Hooah! Fort Leonard Wood near the Ozarks in south-central Missouri is home to thousands of United States Army soldiers and trainees. While the men and women who serve our nation call Fort Leonard Wood home for a short time, the area welcomes not only them but also their friends and family, who look for things to do and places to go while visiting the area.
From famous Route 66 attractions to rail history and shopping opportunities, Pulaski County -- home to Fort Leonard Wood -- encourages you to complete your own tour.
1. Salute The Military At Fort Leonard Wood Museums
Learn about the history of the military police at the U.S. Army Military Police Corp Regimental Museum. From the MP’s earliest days, dating back to 1775 and through to today’s soldiers, the museum explores military police growth and challenges over the years through exhibits, uniforms, and artifacts. The Military Police Museum is part of the John B. Mahaffey Museum Complex, which also includes the Army Engineer Museum and Chemical Corp Museum. Among the exhibits are outdoor military vehicle and World War II camp exhibits.
2. Get Your Missouri Kicks On Route 66
Route 66 cuts across Missouri from near St. Louis past Joplin. Along the way, unique attractions pop up, and Pulaski County is home to several of them. From a stone frog named W.H. Croaker that greets travelers between Saint Robert (home to Fort Leonard Wood) and Waynesville, the county seat, to Devils Elbow, a bridge over the Big Piney River built six years before the Great Depression, you’ll find history and pop culture along a recommended 90-minute drive.
For a unique experience along Route 66, you’ll want to visit Uranus, a self-proclaimed town that’s actually a tourist attraction. Known for its nightly burlesque club, Uranus offers a plethora of attractions, from a fudge and candy store to a chicken wing restaurant. You’ll find plenty of souvenirs and memorabilia in Uranus, along with dinosaur sculptures and even a live bait vending machine.
3. Explore Waynesville’s History
Route 66 runs through Waynesville and the small city enjoys promoting its history. From the Civil War to America’s love affair with the road, Waynesville encourages you to explore downtown and more. The Old Stagecoach Stop has served several roles over the years, including being a hospital for the Union Army during the Civil War. While no major battles took place in the area, Union and Confederate soldiers had several skirmishes. The Union Army built a fort at the top of a hill overlooking the city that is now recognized with a historical marker. The city hosts a realistic battle reenactment during the annual Old Settlers Day celebration each summer.
Explore Pulaski County history as you encounter artifacts and memorabilia covering more than a century at the Pulaski County Museum. Sit in the judge’s chair and bang the gavel as you visit an old courtroom, complete with law books on shelves along the wall and pews in the public gallery. Only a few minutes’ drive from Fort Leonard Wood, the museum offers an interesting walk through time.
Following your visit to the courthouse, enjoy a walking tour through downtown Waynesville. Along the way, you’ll visit historic stops including Doolin’s blacksmith shop, the former county jail, and the Roubidoux Bridge over Roubidoux Creek.
4. Walk Along The Trail Of Tears
More than 100,000 Native Americans were forced to march from the southeastern United States to Indian Territory (Oklahoma) along the Trail of Tears. They camped near Fort Leonard Wood along the Roubidoux Creek. The Trail of Tears is recognized with seven historical markers along a portion of the actual trail.
5. Hop Aboard The Frisco Rail Tour
The St. Louis-San Francisco Railway -- also known as The Frisco -- ran through the small communities of Dixon, Crocker, and Hancock. About 30 minutes north of Fort Leonard Wood, the Frisco Auto Tour offers a look at the railroad’s impact on northern Pulaski County. With a lovely train park in Crocker, you can tour the caboose at Frisco Park while enjoying the floral displays. Enjoy a walk through Dixon as you check out train-related murals around town.
