ST. LOUIS – Summer travel plans have changed for many families due to the pandemic. It has some trying to figure out what close-to-home options there are this year.
The Missouri Department of Tourism shared some road trip stops from across the state. They encourage visitors to check on an attraction’s website or social media to check on hours or operations and read about requirements related to COVID-19. Some of Missouri’s state parks have limited facilities and services.
Highway 36 – The Way of American Genius stretching across the northern part of Missouri, The Way of American Genius connects towns, individuals, and events that embody American innovation. Locations – and their claim to fame – along the route include:
- Hannibal: Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain), best known for The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, spent his boyhood years in Hannibal. Take a riverboat ride on the Mississippi and learn more about Twain at museums such as the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum, shows and other attractions including Mark Twain Cave – featured in five of Twain’s novels. Samuel Clemens’ signature was recently discovered – and authenticated – on the wall of the cave.
- Kirksville: Dr. Andrew Taylor Still, founded osteopathic medicine in 1974. Today, there are more than 30 accredited colleges of osteopathic medicine in the U.S. and more than 70,000 doctors of osteopathic medicine worldwide. Learn about Still at the Museum of Osteopathic Medicine.
- Marceline: As a boy, Walt Disney spent several years in Marceline. He modeled Main Street USA at his Disney theme parks after Marceline’s downtown area. Learn more about Disney at the Walt Disney Hometown Museum.
- Chillicothe: The small town is known as The Home of Sliced Bread. In 1928, the Chillicothe Banking Company was the first company in the world to sell commercially sliced bread. See the machine invented by Otto Rohwedder – on loan from the Smithsonian. The community has a Sliced Bread Festival every July.
- St. Joseph: Visit the birthplace of the Pony Express, the mail relay system designed to deliver correspondence to the west in the fastest way possible.
Highway 19 – Wine and Rivers:
Begin a road trip down Highway 19 in historic Missouri wine country (about 75 miles east of St. Louis) and travel south into an area crisscrossed by crystal-clear rivers perfect for canoeing, kayaking, and rafting. The route runs through the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, the first national park area in the United States to protect a river system, and a section of the Mark Twain National Forest.
- Hermann – Located in the heart of Missouri’s historic wine region, Hermann is a charming small town located on the Missouri River. Historic brick buildings line the downtown, offering an array of dining and shopping, including the Hermann Wurst Haus where you can find freshly made sausages and other German specialties. The Hermann Wine Trail includes the award-winning Stone Hill Winery (prior to Prohibition, it was the second-largest winery in the United States) and 10 other wineries, many located along the Missouri River. The town offers a number of lodging options including bed and breakfast inns and “treehouses.”
- Ozark National Scenic Riverways – The Jacks Fork and Current rivers make up this nationally-protected area where visitors enjoy the lush green forests and rock bluffs while they canoe, kayak or raft down the sparkling rivers. The Ozark National Scenic Riverways was the country’s first national park area to protect a river system.
- Springs: Some of Missouri’s most beautiful natural springs are located just minutes from Highway 19. Near the town of Eminence, picturesque Alley Mill – which now operates as a museum – sits alongside the teal-colored waters of Alley Spring. Short hikes take you the brilliant blue water of Round Spring and Blue Spring, one of the deepest springs in the United States.
- Near Alton: Take a longer hike through the Ozark terrain to reach Greer Spring, the State’s second-largest spring, churning out more than 200 million gallons of water a day.
Highway 21 – Ozark Beauty and History
Highway 21, running southwest out of St. Louis, takes you straight into the rugged beauty of the Ozark Mountains, some of the oldest mountains in the United States. Just minutes from the highway, you’ll find some of Missouri’s most interesting natural attractions. Visit in the spring and you’ll be treated to forest views filled with blooming Red Bud and Dogwood trees. In the autumn months, the hillsides are brilliant with fall color.
- Washington State Park – Washington State Park is filled with history. It contains the largest group of petroglyphs ever found in Missouri and provides clues about the Native Americans who inhabited the region dating back to 1,000 AD. Many years later, the African-American company of the Civilian Conservation Corps began work in the park after it was established in 1932. They built several structures listed in the National Register of Historic Places that are still used today. Cabins and campsites offer lodging, and you can rent a canoe or kayak to float down the Big River.
- Elephant Rocks State Park – Marvel at billion-year-old giant pink granite boulders lined up like a row of circus elephants. A mile-long paved trail at the park makes the park easy to explore.
- Caledonia – The tiny village of Caledonia is a national historic district and is home to several restaurants and the 1909 Old Village Mercantile that offers homemade ice cream and more than 600 varieties of candy. The village, which celebrated its 200 anniversary and Scottish heritage in 2019, hosts several festivals throughout the year including the Caledonia Pumpkin Festival. Bed and breakfast inns offer lodging.
- Battle of Pilot Knob State Historic Site – Visit the site of one of Missouri’s largest and hard-fought Civil War battles. The Battle of Pilot Knob State Historic Site visitor center and museum interpret the conflict with exhibits and presentations.
- Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park – Take a dip in Missouri’s most unique “swimming hole” where the Black River has carved out pools and chutes in ancient volcanic rock, creating a natural “waterpark.” Campsites and camper cabins provide lodging options.
- Taum Sauk Mountain – A short walk from the parking area will take to you scenic views from Missouri’s highest point.
- Arcadia Valley – The Aracadia Valley sits in the middle of some of Missouri’s most interesting geologic features born from long-extinct volcanoes. Bed and breakfast inns and cabins provide lodging. Arcadia’s train depot is home to a visitor’s center and museum.
Route 66 – Missouri’s Section of the Mother Road
Route 66 is the Show-Me State’s most famous road trip. Missouri’s section of the route runs from St. Louis to Joplin. Many towns along the way pay tribute to the road and what it meant to America. Here are just a few of the stops along the way:
- Meramec Caverns: Meramec Caverns has been a tourist attraction since 1933 and is possibly the oldest stop along Route 66. The cave is reputed to have been used by Jesse James and his gang as a hideout. It is the largest commercial cave in Missouri.
- Cuba: The town is the Route 66 Mural City. More than a dozen outdoor murals depict scenes from Cuba’s history and famous visitors to the town.
- Springfield: The town where Route 66 got its name. The History Museum on the Square includes an exhibit about Route 66. Other Route 66 stops in Springfield include one of the early Steak and Shake restaurants, the Rail Haven Motor Court, and Route 66 Car Museum.
- Carthage: Located on Old 66 Boulevard, the 66 Drive-In Theatre – with its original neon sign – has been in the National Register of Historic Places since 2003. The theater opened in 1949 and had a 34-year run before shutting down. Renovated and reopened in 1