Rejuvenation, adventure and fun are just around the corner for day-tripping Columbians this year. All of these six destinations are within three hours of Columbia, with offerings as varied as characters in a Mark Twain tale.
Speaking of Mark Twain, his boyhood home is on our list, along with fishing in the Missouri River, scuba diving in an abandoned mine, strolling through a town with an entire district on the National Register of Historic Places, two American “castles” and the humble abode of an infamous assassin. Throw in great shopping, fine dining and friendly hosts, and discover how wonderful a little daytrip can be.
Just 10 miles west of Columbia, Rocheport offers a convenient escape for soaking up some serenity. This unpretentious small town takes pride in a list of things to do that highlights life’s simpler pleasures: Listen to live music at the General Store. Stroll along picturesque streets to discover unique shops and artisan galleries. Admire the towering bluffs along the Katy Trail. Relax on a bench and watch the Mighty Mo flow by.
Those desiring a romantic rendezvous will appreciate this neighboring town’s luxurious inns, fine food and wine, and romantic natural settings, and Columbians seeking outdoor adventure will find opportunities for scenic hiking and biking and canoe and kayak trips.
Highlights: Katy Trail, shopping, Missouri River tours, fine dining and choice accommodations
Sure, you could drive to Rocheport in 20 minutes, but we suggest invigoration via a morning bike ride. At 15 mph, a moderate pace, it would take less than an hour to cover the approximately 12 miles of trail between Columbia’s Scott Boulevard MKT access and Rocheport.
What To Do
Once at Rocheport, refuel with some brunch at the Trailside Café & Bike Shop, which also offers bike rentals for those who did not arrive in town on two wheels. Be sure to discover the only train tunnel on the Katy Trail and check out the boardwalk overlooking the Diana Bend Conservation Area. Next, take a stroll through Rocheport’s downtown. Do a little treasure hunting in the town’s several antique shops and discover Rocheport’s past in the various architectural designs of the buildings housing the downtown merchants. Finish the morning with a café lunch and friendly conversation at the Rocheport General Store. Choose from homemade quiche, deli sandwiches, salad and decadent desserts and breads. There’s also homemade ice cream.
Prior to arriving in town, make arrangements for an afternoon excursion on the Missouri River with either Drew’s Guide Service or Mighty Mo Canoe Rental. With Mighty Mo, guests get to do their own paddling on a sightseeing tour that includes the historical perspective of Lewis and Clark; with Drew, the tour is a personalized cruise that can include a customized meal menu, fishing and a romantic sunset view.
After the exhilarating trip on the water, it’s time to relax and enjoy an evening of fine dining. Rocheport offers two exceptional restaurants. Set in a historic building in the Central Street corridor of Rocheport, the family-owned Abigail’s has a gourmet menu that changes twice daily as well as seasonally. Les Bourgeois Bistro, a favorite for its view of the Missouri River Valley and its localized menu, invites couples and families to dine in “casual elegance.”
Where To Stay
Rocheport has three luxurious inns: Amber House Bed & Breakfast, the School House Bed & Breakfast Inn, and Yates House Bed & Breakfast. The Katy Trail Bed & Breakfast is a family-friendly, low-cost option for bikers (wouldn’t the kids love to sleep in a real boxcar?), and Girl’s Nite Inn is a great space for girlfriends to relax, refresh and reconnect.
Helpful Web Sites
General info: www.rocheport.com
Katy Trail: www.bikekatytrail.com
Bonne Terre’s name — French for “good earth” — traces back to the early 1700s when French miners discovered the area’s mineral wealth. The town of Bonne Terre formed in April 1864 with the arrival of the St. Joseph Lead Co., which continued operations until 1962. When the mines closed, the manmade caverns of the mines filled with cold, clear water, creating an exciting, inimitable destination for scuba divers that has attracted the likes of Jacques Cousteau and National Geographic.
Bonne Terre’s most famous attraction may be underground, but surface guests find the sun shining on a town with the character of a Norman Rockwell painting. On Wednesdays and Thursdays, two Bonne Terre churches provide free meals and invite all to come to enjoy fellowship and some home cooking. The town has gorgeous architecture and several beautiful parks where guests can enjoy everything from fishing to football.
Highlights: Bonne Terre Mine, The Space Museum, historic architecture, attractive parks, state park camping
Leave Columbia around 8 a.m. to arrive in Bonne Terre before noon. For the quickest route, take the Interstate path, which includes I-70, I-64 and I-55, or choose a more scenic route down U.S. 63 and State Highway 8.
