Show Me Missouri!

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Show Me Missouri!
25 Destinations For Adventure, Romance, Nature, Sports, Shopping, History, Art And More

BY ANITA NEAL HARRISON

​Ready for a road trip?

​With its central location, Columbia makes a great home base for exploring the wonders and attractions of the Show-Me State. Whether you have just a day to get away or time for an overnight excursion, there are plentiful destinations awaiting discovery, and this guide, organized by distance from Columbia, makes it easy to find trips with just the right amount of road.

​So grab a camera and a companion, and head out to seewhat big fun a little trip in Missouri can be.

 

Trips Within 1 Hour

Rocheport: Just 10 miles west of Columbia, Rocheport is a favorite destination for Columbians biking the Katy Trail. Thehistoric downtown is full of brick buildings built between 1830 and 1920, and the picturesque streets are lined with unique shops and artisan galleries. At mealtime, there’s laidback dining at the General Store, which offers live music, or fine dining at either Abigail’s, a gourmet restaurant in a historic building, or at Les Bourgeois Vineyards & Winery, which offers tours and wine tasting. www.rocheport.com

Fulton: Thirty minutes southeast of Columbia, Fulton is rich inhistory, with 67 buildings on the historic register. The National Churchill Museum, located on the campus of Westminster College, resides beneath the St. Mary the Virgin Aldermanbury church, a Christopher Wren-designed church moved stone-by-stone to the campus. Fulton is also home to several art galleriesand the Backer Auto World Museum, and it is close to two wineries, Serenity Valley Winery and Canterbury Hill Winery and Restaurant. Fulton also connects to Columbia via the Katy Trail. www.visitfulton.com

Jefferson City: The state capital is high on history, with tours of the Missouri State Capitol (recognized as one of the most beautiful in the country), Governor’s Mansion, Jefferson Landing State Historic Site, Missouri State Archives, Museum of Missouri Military History, the Missouri State Penitentiary and more museums and historic sites. It’s just a 30-minute drivesouth from Columbia, or it, too, can be reached on the Katy Trail; a trail spur leads across the Missouri River on a pedestrian and bicycle bridge. www.visitjeffersoncity.com

Arrow Rock: The entire village of Arrow Rock, 45 minutes northwest of Columbia, is a designated National Historic Landmark, and several of the buildings are preserved as The Arrow Rock State Historic Site. Included in the village are a general store museum, old courthouse, stone jail and the J. Huston Tavern, the oldest continuously serving restaurant west of the Mississippi River. Other attractions include a modern state park campground, antique shops and the Arrow Rock Lyceum Theatre, a nonprofit professional theater that entertains audiences with Broadway-caliber shows. www.arrowrock.organd www.mostateparks.com/park/arrow-rock-state-historic-site​

Marshall: With one of the more unusual tourism taglines, “Smart Dog, Nice Folks,” Marshall reveals its pride for its famous canine legend, Jim the Wonder Dog. Jim’s remarkable abilities included reading, predicting the future and following commands in foreign languages. Jim the Wonder Dog Garden shares his story in a peaceful botanical park, while the Marshall Welcome Center also offers the Jim the Wonder Dog Museum. Other Marshall attractions include an aviation museum commemorating the Marshall Flying School, which in the 1920s was one of the world’s largest and most successful flyingschools, and a Civil War driving tour. Marshall is an hour northwest of Columbia. www.visitmarshallmo.com

 

Trips Within 1 1/2 Hours

Sedalia: Just a little more than an hour from Columbia, Sedalia has an unusual mix of attractions. The Katy Depot Historic Site has exhibits on Sedalia’s history, including its end-of-the-trail location in the 1800s for cattle drives originating in Texas. The Bothwell Lodge State Historic Site has a furnished 12,000-square-foot arts-and-crafts-style mansion built between 1897 and 1928. The Daum Museum of Contemporary Art at State Fair Community College is a work of art in itself. And in the summer, Sedalia hosts both the Missouri State Fair and the Scott Joplin Ragtime Festival, which honors the pioneering musician who studied music theory in town. www.visitsedalia.com

Lake of the Ozarks: The big three diversions at the Lake, located an hour south of Columbia, are boating, golfing and shopping. The Lake offers numerous marinas for boaters, a state park and several restaurants located on the water. Golfers find 16 courses. The hottest shopping destination is Osage Beach Premium Outlets, which offers 110 outlet stores. The events calendar overflows in the summertime, with events ranging from the annual Canine Cannonball competition to Hot Summer Nights on the Bagnell Dam Strip. www.funlake.com

