There are so many things to do in Missouri; it’s hard to know where to start!
This US state in the Midwest also referred to as the ‘Show me State,‘ is full of surprises and hidden gems that I’ll happily reveal – from vibrant St Louis, with its iconic landmark – The Gateway Arch, to the enigmatic underground caves.
It’s safe to say that Missouri is a nature lover’s paradise.
You have your pick of outdoor activities:
- hiking through the breathtaking scenery of the Ozark Mountains that seem straight out of a fairy tale
- trout fishing on crystal clear lakes
- seeing billion-year-old pink granite boulders in Elephant Rocks State Park.
If you’re looking for something more adventurous, Ha Ha Tonka State Park and Dogwood canyon nature park has plenty of activities to keep you busy.
For wine lovers, Augusta and the Hermann Wine Trail are definitely worth checking out.
And I’m only getting started here! So if you stick with me, I’ll share with you more fun, exciting and unusual trip ideas and places to visit in Missouri.
You might be interested in:
The most iconic street in every state
Bucket List Picks for Missouri
- Gateway Arch
- Live Show at Branson
- Silver Dollar City
- Titanic Museum
- Lake of the Ozarks
- Wineries in Augusta
- Bridal Cave
- Kansas City Barbeque
- Forest Park
- Mark Twain’s Home
- Kansas City’s 18th and Vine District
- Ha Ha Tonka State Park & Castle Ruins
Enjoy the City Views From the Top of the Gateway Arch
The 630-foot-tall Gateway Arch in St. Louis broke several records the day the construction was completed in 1965.
The American national monument instantly became the world’s biggest arch, easily beating the 219-foot-tall Monumento a la Revolución in Mexico City.
It remains the tallest building in Missouri to this day.
The Gateway Arch was built to celebrate Thomas Jefferson and his idea of westward expansion.
Once you reach the top via the four-minute tram ride, you’ll enjoy the city views that stretch up to 30 miles to the east and west.
There is also an interactive museum on top, and tours run 45 to 60 mins.
Visit Branson, MO, the Family Friendly Vegas
When it comes to entertainment for all ages, the city of Branson does it well. How about spending a fun-filled day watching live shows and music under bright lights and riding roller coasters?
Branson prides itself as the ‘Live Music Capital of the World’ and for a good reason.
Shows here range from country music to gospel and good old-fashioned rock n roll.
Are you a rollercoaster fanatic? Then you shouldn’t miss out on Silver Dollar City, an 1800s-style theme amusement park with unique rides.
Time Traveler ride reaches a speed of up to 50 miles per hour while you make a thrilling 10-story vertical drop. Fire In The Hole is another fantastic ride to get your adrenaline going.
Additionally, you can learn from many local artisans about crafts such as glassblowing and candle making.
Side note: Many live shows take place at 76 Country Boulevard.
Have First-hand Experience Boarding Titanic Ship
Another fantastic attraction in Branson that is worth every penny is the Titanic Museum.
Have you ever wondered what it was like to board this massive luxurious ship and walk the hallways, cabins, and Grand wooden staircase back in the day?
At the Titanic Museum, you’ll be able to experience all of that and more.
When you enter the museum, you’ll receive an actual passenger boarding pass instead of a ticket.
To make the experience even more authentic and interactive, the museum has a section where you can touch the iceberg and icy cold water, learn how to send an SOS distress signal, and stand on the sloping deck.
You’ll feel the spirit of Titanic come alive with over 400 personal and private artifacts on display valued at over four and a half million dollars!
The museum resembles the ship outside and inside and walks you through the fascinating yet sad story of the Titanic.
Once you reach the Titanic Memorial room, you’ll find out the fate of the passenger’s name that you were assigned on your boarding pass at the entrance.
To make yourself feel better, you can imagine the romantic movie scene of Rose (Kate Winslet) reuniting with Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) at a wooden staircase.
Live music shows, Silver Dollar City, and the Titanic museum are definitely one of the top things to do in Branson, MO, but the city has much more to offer.
Take a Dip in Lake of the Ozarks, A.K.a Magic Dragon Lake
Lake of the Ozarks, also known as the Magic Dragon due to its twisting shape, is one of the top waterfront vacation destinations in the Midwest.
The lake is a wonderland for swimming, boating, fishing, socializing, and relaxing.
Most of the lake’s shoreline is privately owned, so there are plenty of vacation houses for rent with spectacular lake views and cozy vibes.
To make your experience even more fun, rent a pontoon boat.
Side note: Avoid busy holidays, like Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day weekends. Late August is the best time to visit the lake because the summer crowds have died down a bit, but it’s still sunny and warm.