What To Do
After the long drive, it’s time to get outside. Unload a picnic lunch at Bonne Terre’s Lakeview Park to eat in a picturesque setting and let the kids stretch their limbs on the playground equipment. Then head over to the Bonne Terre Mine. Adventures on tap include a walking tour of two of the mine’s levels, a guided boat tour of the world’s largest subterranean lake and, for certified divers, an incredible underwater journey. More than 500,000 watts of lighting illuminate the water, and there are 24 dive trails that take divers through mammoth archways, past calcium falls, around giant pillars and to many abandoned mining artifacts.
Go from underground exploration to exploration of the cosmos with a visit to Bonne Terre’s Space Museum, an unexpected treasure of space memorabilia. There’s also the Bonne Terre Family Fun Center, which offers bowling, miniature golf, bumper boats, batting cages, arcade games and refreshments. Be sure to take some time to appreciate the historic architecture in Bonne Terre, such as the Bonne Terre Memorial Library, several old Victorian homes and a replica of a London church designed by Christopher Wren. For dinner, have pasta and pizza at Mario’s Italian Grill, or order more general cuisine at either Crossroads Steakhouse or Benham Street Grill.
Where To Stay
There are two motels in Bonne Terre, a Super 8 and the Bonneville Inn. St. Francois State Park is just 5 miles from town and offers more than 100 campsites, basic and electric, as well as modern restrooms, hot showers and laundry facilities. Several more lodging options are available in Festus, just 30 minutes from Bonne Terre and on the route home.
Helpful Web Sites
General info: www.bonneterre.net
Bonne Terre mine: www.2dive.com
St. Francois state park: www.mostateparks.com/stfrancois.htm
Weston is a history lover’s dream. Founded in 1837 on the bluffs of the Missouri River, Weston became a river port second in size only to St. Louis. In 1850, more than 300 steamboats a year docked at the Port of Weston and 5,000 people called the town home, making Weston bigger than Kansas City. But floods, fires and the Civil War knocked the town down to 900 by 1870. Today, about 1,600 call Weston home.
In 1972, a 22-block area of downtown Weston was designated a Historic District and placed on the National Register of Historic Places. The district includes 91 historic homes and buildings, most of them antebellum; a free driving tour booklet is available at the Weston Information Center, Weston City Hall (housed in the Weston Train Depot) and Weston Historical Museum.
Highlights: Historic District, brewery tour, wineries, museums, shopping, memorable dining, distinctive lodging
The trip to Weston from Columbia is about 2½ hours. Weston sits just minutes north of Kansas City’s International Airport on I-29; the route passes through lush, green farmlands, weathered tobacco barns, orchards, vineyards and fields of crops.
What To Do
Arrive in Weston by midmorning and start exploring the town with a little shopping. Find unique clothing boutiques, galleries of handcrafted artwork, eclectic home furnishing stores, delightful gift shops and numerous shops with antiques and collectibles.
At lunchtime, choose from several eateries with character. Charlemagne’s Restaurant is housed in the 1845 Saint George Hotel and has a European menu; for family dining, good bets are Pastimes Bar and Grill, and the Weston Café.
Then there’s the America Bowman Restaurant, a part of the Weston Brewing Co., first established in 1842 and one of America’s first lager beer breweries. The American Bowman Restaurant takes pride in its Irish heritage, as well as the history of Weston, both of which are celebrated in the décor. Downstairs is O’Malley’s Pub, open evenings with live music on Fridays and Saturdays (motto: “It’s your trip to Ireland without the airfare”).
No matter where you dine, a visit to the Weston Brewing Co. is a must while in town. Brewery tours include a walking tour of Weston, the current brewery, underground cellars and tasting. Tours are on Saturdays or by appointment.
Finish off the afternoon by visiting some of Weston’s other attractions, such as the Herbert Bonnell Museum, preserving 1800s farm life; Pirtle Winery, located in the former German Lutheran Evangelical Church, circa 1867; the National Silk Art Museum; historic Laurel Hill Cemetery, which includes a section devoted to slaves and their descendents; and Weston Bend State Park, which presents beautiful blufftop views of the river and a paved 3-mile loop for hikers and bikers. In the winter, a favorite attraction near Weston is Snow Creek winter resort for skiing, snowboarding and tube sledding.
At dinner, treat yourself to four-star cuisine at either The Avalon Café or The Vineyards, both housed in antebellum homes. The Avalon serves American bistro-style cuisine and The Vineyards specializes in lamb, duck, veal and filet of beef tenderloin; reservations are recommended.
Where To Stay
Weston boasts one hotel and six B&B’s in town, with a seventh B&B a short drive away. Weston Bend State Park offers basic and electric campsites, modern restrooms, hot showers and laundry facilities.
