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MISSOURI Travel Information
Northwest Missouri Region
Find plenty of history and family fun in Missouri's Northwest Region. Begin your journey in Kansas City, the western anchor to Missouri River country. From city skyline to rural charm, there's plenty waiting for you in the Kansas City area, an all-American city with a distinctly European flavor. Kansas City complements its heartland appeal with the dazzling fountains of Rome, bold architecture of Spain and the wide boulevards of Paris.
Begin your visit at the colorful City Market area of the restored downtown riverfront district where the Arabia Steamboat Museum displays thousands of artifacts salvaged from a steamboat that sunk near the city in 1856. If you want great shopping, dining and nightlife on your vacation, look to the Country Club Plaza. The plaza was America's first shopping center with fountains and Moorish architecture. Head north to the historic Westport district for great live blues, jazz and R and B. Be sure to visit the 18th and Vine Historic District, with the American Jazz Museum and Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. Don't forget to sample some of Kansas City's famous barbecue.
The famous Union Station has been beautifully restored and is now home to Science City, an interactive adventure where children and adults alike enjoy a one-of-a-kind learning experience. With five unique districts to explore, you're sure to find a new adventure around every corner. Also, Kansas City Riverboat casinos offer a variety of dining choices along with gaming entertainment.
If family fun is on your agenda, head to Worlds of Fun, an internationally themed amusement park. Next door is Oceans of Fun, a tropically themed water park. Or you'll want to get tickets for the baseball Royals or football Chiefs at the twin-stadium Truman Sports Complex.
After you've had a taste of Kansas City, plan a stop in Independence. Here you can visit the home and presidential library of Harry S Truman. At the National Frontier Trails Center, you can learn about the role of the city as a supply point for the Santa Fe, Oregon and California trails. Travel east to Sibley and Fort Osage, a reconstructed fort from the War of 1812, overlooking the Missouri River.
A short drive north of Independence brings you to Jesse James country. Liberty's Jesse James Bank Museum is the site of the nation's first daylight bank robbery. Farther north, near Kearney, is the Jesse James Farm and Museum, where you can learn more about this notorious outlaw.
North of Kansas City is an area so rich in history you'll feel as through you've been transported back 100 years. The turbulent, glory-filled era of the century past is still alive in St. Joseph, where the Pony Express began its brief but legendary run. Relive that first ride at the red brick Pony Express Stables, now fully restored as a museum. The Patee House, the first headquarters of the Pony Express, originally a four-story luxury hotel, now showcases 1800s American lifestyle. Next door sits the house where outlaw Jesse James spent his last years before being gunned down by Bob Ford in 1882.
St. Joseph is a city rich not only with a proud past, but also plenty of culture. There are numerous museums, galleries and historical sites: the National Military Heritage Museum, Knea-Von Black Archives and the St. Joseph Fire Museum to name a few. Shopping at the Stetson Hat Factory Outlet, gaming aboard the St. Jo Frontier Casino and a walk along the historic parkway are musts.
Farther north you'll find Maryville, home to Northwest Missouri State University and dozens of cultural events. A short drive east will bring you to Jamesport, the state's largest Amish settlement. Amish foods, crafts and antiques lure today's travelers. Tours provide glimpses of the Amish way of life. At Gallatin, you'll find more reminders of the infamous James Gang, and the unique 1889 squirrel cage rotary jail.
Throughout the region are ample opportunities to meet nature at her best with fishing, hiking and other outdoor fun. Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge and Big Lake State Park, both near Mound City, are home to an abundance of wildlife, including migrating snow geese and bald eagles.
Travel to Arrow Rock, where you can visit the Arrow Rock Lyceum Theatre, Missouri's oldest professional regional theater. Stop by Historic Arrow Rock Tavern, the oldest continuous operating restaurant west of the Mississippi River since 1834. Confederate Gen. Sterling Price, who served two terms as Missouri's governor before the Civil War, is honored at Keytesville. Nearby Brunswick draws a crowd every fall when roadside stands open to sell delicious pecans, harvested in abundance here. Travel the area north of Brunswick in autumn and spring and you're sure to see wild geese. Swan Lake National Wildlife Refuge and Fountain Grove Conservation Area attract tremendous flocks of migrating waterfowl and shorebirds. Nearby Sumner proudly proclaims itself the "Wild Goose Capital of the World."
