Nestled within the midwest of the United States, Missouri is a gorgeous state to visit. With thousands of acres of parks, vast lakes and a shed load of exciting cities, it’s the kind of US state that’s totally fun to explore. In fact, you’re going to be spoilt for choice when it comes to all the best things to do in Missouri as part of a wider road trip.
This is exactly why I wanted to share some of the best places and experiences that make Missouri so special. Yeah, it might get bypassed by some in lieu of the big-hitting neighbouring states like Tennessee, for instance, but don’t let that put you off. Missouri is a total gem to visit and well worth a visit whilst driving through the midwest.
So, to make sure you get the most out of your trip across the state, I wanted to share some spots you really shouldn’t miss. This way, you can focus on all the good stuff like enjoying yourself!
Take a look, below, at the best things to do in Missouri when you visit. Have the best time exploring “the show me state”!
As I mentioned, there’s a whole heap of pretty diverse and eclectic things to do in Missouri when you arrive; and visiting Branson is of no exception. Situated in the southwestern part of Missouri, Branson has a heap of fun and pretty epic venues and a heap of foodie spots that are great for a few days trip. This is especially true after exploring the wider Ozarks area that surrounds Branson itself.
Of course, after arriving, be sure to visit some of the iconic music spots (like the Shepherd of the Hills). It’s pretty historic and well worth a gander. That being said, if you want some more thrills, head straight over to Silver Dollar City and ride the incredible Outlaw Run (wooden rollercoaster). Trust me, you will scream!
Now, it might seem pretty random but there’s a pretty epic Titanic Museum that’s well worth exploring whilst in Branson. Yeah, it can be a little kitsch from the outside, but that’s all part of the nostalgic charm of Branson. Once inside, the museum features over 400 artefacts collected from the ship over the years that are pretty incredible to see.
Oh, and if you fancy a little time outside of the thrills and spills of the town area itself, you can also hop over to Table Rock Lake State Park and Talking Rocks Cavern, too. Both totally picturesque and great for experiencing some of the natural beauty of Missouri.
Feeling peckish? Get yourself over to The Keeter Center. They make the most delicious hickory-smoked prime rib. Just be sure to reserve a table in advance – it does get busy.
2.) The Ozarks
Lovingly known as The Ozarks, it’s a region that spans across Missouri, Oklahoma and Arkansas and is within easy reach when driving between St. Louis to Oaklahoma itself.
Once here, you’ll be able to explore some of the trails around the St Francois Mountains, taking the Taum Sauk Trail which is pretty gorgeous. And don’t forget about the Cave Spring Loop Trail that’s around a 5-mile round-trip. Just be sure to take some good waterproof boots; the trails can get muddy.
Finally, if you fancy some time on the water; rent a boat from Mike Fink’s Marina Boat rentals. Though there are heaps of rental companies to choose from and you’ll be spoilt for choice.
3.) St. Louis
One of the biggest cities in all of Missouri, St. Louis is a great city break to explore and enjoy some of that midwestern charm and pretty epic music venues.
Staying for at least a few days, you’ll get to experience so many of the best things to do in Missouri within one place! It’s got a little something for everyone.
After rocking up, head over to see the Gateway Arch; open of the tallest monuments in the United States. Located in the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Park, you’ll end up seeing the Gateway Arch from all over St. Louis.
Once here, take the elevator (or lift to us Brits) to the top of the platform which is well over 600 feet high.
Fancy a little stroll? Head over to Forest Park, which is considered one of the most beautiful urban parks in all of Missouri.
On a sunny day, it’s totally gorgeous to wander around and follow the trails that make this park so special. Plus, it’s got the St. Louis Art Museum, Missouri History Museum, and the St. Louis Science Center right there, too. You can honestly spend days just exploring these alone.
Getting peckish? Head straight over to the Sugarfire Smoke House. These guys know their stuff when it comes to BBQ. Their pulled pork is amazing.
Alternatively, head over to Polite Society for their shrimp and grits. You won’t be disappointed.
Plus, don’t forget about the Great Forest Park Balloon Race that typically happens in September each year. With thousands visiting, music, fireworks and, of course, hot air balloons; it’s one event that you really can’t miss in the city.
4.) Kansas City
Not to be confused with the neighbouring state of Kansas, Kansas City is a pretty epic city that straddles the borderline between Missouri and Kansas itself. Of course, this means you’ll end up straddling both Missouri and Kansas whilst exploring the downtown area.
Once you arrive, head over to explore Kansas City Market that dates all the way back to the 1800s. Here, you’ll find everything from grocers, restaurants and shops that really show off the best of the region. Just be sure to grab a pastry from the Bloom Baking Company; their pastries are just so good.
After filling up with a heap of sweet treats, head into the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum. Once inside, you’ll find a treasure-trove of US history that’s pretty incredible to learn about. Plus, you’ll get to see a complete replica of the Truman office at the white house itself., Oh, and try not to miss out on tour to the Victorian Home where the Truman family lived.
