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by Beth Kotz

Columbia, MO is a can’t-miss stop for budget-minded travelers of all ages, whether they’re coming from down the block or all the way across the country. Without putting a hole in your wallet, CoMo fun – from inexpensive eats to this summer’s total solar eclipse – offers plenty for everyone. Here are a few simple tips to help you enjoy this beautiful city on a shoestring.

pastries at uprise bakery

Eats on the Cheap

Try to manage how often your family eats out – fix snacks, and shoot for one meal a day outside of restaurants. Farmers markets are a great way to enjoy the city and grub without breaking your budget. On Sunday from 9AM-1PM you could check out Orr Street Farmers and Artisans Market in the North Village Arts District – they’ve got fresh produce, food trucks, interesting creations and entertainment, which means fun for the whole family.

Although it’s important to not break the budget on dining out, doing so is nevertheless arguably one of the best ways to explore a new city. And there are several wonderful spots to check out for food, drink and unique ambiance in Columbia. Uprise Bakery is a local favorite that makes all their ingredients in-house – it’s also conveniently located in the same building as Ragtag Cinema, so you could grab a bite to eat (they allow you to bring it into the actual theater) and catch an interesting movie all in the same area.

railing with painting that says north village arts district

Finding Free Arts and Culture

Looking for art exhibits, museums and more? Columbia is a cultured city that offers a buffet of free thought-provoking collections for visitors. The North Village Arts District is home to a variety of creative venues as well as an artisan market with over 150 artists. The Museum of Art and Archaeology is part of the University of Missouri, and a great place to revisit the state’s rich artistic heritage. For a glimpse of up-and-coming artists, the Art Department Galleries display new work by the best and brightest Columbia College students.

Inexpensive Entertainment

It’s always fun to check out some entertainment when exploring a new city and they don’t always cost you an extensive amount of money. The University of Missouri Department of Theatre offers shows at Rhynsburger Theatre, where tickets are $15 for adults. Or catch a show at Rose Music Hall, which puts on events in Rose Park, Columbia’s largest outdoor beer garden, in the summer.

Free CoMo Fun

The Columbia area has several parks and trails – the city itself has 3,300 acres of City park land, as well as several state parks and conservation areas nearby. You may want to check out Rock Bridge Memorial State Park, which contains some of the most popular trails in the state. Columbia is a historic city – explore some of its many historical sites and landmarks, such as the Centralia Battlefield, upon which one of the bloodiest battles in the Civil War took place. Also something to keep in mind is that on August 21st, 2017, Columbia will be in the direct path of totality for a total solar eclipse!

Little Savings Add Up

It’s always important to do your research before traveling – if you’ve familiarized yourself a bit with the city prior to arriving, knowing where you’re going and having activities planned will help you mediate against unexpected costs. Little savings add up, so plan to pay for as much as possible with cash and try to stick to what you can afford. It’s nevertheless reasonable to use your credit cards to book things here and there along the way, especially if there are any rewards you can gain or use through them – airline miles, fuel benefits, and so on. Use apps or websites that tell you which local gas station is cheapest. Over 50? Check out AARP and senior discounts. Every little bit helps!

A trip to CoMo in the summer should be relaxing, fun, and affordable too. Without breaking the bank, you can see the best parts of this beautiful city and kick back in style.


Beth Kotz is a contributing writer to Credit.com. She specializes in covering financial advice for female entrepreneurs, college students and recent graduates. She earned a BA in Communications and Media from DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois, where she continues to live and work.