Sitting where the Missouri River and the mighty Mississippi meet, St. Louis is known for the big shiny arch that marks the “Gateway to the West.” If you’re looking for a budget-friendly getaway, you’ve got choices galore in St. Louis — a city that claims its own style of barbecue and pizza, a high-energy baseball scene, and fun places for folks of all ages. Add it all up, and St. Louis is loaded with things to do that won’t break the bank.
Gateway Arch Park
If you’re into green space, you’ve come to the right place. St. Louis is covered with parks, and Gateway Arch Park — a national historic landmark — is one of the best to check off your list. With a 2018 makeover, this urban national park boasts 91 acres of green goodness along the Mississippi River.
The Gateway Arch, the tallest man-made monument in the whole country, is the park’s crown jewel and pretty darn impressive to see in person. Touring the inside of the arch is a deal at only a few dollars for adults and no cost for kids. If you want to check out the view of St. Louis from the top of the arch, Journey to the Top tickets cost more, and you should book them in advance. Beginning July 1, 2018, entry to the ground level will be free for all visitors.
Book it to Forest Park to have a blast in the big beautiful outdoors. In this park — St. Louis’s largest — the whole family can have tons of fun and pick from playgrounds, tennis courts, picnic areas, fishing, fountains, lots of lakes, a public archery range, ice-skating in the winter (cash-only admission and skate rental fees), a golf course, and a network of trails and paths.
Make a beeline indoors to check out the park’s museums where general admission is always free. Chow houses throughout the park dish up all kinds of eats for every budget.
If you’re traveling with kids or animal lovers, zip on over to Suson Park, the home of a small working animal farm where you can get up close to horses, goats, ducks, sheep, and cows. There’s also fishing, a playground, and 100 acres of scenery to soak up. Admission is free, except on Farm Fridays.
St. Louis Zoo
The world-famous St. Louis Zoo in Forest Park is home to an animal kingdom of more than 600 species grouped in six awesome zones. The zoo is free for all ages all year, making it a major budget-friendly winner to add to your must-do list. Add-ons like tours and shows let you design your own zoo visit for a small fee that usually ranges from $3 to $8 per person.
St. Louis Science Center
Tons of fun for both kids and grown-ups, the St. Louis Science Center, also in Forest Park, draws as many as a million visitors each year, and general admission is free. With dozens of interesting and hands-on exhibits and live science demos, you won’t run out of cool things to check out. You can also spring for add-ons, like entry to the planetarium or an IMAX theater show, throughout the day.
Missouri History Museum
Take a deep dive into the state’s history through cool exhibits at the Missouri History Museum. Explore St. Louis as it’s changed over time, uncover details about the 1904 World Fair, and get the scoop on the city’s Civil Rights and WWI history. Kids get a big kick out of the History Clubhouse, where they can blast through the past with hands-on activities. Admission to the museum is free.
St. Louis Art Museum
In the heart of Forest Park, the St. Louis Art Museum is one of the country’s top art spaces. Collections cover nearly every time period and culture, so there’s something to grab everyone’s attention. There’s no charge for admission, which is sure to please your wallet!
If you’re traveling with kids, stop by on Family Sunday for an afternoon of hands-on art making and a short, family-friendly tour. There’s also an outdoor sculpture garden to check out.
There’s a big buzz about St. Louis’s City Museum, a fun and funky adventure for any age. Here, massive chunks of things like old bridges, planes, and cranes are used to create areas for climbing, building, and exploring. There’s even a whole floor of man-made caves for spelunking thrills and a twisty, 10-story slide.
Although this playhouse museum isn’t free, admission is about the price of a movie ticket, and kids can have hours of fun here and be wowed by all of the awesome things to see and do.
World’s Fair Donuts
Kick off your day with coffee and donuts from a longtime St. Louis staple, World’s Fair Donuts. This cash-only local favorite serves up coffee and treats like apple fritters, buttermilk cake donuts, blueberry chip donuts, and Danish rolls filled with fruit. Get there early, because these goodies go fast.
Stop in Hodak’s Restaurant for some of the best fried chicken in the city. Order a starter of Momma’s Sticky Wings or jump right in with the Half Golden Fried Chicken. Main courses start at less than $10 each, and big portions and weekday lunch specials add to the value.
Gobble Stop Smokehouse
A go-to for St. Louis-style barbeque, Gobble Stop Smokehouse gets raves for its award-winning wings, unique barbecue turkey, chicken entrees, and more. Go for the house-rub turkey ribs or the smoked turkey tips for a mouthwatering memory. Plates start at less than $10 each.
With so many budget-friendly things to do in St. Louis, you might want to make it a yearly trip. There are loads of low-cost fun to be had for road-trippers of all ages in River City.
What are your favorite budget-friendly things to do in St. Louis? Let us know by sharing your St. Louis adventure on Pinterest!