A southern Midwestern state in the US, Missouri is sprawling with grassy plains and the forests of the Ozark Mountains. Deeply steeped in the history of the westward expansion, the state is filled with parks, outdoor activities, historic places and museums awaiting your visit.
Head out to explore Missouri’s small towns to experience some good old fashioned Southern charm as you get to know more about this fascinating state.
Lets explore the best small towns to visit in Missouri:
1. Parkville, Missouri
Parkville is located in Platte County, in the northwest part of the state. The town is named after George Park, the man who purchased the steamboat landing on the Missouri River in 1838 and donated land overlooking the Missouri River that would later become Park University. A town with a history dating back to the westward expansion, it is also well known for its antique shops, art galleries and historic downtown buildings.
Take a stroll down Main Street and check out the restaurants and eateries. Parkville also hosts many festivals through the year that are always a fun experience. Check out Christmas on the River, Parkville Days, or the Farmers Market for some wholesome fun. Enjoy some old fashioned sweets at Old Town Sweets and Antiques, a winning combination for all ages. Don’t leave your wallet at the hotel, you’ll need it when you browse Chaos Boutique, a classy, vintage boutique shop.
2. Boonville, Missouri
A town located in Cooper County, Boonville gets its name from Nathan and Daniel Boone, sons of the famous explorer Daniel Boone who came out west to establish their salt business in the early 1800s in the area near the town. It was first settled in 1810 but not formally laid out until after the War of 1812. Located on the Sante Fe Trail and Missouri River, Booneville has been home called home by many historic people: David Barton and William Ash to name a few. It was even the grounds of a brief battle in the Civil War in which the Union forces prevailed.
Come to Boonville and discover the southern charms enjoyed by those before you. Warm Springs Ranch is located nearby, as is Katy Trail State Park, a prime location for both hiking and biking. Grab your camera and walk across Katy Bridge to get some great shots of the Missouri River, or just appreciate the view. Have a drink at Mainstreet Pub or some ice cream at Carrie Lyn’s Ice Cream Parlor. You can kick back at A Touch of Claas Salon, Spa and B&B for a few days and enjoy some authentic Southern hospitality.
3. Ste. Genevieve, Missouri
Founded by French Canadian colonists, Ste. Genevieve was the first organized European settlement on the west side of the Mississippi River and is the oldest permanent European settlement in Missouri. Named for the patron saint of Paris, Ste. Genevieve was briefly shifted from French to Spanish control following the French and Indian War, even though it never lost its French customs or character.
What could be more charming than Southern hospitality with French flair? You won’t be disappointed here. Visit the old historic sites in the old part of town: Bolduc House Museum or Felix Valle House State Historic Site. In true French form, there are many wineries awaiting your visit: Crown Valley Winery, Watertower Winery or Weingarten Vineyard. Go for a hike at Hickory Canyons and have a delicious meal at Midway Bar & Grill. Put your feet up and relax at Inn St Gemme Beauvais, it feels like you’re in France without having to take the long flight.
4. Rocheport, Missouri
Located in Bonne County, Rocheport is a tiny town that was a former trading post for settlers and Native Americans during frontier days. “Rocky port” in French, Lewis and Clark explored this region on their famous trip west. Ideally located for cyclists, it’s near the middle of the Katy Trail, the 225 mile long bike path stretching across Missouri to replace a former railroad right of way.
Stay at the Amber House, a cute B&B in a restored historic house. Schedule a massage at their in-house massage studio and relax! You can head into town to check out the Art & Antiques and Blacksmith shop, or go wine tasting and Les Bourgeois Winery and Tasting Room. We’re sure you’ll be as thrilled here as Lewis and Clark were when they passed through.
5. Fulton, Missouri
Originally settled in 1808, Fulton is located along the Missouri River in Callaway County. Fondly referred to as “the Kingdom of Callaway” by the locals, this nickname was spawned during the American Civil War, when local troops and settlers defended the county against the invading Union troops. Even though it was all mostly illusion – artillery was simulated by handing logs near campfires – a ceasefire was negotiated and this strong sense of regional pride was cemented.
This local pride and spirit can be felt to this day. If you walk through downtown, quaint buildings and shops awaiting you. Have a pint and chat with the locals about their colorful history at Killabrews Pub, or go wine tasting at Serenity Valley Winery. You’ll find it easy to relax here, and can stay at the quaint B&B, Loganberry Inn, to make the most out of your trip.
6. Hannibal, Missouri
Located next to the Mississippi River, Hannibal is in Marion County at the intersection of Interstate 72 and US Routes 24, 36, 61. Don’t let the name dissuade you, Hannibal is a delightful town that is known as the childhood home of Mark Twain, and the setting for his books, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. People from all over the world flock here to visit the Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum, which has been open for over 100 years now!
Relive Mark Twain’s life and live like a king for a few days at Garth Woodside Mansion Estate, a local B&B. Visit the Mark Twain Cave and Cameron Cave, or do the fun Ghost and Vampire Tours! Take a boat ride along the Mississippi or re-read your favorite Twain novel at the Hannibal Free Public Library. Enjoy all this literary town has to offer.
7. Weston, Missouri
Located in Platte County, Weston is home to McCormick Distilling Company, founded in 1956 and the oldest whiskey distillery west of the Mississippi. It was also the leading producer of industrial hemp until the law prohibited it in 1937. You’re guaranteed to love the fun-loving spirit of this town – they how to have a good time!
Visit the Weston Bend State Park and enjoy the peace that nature can provide. Once you’ve gotten your exercise in, hit the town and start touring their wineries and breweries, you’ve got plenty of options from which to choose! Vox Vineyards, Weston Wine Company or O’Malley’s Pub to name a few. You can always sleep in and wake up gradually the next day and take it easy while shopping at the Country Peddler.
