From its rich history and incredible arts and culture to charming river towns and amazing outdoor adventures, Missouri is a destination for every family member!
As you start planning your summer travel or weekend road trip, here are seven different places in Missouri that your entire crew — from grandparents to toddlers and everyone in between — will love!
Yes, it’s Harry S. Truman’s hometown. And while his presence is deeply felt in Independence, there’s a whole lot more to see and do here as well! Of course, to learn all about the 33rd president of the United States, you’ll want to stop at the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum. A multimillion-dollar refresh will be done in 2021, just in time to celebrate the 75th anniversary of when Truman ascended to the highest office in the United States. The complex contains archives, documents, and artifacts allowing you to really get to know the man well-known for his straight talk and “buck stops here” approach. You might also want to make time to visit the home he shared with his wife, Bess, which is now a National Historic Site.
All roads started in Independence when it came to exploring the Wild West. Thousands of people streamed through in the 1800s on their way to seek fortune along the Oregon, Santa Fe, and California trails. You can learn more about them, their struggles, and Independence’s role in their journeys at the National Frontier Trails Museum, home to more than 2,600 first-person trail accounts. Pioneer Trails Adventures also offers an up-close and personal look at the city’s deep pioneer roots with covered-wagon tours that take off from the Historic Independence Square. Each Labor Day Weekend, Independence honors its pioneer roots with the SantaCaliGon Days Festival on the Square.
And if all the history in Independence has you wondering about your own family’s past, you’ll want to visit the Midwest Genealogy Center. This is one of the best places in the country to research your family roots — for free! Its massive online genealogy databases include census records, newspaper articles, and other primary sources. Librarians are on hand to help you get started on your family story.
2. Arcadia Valley
If you’re looking to include some of Missouri’s most stunning natural features in your getaway, there’s no better place than the Arcadia Valley, located in the state’s southeast. Taum Sauk, the state’s highest point, offers some terrific hikes and scenic, sweeping vistas. Johnsons Shut-Ins State Park has been a favorite road-trip stop for generations. With its crystal-clear spring-fed falls that rush through huge granite boulders, this place is like Mother Nature’s waterslide! And don’t forget Elephant Rocks State Park, where you can wander among enormous pink stones and learn all about the geological processes that created them. You can also see the carved names of stone cutters, left behind a century ago when they trained on the site.
And then, there is the fantastic floating! The Black River is cool, clear, and perfect for a day-long water adventure, with lots of sandbars and rocky beaches to stop for a break. There are many outfitters in the area that allow you to rent canoes, kayaks, or tubes for your float.
While campsites and cabins are plentiful, Wilderness Lodge just outside of the town of Lesterville is the perfect spot for an entire family to stay. Its cozy, comfortable cabins right on the river, onsite amenities, and delicious meals served in the main lodge (breakfast and dinner are included in your rate) make it a terrific choice. This place has been our family’s favorite for years.
Home to the state’s flagship university, Columbia sits midway between St. Louis and Kansas City and is jam-packed with attractions and activities for your entire family. Of course, no visit here is complete without exploring the University of Missouri campus. If you’ve only got time for one stop, make it Francis Quadrangle, with its iconic Columns, Jesse Hall, and historic red brick buildings. Grab a slice of pizza (or whole pie!) at Shakespeare’s, where students have been flocking for generations. And make sure you stroll the city’s terrific Ninth Street district downtown, with its funky shops, boutiques, and cafes.
For outdoor fun, Rock Bridge Memorial State Park boasts some of the best hiking trails in the state, which wind their way past an extensive cave system, and Shelter Gardens is a family favorite with its gorgeous flowers, shrubs, and manicured grounds. Learn how to spend the perfect weekend in Columbia here!
For old-fashioned family fun in a tranquil, peaceful setting, consider Innsbrook for your next Missouri adventure. The resort, just an hour west of St. Louis, was first built as an A-frame resort inspired by mountain chalets in Europe and the natural beauty the developers loved in Colorado. Today, while the property has grown to include luxury homes and condominiums, it still combines nature and recreation in a special, serene way.
Innsbrook includes 100 lakes, nature trails, stables, tennis and pickleball courts, a pool, and even an 18-hole golf course, yet it retains its natural, unspoiled beauty. Big motors are not permitted at the resort, so you’ll be kayaking, canoeing, and fishing in still, quiet waters. And there are plenty of places within Innsbrook’s 7,500 acres to settle in, relax, and reconnect with nature and each other. While many properties here are privately owned, vacation rentals are also available.
Located right in the Missouri Ozarks, Springfield is an outdoor paradise! Start your adventure at Johnny Morris’ Wonders of Wildlife Museum and Aquarium, where you’ll walk through massive aquatic habitats filled with fish, marine mammals, and coral from all over the world. Next, head to the flagship Bass Pro Shop store, crammed with everything any outdoor enthusiast could need for an upcoming adventure.
Fantastic Caverns takes the fun underground; here you’ll take a Jeep ferry ride deep into the earth, where you’ll see all sorts of formations and learn about the 12 brave women who were the first recorded explorers of the massive cave complex back in the 1860s. Missouri State University’s campus is located in Springfield and is certainly worth a stroll, as is the downtown district. And you can check out the boys of summer at a Springfield Cardinals game — they’re the Double-A club affiliated with the St. Louis Cardinals.
To share an old-fashioned river respite with your family, consider the tiny town of Clarksville. Located about an hour north of St. Louis, Clarksville sits just off Highway 79 on a stretch of road that runs along the Mississippi River, offering some of the most scenic views in the state! The town is perched just over U.S. Lock and Dam 24, providing a perfect vantage point for appreciating riverboat and barge traffic up close and personal. Enthusiasts of all ages will delight in seeing the barges make their way through the lock and dam system and on their way down the river. This stretch of the Mississippi is also a prime place to spot bald eagles — they routinely stop through Clarksville to fish during their winter migration.
Clarksville has become a creative haven of sorts, with craftspeople and artists including potters and furniture makers choosing to live and work in Clarksville’s historic buildings and homes. Rent a historic cottage or stay at a B&B, wander the riverfront, and make your way through the shops as you relax and enjoy the slower pace of life here. Plan to make your way up to Overlook Farms, an idyllic spot set well above the river. It’s a working farm, and the store sells many items produced on-site. There are also several inns at Overlook, some historic and all offering luxe accommodations.
German immigrants established Hermann in the 1840s; the terrain reminded them of their homeland’s Rhine River Valley. Those settlers quickly built homes, churches, and wineries. Many of them remain today and are perfect for the entire family to explore!
To learn more about the German immigrants who established Hermann, pay a visit to the Deutschheim State Historic Site. It includes two houses from the 1840s that are perfectly preserved to reflect what life was truly like here in that era. Upper City Park, with its historic Rotunda building, is also worth a stop. The brick octagon was built as an agricultural fair exhibition hall in 1864; today it’s fully renovated and used for weddings and other special events.
In addition to the dozen wineries in and around Hermann, the downtown district is full of fun antique shops, boutiques, and cafes. Expresso Laine offers all sorts of fun drinks, snacks, and even an extensive selection of toys!If you’re looking for a bit more adventure during your Hermann vacation, consider a bike or hike down the nearby Katy Trail. While Hermann isn’t directly on this terrific trail, it’s less than 3 miles away. You can easily rent a bike in Hermann, ride across the river on the recently renovated bridge, and reach the McKittrick trailhead. The Katy runs right through Missouri’s most scenic areas and is fun for the whole family.