Up the road are reminders of two world-renowned Missourians. Walt Disney grew up in Marceline and modeled Disneyland's Mainstreet U.S.A. after his hometown. In Laclede is the boyhood home of WWI Gen. John J. Pershing. History buffs will want to visit Chillicothe's Grand River Museum. In Trenton, visit the Grundy County Museum, St. Philip's Episcopal Church and 1930s WPA Rock Barn. Near Trenton, spend time camping, swimming and fishing at Crowder State Park.
Whether you are searching for nightlife, fun, history or rural charm, you will find everything you are looking for in the Missouri's Northwest Region.
Northeast Missouri Region
Are you interested in variety, an abundance of history, soothing scenery and towns that will make you feel right at home? You'll find all this and more in Missouri's Northeast Region.
Begin your visit to this region in St. Louis, where your first glimpse of the 630-foot Gateway Arch is a reminder of the historic role St. Louis played in the westward expansion of America. Ride the tram to the top of the Arch and watch the powerful Mississippi River flow by. Behold the energetic city below. Visit the museum under the Arch and the nearby Old Cathedral, the oldest church in St. Louis. Just across the street is the Old Courthouse, the site of the Dred Scott trial.
Cheer for the hometown favorites at a Cardinals baseball game, then visit the International Bowling Hall of Fame across from the stadium. After the game, head to Tony's for great Italian cuisine. If you prefer French, try the nearby Cafe de France. Not far away, the shopping is spectacular at St. Louis Centre or the completely restored Union Station. In Forest Park, visit the Saint Louis Art Museum, the Zoo, the Muny Opera and the Science Center, with its life-size animated dinosaurs and an OMNIMAX Theater. Nearby is the historic Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, which houses the world's largest collection of mosaic art.
For a night on the town, take in Grand Center arts and entertainment. Visit the Fox Theatre and the St. Louis Black Repertory Company. Then head for one of St. Louis' many pubs or microbreweries or a riverboat casino. Find time in your schedule for a stroll through St. Louis' historic neighborhoods of Laclede's Landing, Soulard, The Hill and Central West End all great places for good shopping and fine food. Visit the historic Scott Joplin House to get a sense of ragtime music's beginnings. Children will be delighted at Grant's Farm, the Magic House and the City Museum.
Eureka, on Interstate 44, is best known for Six Flags St. Louis, an immense family theme park and its newest addition, Hurricane Harbor Water Park. Head west on Interstate-70 and visit the old French village of St. Charles with its Lewis and Clark Center, First Missouri State Capitol Building, restored riverfront historic district, an authentic showboat and a casino. About 20 miles southwest of St. Charles on Route 94 and F (near Defiance) is the Daniel Boone Home, where the Boone family settled in the late 1790s.
Route 94 then winds west through the river hills to the German towns of Augusta, Dutzow and Berger, all boasting wonderful wineries. Slightly south of these quaint towns you'll find the river town of Washington, where a visit to river artist Gary Lucy's Art Studio and Gallery is a must. German culture is preserved in Hermann, sometimes referred to as "Little Germany." Today, you can sample award-winning wines and authentic food, spend time antique shopping and relax at one of the numerous bed and breakfast inns.
Heading north, plan a stop in Louisiana to explore its downtown business district, probably the most intact Victorian streetscape in Missouri. Wildlife watchers know the Clarksville area for its large number of wintering bald eagles.
A bit farther up the Mississippi River is Hannibal, the town Mark Twain recalled in creating the adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. Visit the downtown historic district for a look at Twain's boyhood home and museum, restored to its exact mid-1800s appearance. The adjacent museum is filled with his manuscripts and memorabilia, including one of Twain's famous white suits. Close by are other pieces of Twain history, including the Becky Thatcher House and Judge Clemens' law office. Explore underground beauty in the Mark Twain and Cameron caves. The Molly Brown Birthplace and Museum recently has been restored. Still more history, scenic vistas and other fun await along Missouri's portion of the Great River Road, which follows the Mississippi from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.