Hermann: An abundance of award-winning wineries sitclustered within a 15-mile radius of Hermann, a historic German city located a little more than an hour east of Columbia. One of those wineries, Stone Hill Winery, is Missouri’s oldest and most awarded winery. Eight annual festivals celebrate Hermann’s Old World Heritage — the biggest are Maifest and Oktoberfest —and there is an abundance of museums and historic architecture,including the Deutschheim State Historic Site and the Historic Hermann’s Museum at the Old German School. Hermann’s beautiful setting, wineries and historic charms have made this town a favorite destination for romance.www.hermannmissouri.com

Lexington: Once an outfitting post for the Santa Fe and Oregon trails, Lexington invites visitors to “stroll down streets where wagon trains once rolled and shop in buildings dating back to the 1840s.” The Battle of Lexington State Historic Site & Anderson House preserves the site of a fiercely contested Civil War battlefield. Remnants of trenches can still be seen in the site’s 100 acres, and the house, though restored beautifully, still shows damage from the battle. A much newer draw in Lexington is wine: There are five wineries in Lexington’s Lafayette County. Lexington is an hour and a half west of Columbia.www.visitlexingtonmo.com

 

Trips Within 2 Hours
Kirksville: Just over an hour and a half north of Columbia, Kirksville is a small town with two highly ranked universities, a beautiful state park and thousands of acres of public and private hunting grounds that attract hunters from across the U.S. Kirksville also offers abundant shopping, and several history attractions, including an important Civil War battle site, a coal miner’s museum, a museum of osteopathic medicine and rock formations containing Native American carvings. There’s a vibrant arts and culture scene, too, with art galleries, live theater,music and dance. The Kohlenberg Lyceum Series at Truman State University brings world-class performances to the area.http://visitkirksville.com

Lebanon: This Route 66 town, located two hours southwest of Columbia, entices visitors with its beautiful Ozark rivers. Bennett Spring State Park is a premier trout destination where anglers fish for rainbow trout in a stream stocked nightly. Thestream runs into the Niangua River, a favorite for float trips. Along with a range of campsites, the state park also offers motel rooms and cabins. Back in town, check out the Route 66 Museum to see re-creations of life on the Mother Road.www.lebanonmissouri.org

Augusta: 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. Founded in 1836, Augusta has seven houses on the National Historic Register, including a house that serves as the Augusta History Museum. Augusta sitson the bluffs above the Missouri River Valley, just over an hour and a half east of Columbia. Columbians can also travel to Augusta via the Katy Trail. www.augusta-missouri.com

Hannibal: The boyhood home of Mark Twain, Hannibal is teeming with history and creativity. The Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum is a complex with eight properties including two interactive museums. More adventure awaits in Mark Twain Cave and Cameron Cave and aboard the Mark Twain Riverboat. Hannibal is also home to Rockcliffe Mansion, a 13,500-square-foot American castle built in 1900, the “unsinkable” Molly Brown Birthplace & Museum and the Big River Train Town & Museum. Hannibal is an hour and 45 minutes northeast of Columbia. www.visithannibal.com

Kansas City: Long known for its jazz, fountains, barbecue and shopping, Kansas City is now a burgeoning arts center. Cultural draws include the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, along with art museums, theater venues, galleries, nightclubs, comedy clubs and concerts. History buffs will want to visit the National WWI Museum and Arabia Steamboat Museum, and family attractions include the Kansas City Zoo, SEA LIFE Kansas City Aquarium, numerous theme parks and sports, including the Kansas City Royals, Kansas City Chiefs and rodeos at The American Royal. Kansas City is two hours west of Columbia. www.visitkc.com

St. Louis: The Gateway City, two hours east of Columbia, is a favorite destination for families, sports fans, art enthusiasts, history buffs, nature lovers and beer fans. Grand Center, in the city’s historical arts and cultural district, is home to more than 30 arts organizations. Other notable draws include Union Station, Scottrade Center, the Riverport amphitheater and the Missouri Botanical Garden. Discover the history of St. Louis at the Museum of Westward Expansion under the Arch, the First Missouri State Capital State Historic Site, the Old Courthouse and several other museums. And, of course, St. Louis is a favorite stop for sports fans, with the St. Louis Blues for hockey, the St. Louis Cardinals for baseball and the St. Louis Rams for football. www.explorestlouis.com

 

Trips Within 3 Hours

Weston: A booming river port in the 1800s, Weston shows off its rich past in a historic district covering 22 blocks of the town’s downtown. The area includes 91 historic homes and buildings, most of them antebellum. Weston also offers museums, wineries, a brewery tour, the Weston Bend State Park, and Snow Creek, a winter resort with skiing, snowboarding and tube sledding. Weston is two and a half hours west of Columbia, just minutes north of Kansas City’s International Airport.www.westonmo.com

