A Car-Free Adventure in Missouri

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It’s a fact that Midwesterners like to take road-trips. Given the choice between a six-hour drive or an hour-long flight, the Midwesterner will choose to drive more often than not.

But what if you don’t have a car, or you simply don’t want to put the miles on your vehicle? You might think it’s only possible to take a car-free trip on the east coast, where public transportation is readily available.

Even though Missouri is bigger than New York, New Jersey and Connecticut combined, you can take a remarkable trip through the heart of the Show-Me State to see some iconic sites, attractions, countryside and cities without ever needing a car. With Amtrak, the free Kansas City Streetcar, biking on the Katy Trail (if you choose), some easy walking and just a little logistical coordination, you can explore the midsection of Missouri. It’s the environmentally friendly – and relatively inexpensive – vacation you never thought to take!

Travel itinerary from St. Louis to Kansas City (and back):

Leg One

Start in St. Louis – board Amtrak at the downtown station or the Kirkwood station.

Stop off in Washington and visit the Missouri Meerschaum Corn Cob Pipe Company or the Iron Spike Model Train Museum. If staying overnight, rest up at the Brick Inn Bed and Breakfast. If you’ve brought a bike (Amtrak allows for bikes on board), Hermann is about a three-hour bike ride (34 miles) down the Katy Trail. While in Hermann, you might visit a winery, explore the quaint shops downtown near the train station, or stay overnight at one of the many inns or bed-and-breakfasts.

Leg Two

Depart Hermann on Amtrak bound for Jefferson City. 

When you arrive in the capital city, make sure to visit the Missouri State Capitol and the Missouri State Museum located on the ground floor. Don’t miss one of Thomas Hart Benton’s most noted works – the room-encompassing mural “A Social History of the State of Missouri” – on the third floor. For dinner, do some time at Prison Brews. All are within a short walk (or bike ride) of the Jefferson City Amtrak station.

You may choose to stay in Jefferson City overnight or hop on the evening Amtrak train bound for Sedalia. Or, if you’re really into biking, it’s only 87 miles from Jefferson City to Sedalia along the Katy Trail. Once you arrive in Sedalia, you’ll want to stay in the historic Hotel Bothwell, which opened in 1927. If visiting in mid-August, stop by the Missouri State Fair for delicious fair food, agriculture exhibits, tractor pulls and live shows.

Leg Three

After your stay in Sedalia, continue on Amtrak to Kansas City. 

Your final stop on the western edge of Missouri will be Kansas City’s beautiful Union Station. Across the street from the train terminal is Crown Center, a shopping, dining and entertainment complex on the campus of Hallmark Cards, Inc. Next door to Crown Center, rising nearly 300 feet above the surrounding area, is the National WWI Museum and Memorial, the only American museum dedicated solely to preserving the objects, history and personal experiences of the First World War.

Plan to spend a few days exploring the excitement Kansas City has to offer, such as amazing barbecue, nightlife, art events and exhibits (especially First Fridays in the Crossroads Arts District). The free KC Streetcar runs a 2.2 mile loop downtown along Main Street, from Union Station to the City Market, and offers easy access to attractions like the Power & Light District, Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts
and T-Mobile Center. Riding is always free, no matter how many times you get on and off!

Leg Four

Depart Kansas City on Amtrak.

Once you’ve spent plenty of time in Missouri’s biggest city, you might be ready to head back across the state. But don’t take the trip all at once.

Just outside Kansas City in Independence, you can visit the Truman Home, where the only president from Missouri once lived, or satisfy your sweet-tooth at Clinton’s Soda Fountain, where Truman once worked as a young man.

Leg Five

Arrive Back in St. Louis.

If you choose to ride Amtrak all the way back to St. Louis, consider disembarking at the downtown St. Louis station. You’ll be within walking distance of historic St. Louis Union Station, site of the new St. Louis Wheel, opening in mid-October 2019 and the St. Louis Aquarium, opening in late 2019.

Now that you know it’s not difficult to travel across the middle of Missouri without a car, create your own adventure! No matter where you start or stop your trip, with just a little planning you’ll be able to see Missouri’s two largest cities, small towns, the state capitol, wine country, and fascinating museums – without spending a dime on gas.

Written by Gabe Jones