Eight Great Show-Me State Daytrips
You don’t always have to get far away to have a memorable getaway. Missouri offers vacation adventures to suit the laid-back traveler looking to while away a lazy day or the daring adventurer who wants to push the limits — and everyone in-between.
Try Something New In St. Louis
Most mid-Missourians know the St. Louis staples — a Cardinals game, a day at the zoo, an Anheuser-Busch brewery tour — but this year why not try some lesser-known alternatives? Love sports? Be a part of history with tickets to see the St. Louis Football Club, whose inaugural soccer season lasts through September (636-680-0999; www.saintlouisfc.com). Looking for animals? Purina Farms in Gray Summit provides hands-on fun including a baby animal petting area, wagon rides, and dog shows (314-982-3232; www.purinafarms.com). And if beer’s your thing, try a craft brewery tour at 4 Hands Brewing Co. (314-436-1559; www.4handsbrewery.com) or go all in and take the 3½-hour Brewery Tour of St. Louis (314-399-0221; www.brewerytoursofstlouis.com).
Make it an overnight. Head to the Delmar Loop in University City for non-St. Louis style pizza at Al Forno É (314-757-6542; 567A Melville Avenue), take in a show at the historic Blueberry Hill (314-727-4444; www.blueberryhill.com), and sleep at the sleek Moonrise Hotel (314-721-1111; www.moonrisehotel.com).
Don’t Overlook Jefferson City
If you’re interested in more day and less trip, consider heading just south across the river to Jefferson City. Visit the historic Missouri State Penitentiary, which — until it closed in 2004 — operated as the oldest prison west of the Mississippi for 168 years. Several tours are available, including daytime history tours, ghost tours, and paranormal excursions (866-998-6998; www.missouripentours.com). For lunch, head over to the popular Prison Brews for pizza or burgers with a prison-themed decor. If it’s a nice day, have your handcrafted ale outside and enjoy the large patio and bocce courts (573-635-0678; www.prisonbrews.com). After lunch, venture across the Missouri River on the pedestrian bridge or take an easy stroll at Runge Nature Center (573-526-5544; www.mdc.mo.gov/regions/central/runge-nature-center, closed Sundays and Mondays). Finish the day with some unique shopping at The Schaefer House (573-635-8877 www.theschaeferhouse.com, closed Sundays).
Make it an overnight: Have dinner at Capitol City Cork and Provisions and a movie at its sister venue Capitol City Cinema (573-632-2675; 124/126 E. High St.; www.capitolcitycinema.org). For a final romantic touch, reserve a luxury suite at the historic Cliff Manor Inn, superbly situated with a view overlooking the Missouri River (573-636-2013; www.cliffmanorinn.com).
Visit Outlaws And Presidents In Kearney And Excelsior Springs
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Excelsior Springs was a popular rail destination, known for its variety of powerful healing waters from the local mineral springs. Walk through the beautiful Art Deco Hall of Waters to see where visitors once sidled up to the water bar. Continue down Broadway to find a history museum, boutique shops and curiosities. Have lunch at Ray’s Diner or The Basement Bistro at Willow Springs Mercantile (816-637-2811; www.visitexcelsior.com). In the afternoon, visit the nearby Jesse James Farm and Museum in Kearney where the infamous outlaw was born and a museum now chronicles his adventures (816-736-8500; www.claycountymo.gov/Historic_Sites/Jesse_James_Farm). If it’s the weekend, head to Fence Stile Vineyards & Winery to enjoy happy hour on the patio (816-500-6465; www.fencestile.com).
Make it an overnight: The jewel of Excelsior Springs is The Elms Hotel & Spa, a historic property — both Harry Truman and Al Capone are among its former guests — that recently received an extensive renovation (800-843-3567; www.elmshotelandspa.com). Stay in to experience the luxurious spa or walk down the street to Wabash BBQ, which hosts live music in the Ice House Blues Garden on Saturday nights (816-630-7700; 646 S. Kansas City Ave.).
Explore Literary History In Hannibal
Hannibal is famously both the home of popular Missouri author Mark Twain and the source of inspiration for many of his fictional characters and locations. Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum includes an interpretive center and several Main Street attractions: Twain’s home, the Becky Thatcher House and the Huck Finn House (573-221-9010; www.marktwainmuseum.org). Wander down Main Street to find an assortment of art galleries, antiques and boutique shopping. For lunch, try the onion rings at Mark Twain Dinette and for dessert indulge in decadent European-style chocolate or a scoop of gelato at Chocolaterie Stam. At the north end of Main Street — look for the Tom and Huck statue — you’ll find the 244 steps that take you up to the lighthouse for a panoramic look at the river (573-221-2477; www.visithannibal.com). Mark Twain Cave and Cameron Cave are arguably two of the best in Missouri. Located outside the caves is Sticks, Stones & Bones where kids (and kids-at-heart) can dig for fossils, pan for gemstones, and whitewash Aunt Polly’s fence à la Tom Sawyer (573-231-1000; www.marktwaincave.com).
