Missouri is one of the Midwest's loveliest states, butting up against the majestic Mississippi River's western banks. The state is known for its connection to early American pioneer history, including the famed 1804-1806 Lewis and Clark Expedition to the Pacific Northwest. Visitors can day trip to a number of historic sites throughout the state, including the Mark Twain-related attractions of charming city Hannibal and the preserved historic buildings of Carthage, many of which are connected to the historic American Route 66. Metropolises like Kansas City and St. Louis offer family-friendly museums, amusement parks, sports stadiums, and zoos. Unique natural attractions include the natural rock slides of Johnson's Shut-In State Park and the 240-mile Katy Trail, which turns a former railroad route into a multi-use trail. Certain attractions may be temporarily closed or require advance reservations. Some restaurants are currently offering pickup only. Hours/availability may have changed.
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Kansas City is one of Missouri's biggest cities, sitting directly on the state's border with neighboring state Kansas. The city is known around the world for its delightful cuisine, which has earned it the unofficial title of the "Barbecue Capital of the World." Its rich jazz music history can be explored throughout its Historic Jazz District, which launched the careers of music icons like Count Basie, Charlie "Bird" Parker, and Big Joe Turner. The American Jazz Museum, located within the city's historic 18th and Vine Jazz District, shares a space with the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, making for a great family-friendly double-header visit. Other lovely museums throughout the city include the Toy and Miniature Museum, the Arabia Steamboat Museum, the National World War I Museum, and the prestigious Nelson Atkins Museum of Art, known for its impressive historic collections of world art.
Springfield is known around the world as the "Birthplace of Route 66," blending small-town charm with big-city excitement. The southwestern Missouri city, which is located in the beautiful Ozark Mountains, is home to a plethora of family-friendly attractions, including the new Bass Pro Shops Wonders of Wildlife Museum and Aquarium, voted as America's best aquarium by the readers of USA Today. Dickerson Park Zoo boasts an impressive collection of animals from around the world, including Malayan tigers, African elephants, and cheetahs. The Springfield Art Museum showcases Missouri's rich cultural heritage, while Wilson's Creek Battlefield preserves the city's Civil War-era heritage. Visitors can also catch Springfield Cardinals home games at Hammons Field throughout baseball season.
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St Louis is Missouri's biggest city, known for its iconic 630-foot Gateway Arch, which honors the legendary journey of explorers Lewis and Clark in the 19th century. The city is a paradise for families looking for year-round adventures, home to attractions such as the nationally-renowned St. Louis Zoo, the unique City Museum St. Louis, the World Aquarium, and the interactive Magic House children's museum. Nearby in Eureka, Six Flags St. Louis offers more than 40 high and family thrill rides, including the Batman: The Ride inverted roller coaster and the acclaimed historic wooden coaster Screamin' Eagle. Throughout the spring and summer seasons, visitors can catch home games from the 11-time World Champion St. Louis Cardinals baseball team at Busch Stadium.Immense Forest Park is home to preserved attractions connected to the 1904 World's Fair.
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Ste. Genevieve is a lovely Missouri town that has been named as one of the Dozen Distinctive Destinations by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The city, which was originally founded in 1735, is known today for its impressive collection of beautiful French Colonial-style buildings, the largest collection of its type in the nation today. More than 150 buildings throughout the city were constructed before the 19th century, many of which are open to the public as living history museums showcasing unique French Creole Colonial architectural elements like vertical wood post construction. Visitors can stay at quaint bed and breakfasts housed within National Historic Landmark Buildings or dine at local favorites like Sirro's Restaurant, Stella and Me, and the Old Brick House. Annual special events hosted in the city include the Jour de Fête French Colonial Festival.
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Arrow Rock is a delightful historic village in Saline County, located along the banks of the beautiful Missouri River. The village has been designated in its entirety as a National Historic Landmark for its connection to the United States Westward Expansion in the 19th century. The village's historic downtown district is connected to 19th-century artist George Caleb Bingham and is home to a number of National Register of Historic Places-listed buildings. A number of sites within the village are designated as part of the Lewis and Clark National Historic trail and the Santa Fe National Historic Trail. Major attractions within the town include the J. Huston Tavern, the oldest continually-operating restaurant located west of the Mississippi River, and the Arrow Rock Lyceum Theatre, the state's oldest professional regional theatre. Unique historic shops and attractions are located throughout the town's historic Main Street, commonly referred to as "The Boardwalk."