Southwest of Hannibal, Mark Twain Lake has a well-earned reputation for outstanding fishing. Lake facilities include marinas, boat ramps, a swimming beach and lots of camping. Kids will want to stop at the Landing, a complete recreational resort. Farther north is Bethel, founded as a German communal colony in the 1840s. Visit unique historic homes and shop for antiques. Festivals highlighting crafts and folklife are held throughout the year. Just south of the Iowa state line, the road passes near the Battle of Athens State Historic Site, where you can picnic and camp beside a Civil War battlefield. At St. Patrick, be sure to stop by the beautiful shrine in the United States town named for this saint.
A truly tall tale awaits you in Memphis. The Downing House and Boyer House Museum spotlight Ella Ewing, nicknamed "Missouri's Giantess" due to her extreme height of 8 feet 4 inches. The Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine, founded in 1892 by Dr. A.T. Still, was the world's first osteopathic college. Still's birthplace cabin and the Still National Osteopathic Museum are on campus. The great outdoors surround Kirksville, including two large state conservation areas (Big Creek and Sugar Creek), muskellunge fishing at Hazel Creek Lake and Thousand Hills State Park. Also nearby is Novinger, where residents commemorate their mining heritage at the Coal Miners Museum and Novinger Log Home.
Plenty of water fun awaits on the region's two big lakes south of Kirksville. Long Branch, near Macon, and Thomas Hill, near Moberly, lure vacationers intent on fishing, skiing and other water sports. Moberly also welcomes travelers and takes pride in sharing its 360-acre Rothwell Park, history and railroad museums and the heritage of Gen. Omar Bradley. The WWII leader was born in nearby Clark and grew up in the Moberly area.
Even after you see all this, you'll find there's still more -- more friendly towns, more river hills, farmlands and forests, more history and more reasons to enjoy more than one trip to the Northeast Region.
Central Missouri Region
Missouri's Central Region boasts premier lake and resort destinations, wineries, beautiful hiking and biking trails and the state capital, just for starters.
The Lake of the Ozarks offers 1,150 miles of shoreline winding through scenic Ozark hills. Besides swimming, boating, water-skiing and fishing, visitors can explore area caves, choose from numerous golf courses and enjoy country-music shows. Malls, factory outlets and specialty stores make this area a year-round destination for shoppers. Before leaving the lake area, explore the ruins of an 80-year-old castle at Ha Ha Tonka State Park near Camdenton. Here, you can imagine the grandeur of days past by observing this European-style marvel. Be sure to stop and take in the view of the lake and hiking trails below. Afterward, head south to Bennett Spring State Park located on the sparkling Niangua River for your chance to catch a trophy rainbow trout.
More water fun awaits you at three other major lakes in the area - Truman, Stockton and Pomme de Terre. These lakes offer 1,369 miles of undeveloped shoreline and 16 full-service marinas. Truman Lake is one of the Midwest's largest impoundments. For the big picture, stop by the Corps of Engineers visitors center near the dam. Perched high atop a bluff, the center offers a dramatic view of the 55,600-acre reservoir. Bring your fishing gear and experience for yourself why Truman Lake has earned rave reviews for its largemouth bass, catfish and crappie.
Head south for more water fun at Stockton and Pomme de Terre. Stockton Lake's 24,900 acres, nestled among rolling, tree-covered hills, entice anglers with abundant smallmouth and largemouth bass, walleye and crappie. Even if you are not an angler, there is plenty to do, including sailing, camping, water-skiing, hiking and picnicking. Pomme de Terre Lake and State Park boast several public-use areas offering camping and recreational facilities and services. Fishing is good year-round, but there is a special flurry in autumn as anglers seek out the lake's most feisty residents, trophy muskellunge.
Plan to spend some time in Jefferson City, the state's capital since 1862. The 68-foot diameter rotunda designed in the Roman Renaissance style welcomes visitors. While observing some of the best heritage-inspired murals by painter Thomas Hart Benton, view the legislative process or visit the inspiring "history hall" gallery. History buffs will enjoy touring Lincoln University, established in 1866 by enlisted men and officers in the 62nd and 65th U.S. Colored Infantries. For a refreshing break, stop in at Central Dairy for legendary ice cream treats.
