Day Trips

“The traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see.” — G.K. Chesterton

Usually, when people think of travel — especially the enlightening sort of travel that Mr. Chesterton had in mind — they think of heading off to some distant destination. But Columbians don’t have to travel far to have broadening experiences. There is much to see right here in Missouri, and festivals throughout the state offer windows into other places and other times while immersing travelers in settings that also engage in the here and now.

And there’s the food. After all, traveling isn’t just about seeing — it’s about hearing, touching, smelling and tasting, too!

Visit these cities and towns during their festivals, and find destinations that inspire return trips.

1 hour, 15 minutes south of Columbia

The Lake of the Ozarks is the place to go for summertime fun, and its festivals celebrate the carefree season.

The Hot Summer Nights series brings classic cars, trucks and motorcycles to Bagnell Dam Strip one Friday evening each month from May to September. Visitors can cruise through the event to see the vintage autos, or get out and stroll to take in the live music, food and family fun. May 9, June 13, July 11, Aug. 8, Sept. 5, 2014

Another summer-fun festival at the Lake is AquaPalooza. This one-day, family-friendly celebration attracts hundreds of boats and thousands of people. Live bands provide free concerts on the Dog Days Bar & Grill waterfront stage, and there are games and prizes, as well as a boat show presented by the Lake of the Ozarks Marine Dealers Association. July 19, 2014

Why You’ll Come Back

  • Golfing: The Lake is a premier Midwest golf destination with 16 golf courses designed by such stars as Arnold Palmer, Tom Weiskopf and Jack Nicklaus. Ozark forests, limestone bluffs and gorgeous views deliver perfect course settings.
  • Music: Live music is a staple of nightlife at the Lake’s many bars; Main Street Music Hall offers family-friendly music and a comedy show.
  • Shopping: From the Osage Beach Premium Outlets to numerous furniture stores, shopping at the Lake is hot no matter the season.
  • State Parks: At Ha Ha Tonka State Park, hiking trails lead visitors to the ruins of an American sandstone castle and to natural wonders including sinkholes, rock bridges, caves and a large spring. The vast Lake of the Ozarks State Park offers camping, boating, fishing, swimming, hiking, backpacking, biking, horseback riding and cave exploration. Hidden away on the side of the park accessed near Brumley is a historic swinging bridge with an impressive — and somewhat frightening — span of 414 feet.


1 hour, 40 minutes east of Columbia

Located on the bluffs above the Missouri River Valley, the charming village of Augusta was designated the “First United States Wine District” in 1980. Its festivals capture its fine wine heritage, as well as an appreciation for fine art.

The Augusta Harvest Festival begins on a Friday evening, when guests board a pumpkin wagon for a short ride down a country lane to a 130-year-old vaulted cellar. There, guests sample port and pick up gourmet picnic baskets packed with cheeses, sausages, fruit, spread, vegetables and dip, bread, jam and wine. Guests take these baskets and settle down to a picnic with live music. The next day, the celebration continues with such activities as “A Taste of Historic Augusta,” which features specials at shops and restaurants, and a “Wine Maker Social,” a premier dinner event pairing local wine with an excellent menu.Sept. 19–20, 2014

The springtime Augusta Plein Air Art Festival invites guests to watch artists create works at local wineries and to purchase the art straight from the easel. More than 100 artists participate.

Why You’ll Come Back

  • Wine: The region around Augusta has more than a dozen wineries offering spectacular views of the rolling hillside vineyards. Four of the wineries are featured stops on the Missouri Weinstrasse wine trail: Augusta Winery, Balducci Vineyards, Montelle Winery and Sugar Creek Winery.
  • Shopping: In Augusta, shoppers find plentiful antiques, works of art and handmade jewelry and crafts, as well as a family farm offering “you-pick” blackberries, apples and pumpkins, and businesses targeting guests who arrive in town on the Katy Trail.
  • History: Founded in 1836 by a settler following Daniel Boone, Augusta has seven houses on the National Historic Register, including a house that serves as the Augusta History Museum.


1 hour, 40 minutes northeast of Columbia

The boyhood home of Mark Twain, Hannibal is a town teeming with history and creativity, and its many events and festivals inspire appreciation for both.

Two Hannibal traditions center on the town’s most famous resident. Twain on Main takes place over Memorial Day Weekend and is a weekend full of entertainment, crafts and great food, while the National Tom Sawyer Days festival features a craft fair, parade, fireworks over the Mississippi, the Tom Sawyer and Becky Thatcher Contest, frog jumping and more old-fashioned fun. July 3–5, 2014

Be sure to visit the Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum complex, which has eight properties, including two interactive museums. Twain fans will also want to tour Mark Twain Cave, explored by its namesake with points of interest mentioned in Twain’s writing. Adventurous visitors may flock to Cameron Cave to explore with lanterns.