Sip Your Way Through Augusta, MO
Missouri is home to some of the most enchanting scenery in the country; its rolling hills and picturesque valleys are a sight to behold. But many aren’t aware that the charming town of Augusta, a scenic 35 miles from St. Louis, holds the title of being the very first American Viticultural Area. (AVA).
Augusta is currently undergoing a major transformation and rejuvenation of everything from the vineyards to the gas station and everything in between. The founders of Hoffmann Family Companies, a Florida-based conglomerate, were so inspired during the pandemic (and after watching Yellowstone) to restore Augusta to its previous glory and plan to reclaim its position as the top winemaking region in the country before the Prohibition era killed that industry.
The Hoffmann Family of Companies purchased over 1,000 acres in the Augusta area in 2020, including multiple vineyards and historic buildings. Their vision is an ambitious $150 million project that includes four wineries, a 60-room hotel helmed by either Marriot or Hyatt, a destination restaurant, an 18-room five-star hotel and spa in nearby Marthasville, a 12-hole golf course designed by Rees Jones, river cruises aboard the 105-foot luxury yacht Miss Augusta, and a revitalized downtown.
There is no need for a car in Augusta, MO. There are free trolleys that operate from April through October with six stops throughout Augusta. The trolleys operate on a continuous loop, stopping at Klondike Park, Montelle Winery, Augusta Emporium, Augusta Winery, Mount Pleasant Estates and Balducci Vineyards.
Don’t miss the opportunity to do a gator tour of the vineyards at Hoffmann Farm. Not only will you tour the vineyards, but you will also have the chance to see Clydesdale horses, goats and many other animals on the farm.
The ambitious restoration is well underway. When you arrive in Augusta, you may feel like you are in a movie set in small-town USA. The signage throughout the town of 293, the color palette, and the impeccable lawns mowed to perfection all welcome visitors to enjoy its quaint mid-western charm.
Cool Yourself in Bridal Cave
After a hot day spent boating at the lake, you can cool yourself in 60ºF Bridal Cave at Camdenton. It features a large and airy chamber with stunning stalactites and stalagmites.
There is a legend behind its name, too. It’s a story of both love and tragedy.
According to the story, the son of an Osage chief desired to marry a woman called Wasena from another tribe. However, she didn’t want to marry him, so he decided to kidnap her and hide her in the cave.
Unfortunately, she couldn’t bear the life of being with someone she didn’t love and jumped off the cliff. The valley is now referred to as ‘Lover’s Leap.’
Today, the Bridal cave can be reserved as a romantic wedding chapel. In addition, it’s rated as one of the most scenic caves in the US.
Spoil Your Taste Buds With Kansas City Barbecue
Kansas City barbeque isn’t just sauce and ribs; it’s the city’s delicious pride and a way of life.
No trip to Kansas city would be complete without sampling the world-famous barbeque (some say it’s the best in the US).
Picture slowly smoked meat like chicken, pork, and beef smothered in a sweet, thick, molasses-based barbeque sauce.
You can create a food challenge to find the smokiest, most mouthwatering, wonderfully messy barbeque meats in town, from Arthur Bryant’s in the 18th and Vine district to Joe’s spots across town.
Don’t miss out on the Z-Man sandwich (smoked brisket topped with cheese and onion rings) from the original Joe’s Kansas City Bar-BQue, based out of a gas station on 47th and Mission.
Yes, you’ll need some extra napkins, but it’ll be worth it.
Connect With Nature in Forest Park
1300-acre Forest park makes connecting with nature possible without leaving St Louis. It’s one of the country’s greatest urban parks, and for a good reason.
The park includes forests, lakes, and streams. It’s full of blooming flowers in spring and summer, making it a perfect spot for a casual picnic.
Forest park is also home to the Saint Louis Science Center, Missouri History Museum, St. Louis Zoo, St. Louis Art Museum, and the Municipal Theatre Association of St. Louis.
I love that this park is so versatile. You can spice up your itinerary by heading to a zoo, an art museum, an outdoor ice-skating rink, an outdoor theater, or a science museum.
Side note: The Cheshire is a romantic Tudor-style accommodation within walking distance of Forest Park and the St. Louis Zoo and is only a five-minute drive from downtown.
Get Inspired in Mark Twain’s Hometown
Hannibal, a picturesque town and the childhood home of author Mark Twain, is one of the top things to do in Missouri.
You can take a self-guided tour through the historic district to learn more about Twain’s life and work.
While you walk the streets of Hannibal, you can imagine Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, and Becky Thatcher (characters of Mark Twain’s series of books) getting into mischief.