Fulton boasts a beautifully reconstructed Sir Christopher Wren church, "Breakthrough," a sculpture made from pieces of the Berlin Wall, and the Churchill Memorial, commemorating Sir Winston Churchill's famous "Iron Curtain" speech given here in 1946. Columbia is quickly becoming one of Missouri's great restaurant towns. Numerous festivals throughout the year focus on Missouri's heritage and visual performing arts. Spelunkers can explore he Devil's Icebox cave at Rock Bridge Memorial State Park by permit during certain times of the year.
Just west on Interstate 70 is the quaint river town of Rocheport, one of many trailheads for the Katy Trail. West of Rocheport is Boonville, the site of the first actual clash of arms between Union and pro-Confederate Missouri State Guard troops. Another area to discover is Sedalia, where Scott Joplin composed some of his most famous ragtime music. Fans flock here each year in June for Scott Joplin Ragtime Festival. In August, Sedalia hosts the Missouri State Fair.
West of Sedalia, you can camp or fish amid beautiful scenery at Knob Noster State Park. Farther west is Warrensburg, home of Central Missouri State University. Be sure to stop by the old courthouse, site of a famous trial over a dog named Old Drum. From lake fun to historic river towns, there is plenty to keep you busy in Missouri's Central Region.
Southwest Missouri Region
America's new live-entertainment capital, crystal-blue lakes surrounded by forested hills, and attractions based on colorful native lifestyles are just part of what's in Missouri's Southwestern Region.
Near the region's center is Branson, offering nonstop family fun highlighted by more than 90 music and variety shows. Recent years have brought many new names, representing musical styles that range from traditional country and pop "classics" to today's sounds. At Shepherd of the Hills Homestead and Outdoor Theatre, you can take a tram tour of this literary historic site, and then watch the fast-paced drama recreating the tale of life on the Ozarks frontier.
Nearby Silver Dollar City will also transport you back to the turn of the century. Here you'll see crafters work their magic and enjoy the thrill of exciting rides and music shows, all in the setting of an 1890s Ozarks town. You will not want to miss the park's newest attraction, Buzz Saw Falls.
Other Branson highlights include a six-story IMAX Theatre, Ripley's Believe It or Not! Museum, Hollywood Wax Museum and lake cruises on the Showboat Branson Belle.
On Branson's doorstep is Lake Taneycomo, where cold waters support an excellent trout fishery. Also close by is sprawling Table Rock Lake. Its 43,100 acres are a delight for anglers, boaters, scuba divers and other water recreationists. Equally big and fun is Bull Shoals Lake, an hour east of Branson. And the upper end of Norfork Lake provides the region with yet another sparkling jewel.
When you visit Springfield, the state's third-largest city, plan stops at the history and art galleries, General Sweeny's Museum and Dickerson Park Zoo. A must-see stop is Springfield's new American National Fish and Wildlife Museum and Aquarium - Wonders of Wildlife. This attraction features 160 live species of animals from otters to ducks and bobcats to sharks. Springfield also offers shopping opportunities galore, including one of Missouri's most popular attractions, Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World. Just outside Springfield, you can take a "wild ride" through Exotic Animal Paradise, relive Civil War history at Wilson's Creek National Battlefield or go underground at Fantastic Caverns, North America's only ride-through cave.
In Mansfield you can tour the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum and Home. The home is where the Little House books were written, and the museum contains artifacts, family photographs, Wilder's handwritten manuscripts and other family items.
History, scenery and more attractions await you on the western side of the region. An hour west of Springfield is Joplin, a booming mining town in the late 1800s. Nearby Carthage is known for its Victorian homes. Artist Sam Butcher's Precious Moments Chapel and Visitors Center is here too. Just south, at Diamond, is the George Washington Carver National Monument. Its museum highlights the life and career of this renowned African-American agronomist. Further north is Lamar and President Harry Truman's birthplace. Nevada's Bushwhacker Museum recalls Civil War guerrilla activities in this area, and the Bates County Museum of Pioneer History in Butler's historic downtown is a popular stop.
