Missouri Holiday Planning Guide
Acquired from France as part of the famous Louisiana Purchase, Missouri offers visitors equal amounts of urban and rural tourist attractions, with a good mix of lush valleys and meandering back roads ideal for leisurely road trips. The state has a highly varied geography, ranging from the till plains in the north to the rolling Ozark Mountains in the south. The state sits at the intersection of North America's three greatest rivers, creating fertile plains known for supporting extensive farms and ranches. Now generally considered part of the country's Midwest, most people used to count Missouri among the southern states, primarily due to its status as a slave state before the Civil War.
Places to Visit in MissouriBranson
: It might not be big, but Branson is definitely one of the liveliest places in the state. The town’s great selection of live performances, ranging from musical shows to theaters, makes it one of the top tourist attractions in Missouri.Saint Louis
: Probably Missouri’s most famous city, Saint Louis offers both historical sites and numerous outdoor areas, combined with a bustling cosmopolitan atmosphere.Kansas City
: Not to be confused with its namesake just across the state border, Kansas City, Missouri, is the state’s largest city. Home to countless cultural venues and an unique style of jazz, the city is the center of a metropolitan area that’s home to over two million people.Chesterfield
: Charming and cozy, Chesterfield represents a great spot for a peaceful Missouri vacation with easy access to downtown Saint Louis.Springfield
: In addition to its historical sites, parks, and other urban attractions, Missouri’s third-largest city is the perfect base for nature lovers looking to explore the beauty of the Ozarks.Hermann
: A scenic small town with distinctive German roots, Hermann has earned the reputation of the winemaking capital of Missouri.
Things to Do in Missouri
Popular Missouri Tourist AttractionsThe Gateway Arch
: Representing a gateway to the West, the imposing arch stands tall as the most famous monument in Saint Louis and one of the most impressive Missouri attractions.Saint Louis Zoo
: Home to thousands of animals from all over the world, the Saint Louis zoo is a true natural oasis, with free admission, right in the heart of the city.City Museum
: With its unique architecture and a collection of weird and eclectic exhibitions, this museum is known throughout the region as one of the most interesting places in Saint Louis.Titanic Museum
: A half-scale model of one of the world’s most famous ships awaits you in Branson. Experience the ship’s luxury and see a collection of authentic artifacts from the solo voyage of the ill-fated Titanic.National World War I Museum and Memorial
: From period artifacts to replica trenches, the United States’ official World War I museum is a perfect addition to any history buff’s Missouri itinerary.Missouri Botanical Garden
: Take a stroll through the hedge maze, enjoy the peace of the Japanese garden, and soak in numerous other beauties at one of the nation’s oldest botanical gardens.Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis
: Featuring the world’s largest mosaic composition and numerous other gems of ecclesiastical art, the basilica is one of the city’s most famous sights and the heart of the Roman Catholic faith in Missouri.Six Flags St Louis
: With a great selection of rides, slides, roller coasters, and water attractions, the theme park offers tons of fun for visitors of all ages.The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
: Admire the extensive collection of paintings, photographs, decorative arts, and other artifacts from different parts of the world and different time periods at one of Missouri’s largest cultural institutions.Forest Park
: Known as the heart of Saint Louis, this large public park is famous as the venue of the 1904 World’s Fair. The park houses numerous attractions for all the city’s visitors to enjoy.
Planning a Missouri Vacation with Kids
Places to Visit in Missouri with Kids
Featuring two large urban centers, numerous charming smaller cities and towns, and various natural beauties to explore, Missouri provides a good destination for a fulfilling vacation with your family.Kansas City
and Saint Louis
are first destination choices for families looking for a variety of attractions in one place, but you should have in mind that they are also large and busy places. If you’re after a more rural atmosphere, head to Branson
, where you’ll find a good selection of family-friendly shows and attractions together with several options for excursions into the surrounding countryside. Exploring the outdoors is definitely one of the things to do in Missouri and places like Mark Twain National Forest offer a great number of natural attractions and activities for both kids and adults.