Explore Twain’s boyhood home at 208 Hill Street, where many of his real-life experiences between 1844 and 1853 inspired the creation of his books and their characters.
Side note: Twain’s friend Laura Hawkins, a.k.a Becky Thatcher, lived at 211 Hill Street. The two close friends stayed in touch through the years.
Enjoy Jazz Night at Kansas City’s 18th and Vine District
Kansas City’s 18th and Vine District is a historic neighborhood known for its great barbeque and even better jazz.
No trip to Kansas city would be complete without visiting the Kansas City Juke House, which features live blues, and the Blue Room with countless musicians.
Arthur Bryant’s BBQ is considered one of the best restaurants around. Bryant created an epic sauce that was a favorite of several presidents, including Harry Truman, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama.
Head to the American Jazz Museum, the heart of the city’s black and jazz community.
Side note: If you plan your trip to Kansas city at the beginning of the month, you’ll be able to visit the art galleries and other businesses that stay open for First Fridays.
Go for a Hike in Ha Ha Tonka State Park
Tonka State Park is an excellent spot for a family fun outing. The park has 15 miles of hiking trails that wind through the woods and offer scenic views of the river below.
The park’s highlight is the Tonka castle ruins, the remains of an old stone castle built in the early 20th century.
The park has beautiful clear waters, a natural bridge, caves, and Missouri’s largest spring.
A popular hike is the island trail. All trails are pretty well-marked and maintained.
But be warned: once you set foot in this magical place, it will be hard to leave! So pack up your camera and get ready for adventure at Ha Ha Tonka State Park. You won’t regret it!
Other Fun Things To Do in Missouri
- Missouri Botanical Garden
- Hermann Wine Trail
- Elephant Rocks State Park
- Heartland Harvest Garden
- Dogwood Canyon Nature Park
- Louis Science Center
- Welch Spring Hospital Ruin
- State Capitol
- Missouri State Penitentiary
- Table Rock Lake
- Louis Zoo
- National WWI Museum
- Meramec State Park
- Bonne Terre Mine
- Route 66
Take a Stroll in Missouri Botanical Garden
The Missouri Botanical Garden is one of the most beautiful and popular tourist attractions in St Louis.
It is a must-see destination for nature lovers with sprawling gardens, gorgeous flowers, and various plant collections.
I love the Japanese garden section. You’ll feel like you teleported yourself into Asia.
You can spend an afternoon wandering around the botanical garden or attend special events like concerts and festivals.
Side note: From November 19 to January 7, the Botanical Garden becomes a magical place full of shining lights to celebrate the festive Christmas season. You can buy Garden Glow Night tickets here.
Go Winetasting at Hermann Wine Trail
The Hermann wine trail takes you through some of the prettiest sceneries in the state, where you can sample award-winning wines and learn about local wine-making traditions.
Winding along the trail are seven charming family-owned wineries: Adam Puchta, Bias, Curling Vine, Dierberg Star Lane Tasting Room, G. Husmann, Hermannhof, and Röbller winery.
Besides wine tasting, you can take a leisurely stroll in the quaint town of Hermann or bike along the Katy trail.
Side note: Is there something better than good wine and fantastic scenery? Well, yes, if you add chocolate to your wine tasting. Every year around Valentine’s Day (the third weekend of February), the Hermann wine trail turns into a Chocolate wine trail.
You can sample delicious chocolate and wine pairings. Chocolate and wine sound like a winning combo to me.
Admire Giant Boulders in Elephant Rocks State Park
The highlights of Elephant Rocks State Park are giant red granite rock formations and spectacular views. They’re not just any rocks. They weigh whopping 680 tons and are about 1.5 billion years old!
You can reach the boulders by following the Braille trail that winds through a lush forest. Along the way, you can stop by a pond or have a picnic.
Side note: Notice the carvings on the boulders made by quarry workers over 100 years ago. It’s like antique graffiti.
Unwind in Heartland Harvest Garden
The Heartland Harvest Garden is a beautiful and unique urban oasis in Kansas City.
It’s also America’s largest organic garden, with extensive green spaces, vibrant edible flowers, herbs, fruit, and veggies.
It’s an ideal place to escape from the hustle and bustle of city life and pick lots of inspiration for your own veggie garden.
So if you’re looking for an idyllic spot for much-needed relaxation, look no further than this charming urban garden.
Go Horseback Riding at Dogwood Canyon Nature Park
Dogwood Canyon Nature Park is a nature paradise located in Lampe, Missouri.
There is an abundance of fun activities for the whole family – from hiking, biking, and wildlife tours to trout fishing. Not to mention the waterfalls, creeks, and handcrafted bridges. But the highlight of the park is the horseback riding tour.
You can book a one-hour or two and half hour horseback riding tour with a guide and explore the park’s off-the-beaten-path trails and picturesque scenery.
Before saddling up and setting off on your journey, you can say hi to cute horses in little Indian stables with 24 stalls.
Along your way, you’ll see stunning waterfalls, babbling streams full of trout, Little Indian Creek, and the Hope Wilderness Chapel, a replica of an authentic 1800s chapel. It’s safe to say that from horseback, you’ll be able to enjoy the park’s nature at its finest.
You might even spot American bison, elk, or deer if you’re lucky.
And the good news is that tours are suitable for any experience level.
So whether you’re seeking a relaxing retreat or an action-packed adventure, Dogwood Canyon Nature Park is a great choice.
Side note: Arsenic & Old Lace B n B Inn is a wonderful place to stay when exploring the area. It’s only half an hour’s drive from the Dogwood Canyon Nature Park in beautiful Eureka Springs. With comfy rooms, excellent amenities, and stunning verandas, this hotel offers all the modern conveniences while maintaining a cozy charm. Plus, they’re dog friendly. This bed & breakfast is a perfect spot for a romantic weekend getaway!
Spark Your Curiosity at Saint Louis Science Center
With interactive exhibits, fascinating science displays, and immersive theaters, Saint Louis science center is sure to spark your curiosity about science and the world.
You can explore the secrets of the universe and learn more about atoms, oceans, sand, stardust, dinosaurs, dark matter, and more.
You can also attend special events like science festivals and feature movie screenings at the OMNIMAX theater.
Find Abandoned Welch Spring Hospital Ruins
Another hidden gem in Missouri is Welch Spring Hospital Ruins. But, first, to give a little backstory:
In 1913, doctor Diehl bought Welch Spring. He believed that the spring water had healing properties and that cool air from the nearby cave would benefit people with asthma and tuberculosis.
He built a hospital/spa over the cave. However, the access was quite complicated, and patients weren’t willing to make this extra effort to get there.
After his death, the hospital wasn’t maintained and turned into ruin. But who knows, perhaps he was just ahead of his time.
The easiest way to reach the hospital is by canoe, or you’ll be able to see it at the end of the trail. But it’s across the spring.
Explore Historic Landmarks in Jefferson City
- State Capitol building
The Missouri State Capitol building in Jefferson city is the seat of government for the state of Missouri and a must-see attraction for any history and architecture lovers.
With its impressive architecture, intricate details, and historical significance, this iconic landmark represents the rich history and culture that defines the state.
There’s a Thomas Jefferson statue on the front steps to welcome you.
You can also take an inside tour. Don’t miss out on seeing the House and Senate chambers.
- Missouri State Penitentiary
Missouri State Penitentiary, also known as ‘The Walls,’ is a historic prison in Jefferson City that has played an essential role in the state’s history.
This imposing fortress was built in 1836 and was once home to some of the most notorious criminals in America.
Today, it’s a popular tourist attraction that many people visit to learn more about its fascinating history.
The site includes guided tours of the original cellblocks and exhibits on famous prisoners such as James Earl Ray, who assassinated Martin Luther King Jr.
Have a Blast at Table Rock Lake
Table Rock Lake is another stunning spot in Missouri state.
You’ll surely have a fun-filled day with crystal clear waters, tranquil beaches, and abundant watersport activities.
Whether you’re into fishing, boating, wakeboarding, swimming, waterskiing, camping, or just chilling on the shoreline with a good book, Table Rock Lake has something for everyone.
Plenty of campsites, resorts, and lodges by the lake make your stay pleasant and cozy.
Some good accommodation options include:
- Cross Timbers Lodge
- Holiday Hideaway Resort
- Lakeside Resort
- Wilderness Club at Big Cedar
Say Hi to Animals in the Saint Louis Zoo
Located in St. Louis, the Saint Louis Zoo is one of the best things to do in Missouri.
It features over 14 000 animals representing nearly 500 species.
The zoo is home to adorable red pandas, majestic elephants, fierce lions, cheeky lemurs, and more. There’s no shortage of amazing creatures to see at the Louis Zoo.
There is also an underwater bridge with an aquarium.
Kids can hop on a popular Zooline railroad train which goes through a tunnel and past favorite animal exhibits.
But it doesn’t just stop there – with interactive exhibits, live shows, and family fun activities, you’ll indeed have a great time.
Dive Into History at the National Wwi Museum
The National World War I Museum in St Louis is a must-visit destination if you’re a history buff.
Located in the Liberty Memorial, this impressive museum features exhibits and artifacts that tell the story of one of the most pivotal events in modern history – World War I.
