19 Best Vacation Spots in Missouri
Missouri is a suitable destination for your next vacation. You can find many things that do for people of all ages here, whether you are alone, with friends, family, or with loved ones. It boasts a plethora of notable landmarks, shops, restaurants, and roadside attractions.
It has a lot to offer, from breathtaking natural scenery and exciting outdoor activities to vibrant towns brimming with historic places and fascinating museums. You're sure to have a great time in Missouri, no matter what you do, and you'll want to return again and again! Get ready to be wowed by stunning scenery, intriguing history, and hip urban areas.
Despite its lack of global appeal, Missouri is a great travel destination to consider if you're looking to explore the heartland of the United States.
Because of its wide-open spaces, majestic mountains, vast plains, meandering rivers, and stunning hidden gems, the state and its cities are a must-see for anyone traveling to the Midwest.
Whether you're interested in history, unique gifts, or something off the beaten path, it has something for everyone. You can use our list below to plan your next trip. With this list, you'll find the best and most beautiful vacation spots in Missouri.
1. Roaring River State Park
As of 2016, Roaring River State Park encompasses 4,093 acres in Barry County, Arkansas. Located in the Ozark Mountains, it is nestled in a deep, shady, narrow valley surrounded by rugged rocks. It is a popular destination for its excellent fishing, camping, and hiking opportunities.
The presence of rainbow trout in the river at Roaring River State Park draws anglers from all over, making it one of the most visited state parks. In addition to the swimming pool and nature center, the park has seven miles of hiking trails. There is a large campground, rustic cabins, or the Emory Melton Inn for those who prefer to stay in a more luxurious setting.
The Ozarks State Park is home to more than 600 species of plants, many of which are unique to the state and can't be found anywhere else. Learn more about the park's natural history at Ozark Chinquapin Nature Center, and then cool off at the park's public pool.
Explore the 2,075-acre Roaring River Hills Wild Area, which features Ozark chinquapin trees, or the Devil's Kitchen Trail, which leads to a rock shelter known as Devil's Kitchen, by hiking the Fire Tower Trail.
2. Talking Rocks Cavern
Talking Rocks Cavern is a network of caves discovered by accident in the late 1800s and is located about 15 minutes from Branson.
At Talking Rocks Cavern, you can learn about geology while having a good time with your family. Starting at the top of the cave, the tour descends 265 steps to reach the floor. The "curtain" and "bacon" crystalline formations, for example, can be seen in the well-lit caves.
Outside, there's a SpeleoBox crawl maze, a lookout tower, nature trails, and picnic areas for guests to enjoy.
Truman Powell was the first to explore the cave, which he named the Fairy Cave, but the name was later changed to Talking Rocks Cavern, inspired by the quote of Powell's son. Mineral deposits and rocks in the cave were the particular focus of his exploration. He later concluded that these geological features would tell him a story about how the cave came to be.
Guided tours of the cavern now include educational and entertaining elements, with visitors learning about the cave's discovery, history, mineral deposits, and geologic structure throughout an hour-long tour.
Afterward, you can engage in on-site activities such as mini-golf, gemstone panning, or a hike to a lookout tower.
3. Elephant Rocks State Park
Elephant Rocks State Park is a beautiful tourist destination located in the Saint Francois Mountains and is best known for its elephant-shaped granite boulders, public recreation, and preservation of natural resources.
Massive granite boulders, formed 1.5 billion years ago, make up the elephant rocks, which look like a train of circus elephants. Geologists are fascinated by the formations they've created, and history buffs and climbers alike enjoy exploring them.
Elephant Rocks Natural Area's Braille Trail, a one-mile loop interpretive trail, is the first in Missouri state parks designed for visual and physical disabilities visitors.
A side trail leads to an abandoned quarry via the "Fat Man's Squeeze" and the "Maze," two 100-foot sections of strewn boulders that separate the main trail from these two side trails. You'll find shaded picnic areas complete with benches and tables throughout the park.
4. Meramec Caverns
Meramec Caverns is a 4.6-mile-long cavern system in the Ozark Mountains near Stanton, Missouri. Water has been eroding limestone rocks for millions of years, resulting in caverns.
Today, Meramec Caverns is Missouri's most prominent commercial cave and a major tourist attraction along the famed Route 66. It is best to take a guided tour led by knowledgeable rangers to explore the cave's seven levels for your safety.
