Summer’s here! We know that big vacations and fancy summer camps aren’t always in the budget, so we’re here to help. Our beautiful city is the perfect place to explore and have fun, without breaking the bank! From outdoor adventures to top-notch museums, we’ve put together this guide filled with budget activities to ensure your ‘Summer in St. Louis’ experience is as memorable as it is affordable.
1. Explore the Great Outdoors
St. Louis is home to some of the most beautiful parks and outdoor spaces in the country. Here are a few of our favorite outdoor activities that will make your wallet sigh with relief:
First up is Forest Park, one of America’s largest urban parks, spanning a whopping 1,300 acres. This lush, green oasis offers countless opportunities for outdoor fun, including picnicking by one of the park’s lakes, taking a leisurely stroll or bike ride, or enjoying the vintage tropical greenhouse known as the Jewel Box. Admission to the Jewel Box is only $1, or free on Monday and Tuesday mornings.
Missouri Botanical Garden
The Missouri Botanical Garden is a beautiful oasis in the heart of St. Louis. It spans over 79 acres and offers visitors a chance to explore a variety of landscapes, including Japanese, Chinese, and English gardens. You also can’t miss the Climatron, a geodesic dome that houses a tropical rainforest, complete with exotic plants and waterfalls. You can take advantage of free admission on Wednesday and Saturday mornings! Or you can always show proof of STL residency to get tickets for just $6.
Escape the hustle and bustle of the city and soak up some sun in Tower Grove Park. This 289-acre park offers a peaceful oasis in the heart of St. Louis, with plenty of budget-friendly activities to enjoy. Take a stroll through the stunning Victorian-style pavilions, gardens, and fountains, or pack a picnic and relax on the expansive lawn. Stay active with a game of frisbee or volleyball, or explore the park’s many walking trails.
Great Rivers Greenway
Explore more than 125 miles of greenways, perfect for hiking, biking, and walking, within the Great Rivers Greenway network. Along the way, you can find some of St. Louis’s most beautiful parks and open spaces where you can relax, picnic, or play. It’s also a popular location for events and festivals. The greenway is an excellent opportunity for outdoor activities while exploring the St. Louis area, without spending a dime!
For a unique urban oasis, check out Citygarden, a vibrant public park in downtown St. Louis. This budget activity combines art, nature, and play, with sculptures, fountains, and lush greenery spread across three acres. It’s the perfect spot to relax, unwind, and snap some Instagram-worthy photos.
2. Five-Star Edutainment
St. Louis is also home to some great museums and attractions that are both educational and entertaining. Here are a few of our favorites:
St. Louis Zoo
Ranked among the top zoos in the nation, the Saint Louis Zoo is a must-visit destination for animal lovers. Home to over 14,000 animals across 90 acres, the zoo offers free admission, making it an ideal budget activity for families. While certain attractions like the Sea Lion Show, Zooline Railroad, and Conservation Carousel require a fee, simply exploring the zoo and observing the animals is an unforgettable experience.
Missouri History Museum
This budget activity is perfect for history buffs and curious minds alike — the Missouri History Museum! This free museum offers both continuing/long-term exhibits and short-term special exhibits. It also offers educational programs for every interest and age group, as well as a large online collection of images and materials. That means you can enjoy visiting this world-class institution again and again.
St. Louis Science Center
For a fun and educational day out, visit the Saint Louis Science Center, one of the few free nonprofit science centers in the country. Delve into the mysteries of space, discover animal fossils, test the laws of physics, or build a replica of the Gateway Arch. The Science Center combines experimentation, creativity, and play to appeal to visitors of all ages and interests.
Gateway Arch National Park
The iconic Gateway Arch National Park is home to the nation’s tallest monument at 630 feet. Snap a few photos beneath the arch and take advantage of the free ranger-led tours available on the grounds and inside the Museum at the Gateway Arch. While riding to the top of the arch does require a fee, simply exploring the park and learning about the history of the arch is a budget activity you won’t want to miss.
Step back in time at the historic Old Courthouse, the site of the famous Dred Scott case and Virginia Minor’s fight for women’s suffrage. This budget activity offers a glimpse into the nation’s past, with free admission and ranger-led programs available throughout the year.
3. Cultural Gems
Not only is St. Louis filled with stunning outdoor spaces and top-notch museums, but it can also boast some of the most unique and budget-friendly cultural gems in the Midwest. Here are a few cultural activities that will keep you entertained throughout the summer without breaking the bank:
St. Louis Art Museum
Art and history enthusiasts will love the free Saint Louis Art Museum, housed in a stunning three-story building set in Forest Park. Discover a collection of 36,000 objects spanning 5,000 years of history and culture. This includes artwork by renowned artists like Picasso, Van Gogh, and Monet, as well as fascinating artifacts such as Egyptian mummies and carpets from the Ottoman empire. This budget activity is sure to impress and inspire.
Experience the magic of live theater at St. Louis’ beloved Forest Park amphitheater, also known as The Muny. With 1,400 first-come, first-served free seats in the last nine rows, this budget activity allows you to enjoy musical classics or family-friendly shows without spending a dime. Entrance to the free seats opens at 7 p.m., so arrive early to secure your spot.
Sports fans will relish the opportunity to watch a St. Louis Cardinals game without the price tag of stadium seats. Head to Ballpark Village, across from Busch Stadium, to catch a game on the big outdoor screen. You can even run the bases on the old stadium’s diamond, making this budget activity a home run for baseball enthusiasts.
Anheuser-Busch Brewery Tours
Beer aficionados will appreciate the Anheuser-Busch Brewery Tours. These tours offer a behind-the-scenes look at the brewing process of the iconic Budweiser brand. While the basic tour is free, additional experiences like the Beer School and Beermaster Tour are available for a fee. This budget activity is perfect for those looking to quench their thirst for knowledge.
Shakespeare in the Park
Shakespeare in the Park is one of St. Louis’ most beloved summer traditions. Every year, a free outdoor production of one of the Bard’s classic plays takes place through the end of June. You’ll find them in Forest Park’s beautiful Shakespeare Glen, nestled between the Art Museum and the Zoo. With lawn seating, it’s the perfect opportunity to pack a picnic and enjoy a night of theater under the stars. Don’t miss this chance to experience world-class theater without breaking the bank!
From outdoor adventures to enriching cultural experiences, these budget activities in St. Louis prove you don’t have to spend a fortune to have a fantastic time. So grab your sunscreen, put on your comfiest walking shoes, pack a picnic, and get ready to explore the Gateway City on a budget this summer!
**Pssst…if you want some help putting together a budget that will support you all year round, we can help! You can sign up for our 100% free financial coaching services here.