Summer Travel Series: Missouri on a Budget
Missouri, the “Show Me” state, entered into statehood on August 10, 1821 as the 24th state in the Union. The state is rich in cultural, natural, and historical attractions that will make any weekend away, staycation, or vacation a memorable experience. Even if you’re on a shoestring budget, you can enjoy all that Missouri has to offer for nothing or next to nothing. You’ll never run out of affordable things to do with our complete guide to Missouri on a budget!
St. Louis, Missouri
Take in the St. Louis Arch
You can’t think of St. Louis, Missouri without thinking of the St. Louis Gateway Arch. Completed in 1965, the Gateway Arch was built to memorialize the United States’ westward expansion and to celebrate the accomplishments of the pioneers. You can see the Arch from almost anywhere in St. Louis, and there are tons of free spots to go to take in and photograph the giant, stainless steel monument. If you want to get closer, you can enter the arch park for just $3/person. To go to the top of the St. Louis Arch on the tram or to take the riverboat to get a unique view from the Mississippi River costs $13/person – a value for the expansive views at the top. Even if you’re on a budget trip, visiting the St. Louis Gateway Arch will leave you with priceless memories for years to come.
Watch the Cardinals from the Cheap Seats
No trip to St. Louis, Missouri, is complete without seeing the Cardinals play at the iconic Busch Stadium. You can purchase a single game ticket for seats in the Right Field Terrace for as little as $5. Eating prior to going to the game will save you big bucks on baseball stadium food markups. Being on a budget doesn’t mean missing out, it just means getting creative to fully experience your destination.
Spend the Day at Forest Park
Forest Park was dedicated in 1876 and has since become one of the most popular, most culturally rich attractions in St. Louis and all of Missouri. The Park attracts 13 million visitors every year and boasts 1,293 acres full of history, art, tours, nature lessons, and other activities for children and adults. Forest Park hosted the 1904 World’s Fair and three buildings from the fair still exist in the surrounding community. In 1986, Forest Park Forever - a private, non-profit conservancy - was founded and works in partnership with the City of St. Louis to maintain and improve the park.
Get Creative at Laumeier Park
St. Louis’s Laumeier Sculpture Park was founded in 1976, and since has become one of the largest, most well-known sculpture parks in the United States. Laumeier Park takes its name from Matilda Laumeir and her husband, Henry Laumeier. In 1968, Mrs. Laumeier dedicated the first 72 acres of the park to St. Louis in memory of her late husband. In 1976, a local sculptor and artist named Ernest Trova gifted 40 artworks to the park. The park’s collection has grown to hold over 60 large-scale works and functions as non-profit. The park is free and open to the public, which means you can spend the day taking in the art without spending a dime.
Kansas City, Missouri
Go on a Self-Guided Walking Tour
Referred to as “The Paris of the Plains” because of its abundance of boulevards (second only to – you guessed it – Paris), Kansas City, Missouri is chock full of architectural wonders built by the likes of Frank Lloyd Wright and Skidmore Owings and Merrill. There’s no better way to see these beautiful buildings than to take yourself on a walking tour. If you do a little bit of research ahead of time, you’ll be able to spot and learn about structures like One Park Place and Community Christian Church as you go. When you take this route, you’ll get to spend a culturally enriching day in Kansas City without spending much, if any, money.
Loose Park Rose Garden
Want to spend a little time with Mother Nature on your trip to Kansas City, Missouri? The city has you covered with its vast network of parks. If you’re visiting Loose Park, don’t miss the Laura Conyers Smith Municipal Rose Garden. Founded in 1931 with 120 rose plants, the garden has grown to contain over 3,000 roses of 150 varieties. The garden sits on just 1.5 acres, so it won’t take much time to explore, but the multitude of beautiful flowers will take time to observe. The rose garden is supported by donations, and visiting is completely free. This Kansas City landmark is the perfect activity for photographers, gardeners, or anyone who appreciates the beauty of nature.
Ride the KC Street Car
If you want to take in the entirety of Kansas City without walking, the KC Street Car is the perfect solution. The city prides itself on having this form of free public transit, and its open-air cars allow riders to take in the architecture, restaurants, and history of the city while traveling from point A to point B. The streetcar takes riders from River Market to Crown Center and passes through Downtown along the way. Hopping on and off at several different stops makes for a perfect day sightseeing in Kansas City, Missouri. Make sure you hop off at one of the many spots serving up Kansas City’s famous BBQ!
Visit the City Market
Visiting the River Market Neighborhood, the oldest neighborhood in Kansas City, Missouri, is an all-day affair. The neighborhood hosts the City Market, a large, open-air market with more than 30 full-time vendors that stay open year-round, selling everything from flowers to home goods to farm-fresh foods. The market hosts events, concerts, and festivals, and has many opportunities to hear live music as you peruse the merchants’ booths. Kansas City’s City Market has been in operation for over 150 years and has always been an attraction for tourists and locals alike. It costs nothing to visit the market, but you may want to save up to bring home some of Kansas City’s finest local goods.
Enjoy Nathanael Greene Park
When you’re in Springfield, Missouri, you can’t miss Nathanael Greene Park. The park contains numerous different types of gardens and a butterfly house, all free to enter and enjoy. This destination is great for families or photographers, as you can get up close with flora and fauna you may not get to see otherwise.
Take in the Mizumoto Japanese Stroll Garden
The Mizumoto Japanese Stroll Garden is the oldest attraction at the Springfield Botanical Gardens. In its 7.5 acres, it includes a koi lake, moon bridge, meditation garden, tea house, and lots of traditional Japanese garden landscaping. Spending the day at this Springfield attraction is a steal at just $3 admission for adults. Kids under 12 years can enter for free.