The Wine Room, 6-foot high onyx Wine Table, the Greatest Show Under the Earth, and the Mirror Room are amongst the most popular attractions of the cavern.
Amongst the (with a), ( a sheet wall cavern where the popular show is performed), (a cavern with a 1.5-foot deep stream of water that mirrors the cavern's ceiling)
5. Onondaga Cave State Park
Onondaga Cave State Park has abundant stalactites and stalagmites, flowstones and rimstone dams, cave coral, and more as you venture inside. The underground streams and caverns of Onandaga Cave State Park, a National Natural Landmark that will take your breath away!
Missouri is attractive as "The Cave State," and it's no surprise because of its underground wonderland. Vilander Bluff Natural Area is a popular spot for fishing and canoeing in the Meramec River, and visitors can explore the park's underground wonders.
Due to bedrock deposits, volcanic activity, and erosion, Missouri's karst topography has existed for millions of years. The Vilander Bluff Natural Area, located along the Meramec River, is a great place to get a beautiful bird's eye view of the valley from the top of the bluffs. There are also over six miles of hiking trails and swimming, fishing, and canoeing opportunities.
6. Saint Charles
Saint Charles is located on the Missouri River, and it is a suburb of St. Louis, Missouri. When Lewis and Clark's expedition passed through in 1804, they considered it "the last civilized stop" on their westward journey.
St. Charles is one of Missouri's oldest cities and is frequently ranked as one of the best small towns in the state. It was founded in 1979 by a French-Canadian fur trader in the 18th century and served as the state's first capital.
In the present day, Main Street in St. Charles is lined with several beautifully restored historic buildings that have been transformed into boutiques and restaurants. You can also walk the Katy Trail or visit Historic Missouri Wine Country, where you can sample award-winning wines, admire breathtaking vineyard views, and dine on delectable cuisine.
The St. Louis Zoo, the Art Museum, the Science Center, and the Missouri History Museum are all located in Forest Park, which hosted the 1904 World's Fair. You can also attend a Cardinals game at Busch Stadium and visit the Missouri Botanical Garden, which is lush and well-known to tourists.
7. Ha Ha Tonka State Park
Ha Ha Tonka State Park, located in central Missouri, is best known for its castle ruins. The park's forests and karst landscapes are surrounded by spectacular caves, sinkholes, and bluffs, while hiking trails wind through the park's forests.
At the mouth of the Niangua River, the park was purchased and developed by Kansas City businessman Robert McClure Snyder, Sr., in 1905 for private use. The ruins of the stone mansion he built, which was destroyed by a fire in the 1940s, are now the park's centerpiece. Beautiful brick arches and sturdy stone walls, reminiscent of European castles from the 16th century, overlook the sparkling lake below, now used for swimming and boating.
8. Missouri Botanical Garden
Strolling through the 79-acre grounds of the Missouri Botanical Gardens is an exceptional experience. The Missouri Botanical Garden can lay claim to being one of the state's earliest tourist attractions.
The gardens aren't content to rest on their historical laurels, so they've added the Jack C. Taylor Visitor Center to their facilities. Every half hour, a tram travels the length of the park.
The Climatron is a must-see while visiting the gardens. It is the world's first geodesic greenhouse, and it offers an up-close look at its innovative design and climate control systems. There are 2,800 plants spread across 1,400 species in this 24,000-square-foot geodesic dome.
It's also possible to visit the Japanese Garden and the house of Linnean Plants. Wander through the Japanese Garden's peaceful landscape, including waterfalls and meticulously tended plants.
At the heart of St. Louis' urban sprawl is the 79-acre Shaw Botanical Gardens, a National Historic Landmark with an extensive orchid collection and Henry Shaw's original 1850 estate home. The Children's Garden is a beautiful and perfect place for kids to learn about plants, nature, and sustainability.
Want to learn more about plants and the environment? The Sophia M. Sachs Butterfly House in Chesterfield and the Shaw Nature Reserve in Gray Summit are nearby sister properties to the Garden.
Springfield, Missouri, is well-known as the "Birthplace of Route 66." Springfield is the third-largest city in the state. There are a variety of attractions based on the famous and historic highway, including themed restaurants and motels, an antique mall, and a vintage car museum.
