Best Places in Missouri for a Family Vacation

From its rich history and incredible arts and culture to charming river towns and incredible outdoor adventures, Missouri is a destination for every member of the family!

As you start planning your summer trip or weekend road trip, here are seven different places in Missouri that your entire crew – from grandparents to toddlers and everyone else – will love!

1. Independence

Yes it is Harry S. Truman’s hometown. And while his presence is deeply felt in Independence, there is much more to see and do here too! Of course, to learn all about the 33rd President of the United States, you’ll want to stop by Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum. A multi-million dollar refresh will be done in 2021, just in time to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Truman’s accession to the highest office of the United States. The complex contains archives, documents and artefacts allowing you to really get to know the man well known for his outspokenness and his ‘the money stops here’ approach. You may also want to take the time to visit the home he shared with his wife, Bess, who is now a National historic site.

All roads started in Independence when it came to exploring the Old West. Thousands of people flocked in the 1800s to seek their fortunes along the trails in Oregon, Santa Fe, and California. You can learn more about them, their struggles, and Independence’s role in their travels around the world. National Museum of Border Trails, which houses over 2,600 first-person track accounts. Pioneer Trails Adventures also offers a personal, up-close glimpse of the city’s deep pioneer roots with boxcar tours that depart from historic Independence Square. Every Labor Day weekend, Independence honors its pioneering roots with the SantaCaliGon Days festival in the plaza.

And if the whole history of Independence makes you wonder about your own family’s past, you’ll want to visit the Midwest Genealogy Center. It is one of the best places in the country for find your family roots – free! Its huge online genealogy databases include census records, newspaper articles, and other primary sources. Librarians are on hand to help you start your family history.

To further explore all the fantastic things to see, do and experience in Independence, consult the city’s online visitor guide and browse our collection of Independence content here.

Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park in the Arcadia Valley, Missouri
Image: K Welschmeyer, Shutterstock

2. Valley of Arcadia

If you’re looking to include some of Missouri’s most amazing natural features into your getaway, there’s no better place than the Arcadia Valley, located in the southeastern state. Taum Sauk, the highest point in the state, offers great hikes and scenic and scenic views. Johnsons Shut-Ins State Park has been a favorite road trip stop for generations. With its crystal clear waterfalls fed by springs that rush through huge granite boulders, this place is like Mother Nature’s slide! And do not forget Elephant Rocks State Park, where you can walk among huge pink stones and learn all about the geological processes that created them. You can also see the engraved names of the stonemasons, left over a century ago when they were training at the site.

And then there is the fantastic floating! The Noire River is cool, clear, and perfect for a day-long aquatic adventure, with plenty of sandbanks and rocky beaches to stop for a break. There are many outfitters in the area that allow you to rent canoes, kayaks or tubes for your float.

While there are many campsites and chalets, Nature lodge just outside the town of Lesterville is the perfect location for a whole family. Its cozy and comfortable cabins by the river, on-site amenities, and delicious meals served in the main lodge (breakfast and dinner are included in your rate) make this a great choice. This place has been our family’s favorite for years.

The campus of the University of Missouri at Columbia.

Sean Pavone / Shutterstock

3. Colombia

Home to the state’s flagship university, Columbia sits midway between St. Louis and Kansas City and is packed with attractions and activities for your whole family. Of course, no visit here is complete without exploring the University of Missouri Campus. If you only have time for a stop, do it Francis Quadrangle, with its iconic columns, Jesse Hall, and historic red brick buildings. Take a slice of pizza (or a whole pie!) Shakespeare’s, where students have flocked for generations. And be sure to stroll through the terrific Ninth Street district in the city center, with its trendy boutiques, boutiques and cafes.

To have fun in the open air, Rock Bridge Memorial State Park has some of the best hiking trails in the state, winding its way through an extensive cave system, and Shelter gardens is a family favorite with its beautiful flowers, shrubs and manicured grounds. Learn How To Spend The Perfect Weekend In Colombia Here!

