Missouri is a great travel destination for family vacations on a budget, offering many free and inexpensive attractions and affordable tours from outdoor recreation to museums. Listed below are just a few ideas for a family vacation that are far from ordinary.
Family Vacations on a Budget in St. Louis
In St. Louis, Forest Park is full of free and low-cost Midwest attractions. At 1,371 acres, Forest Park is one of the largest urban parks in the United States—it is approximately 500 acres larger than Central Park in New York City. Forest Park includes nearly eight miles of biking, jogging and skating paths; an ice skating rink; a golf course; and several lakes. Top attractions include:
The Saint Louis Art Museum is one of the nation’s leading comprehensive art museums. It contains more than 30,000 works of art.
The Saint Louis Science Center is consistently rated as one of the “Top 5 Science Museums in the United States.” It includes a four-story OMNIMAX Theater.
The Saint Louis Zoo is a world renowned, 90-acre zoo; it is home to more than 18,000 exotic animals, many of which are rare and endangered. There is no admission fee, which makes it great for planning family vacations on a budget; there may be a charge for some special exhibits.
The Jewel Box is an Art Deco floral conservatory, built in 1936. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Muny outdoor theatre is one of America's oldest (circa 1917) and largest outdoor musical theatres.
The Missouri History Museum offers affordable tours and exhibitions, as well as interactive galleries reflecting the history of Missouri and the nation; plus lectures, special programs and concerts.
While in St. Louis, the world famous Gateway Arch, standing beside the Mississippi River is one the top Midwest attractions on any St. Louis vacationer’s to-do-list. The Arch commemorates the role St. Louis played in the westward expansion of the United States. At 630 feet, this is the nation’s tallest National Monument. Admission is free; however, there is a charge for the tram ride to the top, but the sweeping views are worth the ride.
Midwest Attractions in Springfield and the Ozarks
In Springfield, Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World draws more than four million visitors each year; it is the most visited single attraction in Missouri. The 300,000-square-foot showroom is loaded with everything needed for hunting, fishing, camping and outdoor activities. There is a 30,000-gallon saltwater aquarium. Window shopping at Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World is a great idea for those taking family vacations on a budget.
Looking for adventure while staying within your budget? Akers Ferry Canoe Rental and Running River Canoe Rental (both outside of Salem) provide canoes, kayaks and tubes for floating on the Jacks Fork River and the Current River. These spring-fed rivers, which make up the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, offer beautiful and affordable tours of the Midwest scenery, good fishing and great swimming spots as you float downstream. Camping facilities are available at both outfitters. Find listings for other canoe outfitters on VisitMO’s canoe outfitters section and on the Missouri Canoe & Floaters Association website.
Family-Friendly Midwest Attractions in KC and the Capital
There are plenty of options for family vacations on a budget on the western side of the state, in Kansas City. See if you can lift a gold bar worth $400,000 at the Money Museum, inside the Federal Reserve Bank; walk through Jackson County’s first government building at the 1827 Log Courthouse in Independence; tour Harry S. Truman Library and Museum, also in Independence.
In Jefferson City, visit the Missouri State Museum, located inside the Capitol; and the Veterinary Museum, the only museum in the United States devoted solely to veterinary medicine.
These are only a few of the thousands of free and inexpensive things to do in Missouri, but they might be some you didn't think of – perhaps they will help you have some ideas of your own.