Located smack dab in the middle of America, there’s a good chance you’ll take road trips in Missouri at some point. I lived in the state for a good portion of my life and want to share with you the best road trips in Missouri! The good news is that even the busy interstates (55, 44, and 70) all have great small towns or unique attractions that are easy to navigate to as you travel.
If you’re looking for things to do on road trips in Missouri, this will give you a great start at planning your adventure!
1. Explore Missouri’s Genius Highway
Highway 36, also known as the Way of the American Genius is a fun road trip through Missouri that takes you through the hometowns of some pretty famous people!
Starting from Hannibal (located along the Mississippi River) and traveling west toward St. Joseph, this can be a great weekend trip in Missouri. If you want to take a little extra time, the entire highway can be explored fully in about three days.
Hannibal is a fun river town and known as the childhood home of Mark Twain, the American humor and literary icon. His boyhood home is located here and everything here revolves around Twain including the riverboat tours along the Mississippi! It’s also the hometown of the “unsinkable” Molly Brown.
As you work your way across the state, you’ll find Marceline, the hometown of Walt Disney. A must for any Disney fan, be sure to visit the Walt Disney Hometown Museum for some great exhibits in the old train station where Disney played as a child.
Other stops along this great Missouri road trip, include Chillicothe – the home of sliced bread; Hamilton, the hometown of J.C. Penney and the Missouri Star Quilting Company; and St. Joseph – headquarters of The Pony Express!
2. Things To See On Interstate 70 in Missouri
Most travelers already know that Saint Louis and Kansas City anchor opposite ends of Interstate 70 in Missouri, but you may not know some of the spots in-between that also worth visiting on road trips in Missouri.
For example, Warm Springs Ranch in the town of Boonville is the breeding facility of the world famous Budweiser Clydesdales. There’s nothing more adorable than seeing baby Clydesdales up close and in-person! Visitors can tour the facility and learn how these gentle giants are raised and trained.
Independence, Missouri is a short drive from Kansas City along Interstate 70 and home to the new and improved Harry Truman Presidential Library and Museum. This state of the art facility is one of the best of the presidential museums and part of the National Archives. Truman’s home is located nearby as well.
Columbia is home to the University of Missouri and fun college town located along Interstate 70 about half way between St. Louis and Kansas City.
Fulton is a small town with a cool downtown that’s home to a great pizza place called Brooklyn Pizza! There’s also a cool antique car museum located right off the highway and the highly acclaimed National Churchill Museum which includes a piece of the Berlin Wall.
And don’t forget historic St. Charles, Missouri, located about 45 minutes outside of St. Louis which is rich in history and full of great shops and restaurants.
3. Explore Route 66 on Your Road Trips in Missouri!
There are lots of things see along Route 66 in Missouri! The journey along the historic mother road is one of the most popular road trips in Missouri!
Some of the highlights of Route 66 in Missouri include the (second) largest rocking chair in the town of Fanning; Uranus – a fake town but fun roadside attraction near St. James; and the Bonnie & Clyde hideout in Joplin.
If you love murals, Missouri’s portion of Route 66 is loaded with great public art. The town of Cuba bills itself as “mural city” and Joplin has some great ones as well. Springfield considers itself “the birthplace of Route 66” and is home to various attractions including the award winning Wonders of Wildlife museum and aquarium.
You can’t miss Ted Drewes, a frozen custard shop in St. Louis located right along Route 66. It’s not unusual to see lines out in the street as people clamor for what’s been voted by numerous outlets as the world’s best ice cream!
And, for an unusual stop near the town of Carthage – you’ll want to see the Precious Moments Chapel & Museum. A bit creepy, but if you ever collected the little statues, you’ll find it amusing.
4. Things To See In Missouri on Interstate 55
Traveling along Interstate 55 to or from St. Louis? You’ll pass by some historic towns that are worthy of a stop during any of your upcoming road trips in Missouri.
In St. Louis, the world famous Anheuser-Busch Headquarters is open for brewery tours throughout the year. They offer free tours as well as more in-depth guided tours. You can even see some of the world famous Budweiser Clydesdales in their historic stables!
The best historic town on the route is St. Genevieve – known as the first settlement west of the Mississippi River. Explore the historic downtown and visit early French settlement buildings that are still intact.
Other things to see on Interstate 55 in Missouri include: the famous Lambert’s Cafe in Sikeston – home of the “throwed rolls”. (The servers literally throw rolls at you from across the room.) New Madrid is the site of the biggest earthquake in American history and has a museum dedicated to its significance on the region.
Perryville has become a bustling town with a lot of great restaurants and shops. Known for its German roots, you’ll also find a cool tractor museum and bed and breakfasts for a weekend getaway or peaceful night off the road.
Bollinger Mill is a great place to take some photographs (there’s even a covered bridge!). It’s located about 30 minutes, due west of Jackson, Missouri.
If you’re looking for some outdoor activities on your road trips through Missouri – you can find one of the state’s most popular parks, Hawn State Park in St. Genevieve County. Though not directly off the interstate, it’s worth the additional 15 minutes. Just take exit 154 from 55 South and follow your GPS directions to the park.
5. Highway 54 from Jefferson City to Camdenton
Missouri’s capital city has a wonderful downtown and many great restaurants to choose from. You’ll want to take a tour of the state capitol building and see the incredible artwork and architecture.
Another cool tour is the former Missouri State Penitentiary that’s supposedly haunted! Either way, it’s really fascinating. I’d suggest visiting in the spring or fall because it’s super cold in there in the winter. (And I imagine super hot in the summer).
Headed south on 54, you’ll run into one of the best state parks in Missouri – Ha Ha Tonka State Park. In the park you’ll find the ruins of a castle with an interesting history that eventually burnt down. The ruins are pretty cool to see, especially at sunrise or sunset. The park has great hiking as well.
Of course, you’ll find the world famous Lake of the Ozarks with all of its resorts and local attractions. The Lake is a popular destination, especially in the summer time and there’s plenty for the entire family to do and stay busy, including a new Margaritaville Resort at Osage Beach!