Some of the city's best tourist attractions are also interactive and educational. Wilson's Creek National Battlefield and its excellent Discovery Center attract many visitors. Fantastic Caverns, a vast cave system accessible by jeep tram, is the area's most notable feature.
All of Springfield's parks, green space, and other attractions make it a great place to live and visit. Because of the abundance of forests, mountains, and other natural splendor in the surrounding area, Springfield is also as attractive as the "Queen City of the Ozarks." Hiking and cycling are popular activities for visitors to the city, surrounded by beautiful scenery and landscapes.
10. Jefferson City
The state's capital, Jefferson City, is situated on the banks of the Missouri River amidst a picturesque landscape of tree-lined bluffs. The Missouri State Capitol, Supreme Court Building, and Governor's Mansion are all located in the historic downtown area. As a result of its historic government buildings and museums, the city exudes a sense of grandeur and sophistication.
The Cole County Historical Museum is an excellent resource for learning about the city's past. The state capitol building, the Governor's Mansion, the Missouri State Penitentiary, and the Missouri State Museum are some of the must-see attractions in the state. One of the most beautiful sculptures in town is the Lewis & Clark Monument at the Lewis & Clark Trailhead Plaza, located next to the state capitol building.
11. National WWI Museum and Memorial
The National World War I Museum is an attractive tourist destination and has welcomed millions of visitors since then. It houses one of the world's most extensive archives of World War I artifacts. It was opened in 2006. Interactive exhibits, documented eyewitness accounts, and more than 75,000 historical artifacts are available.
The National World War I Museum isn't just for history buffs. With a collection of artifacts ranging from rusted weapons to propaganda posters, the museum has something for everyone. Theaters with educational films and reels can be found in both sound booths. A Renault FT tank and a Ford Model T ambulance from 1918 are displayed.
The adjacent Liberty Memorial had stood watch over Kansas City's streets for more than 90 years before the museum was built. It was completed in 1926, dedicated by President Calvin Coolidge, and is still a reminder of the Great War today.
While World War I isn't as well-known as World War II, this museum offers an excellent opportunity to learn about a significant period in American history. The government has designated the museum in Kansas City, Missouri, as the official WWI museum of the United States.
To get to the main building, you need to follow the 265-foot tower. Walking across the red poppies on the other side of the bridge represents the 9,000,000 people who perished in World War II.
If you're planning a trip to Kansas City or anywhere in the surrounding area, be sure to stop by this fascinating attraction.
12. Ozark National Scenic Riverways
Ozark National Scenic Riverways is an attractive tourist destination that was established in 1964. It was the first national park to protect an entire river system. It is centered on the Current and Jacks Fork rivers and features a diverse landscape encompassing meadows and forests to caves, springs, and cliffs.
Thousands of tourists travel to the beautiful area each year to take advantage of the numerous outdoor activities it provides. While the idyllic Ozark Trail is well-known for hiking and horseback riding, there's nothing like paddling lazily along a tranquil waterway in a kayak or canoe.
All the beautiful waterways offer a wide variety of recreational activities, from fishing and swimming to exploring more than 300 caves. Visitors to the park can find a small museum dedicated to its history at Van Buren, where the park's main headquarters are located.
13. Saint Louis Zoo
A trip to the St. Louis Zoo is a great way to spend the day in Missouri without spending any money, so you can keep your wallet tucked away. The Saint Louis Zoo is a go-to destination for animal-loving families in Missouri, featuring more than 12,000 animals from 500 different species.
The zoo is well-known for the quality of its animal care and management and its work in wildlife conservation and scientific research. Isn't this great?
Grizzly bear siblings Huckleberry and Finley, and polar bear Kali, can all be found at the zoo. Join in on the fun at Penguin and Puffin Coast, where you can enjoy the amusing antics of the adorable seabirds. Watch seals and sea lions swim and dive around you as you walk through an underwater tunnel and into their natural habitat.
It's also good to check out the Living World educational and discovery center, featuring wildlife and conservation efforts films.
14. St. Louis
St. Louis is a beautiful and laid-back city dominated and defined by the Gateway Arch, which towers over the city. It is named after King Louis IX of France and is situated on the Illinois-Mississippi border.
The Gateway Arch, the world's tallest man-made structure, has long been a nickname for the city. In addition to this jaw-dropping sight, the city is lovely and a joy to explore. Amid the city's many distinct districts and neighborhoods, you'll find plenty of green space.