Make it an overnight: Take a dinner cruise on the mighty Mississippi aboard the Mark Twain Riverboat Cruise (573-221-3222; www.marktwainriverboat.com). Steal away to one of the many elegant historic homes now converted to bed and breakfasts like the magnificent Rockcliffe Mansion, perched on a limestone bluff above the river (573-221-4140; www.rockcliffemansion.com).
Wine And Dine In Historic Ste. Genevieve
The oldest settlement west of the Mississippi, founded in 1735, offers visitors history, art and natural beauty in one of Missouri’s most active wine regions. The Bolduc House Museum features early 18th-centuryFrench Colonial, African and American Indian cultural history of the area (573-883-3105; www.bolduchouse.org). For those interested in touring multiple historic sites, the Welcome Center on Main Street offers a bundled discount ticket (573-883-7097; www.visitstegen.com). Ste. Genevieve was home to a vibrant artist colony in the 1930s and the town today boasts a variety of artisans displaying their work in galleries and shops. There are several winery choices in the area including the family-run Cave Vineyard, which offers a homemade biscotti bar as well as its eponymous cave, where visitors can enjoy a picnic after selecting their wine from the tasting room (573-543-5284; www.cavevineyard.com). Crown Valley Winery has expanded its locations to include a nearby brewery and a tiger sanctuary (866-207-9463; www.crownvalleywinery.com).
Make it an overnight: Stay at The Inn St. Gemme Beauvais — the oldest continuously operated bed and breakfast in Missouri. In addition to breakfast, the inn also serves high tea in the afternoon and hosts a happy hour with wine and hors d’oeuvres (800-818-5744; www.innstgemmebeauvais.homestead.com).
Travel Back To Basics In Clark And Rutledge
If you’re looking to escape the pace of everyday life, head a half-hour north of Columbia to Clark, home of one of Missouri’s largest Amish settlements. Several stores and many individual homes sell furniture, quilts, eggs, breads, popcorn, candy and a variety of other items. The Amish are a Christian sect who shun modern technology, including electricity and automobiles; bring cash along and drive carefully because you’ll be sharing the road with horses and buggies. The community in Clark does not observe Daylight Saving Time and businesses are closed on Sundays (660-263-6070; www.sturgeon-mo.org/2013 Amish map.pdf).
A bit farther north, near the town of Rutledge, is another intentional community, Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage. Members of the Dancing Rabbit community are committed to low-impact sustainable living. About 60 people live there currently, and they offer tours of the village at 1 p.m. on the second and fourth Saturdays of the month, from April to October (660-883-5511; www.dancingrabbit.org).
Make it an overnight: Thursday-to-Sunday guests can stay at the onsite eco-friendly inn, The Milkweed Mercantile. In addition to its comfortably appointed rooms, the inn offers a variety of scheduled workshops covering topics such as canning and raising chickens (660-883-5522; www.milkweedmercantile.com).
Find Family Fun In Kansas City
For a one-and-done approach to family travel planning, pack up the kiddos and head to the Crown Center in Kansas City. Park your car once for easy access to kid-pleasing activities aplenty. Grab free tickets for Hallmark’s Kaleidoscope, a craft-a-palooza where children get creative making art with leftover materials from Hallmark’s manufacturing processes. There’s also a free self-guided tour next door at the Hallmark Visitors Center. Enjoy lunch at Fritz’s Railroad Restaurant, where orders are placed at your table by phone and an overhead train delivers your food. After lunch, elementary-aged children will want to check out Legoland Discovery Center where they can see how Lego bricks are made, shoot lasers, build towers and, of course, shop! Or try Sea Life Kansas City Aquarium where more than 5,000 creatures, an underwater tunnel and a touch pool are sure to please family members of all ages. The Crown Center also hosts rotating traveling exhibits and two theaters (816-274-8444; www.crowncenter.com; Hallmark attractions are closed on Sundays and some holidays).