Things to Do in Missouri with Kids
Whichever part of the state you decide to visit, you won’t have a problem finding things that will keep the kids entertained. A good Missouri vacation idea for families staying in cities is to take advantage of the zoos, such as Branson's Promised Land ZOO
or Dickerson Park Zoo
, which have petting areas that the kids will particularly enjoy. For sports fans, both young and older, a real treat will be the visits to Arrowhead Stadium
, the home of the Kansas City Chiefs, or the Saint Louis Cardinals’ Busch Stadium
. One thing that Missouri has plenty of is amusement parks. Even though they are most numerous in places like Branson, Kansas City, and Saint Louis, you can find them throughout the state. Several of the state’s museums, like Kaleidoscope
feature interactive exhibits especially suited for younger visitors. Outside the cities you’ll discover various natural sites (like caves), that you can explore on foot, by going on a family bike ride, or on horseback with one of Missouri’s stables that offer riding tours. With over 50 state parks, there are countless opportunities for a family outdoor trip and a camping holiday in Missouri.
Tips for a Family Vacation in Missouri
Taking a tour of Missouri is a great way to see the state and everything it has to offer. Bus and train lines connect various town and cities (especially from east to west), but the best way to get around is by car. For visitors who don’t come with their own car, there are plenty of rental agencies all over the state offering a good selection of family-sized vehicles. Because of the combination of public transportation and taxi services, Saint Louis and Kansas City can be explored without a car, and many small towns are easy to navigate on foot.
If you’re visiting during the summer, make sure that your kids have adequate protection from the sun, because the heat and humidity in Missouri can get pretty high.
Dining and Shopping on Holiday in Missouri
Cuisine of Missouri
Missouri’s diverse cultural heritage is strongly represented in the state’s cuisine. Introduced by the state’s earliest settlers, barbecue is still one of Missouri’s prime specialties. While Kansas City
prides itself as the barbecue capital of Missouri, many other parts of the state claim that their special way of preparing it is just as good, if not better. Brought over by German settlers, sausages are a popular meat specialty in Missouri, and those made in Hermann
are the most famous. Saint Louis
boasts its own culinary scene, a mix of American, Irish, French, and Italian influences that produced specialties like toasted ravioli, Saint Louis pizza, and gooey butter cake. Asian cooking has been present in Missouri for a long time and its influence on the local cuisine is clearly visible with dishes such as the Saint Paul sandwich that combines American and Chinese culinary traditions. With the significant increase in Bosnian population in the 1990s, numerous bakeries and restaurants that serve traditional Balkan specialties popped up all over Saint Louis.
Featuring similar geography and climate as the wine growing regions around the river Rhine in Europe, the Missouri Rhineland is a top destination for wine connoisseurs. Local wineries, such as Stone Hill Winery
, are great places to visit in Missouri for wine lovers, while those who prefer beer can stop by a number of small breweries and go on a tasting tour.
Shopping in Missouri
Missouri might not have a reputation as one of America’s top shopping destinations, but you’ll quickly discover that the state offers an abundance of options for all tastes and budgets. Shopping malls are plentiful, especially in larger cities, and they are the places to go if you’re looking for the latest fashion items, toys, or electronic gadgets. If you’re after more locally flavored goods, throughout the state you’ll find a selection of stores that sell authentic Missouri products, from artwork to candies. While most visitors will be more than happy with Missouri’s shopping options, those looking for antiques are certain to have a ball. In addition to these shops, there are places like Relics Antique Mall
where you can easily spend hours browsing through thousands of items. Tourism-friendly towns set among the state’s largest lakes, like Branson
and Osage Beach, offer outlet malls for those seeking a bargain. A real treat for outdoorsy visitors, and a place you should definitely include in your tour of Missouri is Bass Pro Shops
, the global headquarters of the famous equipment supplier that combines shopping, a museum, and number of services such as knife sharpening and indoor shooting and archery ranges.
Know Before You Go on a Trip to Missouri
History of Missouri
The human history of the area now covered by the state of Missouri goes as far back as 12,000 BCE when the first settlers moved in following large game such as mammoths. However, before the arrival of the Europeans, the area was sparsely populated and native settlements were rarely permanent. Instead, for millennia, Missouri’s wilderness was used by various tribes as a bountiful hunting ground. By the 17th century, the most numerous and influential of these tribes were the Osage, and they controlled most of the Missouri area when the first European explorers arrived led by the Frenchmen Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet. Driven by trade and mining opportunities, the French kept venturing deeper into Missouri and in 1750 Sainte Genevieve
was founded as their first permanent settlement. Soon after, in 1764, French settlers from New Orleans founded the city of Saint Louis as the center of fur trade. At that time, Missouri was part of French Louisiana, but after the British victory in the French and Indian War, the whole vast expanse was ceded to Spain.
