There’s quite a debate as to what makes a small town. While some consider a town under 25,000 residents to be small, others think it should be any town under 1,000! For the purposes of this post, we defined small towns as being under 10,000 residents. This left out a couple of towns like Branson and Hannibal, both semi-small towns with lots to do as well. Even with the size limitations, we were able to choose 17 great towns that are all worth a visit.
These towns are out to destroy the idea that there’s nothing to do in a small town.
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:
1. Boonville, Population 8,370
Located about halfway between Kansas City and St. Louis, the county seat of Cooper County was named one of the "20 Best Small Towns to Visit" by Smithsonian Magazine. For a dose of nature, Katy Trail State Park runs right through Boonville. For a taste of history, visit one of the 450 sites belonging to the National Registry of Historic Places.
A few other notable sights include: The Hain House, Thespian Hill, Warm Springs Ranch, Aquatic Center, Hail Ridge Golf Course, Isle of Capri Casino Hotel, Old Jail and Hanging Barn, Mitchell Antique Motor Car Museum, Rivercene Mansion and Bed and Breadfast, and the Roslyn Heights Mansion.
For details and more information, check out their website at
2. Ste. Genevieve, Population 4,405
This little French Colonial Village is Missouri's oldest town. They have nationally recognized historic homes and buildings, restaurants, wineries, and microbreweries. They also have historic home tours including the Ste. Genevieve Ghost Tour. It is also home to the Crown Ridge Tiger Sanctuary, Hawn State Park, Pickle Springs Natural Area, Magnolia Hollow Conservation Area, and Hickory Canyon Natural Area.
for more information.
3. Rocheport, Population 244
Another little town in wine country, Boone County, was called one of "America's 10 Coolest Small Towns" by Frommer's Budget Travel Magazine. With antique shops, bed and breakfasts, wineries, art galleries, a museum, and access to the scenic Katy Trail, there is plenty to do and see. Also, don't miss the Rocheport River Walk or the Diana Bend Conservation Area.
You can find out more at
4. Weston, Population 1,703
Located in Platte County, Weston features so many things to do, you won't believe they can fit it all in such a small town. Visit historic homes and sites on walking or driving tours. Learn something new at one of the museums, orchards, educational farms, old distillery, winery, or operating brewery. Shop for antiques, stay in a bed and breakfast, listen to blues, country and Irish music, or visit the state park on the Missouri River for trails, picnics or camping.
You can find out more about this little town at
5. Hermann, Population 2,389
Hermann is the county seat of Gasconade County, near the center Missouri Rhineland and south of the Missouri River. They feature many festivals, shops, galleries and museums. You can also participate in a "Wine Trail" featuring seven family-owned local wineries and covering 20 scenic miles. You can also go zip-lining, take a walking tour, visit the Katy Trail or golf.
You can find out more at
6. Parkville, Pop. 5,928
This historic river town, located about 5 miles north of downtown Kansas City in Platte County, features antique shops, art galleries, and a historic downtown. It is the home of Park University, and English Landing Park, a large park along the Missouri River that has a soccer field, volleyball court, two playgrounds, a baseball diamond, a three-mile walking or biking trail, and a 9-hole Frisbee golf course.
7. Arrow Rock, Pop. 56
This tiny little village in Saline County has a historic bearing due to its part in westward expansion and the Santa Fe Trail. The entire town has been designated as a National Historic Landmark. It features several historic sites including the J. Huston Tavern. Established in 1834, and still in business today, it is the oldest operating restaurant west of the Mississippi. Arrow Rock also features the Arrow Rock Lycern Theatre, which is the oldest in Missouri. You can also visit the Old Courthouse or the home of 19th Century artist George Caleb Bingham.
For more information, visit
8. Kimmswick, Pop. 158
Located 25 miles south of St. Louis in Jefferson County, Kimmswick features many buildings that date as far back as 1859 when the town was founded. They have unique shops, restaurants, and bed and breakfasts. You can also visit the Anheuser Busch Museum & Estate or the Mastadon State Historic Site, or take a Kimmswick Riverboat Cruise.
Find out more at
9. Cuba, Pop. 3,369
Located 80 miles southwest of St. Louis in Crawford County, Cuba is a must-see for many travelers due to its Route 66 heritage and charm. Visit Mural City. See the World's Largest Rocking Chair. Shop at the Fanning 66 Outpost. Stay at the Wagon Wheel Motel, and go check out Bob's Gasoline Alley. Also nearby are ways to get back to nature through rafting rivers, lakes for fishing, canoeing, swimming or water skiing, and lodges and campgrounds to stay in.