Make it an overnight: Spend the night in Kansas City by booking a room at one of the Crown Center’s two hotels: The Westin or Sheraton. An extra day of activities might include a short walk to Union Station (816-460-2020; www.unionstation.org) or the National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial (816-888-8100; www.theworldwar.org).
Get On the Water At Lake Of The Ozarks It spans 92 miles end-to-end with more than 1,100 miles of shoreline, and the hardest thing about visiting the Lake — as it’s colloquially known — may be narrowing down the options. Lake of the Ozarks offers water activities from leisurely boat cruises to fishing, swimming, tubing, jet skiing and parasailing. Rentals for watercraft of all kind — speedboats, fishing boats, pontoons, wave runners — are ubiquitous at The Lake at marinas, resorts and campgrounds. If you’re new to boating or need a refresher on current laws and safety, the Missouri State Highway Patrol Water Division provides information and education (573-751-3313 x1036; www.mshp.dps.missouri.gov/MSHPWeb/WaterPatrol/index.html).
The manmade lake created by the construction of Bagnell Dam 80 years ago is surrounded by natural beauty. The Missouri State Parks Division maintains Ha Ha Tonka State Park, known for its easily accessible trails, blufftop views and iconic early 20th-century castle ruins. Lake of the Ozarks State Park — the largest in the state — provides additional trail opportunities, a cave, public swimming beaches and campsites (800-334-6946; www.mostateparks.com).
Make it an overnight: If camping isn’t your thing, there are more than 7,000 available rooms around the Lake of the Ozarks area. Lakeside condo properties are popular choices and nightlife provides all styles of live music at waterside restaurants and bars. In the morning, head over to On The Rise Bakery for a delicious breakfast (573-348-4224; www.ontherisebakery.com). The Lake of the Ozarks has an active convention and visitors bureau providing helpful listings and maps of all the activities at the Lake (573-348-1599; www.funlake.com).
Let’s Visit The Neighbors: Eight Great Weekend Trips To Missouri’s Border States
Of course there’s much to see and do in our fair state, but occasionally you feel like going further afield. Whether you head north, south, east or west, the eight bordering states around Missouri offer lots of options for extended weekend trips.
Bring The Kids To Omaha, Nebraska
With more than a dozen exhibit areas and an onsite aquarium, Omaha’s top-rated Henry Doorly Zoo, featuring the world’s largest indoor desert and nocturnal animal exhibit, could be an all-day affair, but it’s not the only attraction in this bustling Midwestern city (402-733-8401; www.omahazoo.com). Omaha Children’s Museum is one of the largest in the Midwest with two floors full of interactive and educational exhibits (402-342-6164; www.ocm.org) and the Joslyn Art Museum — with works by Monet, Renoir and Chihuly — is recognized as one of the most kid-friendly art museums in the country (402-342-3300; www.joslyn.org). At the end of the night, relax on a gondola ride and see the 300-foot water jet and light show of the Heartland of America Fountain (402-444-5955; www.parks.cityofomaha.org).
Revel In Simple Things In The Amana Colonies Of Iowa
Just south of Cedar Rapids lie the Amana Colonies: seven small villages where German Pietists settled in the late 1800s and lived communally until the 1930s. A national historic landmark since 1965, the Amana Colonies now attract tourists with their old-world homesteads and craftsmanship. Residents of the Amana Colonies host several festivals throughout the year, including the popular salute to German culture, Oktoberfest, the first weekend in October. There are plenty of handmade goods to shop for in the communities — wine, beer, meats and cheeses, furniture and a variety of housewares. The Amana Woolen Mill, established in 1857, makes woolen blankets and other accessories (800-222-6430; www.amanawoolenmill.com). Stop by The Chocolate Haus for a handcrafted treat and try dinner served family-style at The Ox Yoke Inn, celebrating its 75th anniversary this year (319-622-3441;www.oxyokeinn.com). If the kids are along, head to the nearby Ramada Hotel and Wasserbahn Waterpark 319-668-1175; www.ramadawasserbahn.com). Otherwise, there are a number of bed and breakfast inns to choose from in the villages, such as Zuber’s Homestead Hotel (319-622-3911; www.zubershomesteadhotel.com).
Walk In Lincoln’s Steps In Springfield, Illinois
At the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, interactive exhibits illuminate the story of our 16th president whose political career began in Illinois. This year marks the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s death, and a special exhibit bringing together some of Lincoln’s most famous speeches is scheduled through February 2016 (800-610-2094; www.alplm.org). Other Lincoln-related sites to check out in Springfield include the restored Lincoln Home (217-492-4241; www.nps.gov/liho) and Lincoln’s tomb at Oak Ridge Cemetery (217-782-2717; www.illinois.gov/ihpa; call or check website for limited hours to see inside the tomb). Enjoy a bed and breakfast in the heart of the historic district at the Inn at 835 (217-523-4466; www.innat835.com) and spend the next day enjoying more historic sites or browsing the antique shops and galleries of Springfield.
