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Missouri is known as “The Show-Me State.” That’s fair enough, considering that within its boundaries, Missouri has plenty to show us. Raging whitewater rapids, eye-dazzling scenery and plenty of historical sites and monuments can be found here, not to mention the fact that this is Mark Twain country!
Starting off in Columbia, we find ourselves in a quaint, self-described “eclectic, artsy, savvy, and vibrant” city. Columbia is rich with festivals, with one seemingly every month. The Twilight Festivals, in particular, run in June and September and feature plenty of food and entertainment to thousands of visitors each year. The city’s arts and culture scene is alive and kicking with galleries and museums, and plenty of live music to be found without difficulty. For some exercise, Bear Creek Trail offers a little more than four miles of paved pathway, some of which consists of a boardwalk attached to a steep hillside. The path takes us over a bridge and through wetlands; it’s good for hiking, jogging or biking.
Twenty-five miles south on the US-63 lies Jefferson City, named after Thomas Jefferson – who, ironically, never set foot on Missouri soil. The Missouri River runs through Jefferson City, and its length is peppered with landmarks of Lewis & Clark’s famous expedition. We can enjoy the river’s majesty either by boat or barge, or by the railroad that runs parallel to her shores. There are plenty of local vintners offering a variety of fine local wines for our enjoyment; many of the grapes are grown from historical lands with excellent pedigree. Definitely a must-do for the wine connoisseur in our midst.
Moving on, we take the US-54-E for 30 miles, and then merge with the I-70-E for a scenic drive of a little more than 100 miles, whereupon we pull over in St. Louis. One of the most recognizable monuments/landmarks in the world is the Gateway Arch, and the view from its pinnacle is so incredible that even the word “breathtaking” doesn’t begin to describe it. There’s plenty to see on sturdy ground, such as the Busch Stadium Brewery and Clydesdale Museum, and let’s not forget the thrill-a-minute theme park that’s Six Flags St. Louis. One can see the city via guided and narrated bicycle tours, or enjoy a view of the historical sites and districts on day tours that go throughout the city. One of the more offbeat and interesting tours shows us the “haunted” side of the city, showing the historical districts in a slightly darker light – perfect if we plan our trip around late October.
Outdoor activities around St. Louis are abundant, with many parks and areas devoted to the enjoyment of fresh air and exercise. One such area is the Columbia Bottom Conservation Area, which rests at the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, and is a perfect place to spend a day or two hiking, fishing, swimming, or just dangling our feet in the water.
The Lake of the Ozarks is another premier destination spot to visitors from all points. It’s a prime place for family fun, and we can drop a rod and reel, or enjoy any number of water sports and camping activities along her shores. There are plenty of places to go shopping and dining, making Lake of the Ozarks a central destination that we should make the most of while we’re here.
However, there’s more to see and do on our vacation, so once we decide to get back on the road we take the westbound I-70 for another 20 miles to St. Charles, which was the original capitol of Missouri. It also has the distinction of being the city that Lewis & Clark’s expedition originated from. Founded in 1769, the city retains much of its original style and architecture with gaslights and brick-paved streets, and has a nationally-registered historic district with restored buildings dating from the 1790s.
Our final stop of Hannibal lies west on the I-70 for 18 miles, where we merge with the northbound US-61 for 80 miles. Hannibal is the capitol of Mark Twain Country, being the birthplace of his alter ego and true identity, Samuel Clemens. The city is very proud of their most famous son, as evidenced by the multitude of sites and shops devoted to the man and his work. While too numerous to mention in detail here, highlights include the Mark Twain Cave Complex, which was made famous as the cave that Tom Sawyer and Becky Thatcher got lost in. Another great site to explore is the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum, which exists in prime, restored condition, as if it were just built yesterday. Of course, we shouldn’t pass up the chance to cruise down the Mississippi River on the Mark Twain Riverboat – try to take the sundown cruise and ride the upper deck for a memorable experience!
So, if you make Missouri your destination spot this season, “The Show-Me State” will make a believer out of you, and show you more than enough reasons to enjoy these lands year after year.
Other Area Sponsors in Missouri:
Big Red Barn RV Park
Branson Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce & Convention & Visitors Bureau
Branson Shenanigans RV Park
Injun Joe Campground
Lazy Day Campground
Mark Twain Cave & Campground
Missouri Division of Tourism
Oak Grove RV Park
Sundermeier RV Park & Conference Center