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Did You Know…?

  • The Lake of the Ozarks was artificially created.
  • Missouri sits on more than 6,200 caves.
  • The Missouri River is longer than the Mississippi River.
  • The lake inside the Bonne Terre Mine is the largest subterranean lake in the world.
  • The Pony Express was a financial failure; it bankrupted its founders.

Show Me State

Simply put, Missouri is a farm state, but other images help capture the essence of this midwestern destination. Those images include stockyards, steaks and barbecues; jazz, blues and country music; paddle steamers and river towns; the hills and lakes of the Ozarks.

It’s known as the Show Me State, a sobriquet of unproven origins. It claims as native sons Mark Twain who gave us Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn; the buck-stops-here president, Harry Truman, and even the gunslinger outlaw, Jesse James. It’s a friendly place with an eclectic list of associations.

Who is the most famous American born in Missouri? J.C. Penney? Ginger Rogers? Harry Truman? Mark Twain? Missouri has memorials to all these, plus tributes to the Pony Express, the Lewis and Clark Expedition, the Trail of Tears and countless other reminders of American history.

Missouri is centrally located and two major rivers converge along its eastern border, the Missouri and the Mississippi, which helped to make the state an important crossroads at the time the U.S. was expanding westward in the 19th century. Its largest cities, Kansas City and St. Louis, started life as fur-trading centers.

A much newer phenomenon called Branson earns more comments from Missouri visitors than any other feature. This small Ozark city is second only to Nashville for country music entertainment and homespun comedy. It doesn’t hurt that surrounding areas are scenic and suitable for fishing, boating and other outdoor activities. Silver Dollar City Theme Park is there, too.

Across the state, countless lakes and rivers appeal to spin-cast anglers and fly-fishermen. Those same rivers also offer options for the float of the visitor’s choice — by canoe, kayak, raft or tube — and campsites for those who want a more rustic vacation.

As for city life, Kansas City and St. Louis offer commerce, art, fine dining (plus steaks and barbecues), jazz and blues, major league sports in the best mid-American style, that is, with excellent hospitality minus pretentions.

In sum, attractions and activities cover a wide range. Visitors generally come in May through October, the main season for the Branson theaters.

Things to do for Venturers

  • Skate to your heart’s content on 28,000 square feet of concrete, with an elaborate street course featuring ramps, pyramids, curbs — the whole nine yards, in Columbia’s Cosmo Skate Park. The park also has a mountain biking circuit.
  • Sign on with Aircraft-Balloons in Joplin for hot-air balloon flight lessons. Or, you can choose to be a passenger instead.
  • Stay at a dude ranch; participate in cattle drives and horse roundups. Try arrowhead hunting, as well.
  • Not your typical dive site: Go diving in Roubidoux Spring Cave in Waynesville. Divers must have cave certification.  Or, take a guided scuba dive in the “billion-gallon lake” inside Bonne Terre Mine. You also can take a guided walking tour of the mine’s top two levels; the mine was once the world’s largest producer of lead ore.
  • Make a night of it at the jazz and blues clubs in St. Louis. Drop by BB’s Jazz, Blues and Soups, a place with a past (as a house of ill repute, for one thing).
  • Cruise through the Mark Twain National Forest on a motorcycle or ATV, utilizing the designated trails for this purpose. A permit is required.  Or, give something back to the community; spend time in the forest as a volunteer helping to preserve historic sites and maintain trails.

Things to do for Centrics

  • Take a wine-tasting tour, or at least visit one of the state’s numerous wineries. Consider the Adam Puchta Winery in Hermann, the state’s oldest family farm winery, owned by the same family since its inception in 1855.
  • Tour the Anheuser-Busch Brewery in St. Louis.
  • Join a guided trail ride. Take lessons for English and western riding styles.
  • Pick your own apples in September at the Centennial Farms and Orchard in Augusta. Or, come for the site’s bluegrass festival in June. Buy the facility’s own apple butter, preserves or honey to take home.
  • Hike or bike the 225-mile-long Katy Trail State Park that, for the most part, follows the Missouri River from St. Charles to Clinton.
  • Go to Castlewood State Park at Ballwin for all sorts of things: boating, canoeing, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking.

Things to do for Authentics

  • Take the Hannibal Trolley Company’s narrated tour of Hannibal, Mark Twain’s hometown.
  • See one or many shows in Branson.
  • Go to a drive-in movie (the movies are current) at Barco Drive-In Theatre in Lamar. Visit President Harry S. Truman’s birthplace there, too.
  • Attend live dinner theater, offered by the Cobblestone Theatre Company, in downtown St. Joseph.
  • Rent a vacation home or condo at the Lake of the Ozarks and spend a relaxing vacation boating, fishing and swimming.
  • Tour Amish country around Jamesport, and shop for handicrafts, antiques and baked goods.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult the Missouri Division of Tourism at