10. Lexington, Pop. 4,654
Lexington is rich in Civil War history. The Battle of Lexington was fought here, and is remembered at the Lexington Civil War State Historic Site. The county seat of Lafayette County, this historic town is located 45 miles east of Kansas City. You can also visit the Lexington Historical Museum or the Lafayette County Courthouse (built in 1849). Go shopping in historic downtown, take a walking or audio tour, visit Riverfront Park Marina for some water sports, or go horseback riding, camping or visit one of the local wineries.
For more information, visit
11. Waynesville, Pop. 5,316
Located in the heart of the Missouri Ozarks in Pulaski County's county seat, their website boasts of "Preserving the Past, Planning for the Future". While you are there, visit the Route 66 Candy Shop, Old Stagecoach Stop Museum, antique and gift shops and local art galleries, theaters and parks. You can even go scuba diving at Odyssy Scuba.
Also check out Pulaski County Courthouse Museum, Waynesville Splash Park, walk some hiking trails or listen to some live music. If you get hungry, check out Nona's Kitchen, Hopper's Pub or grab some ice cream at I Love Ice Cream.
For more information, check out the
Waynesville Downtown Business Association
12. St. James, Population: 4,162
Located in Phelps County, St. James is a beautiful town with parks, hiking and biking, antique shops and much more. Local sights include Tiger Shark Water Park, James Memorial Library, Tacony Vacuum Museum, and St. James Park. For a taste of Missouri wine country, visit St. James Winery or Meramec Vineyards. There are also many unique antique and gift shops, as well as local eateries such as Sybill's, Ruby's Ice Cream, St. James Marketplace Cafe, Tuggle and Joe's and lots more.
13. New Madrid, Population 3,031
Learn about history at the Higgerson School Visitor Center and Museum, the New Madrid Historical Museum, or visit the Hunter Dawson State Historic Site. Take a walk on the Observation Deck and River Walk. Take in the "Bessie Bend Oxbow" or learn about the Trail of Tears. Hart Stepp Gallery, the oldest standing home in New Madrid, houses local art. You can also get a taste of Missouri wine at River Ridge Winery or take in a meal at one of New Madrid's unique local restaurants.
14. Chillicothe, Population 9,318
Chillicothe, home of sliced bread, is the county seat of Livingston County. In the historic downtown area, you can enjoy murals, antiques and shops. Eat at one of the local restaurants such as Nico 'Z Catering and Eatery, Boji Stone Cafe, or Wabash BBQ. The Grand River Historical Society Museum is a place to learn, but if you want some more active fun, visit Chilli Bay Water Park or one of the golf courses or parks in town.
15. Dexter, Population 7,938
Dexter's murals depict each of the town's oldest homes (1890-1910) that are still occupied. Other sights include the Dexter Welcome Center/Depot Museum (built in 1918), The Heritage Caboose, The Heritage House, Evans Pottery or Keller Veteran Memorial. Visit nature at Dexter City Lake, Frenchman's Spring, Holly Ridge Wildlife Area, Otter Slough Wildlife Area or see state champion oak trees.
There are many inns and bed and breakfasts as well as RV parks. If you get hungry try Dexter Bar-B-Que, Marina's Italian Restaurant, or get some ice cream at Leon's Dexter Queen. You can also visit one of Dexter's unique shops and antique stores such as The Loft or Old Timers Antique Mall.
16. Mansfield, Population 1,276
The main attraction in Mansfield is the Laura Ingalls Wilder Home and Museum, but don't forget to check out Mansfield Woods Vacation Cottages, Pleasant Valley Guest House or Weaver Inn. Check out local eateries Ma & Pa's Kettle, Vaccaro's Pizza & Pasta or Cozumel Mexican Restaurant. In September, Mansfield's Wilder Days and Fiddle Off cannot be missed.
17. Steelville, Population 1,692
Steelville, the county seat of Crawford County, has been called the "Home of Hospitality" and the "Floating Capital of Missouri". Located in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains, they feature many outdoor activities such as canoeing and rafting on the Meramec or Huzzah Rivers with Bass River Resort Canoe Outfitters, The Rafting Co.'s Camping RV Resort Canoe & Float or Huzzah Valley Resort Float Trips.
Or, stay at one of the other resorts, cabins, or bed and breakfasts. Visit the Historic Dillard Mill or shop at the Lange General Store. Grab some sweets at the fudge shop,the Diary Isle, or the Soda Fountain or get some great barbecue at Missouri Hick B-B-Q South.
There are many other amazing small towns in Missouri. In fact, the state is full of these beautiful, historic, friendly places. What is your favorite small town?