Helpful Web Sites
General info: www.westonmo.com
This is an ideal year to visit Hannibal, Mark Twain’s boyhood home, as 2010 has been declared “The Year of Mark Twain.” The year marks the 175th anniversary of Twain’s birth, the 125th anniversary of his pinnacle work, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and the 100th anniversary of his death. The nationwide celebration is all for a man who said: “What ought to be done with the man who invented the celebrating of anniversaries? Mere killing would be too light.” We’re sure he’d appreciate the irony.
Hannibal was founded in 1819 and has a fascinating river town history. It is filled with parks and has an extensive trail system, wonderful for hiking or biking. Hannibal is also a haven for artists and craftsmen and is the northern terminus of 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.
Highlights: Mark Twain sites, Rockcliffe Mansion, art galleries, fine dining, welcoming B&Bs
Arrive in Hannibal in less than two hours.
What To Do:
Celebrate The Year of Mark Twain with a visit to the Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum properties. There are eight properties in the complex: six are on the National Register of Historic Places and two are interactive museums. The mission of the Mark Twain Home Foundation is “to promote awareness and appreciation of the life and works of Mark Twain and to demonstrate the relevance of his stories and ideas to citizens of the world.”
Continue the Mark Twain theme with a cave tour. The tour of Mark Twain Cave, which its namesake explored, takes about an hour and features points of interest mentioned in Twain’s writings; visitors at Cameron Cave must use lanterns during the hour-and-20-minute tour.
All that spelunking should leave you with an appetite. Hannibal has a variety of restaurants, from the Mark Twain Dinette & Family Restaurant (“Hannibal’s hometown restaurant for 68 years”) to fine-dining restaurants attached to B&Bs, such as The Woodside Restaurant at Garth Mansion, Lulabelle’s and LaBinnah Bistro.
Possible afternoon adventures in Hannibal include tours of the Rockcliffe Mansion, a 13,500-square-foot American castle built in 1900 by the lumber baron John J. Cruikshank, and the “unsinkable” Molly Brown Birthplace & Museum. Be sure to take time to explore Hannibal’s art galleries, boutiques and gift shops, too.
At dinner, choose from one of the town’s B&B restaurants or take a dinner cruise on the Mark Twain Riverboat, which includes live music and dancing.
Where To Stay
Hannibal has several good lodging options, from luxurious bed and breakfasts to familiar chain hotels, from downtown loft apartments to private campgrounds. Explore the options at www.visithannibal.com.
Helpful Web Sites
General info: www.visithannibal.com
50 Miles of Art: www.50milesofart.com
A lot of Missourians make an annual pilgrimage to Sedalia for the Missouri State Fair, and Sedalia is a great place to visit outside of August, too. That’s especially true in 2010 as Sedalia marks its 150th year with several sesquicentennial events. Find them at www.sedalia150.com.
Sedalia got its start as a transportation hub. The Sedalia Katy Depot, still a beautiful landmark, was built in 1896 to service the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad, and Sedalia also marked the end of the trail for cattle drives originating in Texas. That distinction landed Sedalia a role in Clint Eastwood’s “Rawhide” series; the crooked street shown filled with running cattle during the opening theme song was Sedalia’s South Ohio.
Speaking of songs, Sedalia also happens to be where ragtime pioneer Scott Joplin studied music theory, at the George R. Smith College. Sedalia’s fabulous Scott Joplin Ragtime Festival is coming up June 2–6.
Highlights: Katy Depot Heritage Site, Bothwell State Historic Site, Daum Museum of Contemporary Art, historic business district
Sedalia is an easy right-at-an-hour drive on I-70 and U.S. 65. Your first stop is actually 7 miles before you get into town at the Bothwell Lodge State Historic Site.
What To Do:
The centerpiece of the Bothwell Lodge State Historic Site is a 31-room, 12,000-square-foot mansion that was built in four sections between 1897 and 1928 (and you thought your home took forever to build). An example of the Arts & Crafts style of architecture popular in the early 20th century, the home was a getaway for prominent Sedalia lawyer, John Homer Bothwell; most of his eclectic furnishings remain inside.
Outside the home are the meandering Stonyridge Trail, a 3-mile hiking and biking trail, a picnic area and playground equipment.
After touring Bothwell, arrive in Sedalia in time for lunch. If eating in a boxcar sounds like fun, head over to The Kehde’s Barbeque, a local favorite. Or, if you prefer the food, rather than the setting, to be the adventure, go to The Wheel Inn restaurant and order the famous Guberburger, a hamburger topped with peanut butter.