6. Appreciate Quilt Art
Enjoy the Quilt Tour around Pulaski County, during which you’ll admire quilt squares at four attractions in Waynesville, Crocker, and Saint Robert. Started in 2014, the quilt art tour includes a look at state history and symbols, including the Underground Railroad and the American flag. You’ll find the artwork at the Old Stagecoach Stop and Courthouse Museum in Waynesville, as well as the visitors center in nearby Saint Robert. Drive the Frisco Auto Tour route and enjoy the Quilt Square at the Frisco Railroad Museum in Crocker.
7. Shop And Eat Along The Antique And Sweet Trail
Who can argue with a day of browsing, shopping, and snacking? The Antique and Sweet Trail takes you all over Pulaski County, from Fort Leonard Wood to Richland, in search of souvenirs, vintage items, and all the sweets you can enjoy. Find classic collectibles at stores such as Bear Ridge Antiques and Ozark Country Flea Market.
Enjoy a coffee break and scope out the inventory at Sanctuary Coffee and Quilts, which is located inside a former church in Richland. The sanctuary offers quilting classes as well as fabric, and you’ll enjoy visiting the store. If your sweet tooth is hollering, head over to Lamb’s Donuts for an early morning donut run and, later, take an ice cream break at I Love Ice Cream and More.
8. Relax With A River Float
With the hills of the Ozarks on either side, enjoy a float along the tranquil waters of the Big Piney or Gasconade Rivers. With the beauty of the woods as far as the eye can see and the quiet being broken only by the sounds of nature, you can enjoy spending an hour or longer on the rivers as you spend time kayaking or canoeing with friends or family. Area outfitters also offer inner tubes and rafts for your enjoyment. Pack a lunch and a few beverages so you can enjoy a picnic along the river.
9. Become An Amateur Spelunker At Bridal Cave
You don’t have to actually be a spelunker to enjoy visiting Bridal Cave. Located about an hour northwest of Fort Leonard Wood in Camdenton, explore Bridal Cave’s columns of mineral deposits as well as its draperies. Built up over millions of years, Bridal Cave is considered one of the most scenic caves in the United States. Located near Lake of the Ozarks, you’ll enjoy the beauty of the area.
Where To Eat
The culinary scene near Fort Leonard Wood is like a trip around the world. While you have American standards, such as burgers and sandwiches at Hoppers Pub and Route 66 Diner, you can enjoy international cuisine inspired by the flavors of South Korea, Germany, and Italy, too. Cafe Korea in Saint Robert makes you feel like you’re dining in Korea. With decor favoring its strong Army clientele, its menu features items such as beef bulgogi, a beef and rice dish, and delicious dumplings. With a menu with a mix of American and German dishes, Wayneville’s Paradise Delicatessen and Ursula’s Schnitzelhaus offers a taste of the homeland with bratwursts, sauerkraut, and red cabbage. If you’ve been to Germany, you’d swear you’re dining at a Gasthaus.
For a taste of Southern Italy, take a drive to Rolla, where you can enjoy authentic Italian dishes such as ravioli, chicken parmesan, and chicken marsala at Di Trapani’s Italian Bistro. It’s not often that diners proclaim how delicious side salads are, but at Di Trapani’s, the house dressing adds to the salad’s memorable flavor.
Where To Stay
With a large military contingent, the Fort Leonard Wood area is home to dozens of hotels. However, for a truly local flavor, consider reserving a room at the Lafayette Manor & Winery Bed and Breakfast in Saint Robert. About a five-minute drive from the base, the bed and breakfast features five elegant suites. The mansion is located on pristine property offering beautiful views of roses and well-maintained trees and bushes, providing a relaxing area to spend a weekend.
If you prefer a spot among nature, consider reserving a cottage at the Gasconade Hills Resort, only a 25-minute drive from Fort Leonard Wood. Situated near the Gasconade River, it’s an easy spot to enjoy nature walks or a river float. The resort is also an excellent spot for having get-togethers, including barbecues.
For more Missouri fun, read up on how to spend a weekend in beautiful Hermann, Missouri, and these seven historic, quirky road trips from Branson.