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6.Bonne Terre Mine
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Bonne Terre Mine was the first mine developed as part of the St. Joe Minerals lead mine network in 1860, which was responsible for Missouri taking the lead in terms of lead production in the United States in the 19th century. Throughout the American Civil War, the mine became a target during Price's Raid. Today, it is open to the public for guided tours, named as one of America's top 10 greatest adventure experiences by National Geographic. All tours travel to the mine's five beautiful levels, with boat tours traversing the crystal-clear one-billion-gallon lake that spans the mine's three lower levels. Visitors can also enjoy scuba diving experiences at the 17-mile lake, which is the world's largest freshwater diving venue.
185 Park Ave, Bonne Terre, MO 63628, Phone: 888-843-3483
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Boonville is a charming river town located halfway between the cities of St. Louis and Kansas City, named in honor of the sons of famed American pioneer Daniel Boone, who established a prominent salt business in the region in the early 19th century. The Boonslick Region town is located approximately halfway through the famed Katy Trail state park, a popular spot for hikers and cyclists. Visitors can view more than 400 buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places or enjoy the delightful gaming and dining attractions of the Isle of Capri Casino. Regional and state baseball tournaments are hosted each year at Harley Park's Twillman Field. Annual special events include the Boonville Heritage Days summer festival, the autumn Festival of the Leaves, and a Christmas Festival of the Lights.
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Caledonia is an historic village in Washington County that has remained nearly unchanged since the 19th century. The village was founded by Alexander Craighead in 1819, named in honor of the Roman Empire's Latin name for the country of Scotland. Visitors can explore beautiful Greek Revival-style buildings throughout the region's downtown district, many of which showcase beautiful Greek Revival front door entrances. Bellevue Presbyterian Cemetery and Church are home to the oldest protestant church and cemetery in the United States west of the Mississippi River. In all, 33 buildings throughout the city are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, many of which are covered today in hand-painted barn quilts by artist John Smith.
Carthage is one of Missouri's most acclaimed historic towns, originally established in 1842. Though much of the town was destroyed during the American Civil War, it was completely reconstructed after the war and is home today to over 600 National Register of Historic Places-listed buildings, including the beautiful Jasper County Courthouse and the Historic Carthage Square. It is home to some of the first concrete sections of Missouri's interstate highway system, which were incorporated into famed American highway Route 66 in the 1920s. Visitors can explore Route 66-related attractions like the Powers Museum, the Carthage Civil War Museum, the 66 Drive-In Theater, and the massive Kiddieland children's amusement park. Other attractions include the picturesque Precious Moments Chapel, themed after the famed collectible angel line.
212 Main Street, Carthage, MS 39051, Phone: 601-267-8322
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Columbia is a charming city within central Missouri, known as one of the state's most progressive, diverse cities due to its proximity to the University of Missouri, Stephens College, and Columbia College campuses. All of the college campuses are known for their stunning historic architecture, including sites such as the University of Missouri's beautiful neo-Gothic-style Memorial Union and Jesse Hall, which have become landmarks for the city. Visitors can explore the city's beautiful National Register of Historic Places-listed neighborhoods, peruse the exhibits of the Museum of Art and Archaeology, and attend theatrical performances at the Missouri Theatre Center for the Arts. Art galleries populate the city's North Village Arts District, while events such as the Roots 'N Blues 'N BBQ Festival and the We Always Swing Jazz Series bring music performances to venues throughout the city.
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Crestwood is a lovely suburb of St. Louis, located within the city's surrounding county within the Greater St. Louis metropolitan region. The city is best known as the location of the Thomas Sappington Historic Site, which was originally constructed in 1808 and is St. Louis County's oldest brick home today.Visitors can explore the attractions of the historic site throughout the year, including its lovely Barn restaurant and prestigious Library of Americana, which offers resources on American decorative arts and history. Historic Grant's Farm has been ranked as a top national attraction by TripAdvisor and Zagat, preserving the ancestral home of the Busch family. The city is also home to a number of lovely public parks, including Whitecliff and Crestwood Park, which offer children's playgrounds and community centers.
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Eureka is best known as the home of popular theme park Six Flags St. Louis, which is located just 20 minutes west of downtown St. Louis off Interstate 44. The 323-acre park, which is commonly referred to as "Missouri's Coaster Capital," is home to over 40 rides and attractions, including the Batman: The Ride inverted roller coaster, the Mr. Freeze: Reverse Blast launch coaster, and the American Coaster Enthusiasts designated landmark wooden coaster Screamin' Eagle, known as the fastest, longest, and tallest wooden coaster in the world at the time of its 1976 opening. Visitors can also explore the city's charming historic business district, home to landmark buildings that date back to the 1880s, or meander through over 164 acres of public park lands, which offer excellent opportunities for year-round recreation.
