As mentioned in previous posts, Missouri is full of charming, historic smaller towns. So many, that we haven’t really even touched on all of them yet. Here are 15 more towns with much to offer any visitor.
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. 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.
2. Excelsior Springs, Population 11,418
There is SO much to see and do in Excelsior Springs! Here are just a few of your choices: Historic Wall of Waters in downtown, the DEP Mural Project, Watkins Mill State Historic Park, Tryst Falls, and the Jesse James Home. Located just 30 minutes from Kansas City, the town features many historic districts, buildings and landmarks. You can take a mineral water walking tour, go ziplining at Show Me Ziplines, or go bowling at the community center. Ice House Blues Garden and Willow Spring Mercantile feature live music, and in the summer they have a farmer's market and "Fun, Funky Second Fridays". If you are hungry, try Ventana Gourmet Grill, or Ray's Hamburgers, stay at one the unique Bed and Breakfasts, The Elms, Inns, hotel & spa, or consider camping at a lake retreat.
3. Waynesville, Population 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, theaters and parks. You can even go scuba diving (yes, in Missouri) 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.
4. Charleston, Population 5,921
Located at the top of the "bootheel" in Mississippi County, Charleston is home to the Hearnes Museum, the Lewis & Clark Commemorative Site, the Moore Home Museum, and the Robert Delaney Lake Conservation area. Shop for some antiques or unique gifts or grab a bite at The Glenn, Las Brisas, Wally's or City Limits Grill.
5. New Madrid, Population 3,031
Learn about history at the Higgerson School Visitor Center and Museum, or the New Madrid Historical Museum, or visit the Hunter Dawson State Historic Site. Take a walk on the Observation Deck and River Walk and 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.
6. 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 and 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.
7. 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.
8. Salem, Population 5,009
Close to Montauk State Park in the heart of south central Missouri, Salem is the county seat of Dent County. There are many conservation areas, parks and trails, along with hunting, horse back riding and fishing, Your accommodation options vary between hotels, bed and breakfasts, motels, cabins, RV parks, and camping. Besides the many antique and unique shops, you can also visit Bo's Hollow Auto Museum, Dent county Museum, Montauk Mill Museum, or Ozark Heritage Museum. Eat at one of the many restaurant options such as Arandas, Annie's Grill, Common Grounds Bistro or Red Barn BBQ, and grab some ice cream for dessert at Scoops Central.
9. Licking, Population 3,108
This small town is actually the largest town in Texas County, and it was previously called "Buffalo Lick". Licking is home to Boiling Springs Resort, where you can enjoy Big Piney River Float Trips, cabins, camping, hunting and fishing. You can also visit the Licking Aquatic Center, shop at Storm's Country Store Antiques and Tea Room, eat at Oleg's BBQ or PJ's, or attend one of the many local events scheduled throughout the year.
10. 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.
11. Glasgow, Population 1,119
This tiny town in Chanton & Howard Counties is located about halfway between Kansas City and St. Louis. Local attractions include Bushwacker Bend Winery, Glasgow's Community Museum, a 1864 gothic revival building that was once a church and is open for tours May 15-October 15 each year. Local restaurants include Becketts Restaurant, Rolling Pin, Riverbend Family Restaurants, Damron's, and Perry's Drive-In. You can also enjoy a weekend getaway at Hilltop B&B.
12. Paris, Population 1,206
The Monroe county seat, Paris is home to unique shops such as McLaughlin Western Store and HIP. Paris City Park features grand stands, baseball fields, a horse arena, a basketball court and playground as well as public restrooms and showers. You can also visit Union Covered Bridge State Historic Site, eat at Jonesy's Cafe, Miller's Bar &Grill, or have a snack at Frost Bites Ice Cream. Stay near the south fork of Mark Twain Lake at Lake Village, which features a restaurant, motel, RV Park & Campground.
13. 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 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 and 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.
14. Hamilton, Population, 1,731
This town in Caldwell County is home of entrepreneur and founder of JC Penney, James Cash Penney. Therefore, a must-see is the JC Penney Museum & Boyhood Home. You should also visit the now famous Missouri Star Quilt Company, which has in recent years helped revive Hamilton's downtown. Some shops you might find are Barn Gypsies featuring antiques and vintage items, or Queen B's boutique. For the sweet tooth, visit The Cake Junkie or Poppy's Bakery, or have a bite at Blue Sage, J's Burger Dive, Ninja Moose Brewery or Hank & Tank's Barbeque.
15. New Haven, Population 2,098
Originally named Miller's Landing, this town in Franklin County is a historic river town in the heart of Missouri wine country. In historic downtown you can find unique shops, antiques and the Levee Walk river walk. Start your visit at the Visitor's Center and Museum, and check out the John Colter Memorial. Stay at Central Hotel or Miller's Landing Bed and Breakfast, or Cedar Creek Resort. Do a wine tasting or tour at Bommarito Estate Almond Tree Winery or Robller Vineyard Winery. You can also try 2nd Shift Brewing or Pinckney Bend Distillery.
There are so many great places in Missouri, both large and small. What are some of the towns we haven’t mentioned yet? Let us know in the comments below.