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mother and daughter biking

Summer Vacation on a Budget

mother and daughter biking

Go Outside

With two national and state forests aplenty in Missouri and Illinois, you can breathe in the crisp smell of nature while also social distancing.

Whether you’re in the mood to practice sports outdoors, go for a leisurely walk or hike, or take out your mountain bike for a ride, visiting a state park offers recreation activities for the whole family at little to no costGo for a scenic drive around the forest and stop off to have a picnic under the shade of sprawling trees before going for a swim at the lake to cool off. If you have gear for climbing or water sports, take them with you as options for both are available.

Want to spend a weekend or a few days sleeping under the stars? Go camping! Look for free camping on several campgrounds available in national forests listed below. Don’t forget to look up in the trees to see what birds and other fauna you can spot!

A great activity for kids is creating an animal and/or plant bingo game, where they mark off a certain critter or tree they see to make the trip a bit more fun!

Places with Activities

Here are some details about close nature areas that are accessible and full of great outdoor activities for the entire family.

  • Wakonda State Park (LaGrange, MO) – Covering over 1,000 acres in Lewis County, this state park offers activities for the whole family with picnic areas, biking trails, and a playground area near the 20,000 sq ft beach that’ll cool you off in the summer! Water recreation is spread among the park’s six lakes, where birdwatchers will surely be amused by the thousands of migratory birds that stop in for a dip.
  • Mark Twain National Forest (Florida, MO) – Over 1.5 million acres of forest with trails and streams spanning hundreds of miles for hiking, biking, motorized sports, horseback riding, canoeing and kayaking, there’s something for everyone in the family. The forest offers multiple campgrounds at no fee.
  • Graham Cave State Park (Danville, MO) – Artifacts uncovered in Graham Cave reveal that people occupied the cave 8,000-10,000 years ago. Visitors can go into the mouth of Graham Cave and interpretive exhibits along the trail detail the life researchers believe early inhabitants lived.
  • Siloam Springs (Clayton, IL)- Offers a 58-acre lake for fishing, boating and water sport enthusiasts who can enjoy being on the water, while those who prefer to stay on land can take advantage of over 15 miles of hiking trails. Make a reservation at one of the 80+ camping sites and pitch a tent to spend a night or two while enjoying the park’s picnicking, equestrian riding and archery facilities, among others!


Camping in Your Backyard

Make your backyard the next magical place. Who says you have to be a kid to camp out in your backyard?

Pitch a tent, barbecue some food, make s’mores if you can and enjoy them under the stars with your little ones… while also having the convenience of using your own bathroom!

Don’t have kids? Invite your close circle of friends to have a night in, but OUT, where you can play card games, bean bag toss, horseshoes, and dozens of other no-cost games to pass the time!


Go Urban

Kansas City, MO

Kansas City offers many free options to see the city including the KC Streetcar which runs 2 miles allowing you to see downtown KC’s vibrant districts, like Crossroads Arts District and Power & Light District.

Go for a walk through the City Market, the largest farmers market in the region, located in the historic River Market district. Rent a bike through the city’s bike-share program, B-cycle (first 30 mins of rental are free). Visit the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City Money Museum where visitors can learn about the Fed’s role in the economy and leave with a shredded bag of cash!

For more information on free activities to do in KC, visit

St. Louis, MO

St. Louis’ Gateway Arch is an architectural marvel—900 tons of stainless steel crafted into the tallest man-made monument in the Western Hemisphere. The park and museum are free, and for a modest fee, a tram ride can take you to the top for amazing views of the city.

Forest Park, which played host for the 1904 World’s Fair, is almost 500 acres larger than New York City’s Central Park! Here, you’ll find the free St. Louis Zoo and St. Louis Art Museum, summer concerts, a fish hatchery, a golf course and more!

Just south of Forest Park lies the St. Louis Science Center with more than 700 hands-on exhibits about animals, space, weather and skyscrapers, among other topics. Live demonstrations and science experiments are also featured.

For more information, visit

Springfield, IL

Take a vacation and get a history lesson in Springfield IL as you and your family walk in the footsteps of Abraham Lincoln, our legendary 16th President. The Abraham Lincoln Presential Museum is unlike any other in the country, as Lincoln’s story is told through special effect theaters, interactive exhibits and more than 13,000 artifacts.

Wander through Lincoln’s New Salem, a reconstruction of the 1830s log cabin village where Lincoln spent his early adulthood from 1831 to 1837 or take a guided tour of The Lincoln Home offering a look into Lincoln’s life as a family man, lawyer and politician.

The final resting place of President Lincoln, his wife and three of their children is located on the edge of Springfield at The Lincoln Tomb. Guided tours of the interior space of the tomb are free at this state historic site but advance reservations, available online, are strongly recommended.

Jefferson City, MO

A trip to the Missouri State Museum, in Jefferson City, is free to visitors. Call ahead to make a tour reservation, especially if you plan on going on the weekend as they only have two tours on the weekends at 11am and 2pm. Walk-ins are allowed during the week and tours start at the top of every hour M-F, except at 12pm, on a first come first served basis.

Visit Friends and Family

Save money on lodging if you can stay with a friend or family member. After a year of keeping away from people, it’s ok to consider seeing people again and getting back in touch with those who you maybe haven’t seen in a while.

Reach out to your old pals from high school or colleagues and plan a weekend to visit them, and perhaps another where they come to visit you. Give your kids the chance to meet and play together while catching up and reminiscing about the ‘good times’ and what you have been up to since the last time you saw each other. Reach out to your contacts or even your friends from other jobs, as some might have a vacation home or camper they’d let you borrow!

We Have More To Offer

If you feel like going a bit further or out of state and want to book airfare, check your rewards points on your credit card to see how far your points can get you. Our HomeBank Mastercard allows you to earn reward points on your purchases and you can redeem them for travel with no blackout dates.