Go Underground at Fantastic Caverns
If you’re looking to beat the heat while you’re in Springfield, Missouri, don’t head to the pool. Instead, go on a unique adventure at Fantastic Caverns, an elaborate cave system discovered by an Ozark farmer in 1862. In 1867, 12 brave women from Springfield answered a newspaper ad to explore the Caverns, and their strange beauty remains much as it was then, untouched thanks to the jeep-led tram service that allows visitors to tour the caves, while preserving them for generations to come. The caverns remain a cool 60 degrees all year round. Admission is $24 for an adult and $17 for a child.
Relax at Finger Lakes State Park
Are you an ATV or off-road motorcycle enthusiast? Or do you just enjoy being in nature – hiking, fishing, and swimming? Finger Lakes State Park in Columbia, Missouri, offers lots of activities to satisfy everyone in your family or friend group. The park is mostly man-made and caters heavily to those looking to ride their ATV or motorcycle on tracks that range from beginner to expert level riding ability. There are beaches, fishing spots, and woods for those who are not riders. It’s free to enter and use the park, but riding and camping carry small fees ($5 and $13). If you’re going to ride, make sure you have the proper permits and equipment before entering Finger Lakes State Park.
Visit Shelter Gardens
When you’re thinking of ways to relax and enjoy your time in Columbia, Missouri, visiting an insurance company’s corporate headquarters probably doesn’t come to mind. However, Shelter Insurance has built a five acre garden behind their offices that has become a beloved spot to Columbia residents. The garden contains over 300 varieties of trees and shrubs and an astounding 15,000 annuals and perennials. Each of these species of plants has educational information listed next to it.
In addition to the natural wonders, Shelter Gardens has 14 different non-plant features, including a waterfall, rock garden, Vietnam veterans’ memorial, replica of a 19th century one-room school house, and a garden for the blind. Shelter Gardens is free to enjoy, and if you plan it right, you can attend Concerts in the Garden on Sunday evenings in June and July to hear local bands play live music.
Learn at Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area
Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area, located in Columbia, Missouri, is home to a managed wetland habitat and is fun for every type of nature enthusiast with activities like hiking, hunting, fishing, and bird watching. The Conservation Area is free, but you will need the correct permits for hunting and fishing.
Wonder at Grand Falls
If you’re visiting Joplin, Missouri, or just passing through, it’s worth it to stop and wonder at Grand Falls. Grand Falls is the largest, continually flowing natural waterfall in Missouri and is hailed as one of the most beautiful sites in the Ozarks. Its 163 feet wide and plunges 12 feet into a craggy pool before flowing peacefully on. The Falls are free to visit, but getting there early is advised, as parking is unpaved and limited.
See the Wildcat Glades Conservation and Audubon Center
The Wildcat Glades Conservation and Audubon Center in Joplin, Missouri was established in 2007 with the mission of appreciating, conserving, and understanding the natural world. The Center is perfect for nature enthusiasts and families alike, and is home to the extremely rare Chert Glades. Wildcat Glades Conservation Center contains 27 of the 60 acres of Chert Glades found worldwide, in which rare tree and flower species flourish. The Center in Joplin is even home to rare species that don’t exist anywhere else in the world. With free admission, don’t pass up this unique opportunity while you’re in Joplin, Missouri.
Jefferson City, Missouri
Visit the Missouri State Capitol
Jefferson City, Missouri is the seat of the Missouri State Government. The domed capitol building dominates the Jefferson City skyline and contains more than 500,000 square feet of floor space that showcases the public art of the people of Missouri. All four floors of the building are open to the public, and tours are free, though they fill quickly and walk-ins are added on a first-come, first-served basis. You can make a reservation on the Capitol’s website or by calling 573-751-2854. Tours leave on the hour beginning at 9:00 a.m. and ending at 4:00 p.m. and last approximately 45 minutes.
Tour the Missouri State Penitentiary
If you’re looking for something unique to do in Jefferson City, look no further! Taking a tour of the Missouri State Penitentiary will give you tons of unique stories to bring back to family and friends. The Missouri State Penitentiary in Jefferson City, Missouri, functioned as the state’s maximum security prison between 1836 and 2004. It was once the largest prison in the United States and housed 5200 inmates at its peak. Its colored history includes riots, famous (or should we say notorious?) inmates, and paranormal activity. Tours start at 2 hours and $25 and go all the way up to 8 hours and over $100, so you can pick what fits your budget and interests.
Walk Through the College of the Ozarks
You may be thinking, “Why on earth would I visit a college on my vacation?” The answer – because it’s beautiful and peaceful to walk through, and free to visit for as long as you’d like. The College of the Ozarks is known for its tuition-free, work for education model, but its campus holds many buildings that were built at the turn of the century and retain their old-world charm. If you’re looking to stay in Branson, the Keeter Center at College of the Ozarks received the 2017 TripAdvisor’s Readers’ Choice Award, as well as a Top Small Hotel in the U.S.
Take in the Table Rock Lake Dam
The Table Rock Lake Dam in Branson, Missouri, is a feat of human engineering. It was completed in 1959 to dam the unpredictable waters of the White River, and since has fostered a change in the landscape, creating a massive, warm-water recreation area - Lake Taneycomo - that draws tens of thousands of visitors every year. The dam is 6,423 feet in length and rises 252 feet above the riverbed. It’s free to enter the area and drive across the dam. This destination is a perfect fit if you’re a fan of water recreation like boating, water-skiing, swimming, and parasailing. You can even dive to see the remains of a village overtaken by the dammed waters.
Missouri has a plethora of free and next-to-free activities to fit any vacation budget, but if you still need financial help, CreditBox has you covered. Apply online today and let us help fund the lifestyle you deserve tomorrow.