Laclede's Landing and Lafayette Square, two of the city's most historic neighborhoods, are located in the heart of the city's business district. In addition, St. Louis has a plethora of museums and a vibrant nightlife, dining, and live music scene.
15. Kansas City
Despite mainly being overlooked by travelers, Kansas City has a lot to offer and is one of the Midwest's biggest and liveliest metro areas. It lies on the Missouri River's banks, bordering the Kansas-Missouri state line, and is surrounded by the much smaller Kansas City, Kansas (KCK). More than 200 fountains dot the city's scenic streets, making it the "City of Fountains" and the "Boulevard City"—the only city with more boulevards than Paris.
With world-class museums and theaters tucked into the heart of the city, wandering the streets is a real treat. In addition to jazz and live music, the city is also known for its Southern cuisine and Kansas City-style barbecue. There are hundreds of BBQ restaurants in the city, so no visit is complete without a sizzling strip steak.
16. Lake of the Ozarks
It's clear that Lake of the Ozarks, formed in 1931, is one of the Midwest's most famous lake resort destinations. The Lake has something to offer everyone, whether you're planning a vacation with your family or a weekend getaway with your closest friends.
Visitor favorites include a wide variety of water activities such as boating, fishing, swimming at sandy beaches, and professionally designed golf courses and campgrounds.
The Lake is home to beautiful scenery and various outdoor activities. The massive reservoir and its three tributaries, collectively known as "Puff the Magic Dragon," were created by damming the Osage River.
There are over 1,800 kilometers of scenic shoreline in total – more than the entire state of California. Osage Beach is tucked away along its coves, creeks, and channels, with numerous waterfront lodgings and restaurants.
As the Lake grows in size, so does the variety of water activities available, from boating and fishing to kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding. There are numerous water parks, golf courses, and state parks.
17. Meramec State Park
To get away from the bustle of modern life, head to Meramec State Park, a natural wonderland filled with beautiful scenery and awe-inspiring views. It is located near St. Louis, surrounded by beautiful scenery and the splendid Meramec River.
It's a pleasure to explore the park's trails or waters by kayak or fishing, but more than 40 fascinating caves are the park's real draw. It's hard to beat Fraser Cave for sheer beauty, thanks to the stunning stalactites and stalagmites that line its ceiling.
Guests can learn all about the park's incredible formations and the park ecology and environment at the park's exciting and educational visitor center. Many visitors to Meramec State Park prefer to camp or spend the night in one of the park's lodges to wake up to the park's stunning scenery.
Branson, located in southwest Missouri, is known as a "family-friendly Las Vegas" because of its lively atmosphere and plethora of attractions. The neon-lit strip is home to more than a hundred theaters hosting a wide range of captivating magic, music, and comedy performances.
In addition to the many hotels and restaurants in the area, the Titanic Museum, Ripley's Odditorium, and the Hollywood Wax Museum are just a few attractions. It is also home to many family-friendly attractions, including theme parks, go-kart tracks, mini-golf, and ziplining.
While the city's neon lights and blaring music draw most visitors, the Ozarks' pristine beauty and stunning scenery are just a short drive away. Locals and visitors to Table Rock Lake can take advantage of the lake's scenic shoreline for hiking and other watersports.
19. The Gateway Arch
The Gateway Arch is the visually defining structure of St. Louis and the metaphorical "Gateway to the West." Even though it is situated within Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Park, the arch is visible from a wide swath of the city and even from a considerable distance while traveling along the roadways.
Visitors can get to an observation deck at the top of the building, standing at 630 feet, by the elevator. You can take a tram ride, which lasts between 45 and 60 minutes. On a day with clear visibility, it is possible to see up to 30 miles. Don't forget to appreciate the view.
To get the most out of the arch, you can take helicopter tours, riverboat cruises, and visit the Old Courthouse to learn about the area's history. The museum's displays cover from 1764 to 1965 and tell the stories of Native Americans, explorers, and pioneers who helped the United States grow.
The Gateway Arch, designed by Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen, towered over St. Louis at 63 stories when it was completed. It's hard to believe that this is a steel-and-concrete structure, making it so beautiful.
You can also enjoy stunning views of downtown St. Louis and the arch from the Becky Thatcher or the Tom Sawyer, which date back to the 19th century and still operate today.