Can you travel cheap in St. Louis? Is there a way to enjoy barbecue and the arch without breaking the bank? Of course! Luckily, we’ve got a local to share all the best St. Louis budget travel tips! Read on!
Hi friends! My name’s Anna. I’m a 26-year-old Ph.D. candidate studying cell biology at Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine. Life in the lab isn’t always the most thrilling, so I spend my free time maximizing the cheap and free opportunities my tiny grad student income allows.
Lucky for me, I’m a St. Louis native, so I end up being a bit of an ambassador for all of my friends. I hope I can convince you St. Louis is worth a visit!
Cheap lodging in St. Louis
St. Louis is full of wonderful neighborhoods! If you want to stay in a hotel, I would recommend looking for hotels in the Central West End neighborhood or in Clayton. Although a bit pricier, the location is premier for getting to wherever you want in 15 minutes.
Alternately, if you really want to get a feel for the city, I would recommend opting for Air BnB’s in the following neighborhoods: Central West End, The Hill, Demun, Lindenwood Park, St. Louis Hills, Maplewood and Richmond Heights.
These are beautiful neighborhoods in St. Louis city with unique, classic architecture and located near popular restaurants and attractions. I would avoid renting apartments north of Delmar, in East St. Louis, or downtown near Washington Ave.
Cheap food in St. Louis
St. Louis has no shortage of amazing food. These are a few of my low cost favorites. But the St. Louis restaurant scene is fabulous. Check out my Yelp! Page to see some options that are a bit pricier if you want to splurge one night.
Taste Bar – $6 Happy Hour Tues-Fri 5-7; all day Sun-Mon.
Amazing high-quality cocktails made by one of the top mixologists in the city; don’t pass up the food menu here either.
Ted Drewe’s – $2.50-$5.00
This place is famous for their concretes – a custard blended with the topping(s) of your choice and then flipped upside-down before it’s served to you to prove it’s as solid and thick as concrete! They are open every day 11 months out of the year. Go to the original location on Chippewa (avoid Grand Ave location)
A newer addition to the St. Louis scene, they roast their coffee locally and have a hearty (mostly) vegetarian breakfast, brunch and lunch menu for a reasonable price. My personal favorite is the egg bagel and a cup of black coffee. Grab a St. Louis classic – Gooey Butter Cake for a sweet treat.
Carl’s Drive In – $5.50
A classic diner in Rock Hill, MO – just outside the city. Squeeze into one of the eight seats at the counter or stand and enjoy your cheese burger, fries, and root beer anywhere you can. I have nostalgic memories of cramming into this tiny drive-in and enjoying a good greasy burger with my brothers.
Lion’s Choice – $3.50-$7.00
This is a local fast food chain. It puts Arby’s to shame. They have fresh shaved medium rare hot roast beef dip sandwiches, some of the best French fries I’ve ever had, and if you have a sweet tooth, satisfy it with a 25¢ mini dip cone. Roast beef not your style? They’ve got turkey, ham and hot dogs too.
Local Breweries: Schalfly Brewery, Urban Chestnut, 4 Hands, Square One
These are just a few of my favorites, but they all have wonderful beer and an excellent selection of snacks or complete meals. Stop in for one drink, spend and afternoon, or kick off your night at any of these locations. Bonus – Schafly does FREE tours.
Cheap things to do in St. Louis
One of my favorite parts about living it St. Louis is the never-ending list of free activities. These are a few favorites that highlight the rich history of this amazing city. Despite the heat and humidity, summer is the best time to visit St. Louis. But don’t worry, if you can’t make it in the summer, all of these attractions are open year-round!
Forest Park – Free
This is one of the largest city parks in the country; it has more acreage than Central Park in NYC! Not only that, but it is full of fabulous free attractions. It was built for the 1904 World’s Fair and many of the buildings in it are original to the Fair. On the west side of the park is the Washington University in St. Louis campus.
The iconic Brookings Hall will inspire you to continue your education. Drive down Lindell Boulevard, which runs along the north side of the park and gaze at the mansions built at the same time as the World’s Fair. Then duck into the park and enjoy:
The St. Louis Zoo – Free
Not only does St. Louis have one of the best zoos in the country, it is completely free. Don’t miss the penguin house. Be warned, it is quite stinky! Also visit the bird cage – built for the World’s Fair.
The St. Louis Art Museum – Free
Enjoy a diverse selection of pieces from famous and lesser known artists alike. Don’t miss the third floor, some of my favorite works of art are up there. If you are around the last Friday of any month attend one of their free SLAM Underground events from 7-10 pm and enjoy free music and crafts geared towards 20-somethings.
The Muny – Free seats available
For eight weeks during the summer, the Muny holds a different Broadway musical each week in their outdoor theatre. Free seats are available at the top – just make sure to arrive early bring your binoculars!
Additional park attractions
The Jewel Box, the Boat House, The Spanish Pavilion/Grand Basin, and three public golf courses, and numerous biking, walking and running paths.
Don’t forget to check out the events page of their website before you visit. The park hosts numerous free events throughout the year.
Anheuser-Busch Brewery Tour – Free
Both informative and fun, you get to go behind the scenes of one of the largest breweries in America, see the world famous AB Clysedales, and get some free samples at the end! Tour the Soulard neighborhood after and take in some beautiful, historic architecture.
The St. Louis Arch – Free, $13.00 to go up
This is the tallest monument in the world. It symbolizes St. Louis’s standing as the Gateway to the West. If you are a history buff, visit the free museum of westward expansion inside the base of the arch.
Whether or not you have a green thumb, spend an afternoon wandering through MOBOT’s variety of gardens and historical green houses. Visit the coy pond and feed the fish, fog up your glasses in the tropical rainforest environment of the Climatron, and temporarily transport yourself to east Asia in the Japanese gardens.
If you are lucky and visit in early June, wander through the thousands of daylily varieties planted by the Missouri Garden club. During the summer, they have free Jazz concerts on Wednesday evenings. Bring a picnic and a bottle of wine and enjoy a relaxing evening in the gardens.
The Endangered Wolf Sanctuary ($15), Lone Elk Park, and the Wild Bird Sanctuary
If you enjoy wildlife, spend a day west of the city in any one or a combination of these parks dedicated to endangered wildlife. If you enjoy hiking, visit Castlewood Park or Babler State Park as well and enjoy one of the many trails.
Looking for a fun night out on the town? St. Louis has no shortage of bars scattered throughout its many neighborhoods. In the Soulard neighborhood, enjoy a summer evening on the Molly’s patio or classic Irish bands at McGurgk’s.
Enjoy trivia? Handlebar, in the Grove neighborhood has a free Trivia night on Thursdays. They also have a DJ on Friday and Saturday nights if you love to dance late into the night. Then enjoy some late night at Courtesy Diner on your way home.
Thanks so much for sharing, Anna! Missourians, I’d love your insights! What other awesome, cheap things should we do in St. Louis?