4. Innsbrook

For old-fashioned family fun in a tranquil and peaceful setting, consider Innsbrook for your next Missouri adventure. The resort, just an hour west of St. Louis, was first built as an A-frame resort inspired by mountain chalets in Europe and the natural beauty developers loved in Colorado. Today, as the property has grown to include luxury homes and condominiums, it still combines nature and recreation in a special and serene way.

Innsbrook features 100 lakes, nature trails, stables, tennis and pickleball courts, a swimming pool and even an 18-hole golf course, all while retaining its natural beauty and unspoiled. Large motors are not allowed in the resort, so you will be kayaking, canoeing, and fishing in calm, calm waters. And there are plenty of places within Innsbrook’s 7,500 acres to settle in, relax, and reconnect with nature and with each other. While many properties here are owned by individuals, vacation rentals are also available.

Fountain in Park Central Square in Springfield, MO
Steve cukrov /

5. Springfield

Located right in the Ozarks of Missouri, Springfield is an outdoor paradise! Start your adventure at Johnny Morris Museum and Wildlife Aquarium, where you will pass through immense aquatic habitats filled with fish, marine mammals and corals from all over the world. Then head to the flagship Bass Pro Shop store, stocked with everything any outdoor enthusiast could need for an adventure to come.

Fantastic caves takes pleasure underground; Here you will take a Jeep ferry ride deep into the earth, where you will see all manner of formations and learn about the 12 brave women who were the first recorded explorers of the massive cave complex in the 1860s. The Missouri State University Campus is located in Springfield and is definitely worth a walk as is the downtown area. And you can check out the summer boys at one Springfield Cardinals game – they are the Double-A club affiliated with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Entrance to the Clarksville River, MO
Photos BrianScantlebury /

6. Clarksville

To share an old-fashioned river respite with your family, consider the small town of Clarksville. Located about an hour north of St. Louis, Clarksville sits just off Highway 79 on a stretch of road that runs along the Mississippi River, offering some of the most scenic views in the state! The town is perched just above the US 24 Lock and Dam, providing the perfect vantage point to appreciate the traffic of river boats and barges up close. Fans of all ages will be delighted to watch the barges pass through the system of locks and dams and down the river. This part of the Mississippi is also a prime spot to spot bald eagles – they regularly stop in Clarksville to fish during their winter migration.

Clarksville has become something of a creative paradise, with artisans and artists, including potters and furniture makers, choosing to live and work in the historic buildings and homes of Clarksville. Rent a historic chalet or stay in a B&B, stroll along the riverside and browse the shops while relaxing and enjoying the slower pace of life here. Plan to make your way up Overlook the farms, an idyllic place situated high above the river. It is a working farm and the store sells many items produced on site. There are also several hostels in Overlook, some historic and all offering luxury accommodation.

View from the cellar in Hermann, MO
Allison Weston

7. Hermann

German immigrants founded Hermann in the 1840s; the terrain reminded them of the Rhine valley of their homeland. These settlers quickly built houses, churches and cellars. Many of these remain today and are great for the whole family to explore!

To learn more about the German immigrants who established Hermann, visit the Deutschheim State Historic Site. It includes two houses from the 1840s which are perfectly preserved to reflect what life was really like here at that time. Upper Town Park, with its historic Rotonde building, is also worth a stop. The brick octagon was built as an exhibition hall for an agricultural fair in 1864; today it is completely renovated and used for weddings and other special events.

In addition to the dozen wineries in and around Hermann, the town center is full of antique shops, boutiques and fun cafes. Woolen Expresso offers all kinds of fun drinks, snacks and even a huge selection of toys! If you’re looking for a little more adventure on your Hermann vacation, consider a bike ride or hike the nearby Katy Trail. Although Hermann is not directly on this great trail it is within 3 miles. You can easily rent a bike in Hermann, cross the river on the newly renovated bridge and reach the start of the McKittrick trail. The Katy runs through the most scenic areas of Missouri and is fun for the whole family.

Visit Missouri Tourism

Missouri Tourism Division

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