Weekend Getaways in Missouri

Missouri is a midwestern state sandwiched between the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. The state was home to famous American author, Mark Twain. Missouri was also the place where famous explorers Lewis and Clark launched their westward expansion and was the starting point of the Santa Fe, Oregon and California trails, all of which gave the state the nickname “Gateway to the West.” Today visitors flock to the beautiful Ozark mountains and the state’s many lakes for stunning scenery and a wide range of activities. The state’s cities offer cultural and historical attractions as well as event venues, craft breweries and some of the best barbecue in the country.


Branson is a town in the Ozarks of southwestern Missouri. The town is known as destination for family vacations. The downtown strip is lined with a string of famous theaters that used to attract a lot of country music performers, but today host a wide variety of entertainment events. There is also a branch of Dolly Parton’s famous Dixie Stampede Dinner Attraction as well as Silver Dollar City which is an amusement park built around the theme of the 1800s. For more family-friendly fun in Branson, check out the White Water Branson waterpark, the Hollywood Wax Museum and nearby Table Rock Lake and Table Rock State Park.


Carthage is a small city in southwestern Missouri. The city attracts many tourists who come for the historical architecture, art and other interesting attractions. The city is just east of the first section of paved highway in Missouri which later became part of the historic Route 66. Attractions include the Historic Carthage Square, the Boots Motel, the 66 Drive-In Theatre and Stones Throw Theatre. A variety of leisure and recreational activities await visitors to Carthage including the Carthage Municipal Park and Precious Moments Park which is an inspirational park with the world’s only Precious Moments Chapel and Gardens.


Columbia is a midwestern college town that is known for its art scene, progressive politics and for being a cultural and educational center. Three colleges and universities are based in the city: Stephens College, Columbia College and the University of Missouri. The city sits in the beautiful rolling plains of the Missouri River Valley. Several recreational areas surround the city and offer ample opportunities to explore the outdoors including Big Muddy National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, Rock Bridge Memorial State Park and Mark Twain National Forest. There are several museums including the popular Museum of Art and Archeology as well as a variety of quality municipal parks scattered throughout the city.

Elephant Rocks State Park

Elephant Rocks State Park is a geological reserve and recreation area that features a string of elephant-shaped granite boulders which gave the park its name. The park’s pink-tinged granite has been used in buildings all over the country and both abandoned and active granite quarries are located inside the park. The park is located in the beautiful Saint Francois Mountains which offers scenic views, hiking, picnicking and rock climbing. There is a one-mile, circular nature trail called the Braille Trail that is the first of its kind in the Missouri state parks system to have been developed specifically for visitors that have physical and/or visual impairments. The park has several other trails and handicap-accessible picnic shelters.

Grant’s Farm

Grant’s Farm is a historic farm in Grantwood Village. The farm was originally built by Ulysses S. Grant on land that was gifted to him by his father-in-law. The property is now owned by the Busch family who famously owned the Anheuser-Busch Brewing Company. The farm has been developed into an animal reserve and is open to the public free of charge. The farm has many animals including the famous Budweiser Clydesdales, several other breeds of farm animals such as goats and donkeys as well as exotic animals such as elephants, kangaroos and camels. The park is also home to a historic cabin built by Grant himself.

10501 Gravois Road, St. Louis, MO 63123, 314-843-1700

Ha Ha Tonka State Park

Ha Ha Tonka State Park is comprised of 3,700 acres of recreation area on the Niangua arm of the Lake of the Ozarks. The park has both significant historical architecture as well as beautiful scenery. The park is home to the ruins of a castle built on top of a bluff by a well-known Kansas City businessman in the early 20th century. The park also has many interesting natural features such as natural bridges, sinkholes, caves and scenic bluffs overlooking the lake. The park has 15 miles of hiking trails that access many of the park’s highlights including the castle ruins, caves and more. Other popular activities include fishing, boating and camping.

1491 State Road D, Camdenton, MO 65020, 573-346-2986


Hannibal is a city on the Mississippi River in northeastern Missouri. The city is best known as being the childhood home of author Samuel Lanhorne Clemens who wrote well-known classics The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn under the pen name Mark Twain. Many of Twain’s work’s were inspired by the town and surrounding area. Many historical sites associated with Mark Twain are located nearby. The Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum has been open to visitors for more than 100 years. Other interesting sites include the Mark Twain Memorial Lighthouse, The Huck Finn Freedom Center, Hannibal Rocks Offroad Park, Molly Brown Birthplace and Museum and Rockcliffe Mansion.


Hermann is a picturesque village in the Missouri River Valley. The city is located in the heart of Missouri’s wine country and the seven wineries in Hermann produce a large percentage of the state’s wine. The vineyards and wineries were first founded by German immigrants in the 19th century, suffered under prohibition but were revived from the 1960s onward. The city has many other remnants of German culture including two annual festivals, Maifest and Oktoberfest as well as Deutschheim State Historic Site. The Katy Trail, a 225-mile, crushed limestone trail passes near Hermann as well and is available for hiking, running and cycling.