Another Hannibal tradition is the Annual Autumn Historic Folklife Festival, an 1800s-themed festival that consistently draws thousands of visitors from the Midwest region and hosts more than 100 exhibitors, including artists, craftsmen and street musicians; food cooked on wood stoves; cider fresh from the apple press; a children’s area; and a warm atmosphere for everyone. Oct. 18-19, 2014

Why You’ll Come Back

History. Along with Twain sites, Hannibal offers Rockcliffe Mansion, a 13,500-square-foot American castle built between 1898 and 1900 by the lumber baron John J. Cruikshank. Most of the original fine furnishings and fixtures remain. Hannibal also offers the Molly Brown Museum, housed in her home, and the Hannibal History Museum.

  • Art: Hannibal is in the “50 Miles of Art” corridor, which also includes the communities of Louisiana and Clarksville; the three communities are linked by history, heritage and the breathtakingly scenic Route 79.
  • Trains &Riverboats: The Big River Train Town & Museum is a dream come true for toy train enthusiasts. Visitors find new and vintage toy trains and interactive exhibits. The Mark Twain Riverboat offers sightseeing cruises with commentary on river history, legends and sights.
  • Nature: Riverview Park is 465 acres of forested land on Hannibal’s limestone bluffs, and its paved trails offer scenic views of the Mississippi River. Between Columbia and Hannibal is Mark Twain Lake, where activities include boating, swimming, fishing, picnicking, hiking, camping and hunting.


3 hours northwest of Columbia

The town where the Pony Express began and Jesse James met his end, St. Joseph has several attractions to rope in folks keen on Wild West adventure, including the largest festival in northwest Missouri.

Now in its 22nd year, the Trails West! festival features fine arts, fine craft and unique foods. Entertainment is on three stages — a main stage, family stage and city stage, plus there are strolling artists and historical re-enactors. Artists must be juried into the festival to appear in either the Fine Arts Area or the Folk Art Area. Aug. 15-17, 2014

St. Joseph has a variety of other festivals, including the springtime Apple Blossom Parade and Barbecue Contest and the Pony Express Pumpkinfest, Oct.10–12, 2014

Why You’ll Come Back

  • More Wild West Fun: St. Joseph is home to the Pony Express National Museum, housed inside the original Pikes Peak Stables, and the Patee House Museum, an 1858 luxury hotel that served as Pony Express headquarters. The Jesse James Home Museum, where the infamous outlaw was killed in 1882, is also in town, and about an hour southeast in Kearney is the Jesse James Farm and Museum, which includes the 1822 cabin where Jesse was born.
  • Arts & Culture: The Allied Arts Council of St. Joseph is acknowledged statewide as an arts leader. Cultural attractions in St. Joseph include the Albrecht-Kemper Museum of Art, which houses one of the Midwest’s finest collections of 18th, 19th and 20th-century art; Paradox Theatre, a new all-age music, art and performance venue; Robidoux Landing Playhouse, a dinner theatre venue that is also home to a stand-up comedy club, a jazz club and numerous dinner shows; the Saint Joseph Symphony; and more.
  • Cronkite Memorial: Famed news anchor Walter Cronkite was born in St. Joseph, and the Walter Cronkite Memorial at Missouri Western State University commemorates his life, from his childhood to his illustrious news career.
  • Shopping: Visitors find more than 225 shops and 150 restaurants within a 10-mile radius.


2 hours east of Columbia

First settled in the early 1700s, Ste. Genevieve is the only surviving French Colonial village in the United States. The town’s festivals preserve the heritage of “Missouri’s Oldest Town.”

The French Heritage Festival celebrates the 300 years of French culture in North America from Quebec to New Orleans and recognizes Ste. Genevieve’s impressive collection of French Colonial architecture, the greatest concentration of this architecture in North America. Music, dance, French and Creole cuisine, a wine and beer tent, re-enactments, promenades (parades) and French Colonial architecture tours are some of the festival attractions. June 14, 2014

Jour de Fete is an arts and crafts festival featuring more than 100 booths, plus hands-on exhibits, musical entertainment and tours of historic homes. Aug. 9-10, 2014

Why You’ll Come Back

  • History: There’s far too much history in Ste. Genevieve to see it all in one day. Along with its famous French history, Ste. Genevieve also has a rich heritage of German, American Indian and black cultures. There are numerous historic homes to tour, plus the Ste. Genevieve Museum. Ste. Genevieve is also home to Missouri’s oldest cemetery, Ste. Genevieve Memorial Cemetery, established in 1787. Begin your visit at the Ste. Genevieve Welcome Center, to pick up a map of area attractions and watch a welcome video.
  • Wine & Beer: Winemaking has been a tradition in Ste. Genevieve since the first French settlers arrived, and today, the area surrounding Ste. Genevieve is home to 10 award-winning wineries and microbreweries.
  • Shopping: The Ste. Genevieve Historic District is filled with souvenir, gift and antique shops. Find everything from vintage home décor to a women’s clothing boutique.
  • Art: Along with an abundance of historic art, Ste. Genevieve also offers several galleries where current artists sell their work. The 4th Friday Art Walk is a monthly studio and gallery walk through a compact nine-block area in the downtown National Historic District.