8. Hermann, Missouri
Near the center of the Missouri Rhineland in Gasconade County, Hermann is the commercial center of the Hermann American Viticultural Area that produces around one-third of the state’s wine. Many of these vineyards were established by German immigrants during the 1800s and were only revived in the 1960s to repair the damage done to them by Prohibition. Don’t worry, it’s all be put to rights now and the town fully embraces its wine heritage again.
An ideal location for wine lovers, come out for Maifest in May or Oktoberfest in October. The town also makes some tasty sausages in keeping true to its German roots. Visit Stone Hill Winery, the largest winery business in the state, you can also drive out to Adam Puchta Winery, the oldest continually family owned winery in the US. While we know you could drive wine all day, you can also take a break and get some exercise in along the Katy Trail before continuing your tastings.
9. Carthage, Missouri
Carthage is located in Jasper County, Missouri. It is named after Ancient Carthage, and is also the site of the Battle of Carthage in 1861, a fight between the North and South during the American Civil War. There was a second Battle of Carthage again 1863 which resulted in the defeat of the Confederates as well as a handful of other skirmishes during the Civil War. On a happier note, it is nicknamed “America’s Maple Leaf City” and holds a festival each October named for the many maple trees that grow in the town.
Come visit Carthage to experience the history here. Apart from the Civil War battlefield, famous US highway 66 used to run through town. People continue to make the trip out to Carthage to see these well-known landmarks. Check them out and don’t forget to stop at the Precious Moments hotel and store, sure to bring a smile to anyone’s face. The Jasper County Courthouse is also worth a visit if you can stop by.
10. Arrow Rock, Missouri
A small town by the Missouri River, Arrow Rock is in Saline County. A key location in westward expansion, Arrow Rock is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Several locations are sites on the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail and the Santa Fe National Historic Trail and just begging for you to retrace their steps and explore them again.
Come visit this village and feel like you’ve stepped into the 19th century – much of it retains the character from that century. Catch a spectacular performance at the Lyceum Theatre and bring your walking shoes to explore those famous trails. Stay at Bunny’s Bed and Breakfast while you’re there and enjoy a delicious meal at Catalpa.
11. Kimmswick, Missouri
Located in Jefferson County, Kimmswick is just 25 miles south of St Louis and far enough away to feel like a getaway without being so far that you lose half your vacation in travel time. The town was founded in 1859 by a mechant from St. Louis, Theordor Kimm. The Mississippi River provided an efficient means of travel for this town and kept Kimmswick lively and growing. However, the town was almost swept away by the same river in the 1970s during the construction of Interstate 55.
Fortunately, Kimmswick’s history and architecture was saved and it is a now a popular holiday destination. Featuring many antique and craft stores, there is plenty to keep you busy during your stay. Also be sure to try the Blue Owl, a well-known restaurant even mentioned by Oprah in her magazine! For those autumn lovers, the town hosts an Applebutter Festival in late October.
12. Cuba, Missouri
No, we’re not talking about a Caribbean vacation in the heart of Missouri. Cuba, named after the island, is located towards the interior of the state, in Crawford County. A once-popular destination along Route 66, it was even visited by President Truman and Amelia Earhart!
Nowadays, come visit Cuba and stay at the historic Wagon Wheel Motel and Crawford County History Museum. Have some delicious barbeque at Missouri Hick Barbecue, or stop in at Shellies Route 66 Cafe for a blast from the past. There are also good antiquing options at Two Olde Crow’s Antique Mall for those antiquing enthusiasts.
13. Lexington, Missouri
Retrace the steps of Santa Fe Trail traders or Civil War soldiers and visit Lexington. Located in Lafayette County, the town is 40 miles east of Kansas City. It was also the site of two of the largest battles of the American Civil war, the Battle of Lexington and the Battle of Hemp Bales. The town never recovered from the war and was soon overshadowed by Kansas City as the economic hub in the region, but there are plenty of sites here for the tourists.
Shop in their specialty stores or antique shops, and visit the old battlefields. Walk through town to see the historic courthouse and antebellum homes, or visit any of their lovely orchards and wineries. Enjoy a cone at Big Muddy Ice cream Parlor and relax at Ca di Giorgio B7B, a delightful Italianate home. Put your feet up for a few days, you deserve it!
14. Washington, Missouri
A town on the Missouri River, Washington is in Franklin County. As the name implies, it was named after George Washington once control of the town shifted from the Spanish to the Americans. Family and friends of Daniel Boone soon started settling in the area, many of them abolitionists, making this town a strong supporter of the Union during the Civil War despite its southern location.
Take a walk around the James W Rennick Riverfront Park or down to John G’s Bier Deck. Fort Charrette Historic Village is also worth the visit before you head over to the Fudge Shoppe for some sweets. Have a drink or two at the Old Dutch Tavern and shop at Addi’s. Finally, unwind over a meal at the Blue Duck and spend the night at the DeBourge Guesthouse.
15. Branson, Missouri
Located in Taney County, Branson is in the Ozark Mountains. It was named after Ruben Branson, a general store owner in the area in the late 1800s. It is a popular destination for visitors from the state and surrounding areas, and is home to many entertainment theatres that keep the tourists coming back.
Visit Branson Landing, on the Lake Taneycomo waterfront in downtown Branson. Bring your fishing gear and or wallet to shop at the outdoor mall there along the pier. Take a trip to the Branson Scenic Railway at the old depot while you’re at the waterfront, it’s across from the landing. Go see a show at the Sight and Sound Theatres and check out the Ralph Foster Museum. Start with a show or concert and make a night out of it before retiring for the night at the Cabins at Green Mountains for a peaceful retreat.