You’ll get a unique insight into World War I with interactive experiences, engaging multimedia displays, and fascinating artifacts such as weapons, uniforms, war art, and letters from the front lines.
Visiting this museum is a great way to dive deep into history and learn more about this devastating war in human history.
Discover Fascinating Underground Bonne Terre Mine
This vast underground mine, located deep below the earth’s surface, features miles and miles of winding caves, tunnels, and passageways that you can explore on foot or by boat.
Bonne Terre Mine is the perfect place for thrill seekers and adventurers with its dark and mysterious atmosphere.
Whether you’re into caving or curious to see what an underground mine looks like, Bonne Terre Mine is a cool and unique sight.
If you have a diving certificate, I recommend getting a scuba dive package to make the most of the experience in this world’s largest subterranean lake.
Go Kayaking or Camping at Meramec State Park
Meramec State Park is another popular destination for outdoor family fun.
With its scenic landscape, rich forests, and abundance of hiking trails and biking paths, it’s the perfect place to get out into nature and enjoy the fresh air.
There are also plenty of water-based activities at Meramec river, including boating, fishing, floating, and kayaking on the river.
No visit to the Meramec State park would be complete without a tour of Fisher Cave with handheld lights.
If you need assistance with anything, there is a very helpful visitor center with friendly staff in the park.
Meramec State Park is a great option whether you’re an avid hiker or just looking for a relaxing day outside with your family or friends.
Hit the Road on Route 66
If you’re anything like me and love road trips, then Route 66 is worth checking out. It has the nickname ‘Main Street of America,’ as it was one of the first United States highways.
This iconic route spans over 2000 miles from Chicago to Los Angeles and cuts through Illinois and Missouri.
Along the way, you’ll pass by historic towns, quirky diners, and charming roadside attractions that capture the essence of America’s heritage.
Route 66 offers endless opportunities for fun and adventure.
Top Free and Fun Things To Do in St Louis Missouri
- Admire the detailed mosaic of Cathedral Basilica in St Louis MO
- Have a picnic in Forest Park
- Visit the World Chess Hall of Fame
- Watch the Union Station fire and light show (every night from 5 to 9 pm)
- Enjoy live music at the outdoor Muny / Municipal Opera Thater (only available in summer)
- Cuddle with animals at Grant’s farm
- Go to Soulard Farmer’s market
- Tour Anheuser-Busch Brewery
Overall, there are countless fun things to do in Missouri – from wine tasting and hiking at beautiful state parks to exploring fascinating landmarks like Gateway Arch and Capitol State building.
No matter your interests or where you find yourself in the state, one thing is sure, you won’t get bored in Missouri.
What’s your top pick from the list of things to do in Missouri?
What Is the Number 1 Attraction in Missouri?
The number one landmark in Missouri is Gateway Arch, located in St. Louis. Riding to the top of the Gateway Arch is undoubtedly one of the top things to do in Missouri. This tourist attraction, with 63 stories dedicated to the “American people,” makes steel and concrete look graceful and elegant. Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen designed the Gateway Arch to commemorate Thomas Jefferson and his idea of westward expansion.
What Are 3 Things Missouri Is Famous For?
Missouri is famous for its Kansas City barbeque, strong agriculture industry, and iconic landmarks, such as the Gateway Arch in St. Louis and the Capitol state building in Jefferson City. Missouri is also the birthplace of the Kansas City jazz and St. Louis blues.
What Is the Best Time of Year to Visit Missouri?
The best time to visit Missouri is from September to November. The summer crowds die down a bit, but it’s still sunny and warm.
Temperatures range from 15 to 20 C (59 to 68 F) and make the weather ideal for setting off on an adventurous journey along the mountain trails and the lakes, especially with all the beautiful autumn colors.
What Food Is Missouri Best Known For?
Missouri is best known for toasted ravioli, provel cheese, and delicious barbecue. The Show Me State is influenced by German, French, and Italian cuisine. Add incredible local meat and fresh produce, and you will have a winning combination—fun fact: the ice cream cone was invented in Missouri in 1904.
Why Should I Visit Missouri?
There are countless reasons to visit Missouri, from its vibrant cities and scenic landscape of the Ozark mountains to its rich history and diverse cultural and music scene. Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast looking for adventure, or a foodie searching for a delicious barbecue, Missouri has something for everyone.
Casandra Karpiak is a travel writer and the co-owner of Savoteur. A Toronto native with Danish roots currently residing in British Columbia, her travel writing has been seen on The Associated Press wire, MSN, CBS, NBC, Entrepreneur, 24/7 Wall St, Times Daily, and many more.
You can follow her travel adventures on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.