Independence is a city in western Missouri. The city is known as “Queen City of the Trails” because it was a popular jumping off point for travelers on the Santa Fe, Oregon and California Trails. Among the former residents is President Harry S. Truman who was buried here along with his wife. Today, the city boasts the Truman Presidential Library and Museum which attracts many visitors each year. Independence is also a sacred place among many of Mormon faith because religious founder Joseph Smith’s 1831 Temple Lot and the headquarters of many of the religion’s factions are located here.

Jefferson City

Jefferson City is the state capital of Missouri but is far from the largest city. The small city sits in a picturesque location surrounded by towering bluffs and flanked by the Missouri River. One of the cities major features is the domed Capitol which overlooks the river. Visitors can visit the state capitol including a history museum with exhibits about the state’s cultural and natural development. Other attractions include the historic Missouri State Penitentiary, Jefferson Landing State Historic Site and the Lewis and Clark Monument. Outdoor fun can be found at the Range Nature Center, Binder State Park or McKay Park.

Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park

Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park is a 8,647-acre public park located on the East Fork Black River in the southeastern part of the state. The name of the park is derived from the phrase “shut-in” which describes a point where hard, erosion-resistant rocks limit the width of a river. The many shut-ins on the river create cascades over the rocks which, in turn, have caused the rocks to become quite smooth. Popular activities at the park include camping, swimming in the river, hiking the trails and rock-climbing. There is an easily walkable, 1/4 mile path that includes an observation deck that offers nice views of the shut-ins. There is also a 10-mile equestrian trail for those who bring their own horses.


Joplin is a city in the southwestern corner of the state. The city lies along the historic Route 66 corridor. The Route 66 Mural Park celebrates the famous highway and is frequented by Route 66 tourists from around the world. There are several places to enjoy the beautiful outdoors in the Joplin area including The Wildcat Glades Conservation & Audubon Center, George Washington Carver National Monument, Ewert Park and Grand Falls which features a picturesque waterfall. There are two historical museums at the Joplin Museum Complex which have a special emphasis on the mining industry and minerals that can be found in the area.

Kansas City

Kansas City is Missouri’s largest city. The metropolitan area straddles the Kansas-Missouri border, with sister city, Kansas City, Kansas. The city is famous for food, including a distinctive style of barbecue as well as craft brewhouses and major league sports. There are many family-friendly attractions in the large city including the Kansas City Zoo, Legoland Discovery Center, The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures, Schlitterbahn Kansas City and Oceans of Fun water park. There are many museums located in the city for history and culture buffs, as well as chances to catch quality sporting events. After your day exploring the city, sit down to a plate of barbecue and a pint of Kansas City-brewed beer for the true Kansas City experience.

Lake of the Ozarks

Lake of the Ozarks is a large reservoir on the Osage River in the northern Ozarks. The lake’s winding, serpentine shape has given it the name “The Magic Dragon.” Lake of the Ozarks State Park encompasses a large section of land along the Grand Glaize Arm of the lake. It is the largest state park in Missouri. This section of the lake is home to Anderson Hollow Cove which has been nicknamed Party Cove because it attracts many rowdy boaters. The park has three scenic golf courses including The Lodge of Four Seasons championship course, as well as Osage National Golf Course and the more laid back Shawnee Bend Golf Course.

Lee’s Summit

Lee’s Summit is a city in the Kansas City Metropolitan Area in western Missouri. The city has many historic sites including the Train Depot, Lee’s Summit Historical Cemetary, Longview Mansion, and more. The area’s history is also on display at the Lee’s Summit Historical Museum in the city’s downtown. Families will enjoy classic family fun at Paradise Park entertainment park, Summit Lanes bowling alley, Summit Waves aquatic center and Landmark 2 Skate Center. The six blocks of the historic downtown feature many unique shops and delicious restaurants. Nearby Lake Jacomo offers opportunities for outdoor fun as well as a reconstructed 1855 town called Missouri Town.

Meremec Caverns

Meremec Caverns is a 4.6 mile cavern system in the Ozark Mountains near the town of Stanton. The caverns are formed from eroded limestone over a period of millions of years. In the past, the caverns were used by Native Americans for shelter. Pre-Columbian Native American artifacts have been discovered throughout the cavern system. The cavern is a tourist attraction today and is the most popular cave in the state. There are many stunning formations inside the cave as well as a light and sound show dubbed “The Greatest Show Under the Earth” and a room named Hollywood which has been used for several Hollywood productions.

1135 Highway W, Sullivan, MO 63080, 573-468-2283

Roaring River State Park

Roaring River State Park is a state park encompassing more than 4,000 acres near the town of Cassville. The park is popular among fishermen who come to fish for trout on the Roaring River. In fact, it is stocked every night with trophy trout and is one of the most premier trout fisheries in the country. There are seven different hiking trails offering a range of difficulty levels and beautiful scenery. The Ozark Chinquapin Nature Center is open seasonally. The nature center offers regularly scheduled educational programs each day in the summer season. There are bald eagle viewing events scheduled in the winter. Several options for overnight accommodations include primitive and electric campsites as well as cabins.