13.The Great River Road
The Great River Road is a collection of local and state roads that collectively follow the length of the Mississippi River, traveling through 10 states between Minnesota and Louisiana. The quaint road is home to some of Missouri's most renowned historic attractions, including the registered National Natural Landmark Mark Twain Cave Complex, featured in five of the author's novels. A number of state historic sites are accessible from the road, including the Paleoindian-connected Mastodon State Historic Site, which tells the tale of the Clovis culture, and the National Historic Landmark Bolduc House Museum, constructed in 1792 and preserved as a living history museum. The Rosemary Berkel and Harry L. Crisp II Museum showcases the history of southeast Missouri's culture and industry, while Historic Main Street St. Charles has been named as the Williamsburg of the West by Southern Living. Other attractions include historic 20th-century chocolatier Bankhead Chocolates, Cuivre River State Park, and the award-winning Chaumette Vineyards and Winery.
Hannibal is a lovely Mississippi River city in northeast Missouri, best known as the home of the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum, which preserves the childhood home of the famed 19th-century American author. Visitors can explore the site as part of self-guided tours and view its seven preserved buildings, which also include sites immortalized in the author's novels. The Mark Twain Cave Complex also preserves landmark caves that are featured in Mark Twain novels. Visitors can explore the exhibits of the Hannibal History Museum, take hourlong narrated city tours aboard the Hannibal Trolley, or enjoy beautiful scenic dinner cruises on the Mississippi River aboard the historic Mark Twain Riverboat. The picturesque 1900 Rockcliffe Mansion, one of the nation's most beautiful Gilded Age mansions, showcases gorgeous Art Nouveau decor and period-appropriate furnishings. Live stage shows by actor Richard Garey bring the life and career of Mark Twain to life as part of Mark Twain Himself theatrical performances.
Hermann is a unique Missouri River Valley town known for its historic 19th-century German atmosphere, home to historic attractions such as the Deutschheim State Historic Site and the Historic Hermann Museum. The city is known as one of Missouri's top wine regions, home to the designated Hermann American Viticultural Area, which features seven lovely wineries that produce approximately a third of the state's wines. The 20-mile Hermann Wine Trail hosts a wide variety of special events throughout the year, including the Valentine's Chocolate Wine Trail and the summer Berries and Barbecue Wine Trail celebration. A plethora of outdoor attractions are also open to the public throughout the year, including the picturesque 240-mile Katy Trail State Park.
150 Market Street, Hermann MO 65041, Phone: 573-486-2744
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Jefferson City is Missouri's lovely state capital, serving as the county seat of Cole County. The city takes its name from Third United States President Thomas Jefferson, home to a plethora of government-related attractions, including the National Register of Historic Places-listed State Capitol Building, which can be toured as part of regular guided tours. The Missouri Governor's Mansion has been the residence of every state governor for decades, while the Missouri State Penitentiary preserves an historic state prison facility. The preserved buildings of the Jefferson Landing State Historic Site can also be explored as part of self-guided tours, including the 1839 Lohman Building, the 1855 Union Hotel, and the historic Christopher Maus House.
17.Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park
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Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park is a lovely public recreation area spanning more than 8,700 acres throughout Reynolds County, located along the banks of the beautiful East Fork Black River. The state park is named for the geological feature of the same name, which limit the river's breadth as a result of erosion-resistant hard rock. During safe water conditions, the resulting cascades create natural water park features over the river's smooth igneous rocks. Visitors can enjoy excellent opportunities for swimming, rock climbing, hiking, and equestrian riding throughout the year at the park at sites such as the two-mile Scour Trail loop and the 10-mile Goggins Mountain Equestrian Trail, a segment of the Ozark Trail.
148 Taum Sauk Trail, Middle Brook, MO 63656, Phone: 573-546-2450
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Kimmswick is a charming suburb of St. Louis, known as a great budget getaway in the Missouri area. The suburb, which is located just half an hour south of the city's center, is home to dozens of unique shops, boutiques, and galleries throughout its downtown district, which is also home to lovely historic bed and breakfasts for overnight stay. The historic Anheuser estate, constructed in 1867, preserves the homestead of the Anheuser family of Anheuser-Busch brewing fame as a living history museum. The Burgess-How House and Museum preserves an historic 1850s farmhouse log building, while the El Camino Real Market traces to the city's 18th-century Spanish exploring heritage. Each October, the city hosts the Apple Butter Festival, showcasing delicious food options and apple butter cooking demonstrations.
Meramec Caverns are one of the United States' most popular show caves, attracting over 150,000 annual visitors each year for guided tours. The 4.6-mile caverns were originally discovered in the 18th century by European settlers. During the 19th century, they were purported to serve as a notorious hideout for famed outlaw Jesse James. Visitors can explore beautiful cave rooms like the cave's Theatre Room, Stage Curtain, and Ballroom, which are home to impressive stalactite and stalagmite formations. The caverns' Hollywood Room served as a famed filming site for feature films like Deep Impact and Tom Sawyer. Above ground, family-friendly attractions like zipline adventures, gem mining, and riverboat rides are complemented by a Southern-style restaurant, a seasonal motel, and an overnight campground.