Gaining control over an enormous territory that was sparsely populated and whose European inhabitants were mostly French, Spain was never in a position to effectively protect its interests in Missouri. Traders and settlers from the British-controlled parts of North America started to migrate there in large numbers, and were followed by the Americans after the Revolutionary War. American settlers significantly increased the area’s economy, but with Spain receiving little benefit from it, the whole of Louisiana was returned to France in 1800, only to be sold to the United States in 1803 in the famed Louisiana Purchase.
After holding the status of a territory for two decades, Missouri joined the United States in 1821 as the 24th state and the first one whose entire territory was west of the Mississippi River. Commerce and culture in Missouri flourished in the following decades, marked by the steamboats on the Mississippi and the Pony Express that ran from Saint Joseph
to Sacramento, California. If you’re interested in this period, don’t miss the chance to explore the world of the Missouri’s most famous son and the man who best described it at Mark Twain Boyhood Home
. Another famous 19th-century Missourian was Jesse James and Jesse James Home Museum
tells his story and serves as another popular Missouri attraction.
During the American Civil War, Missouri was a border state whose citizens fought on both sides and that was ravaged by both full-scale battles and countless guerilla skirmishes. After the war, the state started to recover, and by the beginning of the 20th century both Saint Louis and Kansas City grew into strong economic and cultural centers connected by a railroad that ran across the entire width of the state. The crown of this progress was in 1904 when Saint Louis was the host of both the World’s Fair and the United States’ first Olympic Games.
Today, alongside its modern achievements, the state proudly displays its past, making sure that all history buffs will have more than enough choices to fill up their Missouri itineraries.
Landscape of Missouri
More than half of Missouri is covered in vast plains and prairies, but the state’s geographically most interesting region lies in the southwest, on the Ozark Highlands. Some of the main features of this lush plateau are the hundreds of caves that are among the most popular natural attractions in Missouri. Places like Fantastic Caverns
and Mark Twain Cave and Cameron Cave
attract thousands of visitors, but there are also numerous other smaller caves to explore during your trip to Missouri that are just as beautiful. Also located in the Ozarks region is Taum Sauk, the state’s tallest peak, surrounded by the Taum Sauk Mountain State Park
which is a perfect place for hiking, camping, and other outdoor activities.
Holidays & Festivals in Missouri
A great addition to any Missouri vacation involves enjoying some of the state’s numerous festivals. On Fat Tuesday every year, the Soulard
neighborhood of Saint Louis hosts a Mardi Gras festival that’s only topped by the one in New Orleans as the biggest in the States. Between early April and early May, Branson
hosts the World Fest, the largest international festival in the country with hundreds of performers showcasing cultures from all over the world. The Missouri State Fair in Sedalia
and the Festival of Nations in Saint Louis are the biggest summer events, both taking place in August. The state’s German cultural heritage means that Oktoberfest is widely celebrated, especially in the area of Missouri Rhineland. In addition to these, numerous smaller festivals, as well as national holidays, will provide you with a great selection of colorful celebrations to visit during your trip to Missouri.
Missouri Travel Tips
Climate of Missouri
An inland and predominantly flat state, Missouri has a continental climate that is largely influenced by the warm air masses from the Gulf of Mexico, as well as cold ones from Canada. The state experiences four distinct seasons, and the southern part generally tends to be somewhat warmer throughout the year. While no season is a bad time for planning a vacation in Missouri you should keep in mind that extreme weather conditions are possible. Winters are usually not too cold, with average January temperatures staying around freezing point in most parts of the state. Snow is more common in the north, but even there it doesn’t tend to linger for more than several days in a row. Spring and fall are by far the wettest periods of the year and often come with sudden weather changes, including tornadoes which are most common around May. During the summer, which usually lasts from June to late August, the weather is often quite warm with temperatures over 30°C (86°C) and significant humidity. Heat waves can sometimes last for weeks, but thunderstorms and periods of heavy rains are also possible.
Transportation in Missouri
Naturally, the largest transportation hubs in Missouri are its two biggest cities, Kansas City and Saint Louis. Both cities have international airports, as well as extensive road and rail connections with each other and the rest of the country. Additionally, they feature a well-developed network of public transportation within the city limits. Outside the two major cities, the best (and usually only) way of getting around is by car. Luckily, there is a huge network of highways and interstate roads that will make your tour of Missouri easy, with every corner of the state accessible.