The Cheapskate Guide To: St. Louis

Can you do cheap St. Louis? Yes! Click through for from-a-local tips on cheap lodging, cheap things to eat, and cheap things to do in St. Louis!
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!

Can you do cheap St. Louis? Yes! Click through for from-a-local tips on cheap lodging, cheap things to eat, and cheap things to do in St. Louis!

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.

If you’ve never used Airbnb before, here’s a $40 credit on your first booking! Look at this entire carriage house for $65 ?!!!

Can you do cheap St. Louis? Yes! Click through for from-a-local tips on cheap lodging, cheap things to eat, and cheap things to do in St. Louis!

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)

Kaldi’s Coffee and Roasting Co. – $10

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.

Can you do cheap St. Louis? Yes! Click through for from-a-local tips on cheap lodging, cheap things to eat, and cheap things to do in St. Louis!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.

Can you do cheap St. Louis? Yes! Click through for from-a-local tips on cheap lodging, cheap things to eat, and cheap things to do in St. Louis!

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.

The Missouri Botanical Gardens – $8

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.

Can you do cheap St. Louis? Yes! Click through for from-a-local tips on cheap lodging, cheap things to eat, and cheap things to do in St. Louis!


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.

In the Central West End, enjoy one of 50 draft beers at The International Tap House (ITAP) then pop next door and sing Karaoke at Tom’s Bar and Grill on a Friday or Saturday.

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?

P.S. Cheapskate guides to Minneapolis, New Orleans, and London!

photo credits: wikipedia, explore st louis

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  1. becky fh

    This is great advice! The zoo is so good, the Art Museum is excellent, and the Muny is a delight if you like musicals. The Science Center is also free (though the best exhibits have a cost) & might be fun if you’re traveling with kids. (Also the Magic House, then.)

    I think the Botanical Gardens have some time that’s free – Tuesday mornings, maybe?

    Also, not free or cheap (but does have a twilight ticket option, I believe): the City Museum is unique and amazing.

    Finally, I went to a Cardinals game this month for $4 because I bought (really good!) tickets last minute on Stub Hub.

    • becky fh

      Oh, and north of the city is an eagle-watching spot, if you want more wildlife.

      And! The new cathedral has the largest mosaic collection in the country. In case you’re a church tourist.

  2. Amy C.

    These are great suggestions, though as a recent transplant from
    Chicago I’m surprised the author didn’t mention Tower Grove Park and its surrounding neighborhoods as places to rent an AirBnB or eat out! It’s much more centrally located than some of the suburban areas she recommends, and way cheaper. The restaurants along South Grand are not to be missed. Also, why not mention the hip stores and places to eat on Cherokee Street or Manchester Ave? Finally, City Museum is unlike any place you’ll find elsewhere – an adult playground with 12 story slides and rooftop ferries wheel! – and is just $12!

  3. Erin Cook

    Most of this is fairly spot on. I hate seeing the Delmar Divide mentioned in articles, though. I live North of Delmar and my neighborhood is stunning. Tree lined streets, large brick homes, beautiful gardens. I hate seeing half of our city dismissed!

  4. Terra

    There’s a wolf sanctuary?! That just sounds like maybe the best thing ever and I’m a little upset I didn’t know about it the last time I passed through St. Louis. I mean, between wolves and elk friends it’s possible I’d never leave.

  5. Calluna

    so excited to see this right before visiting for the eclipse… 😀

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