The Southwest Region offers something special for everyone. Any time of year, you'll find this region is the perfect getaway choice
Southeast Missouri Region
This region seems to have been created especially for those adventurers whose idea of life at its best is exploring, paddling, trekking, climbing and splashing through the natural wonders of the world around them. Bubbling springs, sparkling rivers and forested hills accentuate Missouri's Southeast Region.
Miles of canoeing rivers, including the Jack's Fork and Current, part of America's first national scenic river ways, take paddlers through the picturesque woods and bluffs. Gently rolling countryside dips into valleys, where creeks wind through fertile farmland. River towns and quaint country villages charm guests with their turn-of-the-century architecture, antique shops and historical sites. Take a break at Alley Spring near Eminence to explore a historic gristmill, painted a vibrant red. Farther downstream, near Van Buren, is one of America's largest springs, Big Spring.
Begin a Meramec River float at Ononodaga Cave in Leasburg or you can put in your canoe at Steelville or Bourbon with any number of outfitters that serve the area. In Poplar Bluff, two historical museums and the Margaret Harwell Art Museum are among the town's attractions. Just north is 8,400-acre Wappapello Lake, best known for its winter and spring crappie fishing. Mark Twain National Forest, also on the lake, makes up a significant part of the region. Wildflowers nod in the breeze and the scent of cedar fills the air as riders and hikers enjoy miles of trails.
To the west of Thayer is Grand Gulf State Park, which resembles a mini-Grand Canyon. Giant red boulders perch atop Ozark hills making up Elephant Rocks State Park near Ironton. Climb to the top of Taum Sauk Mountain, Missouri's highest point, and then splash in at Johnson's Shut-Ins and explore the Black River's unusual carvings through Missouri's oldest exposed rock.
From Lesterville, canoeists can enjoy many miles of the Black River before it widens into scenic Clearwater Lake. Marinas, beaches, lodging and campgrounds are abundant, with more services just east at Piedmont.
The area from Fredericktown north to Bonne Terre was once the world's largest lead-mining district. At Bonne Terre, you can walk the wide passageways of the world's largest man-made caverns, or scuba-dive in its billion-gallon underground lake.
On the eastern side of this region, begin exploring the Great River Road at Ste. Genevieve. The first French settlers came to Ste. Genevieve in 1735. Today, this colonial village features roughly 50 historic buildings built in the French Creole style - many are open for tours. See Indian artifacts and Civil War relics at the Ste. Genevieve Museum. Maps for self-guided tours are available at the Great River Road Interpretive Center. Relax at the Ste. Genevieve Winery downtown, and then stay over at one of the many historically restored bed-and-breakfast inns in town.
At Trail of Tears State Park in Jackson you can take in the solitude of the dark green forest or stand on limestone bluffs and embrace the majesty of the Mississippi. Walk a nature trail, camp or picnic. The park is part of the route that Cherokee Indians took on their forced march to a reservation in Oklahoma. Near Burfordville is Bollinger Mill with a four-story gristmill and covered bridge.
A little south is Cape Girardeau, the largest of these picturesque river towns, a city that treasures its historical roots. Visitors can share in this heritage at the Cape River Heritage Museum. You can see the floodgates downtown that have saved the town from the river's rampage numerous times.
In Charleston, you can tour beautiful Victorian homes as well as the lovely gardens surrounding them. Each April, Charleston hosts its annual Dogwood-Azalea Festival. Mid-April is a wonderful time in Charleston -- the entire town glows with the beauty cast by millions of colorful dogwood and azalea blossoms.
In Sikeston-Miner, Lambert's Cafe, home of the famous "throwed rolls," will lure you off the interstate for a satisfying meal. One of the nation's best rodeos, the Jaycee Bootheel Rodeo, is held here in August. In New Madrid, visit Higgerson School, a restored one-room schoolhouse and the Hunter-Dawson Home State Historic Site, an antebellum mansion.
Enjoy gaming excitement aboard the Casino Aztar at Caruthersville, or visit Bloomfield, the birthplace of the military's Stars and Stripes newspaper during the Civil War. Southeast Missouri is a region of great beauty and quiet charm with plenty to enjoy for everyone.
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