Indulge In Local Flavor In Louisville, Kentucky
Kentucky is well known for its bourbon and horse racing, and Louisville provides an excellent base to experience both. At the Kentucky Derby Museum, explore the history of the races and tour historic Churchill Downs. For an extra thrill, take the Barn and Backside Tour for a behind-the-scenes look (502-637-1111; www.derbymuseum.org). If it’s a race day, see the thoroughbreds in action with a general admission ticket to the track (502-636-4400; www.churchilldowns.com). Downtown, the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience features an artisanal distillery, tours and tastings (502-584-2114; www.evanwilliamsbourbonexperience.com); and at the Lobby Bar at the Brown Hotel, visitors can pair a bourbon cocktail with the hotel’s legendary Hot Brown, a Louisville culinary tradition (877-926-7757; www.brownhotel.com). When scheduling tours or reservations, keep in mind that Louisville is on Eastern Standard Time.
Break In Your Boots In Nashville, Tennessee
In Music City, see a concert or take a backstage tour at the historic Ryman Auditorium — the mother church of country music and the original home of The Grand Ole Opry (615-889-3060; www.ryman.com). Around the corner, on lower Broadway, classichonky-tonks open before lunch and stay open well into the night. You’ll find a wide variety of live music within two short blocks, but expect to share the experience with a few thousand other tourists. Acme Feed & Seed near the riverfront, offers a twist on classic Southern cuisine and a great rooftop view to boot (615-915-0888; www.theacmenashville.com). Speaking of boots, if you forgot yours, you can pick up a pair at the many stores on Broadway and try them out at Robert’s Western World (615-244-9552; www.robertswesternworld.com). When you can’t dance another step, retreat to The Gaylord Opryland Resort, a lush indoor paradise boasting more than 50,000 tropical plants in three sunny atriums, complete with waterfalls, river rides and a full-service spa (615-458-2800; www.gaylordhotels.com).
Seek Treasure In The Ozarks At Bentonville, Arkansas
The extensive art collection and temporary exhibits at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, has steadily built a reputation for the institution since it opened in 2011. Set in a beautiful 120-acre park with nature trails, the museum recently has moved and reassembled an original Frank Lloyd Wright house on the property (479-418-5700; www.crystalbridges.org). Located nearby, the Scott Family Amazeum is scheduled to open in mid-July. It is a 50,000-square-foot interactive children’s museum (479-696-9280; www.amazeum.org). Spend a night or two at the trendy 21c Museum Hotel in downtown Bentonville and see emerging contemporary art displayed (479-286-6500; www.21cmuseumhotels.com/bentonville). Both Crystal Bridges and 21c have well-regarded restaurants, but if the weather’s nice seek out the outdoor Crepes Paulette stand (479-250-1110; 213 NE A Street).
Admire Architecture And The Arts In Tulsa, Oklahoma
Take a tour of downtown to see the abundance of Art Deco architecture financed by Tulsa’s oil-boom history (918-712-9484; www.tulsahistory.org). Visit The Philbrook Museum of Art, housed in a 1927 Italian Renaissance mansion — itself a work of art. Surrounded by acres of lush gardens, the museum recently added a downtown campus featuring its modern and contemporary collection (918-749-7941; www.philbrook.org). Tulsa is also home to the largest collection of art of the American West, on display at The Gilcrease Museum (918-596-2700; www.gilcrease.utulsa.edu). For an evening out, take in a show at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center, five different theaters hosting plays, ballet, opera, symphony and more (918-596-7122; www.tulsapac.com). Finish the night at the recently renovated Ambassador Hotel for dinner or drinks at its upscale restaurant, The Chalkboard (918-582-1964; www.chalkboardtulsa.com).
Find Flora And Fire In Wichita, Kansas
Along the Arkansas River, you’ll find five of Wichita’s 33 diverse museums including the highly regarded Botanica, more than 18 acres arranged in 30 themed gardens (316-264-0448; www.botanica.org). A little further downriver, be sure to see The Keeper of the Plains, a 44-foot-tall steel sculpture standing at the confluence of the Big and Little Arkansas Rivers. At 9 p.m., flames spring from fire drums surrounding the Keeper, illuminating the statue and the water (800-288-9424; www.visitwichita.com). If you’re not ready to call it a night, head to the converted historical brick buildings of Old Town for live music or drinks at Gianni Bacci’s, a modern-styled speakeasy (316-262-3555; www.oldtownwichita.com).