Next, go to the Katy Depot Historic Site. The restored depot, with its elegant Romanesque Revival Style appointments, is a sight to see in itself, and inside are fun and fascinating exhibits on Sedalia’s history, including the Railroad Heritage Exhibit and the “Rowdy Days, Rowdy Nites” Rawhide exhibit, which is there just in 2010.
Sedalia has more historic architecture to appreciate downtown, with Hotel Bothwell, a seven-story brick building built in 1927; the Liberty Center Association for the Arts, housed in a renovated 1920s theater: and the Sedalia Public Library, the first library to receive an Andrew Carnegie Grant in Missouri and one that boasts marble floors, open fireplaces, white oak woodwork and is made of terra cotta and Carthage Stone.
If modern art is more to your taste, Sedalia delivers there, too, with the Daum Museum of Contemporary Art on the State Fair Community College campus. Nine galleries exhibit paintings, drawings, prints, photographs and sculptures from the last 30 years. The three-story glass atrium wall allows visitors to preview the interior space and its contents, and a floating, cantilevered stairway enables viewing galleries from five levels.
At dinnertime, enjoy some fine dining at The Ivory Grille, styled with a Scott Joplin theme. The menu is varied with items ranging from steaks and seafood to German and Chinese dishes, all prepared by a master chef.
Where To Stay
If you choose to stay, you won’t have far to go, as The Ivory Grill is housed in the Hotel Bothwell. This hotel invites guests to “relive the glitz and glam of the 1920s” and promises a luxurious, memorable experience.
Helpful Web Sites
Downtown Jefferson City is a focal point of the capital city’s identity and pride. With recent renovations, wider sidewalks, and mid-block crosswalks, the area is a delight for window shoppers. The recently added tree wells, hanging baskets, planters and benches add warmth and beauty to the streetscape design, complementing the attractive, mostly brick architecture. The numerous sidewalk dining and coffee shops invite shoppers and sightseers to linger and enjoy the sunshine and breeze, while the change to “no meters” with 90-minute free parking on High Street, the main street downtown, confirms downtown Jefferson City is a most gracious host.
Highlights: Missouri State Capitol and other government buildings, Missouri State Penitentiary, shopping, superb restaurants
This destination is within a 35-minute drive.
What To Do:
If you arrive in time for breakfast, stop in Towne Grill; this small restaurant is packed with locals every morning. Ask about the unique fare for stimulating your noggin.
Next, start your sightseeing with the area’s most notable attraction, the Missouri State Capitol. If the last time you visited was on a fourth-grade field trip, you really should visit again. Missouri’s Capitol has earned national recognition as one of the most beautiful in the country. The newest addition to the Capitol grounds is the Lewis and Clark monument at the Katy Trailhead Plaza overlooking the Jefferson Landing Historic Site and the Missouri River. The plaza includes statues of Captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, York (Clark’s manservant), George Druillard (French-Canadian-Shawnee hunter and interpreter) and Seaman (Lewis’ Newfoundland dog). Several waterfalls, walkways and benches are also located within the plaza, creating a beautiful landscape.
For lunch and dinner, downtown offers several superb restaurants. Madison’s Café features authentic and original northern Italian cuisine (it’s definitely a local favorite); Arris’ Pizza Palace, boasting pizza and Greek dishes, originated in Jefferson City and has since branched out to other communities; and Café Via Roma offers a European flair to salads, paninis, wraps, soups and, of course, coffee.
Next, head to the newest attraction in downtown Jefferson City: the Missouri State Penitentiary. You don’t have to be a history buff to find the tour fascinating. The penitentiary opened in 1836, a quarter-century before the Civil War, and was the oldest continually operating prison west of the Mississippi River when decommissioned in 2004. The tour allows visitors to view many of the cells, including those that housed such infamous inmates as heavyweight champion Sonny Liston and James Earl Ray, the gas chamber where 40 inmates were executed, the buried cells, several housing units and the upper yard.
Three other downtown attractions worth noting are the Missouri Supreme Court Building, Missouri Governor’s Mansion and the Cole County Historical Museum. And just a few blocks from downtown is Central Dairy, an old-fashioned ice cream parlor that serves a wide variety of flavors in heaping portions at an old-fashioned price.
Where To Stay
There are three hotels in downtown Jefferson City: Capitol Plaza Hotel and Convention Center, Double Tree Hotel (Jefferson City’s newest hotel) and Hotel DeVille (a boutique hotel).
Helpful Web Sites
Missouri State Penitentiary: www.missouripentours.com