Road Trip Plans, Part 2: Missouri attractions – Check out the Show Me State

Missouri road trip
Sculpture garden at Nelson-Atkins Museum


This is second in a three-part series.

Missouri has much to offer visitors. Here is a look at a few of the Missouri attractions we like.

Kansas City

Kansas City’s Union Station is hosting the Pro Football hall of Fame exhibit for its last weekend. The exhibit is open through Sept. 7th. You can see the largest collection of historical memorabilia and uniforms outside of Canton, Ohio.

Missouri road trip
Pro Football Hall of Fame exhibit at KC’s Union Station

If you are interested in combining baseball, jazz and barbecue, I encourage you to visit the 18th and Vine District. It’s home to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and the American Jazz Museum. You can check out the newest members of the Jazz Walk of Fame at the Jazz museum and across the street at the GEM Theater. The area offers a great lesson in African American history in the Royal city. Afterwards, head over to the original location of Arthur Bryant’s for some delicious BBQ.

Missouri road trip
Negro Leagues Baseball Museum examines the history of segregated baseball

If art is your thing, visit the Nelson-Atkins Museum or Kemper Museum. Both offer free admission. You can see some beautiful art at both museums.

Missouri road trip
Nelson-Atkins Museum

The National World War I Museum offers a sobering look into the “war to end all wars.” It has been 100 years since European countries were in that bloody war.

Missouri road trip
KC is home to the National World War I Museum

If shopping is on your mind, KC offers a ton of opportunities – Country Club Plaza, Westport, or Legends on the Kansas side.

Genius Highway – Highway 36

A drive along the “Genius Highway” – Highway 36 – in northern Missouri could be fun for the whole family. It’s a four-hour drive that includes some of the most innovative leaders or inventions in our country’s history.

Start in St. Joseph on the western edge. You can learn about the Pony Express at the national Pony Express Museum.

Missouri road trip
St. Joseph was home to the Pony Express

About 30 minutes from St. Joe, as you head east, is Hamilton. It’s the hometown of JC Penney. Penney was the founder of the famous department store chain. A small museum highlights his life and career.

Missouri road trip
Desk once used by retail innovator JC Penney, a native Missourian

Laclede is the hometown to one of the greatest generals to ever serve the United States Military – Black Jack Pershing. He led the allied forces during World War I. He was given the rank of General of the Armies, thus outranking every general since. A bit of trivia: he invented jumping jacks, as a prank on plebes at the West Point academy.

Missouri road trip
World War I legend General John J. Pershing

Chillicothe is home to the invention of sliced bread. The machine used to slice bread is on loan to the local museum from the Smithsonian.

Missouri road trip
Sliced bread was invented in Missouri

Marceline is considered the hometown of Walt Disney, though he lived here for only five years. He said it was the most influential time of his life. He based Disneyland’s Main Street USA on the town’s downtown area.

Missouri road trip
Walt Disney called Missouri home

Disney would visit Marceline as a successful businessman, long after he had moved away. The town had that much of an influence on him. He even premiered a movie here.

Missouri road trip
Disney donated a park ride to his hometown

The town has a great museum at the old depot recognizing Disney’s life. It’s one of the best museums we’ve visited.

Missouri road trip
Mickey Mouse

Hannibal is the last stop on the “Genius Highway.” It’s the hometown to Samuel Clemons – AKA Mark Twain. His stories are based a lot on his life in this river community. The Twain museum complex is a nice area to visit.

Missouri road trip
Mark Twain’s home in Hannibal

Hannibal might be the best place to spend the night after a long day of touring Highway 36. Then, you can check more attractions, such as the lighthouse, the downtown museum featuring interactive displays of five Twain novels and memorabilia.

Missouri road trip
Hannibal lighthouse on the Mississippi

St. Louis

St. Louis (6 hours from Omaha) offers the most attractions with free admission outside of Washington, DC. There is so much to see and do here.

We love the City Museum (and it’s on our list to revisit the next time we’re in town). It’s part museum, part play room. It’s a place for people of all ages.

Missouri road trip
St. Louis’ City Museum architecture display

Visitors can climb among the attractions, ride a long slide, check out fish and play games. You can also see St. Louis history, as the museum obtains pieces of architecture for buildings doomed to be destroyed. It keeps their legacy alive a bit. The roof top has a ferris wheel. We plan to visit the rooftop during our next trip.

The Missouri Botanical Gardens is a beautiful area to visit. It’s open year-round, but the summer may be the best time to visit, with flowers in full bloom (as with most gardens).

Missouri road trip
Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis

The state history and art museums are in Forest Park and well worth checking out. Again, they have free admission.

Missouri road trip
Missouri State History Museum

The Arch and zoo are already very popular, so not much else needs to be said about them. Other than, check them out.

Missouri road trip
View of the Arch and Old Courthouse

Cape Girardeau

If you want a smaller city, but with some good attractions, drive a couple of hours south to Cape Girardeau. We’ve visited twice and have been truly impressed with the area.

The Cape provided the background for the movie “Gone Girl.” The Ben Affleck picture was filmed here. You can take a tour of the sites used for filming or were important to the crew. We actually were the guinea pigs for the tour. The visitors bureau received permission to officially promote the driving tour during our visit. So, we took the drive around town, which took about an hour or so.

Missouri road trip
The Bar was part of the filming location for “Gone Girl” in Cape Girardeau

The area played a role during the Civil War. You can take a Civil War auto tour of key sites. It was an interesting and fun tour. You can see Fort D, which is a replica of an original fort, the Loring Cemetery, which has key war veterans buried there, as well as a couple of battle sites.

Missouri road trip
Fort D

The downtown area uses its flood wall along the Mississippi River for art. Murals of key historical events and state residents are painted along the flood wall. I think that’s a great use of resources.


The Show Me State’s travel motto is “Enjoy the show.” We’re sure visiting any of these Missouri attractions will accomplish that goal. Safe travels.

For more information on Missouri attractions, please visit these sites: