Planning a classic American road trip? Don’t leave Missouri, the heart of the Midwest, out of your travel plans! With the Historic Route 66 racing through its veins, Missouri is one of the must-see road-tripping destinations in the United States.
From iconic American cities to endless natural wonders, the “Show-Me State” offers something for every style of traveler. Douse yourself in history & culture with a stop in St. Louis. Missouri’s most famous city is home to Gateway Arch, the USA’s tallest national monument, alongside world-class museums like the National Blues Museum.
Music fans can continue their walk through American music history in Kansas City, the state’s largest urban center. Dip into the city’s jazz scene in the 18th & Vine Historic Jazz District and explore the genre’s history at the American Jazz Museum.
Once you’ve got your fill of the cities, escape the urban buzz at some of Missouri’s top outdoor destinations. Marvel at the eerie limestone formations at Meramec Caverns and chill by the lakeside at Lake of the Ozarks.
Ready to plan the perfect trip? Launch your itinerary through the Show-Me State with this quick & easy Missouri travel guide, including tips for where to go, what to do, and when to visit!
Looking to explore other destinations in the USA? Check out our United States Travel Guide for more destination ideas & tips!
Where to go in Missouri
One of the most popular cities in the Midwestern USA, St. Louis is the perfect launching point for your Missouri itinerary. The state’s second-largest city was established in 1764 as a French trading point, chosen for its prime position on the Mississippi River.
Although little remains of its earliest days, St. Louis is hardly short on historical sites and attractions. The city’s main claim to fame, the Gateway Arch, is one of the most famous tourist sites in the entire country. At 630 feet tall, it’s the world’s tallest arch and the tallest national monument in the USA.
After scoping out views over the city and the Mississippi River from the Gateway Arch observation deck, hit the streets of St. Louis to dig into its cultural attractions.
Music fans need to check out the National Blues Museum, covering the entire history of the genre. Or, for a more immersive experience, slide into one of the city’s many live music venues, like BB’s Jazz, Blues & Soups or Broadway Oyster Bar.
No visit to St. Louis is complete without digging into its culinary scene. Since its early days as a major stop along Route 66, the city has been a bastion for BBQ. Tuck into mouthwatering pulled pork and ribs at perennial St. Louis BBQ favorites like Pappy’s Smokehouse on Olive Street or Sugarfire Smoke House on Washington Avenue.
Thanks to headquartering Anheuser-Busch, St. Louis sits among America’s historic “beer cities.” Pay tribute with a tour through the Anheuser-Busch St. Louis Brewery before slipping into one of the many craft breweries it inspired, like The Schlafly Tap Room or 4 Hands Brewing Co.
Ready to plan your St. Louis trip? Get started with these travel resources…
Split between Kansas and Missouri, Kansas City is the state’s biggest city and a must-see for urban travelers. With over two million people in its metro area, KC is jam-packed with everything from historic neighborhoods and world-class museums to trendy restaurants and live music venues.
Music lovers will find plenty to keep them occupied in Kansas City, the only UNESCO-designated “City of Music” in the USA. Duck into the American Jazz Museum in the historic 18th & Vine Jazz District to learn all about the history of the genre that found its groove here. After digging into music history, fuel up on KC-style smoked meats at the nearby famed Arthur Bryant’s Barbeque.
Continue the cultural appreciation at Kansas City’s top museums like the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, featuring almost 40,000 works of ancient and contemporary art.
After a long day of checking out KC’s top attractions, retire to the Power & Light District for innovative cuisine, hand-crafted cocktails, and craft beers.
Ready to plan your Kansas City trip? Get started with these travel resources…
Looking to add a little kitschy fun to your Missouri trip? Slink down to Branson, the state’s family-friendly entertainment capital. Although the small town is home to just over 11 thousand people, it’s jam-packed with live entertainment options, from country music shows to large-stage Broadway-style shows.
If you’re traveling with kids, Silver Dollar City is a favorite first stop. Opened in the 1880s, the famed historic theme park is still consistently named one of the world’s best.
In and around Branson, you’ll also be able to duck into a multitude of family-friendly attractions, from the upside-down world of WonderWorks and the kitschy Hollywood Wax Museum to the informative Titanic Museum Attraction and Old West-themed Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede dinner attraction.
Even if you don’t want to dig into all its entertainment options, Branson’s setting in the beautiful Ozark Mountains makes it a wonderful launching point for outdoor adventure. Head just outside town to bask in the Missouri wilderness at Ruth and Paul Henning Conservation Area or enjoy the lakeside glory of Table Rock State Park.
Ready to plan your Branson trip? Get started with these travel resources…
Located in southwestern Missouri, Springfield is the state’s third-largest city and one of its most classic road-trip stops. And it’s hardly a surprise: After all, Springfield was the birthplace of the USA’s most famous road-tripping road: Route 66!
If you’re seeking out Historic Route 66 nostalgia, stop off at the Route 66 Car Museum, featuring over 60 classic American and European cars. Or learn more about Route 66’s humble local beginnings at the History Museum on the Square.
Visiting Missouri with kids? Spark their curiosity with the interactive science exhibits at the Discovery Center of Springfield, or let them delight at exotic animals from around the world at Dickerson Park Zoo.
After a day of sightseeing, end the evening exploring the city’s food & drink scene in Downtown Springfield or the C-Street Historic District. These two historic areas are chock-loaded with trendy restaurants, cafes, cocktail lounges, and craft breweries.
Lake of the Ozarks
Add a dash of nature to your Missouri trip with a visit to the Lake of the Ozarks. This outdoor hotspot is less than three hours from both Kansas City and St. Louis, making it a popular escape for the big-city folk.
Outdoor adventure is abound around the Lake of the Ozarks. Splash around at one of the many public beaches, go fishing on the lake, or opt for more adventurous pursuits onshore like ziplining or a helicopter tour.
When it’s time to relax, settle down at one of the area’s prime restaurants for a delicious meal on the water. Enjoy juicy surf & turf at JB Hook’s in Lake Ozark or mouth-watering Missouri-style BBQ at Wobbly Boots Roadhouse in Osage Beach.
Other destinations in Missouri
- Jefferson City
- Cape Girardeau
- Saint Charles
- Meramec State Park
- Ha Ha Tonka State Park
- Montauk State Park
- Elephant Rocks State Park
When to visit Missouri
The best time to visit Missouri is between May and October. During these months, you’ll enjoy warm temperatures and generally pleasant weather.
The tourist high season in Missouri falls within the summer months of June to August. These months are also the hottest and most humid, making it less than ideal for some travelers. You should also expect larger crowds, higher prices, and less availability at this time of year.
To escape the crowds and high-season prices, September to October are wonderful times to travel to Missouri. Visiting in the autumn months, you’ll also get the added bonus of experiencing Missouri’s majestic fall colors!
How to get to Missouri
Missouri is home to eight commercial airports, including two major international airports. Most travelers fly into the state via St. Louis Lambert International Airport (STL) in the east or Kansas City International Airport (MCI) in the west.
Several major airlines fly into Missouri from major domestic and international gateways via these two airports, including:
- American Airlines
- American Eagle
- Delta Air Lines
- Southwest Airlines
- Spirit Airlines
- United Airlines
Missouri is well-connected to the neighboring states of Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Oklahoma. Popular road routes into Missouri and approximate driving times include:
- Wichita, KS, to Kansas City (2h54m)
- Omaha, NE, to Kansas City (2h46m)
- Des Moines, IA, to Kansas City (2h52m)
- Chicago, IL, to St. Louis (4h29m)
- Indianapolis, IN, to St. Louis (3h43m)
- Nashville, TN, to St. Louis (4h45m)
- Memphis, TN, to St. Louis (4h18m)
- Little Rock, AR, to Springfield (3h57m)