Our criteria for “small town” was that the population needed to be below 20,000. Obviously, there is a big difference between the lowest population listed here (Arrow Rock, population 56) and the highest listed here (Rolla, population 19,830). Throughout Missouri you will find these smaller towns rich in history and featuring much to do. Here are just a few of the towns with under 20,000 residents and a sample of what you might find there.
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. Parkville, Population 4,059
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.
2. 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 the website at www.goboonville.com.
3. 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. Visit www.visitstegen.com for more information.
4. 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 www.rocheport.com.
5. Fulton, Population 12,760
The county seat of Calloway County, Fulton boasts 67 buildings on the historic registry. Notable attractions include the National Churchill Museum, located on the campus of Westminster College, along with the Berlin Wall sculpture. Also, there is Kemper Center for the Arts, Westminster Gallery Art House, Backer Auto World Museum, and the Brick District.
6. Hannibal, Population 17,883
Hannibal is most famous for its connection to Mark Twain. Here you can visit Twain's boyhood home, take a sightseeing cruise on the Mark Twain Riverboat, visit the Mark Twain Cave and Cave Hollow Winery, and even see Richard Garey's Mark Twain Himself Live Show. But that's not all Hannibal has to offer. You can also visit the Molly Brown Museum, Hannibal History Museum, Big River Train Town & Museum, or Sawyer's Creek Fun Park. Tour a historic mansion at Rockcliffe or take one of Haunted Hannibal's Ghost Tours. Take a trolley ride or visit Huck Finn's Freedom Center. Whatever you decide to do, you definitely won't be bored. For more information, see www.visithannibal.com.
7. 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 www.westonmo.com.
8. 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 www.visithermann.com
9. Carthage, Population 14,232
The county seat of Jasper County, and also known as "America's Maple Leaf City", Carthage is worth a visit. The town was established in 1842, burned to the ground during the civil war, and was reconstructed. Attractions include: The Precious Moments Chapel & Gardens, Civil War Ranch, The White Rose Winery, Restaurant, Bed and Breakfast, and Art Gallery, Civil War Museum, Red Oak II, and Whisler's Drive up. They also have a historic homes driving tour, Visit www.visit-carthage.com.
10. Arrow Rock, Population 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, and 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 www.arrowrock.org
11. Kimmswick, Population 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 www.visitkimmswick.com.
12. Cuba, Population 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 (www.cubamurals.com), see the World's Largest Rocking Chair and 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.
13. Lexington, Population 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, 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 horse back riding, camping or visit one of the local wineries. For more information visit www.visitlexingtonmo.com.
14. Washington, Population 14,031
On the Missouri River in Franklin County, you will find the "corn cob pipe capital of the world" due to Missouri Meerschaum, manufacturer of tobacco smoking corn cob pipes. They also have museums, such as the Washington Historical Society Museum and the Firehouse Museum. There are guided and walking tours, historic homes and buildings, art galleries, theatres, wineries, antiques and other unique shops, festivals, fairs, and farmer's markets. For more information go to www.washmochamber.org.
15. Rolla, Population 19,830
Rolla is the county seat of Phelps County, and is located about half-way between St. Louis and Springfield along Interstate 44. Besides a Stonehenge Replica, attractions also include Splash Zone, and Kokomo Joe's Family Fun Center. You can also find golf courses, parks with lakes, go carts, art galleries, museums, vineyards, two professional theatres and a plethora of Railroad and Route 66 history. Find out more at www.visitrolla.com.
16. Farmington, Population 17,796
Located 60 miles south of St. Louis, this county seat of St. Francois County, besides being near to several state parks and all they offer, also has many unique attractions. Visit the Farmington Water Park, Farmington SK8 Park, Family Fun Center, and Bonne Terre Mine. There are also city parks with trails, fishing lakes, and a 18-hole disc-golf course. Check out historic downtown and find some unique shops and antiques. You can go to www.discoverfarmingtonmo.com.
17. Branson, Population 11,064
It's a little hard to believe Branson is a small town with all there is to do, but with only 11,000 residents, it's considered a small town. It is a well known family vacation destination featuring Silver Dollar City, an 1800's themed amusement park along with White Water waterpark. They have much entertainment in the form of live music and shows, museums, wineries, outdoor activities such as ziplining and rock climbing. Or you can see Table Rock Lake, take a dinner cruise or go on a helicopter ride. Find out more at www.explorebranson.com.
Have you visited any of these towns? What was your experience? Is there a town that wasn’t featured here? Please comment below.