Fun and Unique Day Trip Ideas in Missouri

How often do you get out and see what Missouri has to offer? Check out these unique day trip ideas for residents of the Show Me state.

Barbecue might be at the top of everyone’s mind when it comes to Missouri – hey, it is the home to the unofficial “Barbecue Capital of the World,” after all – but there’s a lot more to see and do in this state besides eating burnt ends.

…Okay, we’re going to talk about barbecue, too.

But if you’re ready to take a trip that’s close to home, there’s tons to see and do in Missouri. So, get your calendar out and start planning some weekend trips! Here are unique day trips you can take in Missouri.

Dive Into the Bonne Terre Mine

Bonne Terre Mine
Bonne Terre Mine

In operation from 1860 to 1962, Bonne Terre Mine was once the world’s largest producer of lead ore. These days, the historic mine’s lower three levels are flooded with crystal clear waters, making it a diver’s paradise. It offers visitors the largest freshwater dive in the world. Open water-certified divers can explore more than 20 dive trails.

If you’re not one for scuba diving, you can still enjoy your time here. You’ll also find guided walking and boat tours to see the largest parts of the mine. Ore carts, the elevator, and overhead wooden catwalks are still here for visitors to see!

Enjoy your Caturday

Did you know that Missouri is home to some seriously wild animals? Between Branson and Springfield, in a small town called Saddlebrooke, sits the National Tiger Sanctuary. It’s home to 22 exotic animals, including tigers, lions, and panthers.

This is no ordinary zoo attraction. This huge sanctuary offers a number of guided tours, some of which allow you to help with feeding the animals! After spending the ultimate “Caturday” with your new big cat friends, you can “adopt” an animal of your choice to support their individualized care for a year.

Missouri’s Niagara Falls

Mina Sauk Falls at Taum Sauk Mountain State Park in Missouri
Missouri State Parks

For some breathtaking outdoor beauty, check out Mina Sauk Falls in Ironton. Okay, it’s not really quite as large as the Niagara Falls, but these waterfalls are certainly worthy of a visit. Located inside Taum Sauk Mountain State Park, Mina Sauk Falls is the state’s tallest waterfall. It cascades down more than 130 feet to Taum Sauk Creek.

To take in the stunning beauty, hike on the Mina Sauk Falls Trail, a three-mile loop. This trail will also take you to Taum Sauk Mountain, which is the highest point in Missouri. All in all, the loop hike will give you some of the most gorgeous scenery in the state.

The Many Museums in Kansas City

Kansas City is known for barbecue, but it’s also home to an impressive amount of museums. Here you’ll find the prestigious Nelson Atkins Museum of Art, the National World War I Museum and Memorial, the Arabia Steamboat Museum, and the National Museum of Toys and Miniatures, just to name a few. Make a day of it, or stay the night and have a weekend filled with museums!

Of course, we can’t talk about Kansas City museums without talking about exploring the American Jazz Museum and the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum located in KC’s Historic Jazz District. These two impressive museums, which share a space, are even a frequent stop for visiting celebrities and dignitaries.

The American Jazz Museum boasts listening stations, custom mixing boards, touch screen interactives, and even a working jazz club that’s open four nights a week. Meanwhile, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum celebrates the history of African-American baseball and chronicles the stars and stories starting with the leagues’ origins after the Civil War.

Tom Sawyer’s Stomping Grounds

Mark Twain's home, Hannibal, Missouri
Visit Hannibal

Hannibal, Missouri was the home of Samuel Langhorne Clemens, but you likely know him as author Mark Twain. You can visit this historic river town located along the Mississippi River, which is literally a place out of a storybook. It’s where Mark Twain got the inspiration for his classic tales, like Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.

Channel your inner Huck Finn by climbing aboard the Mark Twain Riverboat for a scenic dinner cruise. Visit the historic downtown area to enjoy classic architecture and shops. And while you’re there, don’t forget to visit the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum. The town also hosts plenty of unique festivals throughout the year, such as Twain on Main, the Big River Steampunk Festival, and the Victorian Festival of Christmas.

Okay, and the Barbecue

Anyone in the state of Missouri knows that you have to eat barbecue, so this list wouldn’t be complete without it. Now, I’m not going to tell you which restaurant is the best. After all, if you’re already a Missouri resident, you’ve probably already eaten your fair share of barbecue and have already decided on the best. But I will give you a few to visit in both St. Louis and Kansas City.

Honestly, you can find some of the best barbecue in America all over the state. But if you want to do a day trip “tour de BBQ,” St. Louis and KC are your best bets.

In St. Louis, don’t miss Pappy’s Smokehouse, Sugarfire Smoke House, and the infamous Bogart’s Smokehouse. These are a must for any visitor.

If you’re heading to Kansas City, the unofficial “Barbecue Capital of the World,” get ready to get saucy. Gates Bar-B-Q has been serving up KC-style barbecue for 60 years. Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue offers plenty of variety, and they offer The Sampler to visitors who just can’t decide. But while in KC, don’t skip Arthur Bryant’s, considered to be the most famous barbecue restaurant in the US! Get the burnt ends and thank me later.

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