Bored with city life in the Lou but don’t want to spend on a weekend getaway? Leaving the urban sprawl behind doesn’t have to leave you with an empty wallet. We’ve got a wide variety of ideas for day trips that can come in at under $100. There’s something here for you whether you’re looking for old-fashioned charm, family adventure or a relaxing adult soujourn.
The charming historic German town of Hermann, Missouri, heart of the state’s wine country, is just 90 minutes from downtown St. Louis. The area features spectacular vistas, picturesque shops, galleries and fine dining. But what sets Hermann apart from other historic Missouri towns is the Weinstrasse, or Wine Road. There are seven award-winning wineries within 15 miles of Hermann. Spend a leisurely weekend day with friends visiting an assortment and sampling their wares. Be sure to designate a driver for the day.
Looking for an old-fashioned family adventure? Meramec Caverns has attracted local families for more than a century, and there is more to do at the site than ever before. The massive, colorful underground caverns are still the main attraction, of course. This is the largest commercial cave in a state with over 6,000 caves. But Meramec also offers canoe floats, riverboat rides, panning for gold and an hour-long zip line adventure. There’s also a campground if you’d like to turn your day trip into a weekend getaway.
The Great River Road on the Illinois side of the Mississippi is a popular drive or motorcyle ride in fall when the bluffs are ablaze with autumn colors, and in the winter when eagles roost along the Riverbend area between Alton and Grafton. But this is a terrific day trip any time of year. Pere Marquette State Park offers hiking trails with glorious bluff and river views and trail rides (call 618-786-2156 for details or reservations). The quaint rivertown of Grafton features restaurants, river activities, antique stores and ice cream shops in a beautiful setting.
Just 25 miles south of the city is the charming historic river village of Kimmswick. Known for its its antique shops, apple butter festival and the levee-high apple pies at the Blue Owl Restaurant, Kimmswick represents a fantasy of small-town life in times gone by. If you want a taste of history that goes even further back than the 1859 founding of Kimmswick, The Mastodon State Historic Site is a nearby museum with nature trails, active archeological digs and a full-size replica of a mastodon skeleton.
Just West of St. Louis is the action-packed area of Eureka, Missouri. Six Flags St. Louis is still a family favorite in the summer. Hidden Valley Ski Resort offers skiing, boarding and tubing in the winter. It’s possible to do either for under $100 if you plan carefully — Hidden Valley has special rates on Sunday afternoons and Six Flags frequently offers savings coupons through local retailers like Schnucks.
Lauren Haas is a writer who specializes in finding the fun! Lauren was the publisher of the St. Louis Area Family Gazette for eight years, and now writes freelance articles on St. Louis events and attractions, budget travel, arts and entertainment and fitness topics. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.