Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo

7 Activities in Columbia That Are Cheaper Than Drinking

44% of Americans made a New Year’s resolution to spend less money in 2021, according to a Statista poll. Often, the biggest challenge associated with saving money is deciding when to splurge and when to save. 

Even in Columbia, Mo., where nightlife is relatively cheap, the downtown scene can still poke a hole in your pockets. With cover costs at $10-50 and drinks at Harpo’s, Willie’s and The Social Room going at $2-6 apiece, a night of drinking can get pretty expensive. 

Mizzou Student Vivian Owens reflected on her spending habits.

“If you go to Social [Room], cover is going to be $5-$20 depending on the night and drinks could be $10-$50 plus, depending on how hard you go,” Owens said.

Cutting back on alcohol doesn’t have to mean giving up your social life, though. Here are seven activities in and around Columbia that are cheaper than drinking that you can do with your friends instead of a night out. For this list, we’ll be generous and assume that a night of drinking costs only $30-$40. 

1. Hang out with cats

If you’re a cat lover like myself, Papa’s Cat Cafe is the place for you. For just $10, you can spend an hour hanging out with 20-30 adorable (and adoptable!) cats. Not to mention, that $10 fee includes a free hot drink or even a free specialty drink if you reserve online. The cafe also offers a small snack menu, including muffins, snack plates, cookies and doughnuts. Papa’s is open 10 a.m-7 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday and is located near Walgreens on Providence, just a short walk from campus. Make your reservation here.

Total: $16 for entry, two drinks and a pastry.

2. See a movie 

If you’re a movie buff, you’ll love RagTag Cinema. An iconic Columbia location, the theater offers both popular and underground films, all at a lower price than commercial cinemas in the area. Tickets typically range from $6-$10 and can be purchased here. If you like to have a snack with your movie, concessions can be purchased at Uprise Bakery which is connected to the theater. Check out their menu here

Total: About $20 for tickets, a soda and a pastry.

3. Treat yourself

Pedicures are a great way to relax, chat with friends and spruce up your feet, especially as Columbia warms up. Pedicure services can be found at nearly every nail salon across Columbia, including many within walking distance at varying prices. Varsity Nails, conveniently located on Elm Street downtown, offers pedicures starting at $23. Book with Varsity here

Total: $23 for a basic pedicure, which can be upgraded at a higher cost.

4. Basically Soul Cycle

If you aren’t into TigerX classes, you’re about to be. At a low cost of $0 (with a $161.90 fee included in your tuition, of course) you can attend a 45-minute Soul Cycle-inspired spin class at The Rec. With pumping dance music and blacklights, cycling is a great way to start or end your day. Make your reservation here, and be sure to bring water and a towel.

Total: $0.

 5. Go to a roller rink

Up for a drive? Sk8 Zone in Jefferson City, Mo., offers rentable skates, a massive rink and concessions. Though only open three nights and two afternoons a week, Sk8 Zone’s low prices are hard to beat: Saturday is “Friends & Family Skate Night,” allowing guests to bundle four tickets together for a total of $28 or $7 per person. “Wednesday Night Cheap Skate” offers $5 admission. Regular admission tickets for 7-9 p.m. skates are only a little more expensive, at $8 per person. Call (573)-635-5000 for tickets or purchase at the door.

Total: $5-$8 for two hours of skating and ~$5 for gas.

6. See a random artist in concert

Ever heard of Lost Dog Street Band or Aaron Watson? That’s okay, we haven’t either. But both are playing for less than $22 at The Blue Note, just a short walk from campus in downtown Columbia. While some tickets can go for upwards of $50, The Blue Note offers plenty of small, local musicians and comedians for a much lower price! Even if you don’t know the performer, concerts are always a great way to spend a Friday night with friends. Check out their spring lineup here

Total: Varies, but could be as low as $15-$20.

7. Arcade and bowling

Columbia offers several arcade and bowling venues, but LevelUp Entertainment located in the Columbia Mall seems to have the best pricing. Laser tag and ropes courses are priced at $9.99/person and bowling is priced at $6.99/person or $24.99/lane, for up to eight players. LevelUp also has a food and drink menu, if you have extra money to spend. LevelUp bookings can be made online here. Tickets can also be purchased at the door. 

Total: $17 for one game of bowling and an activity.

At the end of the day, life is about balance. Nobody but you can decide if you should drink or not and enjoying a night out now and then can be a way to connect with friends and have fun. These are just a few options if you’re looking for a few budget-friendly options around town.

Her Campus Placeholder Avatar
Anna Sago

Mizzou '25

Hi, I'm Anna :). I'm a sophomore at Mizzou originally from Northeast TN. I'm a journalism major with minors in information tech and art history. I love to write about music, movies and fashion. In my spare time, I like to run and hang out with my cats!