1135 Hwy W, Sullivan, MO 63080, Phone: 573-468-2283
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Parkville is a lovely city in Platte County, known for its historic downtown district, which is full of unique antique shops and art galleries. The town was originally settled in 1838, though its roots go all the way back to the famed Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1804-1806. Today, it is best known as the home of Park University, which was founded in 1875 and showcases several buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places, along with a 385,000-square-foot underground section constructed by a local mining company. Historic sites include the English Landing at Platte Landing Park, which features sites connected to the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Visitors can also enjoy family-friendly miniature golfing experiences at Parkville Mini Golf or explore the city's extensive park system, which includes the expansive Parkville Nature Sanctuary natural area and the Sullivan Nature Sanctuary.
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Phillipsburg is a lovely village known for its connection to the historic Route 66, considered to be the "Mother Road" in the United States throughout the 20th century. The quaint village is known for historic businesses like its 1880s-era Old Phillipsburg General Store, originally founded by Baltimore transplant Thomas Wildey, which once served as a lodge hall for the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. Redmon's Candy, which claims to be the "world's largest gift store," is known for its delicious homemade fudges and chocolates. Other delightful Route 66-associated attractions include Carter and Lawson's Underpass Cafe and Service State and the remains of the Route 66 Roadside Park attraction.
St. Charles is a quaint historic community in St. Charles County, located just half an hour west of St. Louis' downtown district. The colonial-era town was originally founded in 1769, making it one of the state's oldest communities today. Throughout the 19th century, the town temporarily served as Missouri's state capital. Today, it is known for its charming historic South Main Street district, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, which is home to more than 100 unique shops, boutiques, cafes, and restaurants. The city's Frenchtown district is also home to 58 designated historic buildings constructed in the French Colonial and German architectural styles. Annual special events hosted throughout the year include the Fete de Glace ice carving festival, the August Festival of the Little Hills, one of the nation's top 10 crafting fairs, and the Christmas Traditions Festival, one of the largest holiday festivals in the United States.
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Weston has been voted as one of Missouri's top day trip destinations by major international publications such as Ingram's, The Pitch, and AAA Midwest Traveler. The charming city, which is located just 30 minutes outside of downtown Kansas City, is known throughout the Midwest for its lovely preserved historic farms, delicious wineries and breweries, and traditional creameries. Visitors can taste artisanal wines and beers at locations like Weston Orchard and Vineyard or the lovely Weston Brewing Company, which was originally opened in the 1840s and fully restored and reopened for the modern era in 2005. Farms such as Green Dirt Farm offer tours and tastings throughout the year. The city's downtown district is also home to a plethora of shopping and dining experiences.
526 Main Street, Weston, MO 64098, Phone: 816-640-2909
23 Best Day Trips in Missouri (Small Towns, Natural Wonders)
- Kansas City, Photo: R. Gino Santa Maria/stock.adobe.com
- Springfield, Photo: Matt/stock.adobe.com
- St. Louis, Photo: SNEHIT/stock.adobe.com
- Ste. Genevieve, Photo: scottevers7/stock.adobe.com
- Arrow Rock, Photo: willbrasil21/stock.adobe.com
- Bonne Terre Mine, Photo: Sved Oliver/stock.adobe.com
- Boonville, Photo: MarekPhotoDesign.com/stock.adobe.com
- Caledonia, Photo: alexmia/stock.adobe.com
- Carthage, Photo: PeekCC/stock.adobe.com
- Columbia, Photo: SeanPavonePhoto/stock.adobe.com
- Crestwood, Photo: New Africa/stock.adobe.com
- Eureka, Photo: gnagel/stock.adobe.com
- The Great River Road, Photo: uthaiphoto/stock.adobe.com
- Hannibal, Photo: seliveoak/stock.adobe.com
- Hermann, Photo: MarekPhotoDesign.com/stock.adobe.com
- Jefferson City, Photo: pabrady63/stock.adobe.com
- Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park, Photo: Syda Productions/stock.adobe.com
- Kimmswick, Photo: jerri/stock.adobe.com
- Meramec Caverns, Photo: forcdan/stock.adobe.com
- Parkville, Photo: Andreas/stock.adobe.com
- Phillipsburg, Photo: David Tran/stock.adobe.com
- St. Charles, Photo: Melanie/stock.adobe.com
- Weston, Photo: Aaron/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: Stephanie/stock.adobe.com
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