A Travel Guide In Your Pocket
Smartphones, our constant companions, mean we no longer have to leave various hotel numbers with family members, make long-distance calls from a pay phone or stop to ask for directions. (Well, some of us may still benefit from asking for directions). In addition to phoning, texting, and photo-taking capabilities, utilizing smartphone applications can enhance any road trip.
- Maps: A good map app, like Google Maps, not only can get you where you’re going, but also show nearby food and gas and real-time traffic problems. Missouri Department of Transportation has a MoDOT Map app with Missouri road conditions and construction updates.
- Calendar: Entering your itinerary, reservation numbers and other relevant information into a calendar app puts everything in one place and makes it easy to find. An address entered into Google Calendar can take you straight to Google Maps.
- Weather: A good weather app, like The Weather Channel, provides hourly and long-term forecasts and radar maps.
- Food: Crowdsourcing apps such as Yelp and Urban Spoon locate local restaurant choices and provide reviews on food and service. If you’re feeling brave, Urban Spoon includes a roulette-like option that will choose a restaurant for you.
- Photos: If you’re using your phone to take and share photos, a quick photo editing app such as Snapseed can take your photos from good to great without waiting to upload them to a computer.
- Points Of Interest: Specific sites that you’re visiting, especially museums, often have free audio guides available for your phone. The Missouri Wines app can help you plan and navigate the wine trails, and the Missouri Department of Conservation provides apps with helpful information for hunting, fishing and seeking out fall colors around the state.
- Social Media: Many tourist destinations have their own Instagram feeds, Facebook pages and Twitter accounts with event announcements and last-minute deals. Follow the ones you plan to visit.
- Entertainment: If you’re going to be in the car for a while, look to apps to keep the family entertained. If you played a game in the car when you were a kid, there’s probably an app version today: think state plates, Mad Libsand car bingo. The Family Car Games app has several choices built in. Trivia games and learning apps, especially geography-themed ones, can be great fun for families to play together while traveling.
Two For The Road
Keep tummies full and passengers happy with these people-pleasing snacks.
Whether they’re traveling for a few hours or a few days, everyone needs something to munch while on a road trip. But finding easy-to-make, healthy snack options for the road can be a difficult task. Instead of settling for unhealthy or tasteless pre-prepared snacks on the road, use these two alternatives to create a happier, healthier road trip for you and your family.
Sweet & Salty Chocolate Trail Mix
This recipe offers you a mixture of salty and sweet flavor to satisfy any taste. Easy to make and delicious to eat, this recipe is a simple way to eliminate your road trip hunger.
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons vegetable shortening
2 cups pretzels
3 cups assorted nuts (almonds, dry-roasted peanuts, cashews, etc.)
1 cup raisins
1 cup dried cranberries
½ cup dried blueberries
½ cup sunflower seeds
½ cup Chex cereal
Sea salt, to taste
In a small bowl, add the chocolate chips and the vegetable shortening. Microwave until melted, stirring about every 10 seconds.
Using a fork, dip the pretzels in the melted chocolate. Let the excess chocolate drip off the pretzels and place them on wax paper to dry.
While the pretzels dry, put the rest of the ingredients into a separate bowl. Mix well without crushing the nuts or the cereal. Lightly drizzle the excess chocolate over the mixed ingredients while slowly mixing them.
Once the pretzels are dry, add them to the mix. Sprinkle a small amount of sea salt over the mix and pack it up for the road.
Tasty Apple Cookies
Looking for an easy, fun recipe that you can customize to your liking? Apple cookies are a smart, healthy snack that gives you the creative freedom to add what you want to them. Plus, it’s a fun way to get your kids involved; these treats are fun to decorate and personalize to your kids taste!
Lemon juice (optional)
1 jar peanut butter
1 cup raisins
1 cup granola
½ cup chocolate chips (optional)
½ cup chopped almonds (optional)
Slice each apple into 6 or 8 thin, circular pieces. Spritz the slices with lemon juice to help prevent browning.
Coat one side of each apple slice in a thin layer of peanut butter. Add raisins and granola on top of the peanut butter, evenly distributing them across each slice.
Add other ingredients that you want on your slices, such as chocolate chips or nuts, and pack them in a small, airtight container for the road.