Road Trip in Missouri
There's a reason Missouri's called the Show Me State. With so much to see and do, regardless of your age, budget, and areas of interest, as soon as you begin to explore MO you won't be able to help but say, “show me more!"
If you're going to be road tripping through Missouri, you'll first want to be familiar with the rules of the road, the highways you're going to be driving on, and finally all of the destinations you can hit along the way.
Missouri Rules of the Road
Before setting out on your Missouri road trip, make sure you're familiar with the rules of the road (written and unwritten). That way, you can make your driving experience as stress-free as possible.
First, you'll probably want to skim over the MO driver's handbook to get a general idea of what the traffic laws are in the state. Then, take a look at our Missouri safety laws guide for information specific to MO regarding seat belts, cell phones, and other basic laws regarding your well-being on the road.
Before getting behind the wheel, you'll want to make sure that you have the proper documentation. Visitors from another state within the U.S. need to have a valid driver's license from their home state.
Major Roads in MO
Major Missouri highways include:
- I-29 (north to south).
- Runs through Atchison, Holt, Andrew, Buchanan, Platte, and Kansas City.
- Connects to Iowa and Kansas.
- I-35 (north to south).
- Intersects Harrison, Daviess, Caldwell, Ray, Clay, and Kansas City.
- Touches Iowa and Kansas.
- I-44 (west to east).
- Goes through Newton, Lawrence, Greene, Springfield, Webster, Laclede, Pulaski, Phelps, Crawford, Franklin, and St. Louis.
- Links to Kansas and Illinois.
- I-49 (north to south).
- Passes through Jackson, Cass, Bates, Vernon, Barton, Jasper, Newton, and McDonald.
- Connects to Kansas and Arkansas.
- I-55 (north to south).
- Runs through St. Louis, Jefferson, Ste. Genevieve, Perry, Cape Girardeau, Scott, New Madrid, and Pemiscot.
- Touches Illinois and Arkansas.
- I-70 (west to east).
- Intersects Jackson, Lafayette, Johnson, Pettis, Cooper, Moniteau, Callaway, Montgomery, Warren, St. Charles, and St. Louis.
- Links to Kansas and Illinois.
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Things to Do in Missouri
Missouri is the kind of state that has something for everyone. Whoever you are, whatever purpose you may have, the Show Me State won't disappoint.
Missouri's Natural Attractions
Missouri is home to an abundance of prime fishing spots, beautiful woodlands, and natural wonders unlike anywhere else in the country. If you're a nature lover, the following are just a few destinations you should put on your road trip agenda:
- Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park—Lesterville, MO.
- Play on natural waterslides, formed by volcanic activity and years of erosion.
- Rock climbing, plus hiking and biking trails for all levels of experience.
- Fish in the Black River.
- Roaring River State Park—Cassville, MO.
- One of the best trout fisheries in the U.S., restocked each night, you'll be surrounded by rugged, river-carved mountain and valley terrains.
- Gentle hiking trail.
- Playground, swimming pool, and picnic tables (great family destination).
- Ha Ha Tonka State Park—Camdenton, MO.
- Campsite dotted with the ruins of an old castle, situated on the Lake of the Ozarks.
- Average to experienced-level hiking and walking trails.
- Fishing and boating in the lake.
- Explore natural caverns, tunnels, and sinkholes.
- Onondaga Cave State Park—Leasburg, MO.
- Considered a National Natural Landmark for the cave's sheer size and underground river (take a guided cave tour!).
- Moderate outdoor hiking and biking trails.
- Fishing and other water activities in nearby Meramec River and Blue Heron Trail Lake.
- Nature programs and presentations throughout the day.
- Grand Falls—Joplin, MO.
- Largest flowing waterfall in Missouri.
- Fishing, boating, hiking, and biking.
- Playground and picnic area.
Below are some of Missouri's must-see historical locations.
- Battle of Athens State Historic Site—Revere, MO.
- Site of the Civil War's northernmost battle west of the Mississippi River, where a greatly outnumbered Union army fought off Confederate forces.
- Guided tours of the historic site's structures and battlefield.
- Campsites available (electric optional).
- Hiking trails suitable for beginners.
- Go fishing for largemouth bass, catfish, and bluegills, just to name a few.
- Battle of Lexington State Historic Site—Lexington, MO.
- Location of a decisive Confederate win, where Oliver Anderson's massive estate (then serving as a Union hospital) was overtaken.