Fancy some art? Pop inside the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art. This is a place where anyone and everyone can enjoy; though, those with a total history of art will find it even more fascinating. Inside, you’ll get to wander around the world collections and spot some of the famous pieces from Edgar Degas Pastels and many others, too.
Art, not your thing? Then get yourself over to the National World War I Museum. Housing many exhibits from WWI, including Weapons and artillery, armours, and accounts’ it’s the kind of place that’s well worth visiting to learn more about the atrocities of the war. Plus, don’t forget to see the Liberty Memorial, too.
For a tasty dinner, get yourself inside Majestic Steakhouse and grab yourself a table. It’s been around for over 150 years, serving up some of the juiciest dry-aged steaks and live music every night. It’s a total classic! If it’s brunch you’re after, head into Succotash for their French toast and buttermilk pancakes. Yum!
5.) Jefferson City (Jeff City)
Being the capital, Jefferson City has a heap of the best things to do in Missouri that’s pretty epic for a few days trip. Although relatively small (as capitals go), It packs a fair few spots that’ll make any trip great.
Once here, you have to visit the Missouri State Capitol that is just so iconic. Plus, keep your eyes peeled for the nearby Lewis and Clark Monument that stands proudly in the city. If that’s not your thing, head inside the 19th Century, Missouri State Penitentiary and Missouri State Museum that both show the history of the region and the rather dark state of the penitentiary itself.
And for a tasty bite, pop into Oscar’s Classic Diner. Totally informal and friendly, it’s the perfect place for breakfast or grilled cheese at lunch.
It’s the perfect stopping place when driving between St. Louis and Kansas City.
Nestled on the banks of the Mississippi River, Hannibal is a relatively cosy city that’s well worth visiting if you’re heading north. Now, one of the most famous residents was Mark Twain, arguably one of the greatest US authors. Rember Tom Sawyer? Yeah, he wrote that!
Nowadays, His boyhood home is now the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum that’s incredible to visit. Housing Twain memorabilia, such as his original manuscripts, photographs, and the first edition of his books, too. You will also see original furniture, such as the desk where he sat to write the book itself.
If you’ve got time, also make sure to head over to the Mark Twain Cave, which is one of Missouri’s oldest operating cave systems that you can still visit. It’s pretty epic.
Finally, be sure to climb the stairs to the Mark Twain Memorial Lighthouse. Yes, you’ll be a little breathless but the views are gorgeous from here.
7.) Ha Ha Tonka State Park
On the banks of the Lake of the Ozarks, Ha Ha Tonka State Park is a pretty gorgeous area to visit. Now, one of the most iconic spots to see has to be the ruins of Ha Ha Tonka Castle. It was originally built back in the early 1900s and its walls still stand to this very day.
If ruined castles aren’t your thing, then head out on the Devil’s Kitchen Trail. It’s a great way to experience some of the beauty of the state park. Just be sure to take plenty of layers; weather conditions can change pretty rapidly here.
North of the city of Branson, Springfield is a great little afternoon stop as you’re heading down the state. You see, it’s got a heap of the best things to do in Missouri that are perfect for a family trip.
After you arrive, be sure to hop on a ride and travel through the Fantastic Caverns. Taking around an hour to explore, you’ll meander through the cave system and follow the ancient river bed that run through the rock.
For any art lover, check out the Springfield Art Museum that’s great to visit on a rainy day. It’s got hundreds of pieces to see and you can easily spend hours inside.
Better still, you’ll get to see the actual birthplace of Route 66 and even spot some of the original roadways on Kearney Street. Finally, if you’ve got time, stroll around the Mizumoto Japanese Stroll Garden that’s just so beautiful. The gardens themselves are so tranquil, and they regularly host seasonal events that happen throughout the year.
Nestled on the original Route 66, Joplin is a cosy little place that’s great for a few hours respite whilst driving. Famous for its mining and minerals, it’s the kind of place that’s really embraced its heritage; especially at the Joplin History and Mineral Museum. Although not the largest museum in Missouri, it’s well worth a gander if you’re interested in the history of the area.
Oh, and don’t forget about Grand Falls on the fringes of Joplin. Here, you’ll get to see the falls and the pools whilst strolling the wider McClelland Park.
Fancy some firey treats? For some of the best hot wings in all of Missouri, get yourself over to Hackett Hot Wings. Yes, it’s nothing fancy; but sometimes the best foodie spots are like this! Their world-famous split wings are incredible.
10.) Dogwood Canyon Nature Park
At over 10,000 acres and based in the wider Ozark area, Dogwood Canyon Nature Park is one spot that every nature lover will love. With everything from horseback riding, fishing, hiking trails and segway tours, it’s the kind of place that’ll have something for everyone.
For us, it’s one of the best things to do in Missouri, especially when wanting to escape the hustle and bustle of city life.