3 hours, 15 minutes southwest of Columbia

Known as the “Live Music Show Capital of the World,” Branson is in the business of family entertainment, and nowhere is that wholesome atmosphere felt more than at Silver Dollar City.

This 1880s-themed park entices visitors with one festival after another. Bluegrass, international acts, gospel music, cowboys and America all take their turns at the center of the celebration. The most famous festival at Silver Dollar City is An Old Time Christmas, named “A Top 5 Spot to Light Up the Holidays!” byGood Morning America. Silver Dollar City observes the true meaning of the season with the help of more than 5 million dazzling lights, 1,000 decorated Christmas trees, two Broadway-style productions and a five-story Christmas tree with lights set to music. Weather permitting, more than 30 rides are also open. Nov. 1–Dec. 30, 2014

Why You’ll Come Back

  • Shows: Branson has more than 100 live shows, ranging from nostalgia to acrobats and from dinner shows to dramatic theater.
  • Museums: Branson’s fascinating museums include the Hollywood Wax Museum, the Branson Auto Museum, Titanic Branson and Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum, among others.
  • Lake Fun: The Branson area has three pristine lakes: Table Rock, Taneycomo and Bull Shoals. Activities include swimming, boating, sailing, scuba diving, parasailing and, of course, fishing.
  • Golf: Award-winning golf courses in Branson have connections to the greatest names in golf, including Tom Fazio, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Payne Stewart.
  • Shopping: Branson Landing offers hundreds of specialty shops and restaurants; Tanger Factory Outlet Center is a deal destination and The Shoppes at Branson Meadows offer specialty stores, outlets and gourmet foods. There is also one-of-a-kind shopping from artisans at Silver Dollar City and the Grand Village.


2 hours east of Columbia

The Gateway City is a favorite destination for families, sports fans, art enthusiasts, history buffs and beer drinkers. It is also host for the Festival of Nations, the region’s largest multicultural festival. Activities include stage performances, an international food court, world bazaar, family arts and crafts, dance lessons and more. Aug. 23–24, 2014

Why You’ll Come Back

  • The Arts: Grand Center, in St. Louis’s historical arts and cultural district, is home to more than 30 arts organizations, including the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, The Fabulous Fox Theatre, the Black Rep, the Sheldon Concert Hall, Jazz at the Bistro and Circus Bistro. St. Louis also offers Union Station, Scottrade Center and the Riverport amphitheater, among other art museums, live theaters and music venues.
  • History: Discover how the past brought us to the present at the Museum of Westward Expansion under the Arch; the First Missouri State Capital State Historic Site; the Old Courthouse; the Scott Joplin House State Historic Site; the Soldiers’ Memorial Military Museum; the Missouri History Museum and several other historic St. Louis sites.
  • Sports: Named the “Ultimate Sports City” by ESPN, St. Louis draws sports fans with the Blues, the Cardinals and the Rams.
  • Beer: Anheuser-Busch is a St. Louis icon, and tours of the Budweiser Brewery are complimentary. There are also several microbreweries and brewpubs to visit in St. Louis, and the city hosts a beer-related event almost every month of the year.
  • Nature: With the Missouri Botanical Garden, Citygarden and one of the largest urban parks in the United States, St. Louis offers an unexpected route back to nature.


2 hours west of Columbia

Known for its fountains, jazz and barbecue, Kansas City also attracts visitors with world-class museums, an up-and-coming arts scene, superb shopping, striking architecture — and the Kansas City Renaissance Festival.

Actually located in nearby Bonner Springs, Kan., this festival is a theme-park-sized fair with a cast of more than 150 costumed performers. The festival offers seven themed weekends, 20 entertainment venues, live armored jousting, more than 100 artisan booths, and food and drink fit for a king. Aug. 30–Oct. 13, 2014, weekends and Labor Day

Why You’ll Come Back

  • The Arts: With the opening of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in 2011, Kansas City strengthened its arts center reputation. Other cultural draws include three arts museums, theater venues, galleries, nightclubs, comedy clubs and concerts.
  • Shopping: Home to the nation’s first suburban shopping district, Kansas City is renowned for its excellent shopping, from small boutiques to expansive malls and from upscale to eclectic. Popular draws are the Country Club Plaza, Zona Rosa, Kansas City Power & Light District and the City Market.
  • History: With the National World War I Museum, the Arabia Steamboat Museum, National Frontier Trails Center, Civil War sites and more, Kansas City provides several opportunities to get close to history.
  • Barbecue: Kansas City has about 100 barbecue restaurants, from casual roadside joints to high-end, sophisticated restaurants.