12716 FR 1090, Cassville, MO 65625, 417-847-2539


Rolla is a city in central Missouri that is well known for beautiful outdoor attractions and a prominent university. The Missouri University of Science and Technology is based here and is known around the world for its engineering and computer science departments. The university also has a half-scale replica of Stonehenge, an astronomical observatory and the state’s first nuclear reactor. The city is home to the headquarters of the Mark Twain National Forest and as such offers a range of recreational activities in the surrounding forests and hills of the Ozark highlands. For outdoor fun without leaving the city limits, there are a range of municipal parks which include Rolla Lion Club Den and Park and Ben Juan Park.

Saint Charles

Saint Charles is a suburb of St. Louis located on the Mississippi River along the state’s eastern border. The city is the third largest in the state and played a significant role in the western expansion of the United States. It was one of the last major settlements that the Lewis and Clark Expedition stopped at when they were exploring the western territory. the city also served as the capital of the state for a few years. The Riverfront and Historic Main Street feature many historic buildings, shops and restaurants which are popular among locals and visitors alike. Each year they host one of the country’s largest Christmas festivals where the streets and many homes are decked out for the occasion.

Saint Joseph

Saint Joseph is a small city on the western border of the state, located on the banks of the Missouri River. The city is home to Missouri Western State University and is best known as being the former home and death place of famous outlaw Jesse James, the starting point of the infamous Pony Express and the birthplace of rapper Eminem. Attractions in the city include a variety of museums such as the Pony Express Museum, Glore Psychiatric Museum, the Jesse James Home Museum and Patee House, a small museum with exhibits about the American West. Krug Park is one of the city’s largest parks and offers mountain biking, Italian Renaissance structures and beautiful landscaping making it a great place to relax.


Springfield is the third-largest city in the state. It is a college town located in the southwestern quadrant of the state. Among the higher education institutions that call Springfield home are Missouri State University, Evangel University and Drury University. The city is known as the “Birthplace of Route 66” as it was the first place that the name of the highway was first proposed by officials. The city still has remnants of its place along the famous highway such as drive-up diners, service station and more. There are many parks and recreational areas in the city and surrounding area including the Missouri Department of Conservation’s Springfield Nature Center, the Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield and the nearby Finley and James rivers.

St. Louis

St. Louis is a major city on the Mississippi River. The city is perhaps best known for its iconic Gateway Arch which, at 630 feet, dominates the St. Louis skyline. The arch honors Lewis and Clark and stands as a symbol of America’s westward expansion. Visitors can visit the base of the arch and take an elevator to the top as well as take a river boat tour in replica paddle boats to get a different view of the arch and the city. The city is home to the St. Louis Cardinals who play at Busch Stadium. Other attractions include the Saint Louis Science Center, historic Forest Park, the Missouri Botanical Gardens, Saint Louis Zoo and the Anheuser-Busch Brewery complex.

Table Rock State Park

Table Rock State Park is nestled on the banks of Table Rock Lake. The park has a full-service marina for guests who wish to enjoy the park from the water. There are a variety of boats available for rent as well as SCUBA diving excursions available for booking. There are several trails including easy walking trails along the lakeshore and more difficult trails best accessed by mountain bike. Picnicking and fishing are also popular activities. For overnight guests, the park has a modern campground with a variety of accommodation options including tent and RV campsites and even yurt camping.

5272 Missouri 165, Branson, MO 65616, 417-334-4704

Talking Rocks Cavern

Talking Rocks Cavern is a privately owned cavern system just west of Reeds Spring. The cave is nicknamed “fairy cave” because an early explorer commented that it looked like an underground fairy land. Guided tours of the cave are offered regularly throughout the day. The tour takes guests down 150 steps where they can see the cave formations and light and sound show before climbing the 115 steps back out. The cave often floods which may cause the tours to be shorter, but does not typically cause them to be canceled. The mouth of the cave features a gift shop which sells a variety of Talking Rocks Cavern and Missouri-themed merchandise.

423 Fairy Cave Lane, Branson West, MO 65737, 417-272-3366

Taum Sauk Mountain State Park

Taum Sauk Mountain State Park is located in the Ozarks. The park contains Missouri’s highest point, and the namesake of the park - Taum Sauk Mountain. The park has a portion of the Ozark Trail which hikers and backpackers can use to access nearby Bell Mountain Wilderness Area and the Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park. The park has a paved trail to the highpoint on Taum Sauk Mountain. They also have picnic facilities, a primitive campground, and a lookout tower offering a nice view out above the trees. The state’s highest waterfall, Mina Sauk Falls can be accessed by hiking a rugged, 3-mile loop trail from the highpoint parking area.

Highway CC, Ironton, MO 63656, 573-546-2450