Summertime Fun on a Budget

By Nancy Cozart

Frontier Park in St. Charles. Photo Credit: Nancy Cozart.

The Best Things In Life Are Free

It’s summertime…and the living is easy. Unfortunately, summer can be an expensive time of year. If you are planning a summer vacation big on fun…but with a small budget, there are lots of great options that won’t break the bank.

Picnic at a Park

Instead of dining out at expensive restaurants this summer, give your credit cards a break by packing a picnic lunch and heading to your favorite park. Pack some sandwiches, fresh fruit and bottled water and enjoy your lunch with a view at one of the local parks in your area. After lunch, consider going for a walk in the park, play frisbee with a friend, or go hiking on trails. There are lots of great parks in the area.

In St. Louis, there are so many great parks to enjoy with family and friends. Forest Park features several picnic areas in addition to the Jewel Box flower garden area, the zoo, a lake with paddleboats and museums. Tower Grove Park also offers beautiful scenery.

In Creve Coeur, check out Creve Coeur Lake, which features a park with a beautiful lake, sandy beach areas, hiking trails, water fall, and picnic areas.

In St. Charles County, check out Frontier Park, Wapelhorst Park or McNair Park. Wapelhorst and McNair both feature water parks in addition to picnic areas. Frontier Park is a popular spot for picnics and gathering with friends, while enjoying a beautiful view of the Missouri River. In St. Peters, Laurel Park offers a multitude of options, including trails, a pond for fishing, a swimming pool, pavilions, frisbee, and a playground for the kids. Or check out City Centre Park in St. Peters, featuring a Gazebo, pond, walking trails and playground areas.

Head a little further west, and enjoy Klondike Park in Augusta, Missouri. Klondike Park offers hiking trails, a beautiful lake with white sand and rock formations, pavilions and picnic areas.

Photo Credit: Nancy Cozart

Local Swimming Pools and Water Parks

If you enjoy spending time at a pool or water park, consider visiting one of the local pools or water parks in your area. Have a fun summer staycation close to home without spending money on air travel and hotels. Make sure to bring along plenty of sunscreen.

The Library

If it’s raining or the weather is too hot, consider a visit to your local library. Your local library offers free services, including book and DVD rentals, children’s storytime classes, and more. Explore the books in the fiction and nonfiction sections to discover a world of adventure without having to travel the world. Check out free DVD rentals to watch movies for free. Whether you enjoy romance, science fiction, fiction, or anything in between, the library offers endless opportunities to check out free books and movies. If you have children or grandchildren, the library is a great place to take your family to introduce kids to a lifetime of learning and a love of books.

The Zoo

Photo Credit: Nancy Cozart

No need to hop on a plane to explore the jungle or go on a safari. Head to the local Zoo to explore a world of adventure without spending a fortune. For a cool experience on a hot summer day, head over to the Penguins and Puffins area at the St. Louis Zoo. You can visit with penguins and puffins in their habitat, as you watch them dive into the water and swim or waddle around outside of the water.

Photo Credit: Nancy Cozart

Head over to the big cat area to see lions and tigers. Go on a jungle safari and check out all the jungle animals. In the gorilla and chimpanzee area, you can see primates playfully swing from trees. At the zoo, there is a world of animal kingdoms to explore. Walk through the bird sanctuary to view a variety of birds. Check out the elephants, giraffes, sea lions and all of the other zoo animals. Board a train to explore all of the areas of the zoo, as you embark on an adventure.

Photo Credit: Nancy Cozart


Whether you are interested in art, science, history, or all the above, a world of wonder is waiting for you at the local museums. The Science Center offers interactive exhibits and areas to explore. The Art Museum offers beautiful art exhibits, including Impressionist paintings, sculptures, and more. A visit to the History Museum will offer insight into local history of the area and cultural exhibits. Head over to the Magic House to explore interactive exhibits geared towards kids. An endless opportunity for learning and adventure can be found for people of all ages, young and old, at the local museums in your area.


Chesterfield Valley area features an abundance of outlet shops. Explore shops, clothing stores and more with outlet pricing. For quaint and charming shops, head to Main Street in St. Charles. You will find a wide range of shops, boutiques, clothing stores, jewelry shops, knick knacks, collectibles and art galleries on Main Street. Stroll down brick cobblestone streets and check out historic brick buildings featuring quaint and charming local businesses. Stop for lunch in one of the many restaurants. After lunch, enjoy ice cream at one of the ice cream shops, or enjoy freshly baked cookies at Grandma’s Cookies.

Dining Out

Instead of going on vacation, consider going on a Staycation and exploring local family owned small business restaurants in your area for a unique dining experience. There are so many great dining options in your area, from Italian cuisine, to Mexican food to Greek restaurants. Instead of going out to eat at large national chain restaurants, consider dining out at one of the many local family owned and operated restaurants.

Consider dining out at a restaurant with a patio that features free live music. You can enjoy dinner and a show! There are plenty of local restaurants in the area that feature free live music on their patio during the summer. Check the websites of local restaurants for the latest schedules.

Or pack a picnic and enjoy free live music in the park at one of the local parks that offer free live music series.

Photo Credit: Nancy Cozart

Local Attractions

In the St. Louis area, there are several local attractions to explore, including the Missouri Botanical Gardens, the Muny, or Six Flags. If you have a week vacation from work, consider exploring each of the local attractions during the day, while enjoying the comfort of your own home at night.

Local Wineries

In the St. Louis area, there are many great options for enjoying local wine at one of many local wineries. In Defiance and Augusta, there are many excellent wineries to choose from. Explore local wineries and enjoy sampling the local wine in the area.

Many of the wineries feature live music entertainment and cuisine in addition to local varieties of wine. Many vineyards in the area grow their own grapes and bottle their own wine. For a fun day out, consider visiting one of the local wineries in the area.

Photo Credit: Nancy Cozart

Bed and Breakfast Options

Instead of taking an expensive vacation this summer to a far away destination, consider a local stay at one of the charming Bed and Breakfast options in the area. A weekend getaway at a local bed and breakfast might be just the relaxing experience you are looking for without spending a fortune on airfare and hotels. Local Bed and Breakfast options offer a unique opportunity to explore the local area, while still experiencing a vacation away from home.

Weekend Getaways

Or consider a weekend getaway at a hotel near your home this summer. If you are on a budget, consider a weekend getaway close to home. A weekend hotel stay will still feel like a summer vacation, but you can avoid the added expense of air travel if you book a hotel close to home. If you choose a weekend package instead of a week long vacation, you can save money.

Free and Low Cost Options

Consider a weekend camping trip at a local campground and bring your own picnic meals for a fun vacation that won’t rack up your credit cards. Or go on fun day trip excursions and head home at night. Spend the day at a park or local attraction for a fun summertime experience without the price tag associated with a vacation away from home.

If you are on a budget and you can’t afford to explore the world, consider visiting one of the many local attractions in the area and enjoy a fun-filled Summer Staycation close to home. You will be able to enjoy all that your local area has to offer, without having the added expense of hotel and air travel.

Enjoy yourself and take time to relax this summer. You can have fun this summer while still sticking to a budget. There is no need to sacrifice having a fun filled summer just because you are on a budget. With a little bit of planning, you could be enjoying your summer without having to drain your savings account. Frugal and fun can go hand in hand this summer. Your summer plans can be big on fun and small on cost.

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