1. Kansas City
In case you’re wondering, Kansas City actually spans both Missouri and Kansas, the main part of the downtown area being in Missouri. Many business have their headquarters here, and therefore there is an interesting mix of shops and outdoors stores. You can also find very good BBQ. The university adds to the diversity and nearby you can find several interesting parks and museums.
See & Do
- Nelson-Atkins Art Museum. Really nice art museum. Pretty big, full of exhibits from paintings to sculptures. Free entry.
- Riverside Market. Outdoor market with fresh fruits and veggies, herbs, spices, and various other things to buy.
- Plaza. Outdoor shopping mall. Old style, kind of ritzy.
- Toy & Miniatures Museum. Really cool, unique museum showcasing miniature models of all kinds of things from tiny houses, ships, musical instruments, etc. Mostly Victorian and European styled stuff. There is also a section of old vintage toys which was wonderfully nostalgic.
- Loose Park. Nice park with a pond.
- Crossroads. Outdoor live music area.
- Westport. Bars and nightlife.
There are multiple places that make up the Ozarks which spans across Missouri and Arkansas. In Missouri, you’ll find a couple large lakes for boating, fishing, and swimming as well as the mountains. Beautiful area if you like nature, and at least worth driving through if you’re road trip takes you through there or nearby if not spending a couple days.
See & Do
- Table Rock State Park. Huge lake, great for camping and boating. Plenty of campsites, well kept. Marina within the park
- Dogwood Canyon. Nature park, fee to get in, beautiful grounds.
- Roaring River State Park. Beautiful river running through it, camping, hiking, trout fishing and hatchery.
- Sugar Camp Forest Scenic Byway. Scenic drive.
- Branson. Kind of touristy, but good if you’re looking for restaurants or souvenirs.
3. St. Louis
St. Louis is a large city with a rich history in blues music and BBQ, which were the main draws for my visit. Both did not disappoint. I was also pleasantly surprised to see the amount of green spaces and parks throughout the city. There are several small, hip neighborhoods on the outer edge of the downtown area. Nearby you can find the spectacular Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park, don’t miss the details and pictures below.
See & Do
- Gateway Arch. Iconic gateway to the city. Ride up to the top or catch views of it and the city across the river at Malcolm W. Martin Memorial Park.
- The Grove. Small hip neighborhood for food and nightlife.
- Delmar Loop. Small hip neighborhood with shops and restaurants. Look out for the Chuck Berry statue and stars representing famous people from St. Louis etched into the sidewalk.
- Central West End (CWE). Small hip neighborhood with shops and restaurants.
- City Museum. Art installation and playground.
- National Blues Museum. Awesome interactive museum with wonderful collection of memorabilia and information about blues history, influence, and evolution into modern music.
- History Museum. This free museum has a few exhibits, two of which I found most interesting are the blues/jazz history which is a nice complement to the National Blues Museum and some information about the World Fair.
- Forest Park. Large, lovely park with museums, green space, fountains, pavilions, and a golf course. Kind of reminds me of Balboa Park in San Diego.
- Tower Grove Park. Another nice city park.
- Citygarden Sculpture Park. Sculpture garden in the heart of downtown.
- Left Bank Books. Old independent bookstore.
Food & Drink
- United Provisions. Internal market and grocery store.
- Sugarfire Smoke House. BBQ.
- First Watch. Excellent healthy breakfast and lunch.
- Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park. This place is absolutely spectacular. This essentially eroding and forming canyon has a few small waterfalls and pools where you can actually swim. It’s incredibly photogenic and fun to climb around on the rocks. The shut-ins trail takes about 0.25 miles to get to the main attraction and you can continue on into the forest. There is camping and day use areas for picnics.
- Meramec Caverns. I didn’t actually get here due to time, but wanted to list it as a popular nearby attraction.
- Bonne Terre Mine. Didn’t get here either, but a very cool hidden gem I had to include. It’s an old mine and man made cave that shut down due to flooding I believe. You can sign up for a boat tour through the mine on the water which is pretty rare for a cave. Tours leave every 30-60 minutes depending on the day of the week and time of the year.