Springfield: This friendly Ozarks city is the hub of Missouri’s southwest region. Not quite three hours from Columbia, Springfield is a great destination for families. Bring the grandkids, and spend the day at Dickerson Park Zoo or the Discovery Center, an interactive science museum, and then head to the beautiful Hammons Field to cheer on the Double-A Springfield Cardinals. Or make it a trip focused on history with the Air & Military Museum of the Ozarks; the History Museum on the Square, located on historic Route 66; and Springfield’s Civil War sites. Shoppers will want to visit Battlefield Mall, home to more than 150 stores, while outdoor enthusiasts will love Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World, “the granddaddy of all outdoor stores.” www.springfieldmo.org

St. Joseph: Just under three hours northwest of Columbia, St. Joseph has several attractions to rope in folks keen on Wild West adventure, including the Pony Express National Museum, Patee House Museum and Jesse James Home Museum. While in town, check out The Glore Psychiatric Museum and the National Military Heritage Museum. Visitors will find 225 shops and 150 restaurants within a 10-mile radius. www.stjomo.com

Bonne Terre: From 1864 until 1962, the St. Joseph Lead Co. operated mines at Bonne Terre, located close to three hours from Columbia. When the mines closed, the manmade caverns filled with cold, clear water, creating a unique destination for scuba divers that has attracted the likes of Jacques Cousteau andNational Geographic. The Bonne Terre Mine also offers walking and boating tours; above ground, visitors can explore Bonne Terre’s Space Museum. www.bonneterre.net

Ste. Genevieve: First settled in the early 1700s, Ste. Genevieve is the only surviving French Colonial village in the United States. Located nearly three hours east of Columbia, the villagehas the greatest concentration of French Colonial architecture in North America. Ste. Genevieve Memorial Cemetery is Missouri’s oldest cemetery, established in 1787. The historic district is filled with souvenir, gift and antique shops, as well as several art galleries. 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. www.ste-genevieve.com

 

Trips Exceeding 3 Hours
Mansfield: Laura Ingalls Wilder penned all nine of the Little House series’ manuscripts at Rocky Ridge Farm near Mansfield,located a little more than three hours southwest of Columbia.Little House enthusiasts can explore all things Laura at the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home & Museum, which along with a museum offers tours of two homes where Laura resided with Almanzo. The Mansfield Historical Society and Museum offers more Laura history, and there is also a live outdoor show,“Laura’s Memories,” in the fall.www.lauraingallswilderhome.com

Arcadia Valley: A little more than three hours southeast of Columbia, the Arcadia Valley area includes the towns of Arcadia, Ironton and Pilot Knob. This is a region of the Missouri Ozarks known for exceptional scenery. Elephant Rocks State Park is named for the gigantic red granite boulders strewn across several acres — rocks that dwarf adults. At nearby Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park, the valley walls of the East Fork Black River converge dramatically, and the rushing water falls around igneous boulders, creating shallow pools of trapped water, chutes of running water, narrow waterfalls and small, but deep, swimming holes. A little farther south, Taum Sauk Mountain State Park is home to the state’s highest point, as well as the state’s tallest wet-weather waterfall. www.arcadiavalley.biz

Branson: Known as the “Live Music Show Capital of the World,” Branson is in the business of family entertainment. The more than 100 live shows in Branson range from nostalgia to acrobats to dinner shows to dramatic theater. Branson also boasts exceptional museums, such as the Titanic Museum, the Hollywood Wax Museum and Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum; championship golf; three lakes offering fishing, boating and other water sports; and award-winning theme parks, including the 1880s-themed Silver Dollar City. Branson is not quite three and half hours from Columbia. www.branson.com

Joplin: Since the devastating tornado in 2011, Joplin has rebuilt into an even stronger community. This Route 66 town offersvaried attractions. The Joplin Museum Complex includes a mineral museum relating the area’s mining history, while the Spiva Center for the Arts is a leading cultural institution for the region. The Murphysburg Residential Historic District hasbreathtaking homes built in the late 1800s and early 1900s, plus beautiful churches. And Grand Falls, located on Shoal Creek just south of Joplin, is the largest continuously flowing natural waterfall in Missouri. Joplin is close to four hours from Columbia. www.visitjoplinmo.com

West Plains: Located three and a half hours south of Columbia, West Plains is a small town connected to some big names: It’sthe hometown of country music stars Jan Howard and Porter Wagoner and the late Preacher Roe of Brooklyn Dodger fame, and it’s the birthplace of Dick Van Dyke. Visitors find a picturesque courthouse square, several antique shops and old-fashioned businesses, such as a cigar/men’s club, burger joint and live theater. The area around West Plains is filled with outdoor recreational opportunities, including Grand Gulf State Park, home to the “Little Grand Canyon; Arkansas’s Mammoth Spring; the Mark Twain National Forest; and four Ozark grist mills close enough to be visited in one day. www.westplains.net

 

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