- Tours of the Anderson house and visitor center with information about the battle.
- Short hiking trail suitable for all levels.
- Mark Twain Birthplace—Florida, MO.
- Visit the actual home where Missouri native Mark Twain (born Samuel Clemens) was born.
- Take a tour and see an original handwritten manuscript of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, as well as historic household items.
- Harry S. Truman Birthplace—Lamar, MO.
- Go see the first home and birthplace of President Truman, the only U.S. president from Missouri.
- Free tours of the home, where you'll see furnishings and décor to match when Truman lived there.
- Vaile Victorian Mansion—Independence, MO.
- Built by Colonel Vaile after the Civil War, this mansion exudes wealth, splendor, and a classic Victorian-Gothic architecture.
- Seasonal events and festive decorations throughout the year.
- Guided tours available.
Missouri Arts and Culture
Situated on the borders of the American South and Midwest, Missouri creates a blended cultural scene all its own. From fine art to live music, there's something for every visitor that's sure to entertain. Below you'll find just a few of Missouri's optimal arts and culture destinations:
- Forest Park—St. Louis, MO.
- Explore acres of museums, landmarks, memorials, and beautifully landscaped outdoor areas.
- Sporting fields and facilities.
- Make sure to plan ahead—with so much to do and see (and so much ground to cover), it'll be helpful to have a plan of action.
- Negro Leagues Baseball Museum—Kansas City, MO.
- Learn about the Negro National League and all of the lesser-known stories about America's favorite pastime.
- Lectures, workshops, and special events for visitors of all ages.
- Numerous interactive exhibits, artifact collections, and historical displays.
- Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art—Kansas City, MO.
- See modern and contemporary art pieces from artists around the world, free of charge.
- Art classes, camps, and workshops for visitors of all ages.
- Gateway Arch—St. Louis, MO.
- Stop by Missouri's most iconic landmark built as a memorial to honor Thomas Jefferson's commitment to westward expansion in the United States.
- Tram rides up to the top of the arch make for unforgettable views and are open to the public.
- Screenings of a documentary covering the architecture and construction of the arch.
- Mark Twain Riverboat—Hannibal, MO.
- Take a cruise down the Mississippi and a step back in time on this iconic riverboat.
- Dinner and musical entertainment included on certain cruises.
- Branson, MO.
- Also known as “The Live Music Capital of the Universe," this city is inundated with all sorts of live artistic performances daily.
For the Kids
If you're planning on road tripping with your kids, make sure you've picked out destinations that are fun, kid-friendly, and entertaining (and maybe even a little educational). Below are some of the places you might consider stopping by with the kids.
- Silver Dollar City—Branson, MO.
- Rides and attractions suitable for children of all ages (even adults!).
- Daily musical and theatrical shows with a nod to Ozark history.
- Special seasonal events and festivals.
- The Magic House—St. Louis, MO.
- Art and educational museum designed specifically for children.
- All exhibits are interactive and structured to provoke your child's curiosity and help them learn new things (no bored kids here!).
- Monthly special events open to the public.
- Promised Land Zoo—Eagle Rock, MO.
- Unique home to a large variety of endangered animals.
- “Drive Thru Park" allows you to get an up-close look at the zoo's animals from the comfort of your own car—you'll feel like you're on a safari!
- Kansas City Zoo—Kansas City, MO.
- Everyone in the family will get to see all of their favorite animals from around the world.
- Zookeeper talks, animal shows, and boat and tram rides throughout the day.
Below are just a few of your options when it comes to attractions that are uniquely Missouri:
- Titanic Museum—Branson, MO.
- Experience the Titanic like never before, by stepping into this half-sized replica of the original ship.
- See artifacts from the Titanic and her sister ships while walking through an imaginative recreation of what the original luxury liner looked like (pre-sinking).
- Interactive exhibits for the whole family to enjoy, especially if you're a fan of the movie.
- Jesse James home—St. Joseph, MO.
- Visit the home of famous outlaw Jesse James, where he was also assassinated. A bullet hole still resides in the wall as proof.
- Artifacts and educational displays about James' life and legacy.
- Guided tours of the home.
- World's largest ball of twine—Branson, MO.
- See it at the Ripley's Believe it or Not! Museum.
- The ball is a passion project of a Missouri farmer, determined to beat out the previous largest ball of twine in Minnesota.