was originally erected for the 1904 World's Fair, where it was meant to serve as "palace" of arts and culture. Now, the three-story building in Forest Park holds masterpieces from all over the world—paintings, sculptures, multimedia, historic artifacts, and more. The museum is free every day, but on Family Sundays—1 p.m. to 4 p.m.—it typically puts on special, kid-friendly programming like interactive art projects and 30-minute tours of the galleries. Family Sundays are not running for the 2020-2021 season, but the museum is open to visit.
The Loop Ice Carnival
Residents and businesses in the Delmar Loop (just "The Loop" to locals) embrace winter with an annual Ice Carnival. Usually following a charity "Snow Ball" gala-type event, the two-day winter carnival includes ice carving demonstrations, an ice slide, a putt-putt pub crawl, trike races, scavenger hunts, a Frozen Buns Run, and rides. In past years, the event featured an after-dark illuminated tour of the creative ice sculptures. The Ice Carnival would normally take place in January, but in 2021, it's been canceled.
The Magic House is one of St. Louis' most beloved children's attractions. Since it opened in 1979, the museum has given kids hands-on learning experiences that spark imagination, pique curiosity, enhance creativity, and develop problem-solving skills within a place of beauty, wonder, joy, and magic. Exhibits include an interactive kitchen, art studio, Bubble Room, and Waterfall Patio. On Family Nights, the third Friday of every month, admission is free from 5 to 8 p.m. In 2020, Family Nights have been canceled.
Third Friday at Third Degree
Third Degree Glass Factory hosts free open houses on the third Friday of each month. They include glassblowing demonstrations, art exhibits, live music, and for a fee, you can sculpt glowing molten glass into a paperweight; melt glass rods through a torch to craft beautiful beads; or cut and layer pieces of glass to create jewelry and other items. Food and drinks are also provided at an extra cost. All of Third Degree's events have been made virtual until further notice. Check the factory's Facebook page for updates.
In addition to its Family Sundays, the Saint Louis Art Museum hosts a free, DJ-led party on the last Friday of each month. SLAM Underground is a combination of art, music, and cocktails, featuring gallery games, new themes every month, and a signature cocktail, the museum says. Tickets, though free, are required and can be picked up near the museum's information desk. There are no SLAM Underground events scheduled for the 2020-2021 winter season.
Fete De Glace
Professional carvers turn 200-pound blocks of ice into frozen masterpieces during the Fete de Glace, an ice-carving festival held along Main Street in St. Charles usually at the end of January. The crowd picks the winners, inciting a bit of friendly competition, and fire pits, coffee, and hot chocolate keep visitors toasty. The 2021 event has been canceled.
Not So Quiet! Concert Series
The Central Library in downtown St. Louis is usually kept silent, except for when it hosts local performers for monthly blues, jazz, rap, swing, R&B, or folk sessions. The Not So Quiet! concert series is held in the library's auditorium on the third Thursday of the month, at 7 p.m. The performances are free—no reservations are required—but come early because seating is first come, first served. At the start of winter 2020, the library remained closed to in-person services.