5 for $500: St. Louis, Missouri

The final destination for the 5 for $500 Challenge is my hometown, St. Louis, Missouri. When staycations became all the rage after the economy tanked, I got a new look at my same old city. As many new things as I tried and explored, nothing resonated as much as some old classics that make for a great vacation.

Jewel Box

The Dates

Plan this trip for June 7-June 9 to match our prices.

The Hotel

You’ll spend 2 nights on the edge of Forest Park at the Drury Inn and Suites Forest Park. Even though it is a chain hotel, the service here is phenomenal. You’ll enjoy a hot complementary breakfast here each day and each afternoon they have a free Kickback, with popcorn, soda, and even snacks to revitalize you before dinner on the town. Keeping with the free theme, you’ll get free wireless internet, a mini fridge and a microwave in your room. Regularly priced, your room will cost $335.62. I just found an eSaver code from Drury that can get your room down to $307.84. Also, watch for coupons on the local St. Louis Drury site for additional savings.

The Food

Breakfast Day 1: Enjoy your hotel’s continental breakfast. It includes Belgian waffles, scrambled eggs, biscuits and gravy, sausage and much more.

Lunch Day 1: Grab some St. Louis style pizza at Imo’s Pizza and eat in the park. While provel cheese and the cracker-thin crust aren’t for everyone, they are traditionally St. Louis. If you’re afraid of the pizzas, they have good sandwiches to fill you up. Spend around $25 for pizza and some drinks for the family.

Dinner Day 1: Dinner today is at Sweetie Pie’s at the Mangrove. It’s a cafeteria-style meal with Southern food filling your plate. I came here earlier this year and when I left not only was I stuffed, I was stuffed with some of the most amazing food out there. On my trip, I filled up on chicken wings, sweet potatoes, the best mac & cheese out there, and cornbread. I wish I could have fit in some of the peach cobbler but I was too full. The menu changes daily and has won local awards for the best soul food in St. Louis. Guy Fieri even stopped in for Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. You’ll spend $65 here but you’ll walk away with so much more.

Breakfast Day 2: I would suggest the continental breakfast again but there’s a donut place in town too good to be missed. World’s Fair Donuts has some incredibly warm bites to dive into. They even appealed to Alton Brown, which he wrote about in his book Feasting on Asphalt: The River Run. It’s a small place but you can watch the husband and wife team hand make some delicious treats. Don’t miss the blueberry donuts or their signature buttermilk cake donut. Don’t expect to pay more than $10 for a half dozen donuts and drinks for the family.

Lunch Day 2: Pick up some Subway sandwiches and eat in Forest Park. There’s so much to explore that an intermission might be nice. Budget $15 for this meal.

Dinner Day 2: Head to the Delmar area of town for dinner at Fitz’s Bottling Company. It’s a soda bottling company/food stop that bottles and serves its own sodas on-site. The menu is full of burgers, sandwiches, wraps and soda fountain-style desserts. You can drink up with one of their many soda flavors:

Fitz's Premium Strawberry Pop

  • Root Beer
  • Diet Root Beer
  • Cream Soda
  • Diet Cream Soda
  • Ginger Ale
  • Orange Pop
  • Grape Pop
  • Orange Cream
  • Strawberry Pop

My tip: Get the frosted refillable mug for soda and mix up which flavors you get. I’m a fan of the cream soda but I’ve loved every drink I’ve had here. Expect to spend $50 for this meal. You’ll also want to budget some time to explore the Delmar area and take in another side of the city.

The Fun

St. Louis Zoo crocodiles, personal photo

Day 1: Visit my favorite zoo in the country, the St. Louis Zoo. I’ve been to nearly a dozen zoos in the United States and none match up to my love of the St. Louis Zoo. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s free, maybe it’s the elephant births I’ve seen as a guest, maybe it’s just the awesome atmosphere. Either way, I love this zoo. The zoo has a lot of history; many of the buildings and animal housing units were created for the 1904 World’s Fair. The zoo has been updated to include a Penguin Coast with penguins right on your level walking around you. They also made a River’s Edge section that houses 2 growing baby elephants, and one elephant expecting a new baby near the time of your visit. The zoo is free to visit though the Children’s Zoo inside does cost extra. You can still get in to the Children’s Zoo for free between 9 and 10 AM.

Day 2: On this day, visit the St. Louis Science Center. It’s another free St. Louis attraction with plenty of hands-on activities for kids to enjoy. The science center even has a new hall due to open this summer, hopefully in time for your trip. It also connects to the James S. McDonnell Planetarium which opens out to Forest Park. You’ll have plenty to explore all day long.

The Total

View 5 for $500: St. Louis in a larger map

Hotel: ………$307.84
Food: ………$165.00
Activities: ……..FREE
TOTAL: …….$462.84

We came in well under $500 for this trip. Maybe use some of that extra money to grab a milkshake at Fitz’s, a cobbler at Sweetie Pie’s or a treat at the zoo. To save even more, watch the sales and check your hotel for Imo’s coupons. Consider swapping lunch and dinner on Day 1 to take advantage of Imo’s Wacky Wednesday free pizza offers from 4 to 9.

Fountain Falls

If you come to St. Louis with older children, consider switching up some activities to make the trip suitable for older children. Forest Park has many free attractions including the art museum and at night, catch a free performance of The Taming of the Shew during Shakespeare in the Park.

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I'm Julie, I love to travel, I'm very hyper and I like to "hype" things and from that, TravelHyper was born. I'm a Missouri native and I cover St. Louis travel ideas as well as my own travels. I also like to focus on places I want to visit and budget travel ideas by creating trip plans. There's so much world out there and I hope you'll find that it's worth seeing and that vacation doesn't have to be out of reach to you.

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