In this year's Summer Guide, we've given you twenty things to do for free, but not everything worth doing comes without an admission fee. Here are ten more ways to have a blast without breaking the bank.
1. Rent a kayak at Forest Park, or try standup paddle
The menu at the Boathouse at Forest Park (6101 Government Drive, 314-366-1555) is new and much improved this spring, with Sugarfire Events running the kitchen and keeping the drinks flowing at two outdoor bars. But other reasons to visit have nothing to do with consuming calories and everything to do with burning them. The newly formed Boathouse Paddle Co., a partnership between Sugarfire and Big Muddy Adventures, now offers kayaks, canoes and standup paddle in addition to paddleboats. Kayaks and regular paddleboards are just $15/hour; grab a friend and get the XL version, a canoe or paddleboat for $20/hour. Unfortunately, reservations are only accepted for parties needing ten or more boats; if you're not in a huge group, come early or plan to spend some time pre-gaming at the bar. Did we mention there are now two of them?
2. Take one last swing at Tower Tee
A south-county institution beloved for its batting cages, driving range and mini golf, Tower Tee (6727 Heege Road, 314-481-5818) kept the area swinging for 50 years. Now it's set to become a residential housing development, and July 10 is the last day to step up to the plate or tee (sob!). But whether you plan to stop by daily while you still can or just get one last round in, you'd also be wise to mark July 8 on your calendar: That day, a special farewell music festival is planned on the driving range. Keep an eye on www.towertee.com for more details and pricing information.
3. Race around in a go-kart
If you're still despondent over the loss of Tower Tee even after the music festival, may we remind you that Swing-A-Round (two locations, including 335 Skinker Lane, Fenton; 636-349-7077) has it all going on? Its outdoor fun centers in St. Charles and Fenton both offer batting cages, mini golf, an arcade and go-karts. And if that's not tantalizing enough, we've got two words for you: bumper boats. Go-kart pricing starts at just $7, with bumper boats going for $6. Bringing the whole fam? On Sundays, you can get a pizza, a pitcher of soda and $5 towards the games of your choice for just $19.95.
4. See the Cardinals for $5/game ... or less
Admission to a Cardinals game, for less money than a burger and fries at McDonald's? Believe it. The Budweiser Ballpark Pass (www.mlb.com/cardinals/tickets/specials/ballpark-pass) is just $29.99/month, and gives you access to any Cardinals home game you're interested in attending. All you need is a smartphone and the willingness to pay that monthly fee; after that, you can show up any night you want and claim your standing-room-only ticket. Don't feel like standing? Savvy fans have been known to browse StubHub to see which seats are still available for any given game, then sidle over to those — or simply head to the Budweiser Terrace, where there are no assigned seats and mingling is encouraged. Score!
5. ... or check out some minor-league action
The Fourth of July means America, baseball and fireworks, which is what you'll get when the Gateway Grizzlies host a three-game series against the Windy City ThunderBolts at GCS Credit Union Ballpark (2301 Grizzlie Bear Boulevard, Sauget, Illinois) July 2 to 4. The Grizzlies always celebrate the holiday with All-American Week, which includes a salute to the troops, post-game fireworks and Frontier League prices (lawn and bleacher seats are just $6 to $11). And don't forget the concessions, which are insane. The hamburgers use donuts for buns, the hot dogs come with two kinds of bacon, sauerkraut, onions and nacho cheese, and the infamous cheesesteak nachos are just like the Founding Fathers used to eat.
6. Have a beer and a hotdog on the patio
Does anything say "summer in St. Louis" better than a low-key patio in south city with dogs on the grill and an ice-cold beer in a koozie? If you're too lazy to cook and would rather kick back with strangers than get stuck playing hostess, Tower Grove East offers the perfect lazy-day summer setting, with neighbors Tick Tock Tavern (3459 Magnolia Avenue) and Steve's Hot Dogs (3457 Magnolia Avenue, 314-932-5953) working in perfect symbiosis. Start at one and head to the other, or vice-versa; no matter what your method, you can't lose when the components are this good.
7. Stand in line at Ted Drewes
Sure, the hot and hungry hordes queue up at Ted Drewes (6726 Chippewa Street, 314-481-2652) for the pleasure of its delicious concretes, but we'd posit there's more to the experience than just cheap ice cream in a steamy parking lot. Young and old, rich and poor, city and county all stand in the same line ... and then carve out a corner of asphalt or a car bumper to inhale their ice cream. There is simply no better people-watching in the entire city than the Chippewa shop on a busy summer night.
8. Pet the stingrays at the zoo
The Saint Louis Zoo (Government Drive, 314-781-0900) is famously free, but that doesn't mean you have to come empty-handed. If you're prepared to drop just $15, you can see the city's No. 1 attraction like a baller — carousel rides ($3/person), the sea lion show ($4/person) and unlimited rides on the zoo train ($8/person). Or, for just $4 per person, check out the Stingrays of Caribbean Cove, a special exhibit open through September 30. Observe and even touch the stingrays as they swim around their 17,000-gallon pool ... with no fear of death à la Steve Irwin. Zoo staff trim back the stingrays' barbs, a process compared to clipping fingernails. For an extra $1, you can get food to feed the rays or a photo documenting the experience.
9. See the city on a LimeBike or an Ofo
Getting out of your car doesn't mean you have to hoof it. This spring, both LimeBike and Ofo set up shop in St. Louis, and now tooling around town on a bicycle is as easy as downloading one of their apps and paying a nominal fee. LimeBike charges $1 for every 30 minutes; Ofo charges $1 an hour. That could get even cheaper, depending on where you live and who you are. LimeBike offers discounts for both anyone with an ".edu" email address and residents of certain neighborhoods.
10. Bowl a strike at the area's newest alley
The city is chock-full of places to bowl, but you haven't seen anything 'til you've laced up your bowling shoes at Bowlero (8070 Veterans Memorial Parkway, St. Peters; 636-474-2695). The megaplex offers wall-to-wall arcade games, pool tables, three bars, seating for up to 1,000 guests and, yes, plenty of bowling lanes. If showing off on Instagram is a hobby, Bowlero is worth a visit just for the food offerings. In addition to normal-sized vittles, the kitchen cooks up "pizza cake" that's like the biggest pizza lasagna you've ever seen, a two-foot-long hotdog and a seven-pound burger perfect for, well, slicing into like a birthday cake. Still not enough for you? How about unlimited laser tag every Wednesday for $9.99?
—Sarah Fenske and Paul Friswold