Missouri has so much going for it: beautiful lakes, big rivers, sophisticated cities, quaint small towns, gorgeous scenery, all four seasons and fascinating history … and that’s just what’s on the surface. Let’s take a look at what cool things lie beneath.
Missouri is known as the Cave State and we have some 23 caves that offer public tours, but we’re going to explore some of the more creative ways the Show-Me State turns subterranean spaces into places you don’t want to miss.
Come explore history that’s just below the surface. Descend into the new Museum at the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, and trace the story of the American Indians, explorers, pioneers and rebels who made the state possible.
Take the 65-step staircase down into Bonne Terre Mine to discover one of the earliest deep-earth lead mines, founded in 1860. Today, it’s a popular place to scuba dive in the underground lake, view the abandoned shafts on a boat tour or take a one-hour guided walking tour along the old mule trails.
Tucked below the iconic Liberty Memorial Tower in Kansas City, the National World War I Museum lets you experience the war to end all wars through the eyes of those who lived through that turbulent time, both in battle and on the home front.
Delve into the development of Southwest Missouri at the Ancient Ozarks Natural History Museum
in Ridgedale, near Branson. Marvel at carbon-dated skeletal remains of wooly mammoths and saber-toothed tigers and learn about the people and animals that inhabited the area for more than 12,000 years.
Not everything underground is about history. Go below to play at Stark Caverns‘ seasonal Cave Escape Adventure in Eldon, where guests are treated to a one-hour family-friendly escape room experience with a guide. You can also pan for gems and fossils at their sluice.
Jaegers Paintball is the world’s first and only underground paintball arena. Nestled in the hillside of one of Kansas City’s oldest limestone mines, Jaegers has five underground recreation fields and a two-man speedball field. For the traditionalists, they also have outdoor fields available seasonally.
An 1870s sand mine has been transformed into “The Cave” at Crystal City Underground in Crystal City. Attach their LED lights to your discs and play a round on the only underground disc golf course in the world. Go kayaking or take a canoe tour on their spring-fed 150-acre underground lake. The facility took some damage during the spring floods and hopes to reopen in late fall.
Inevitably, you’re going to need sustenance during your subterranean tour of the Show-Me State – but you don’t have to surface just for that.
Check out Undercliff Grill & Bar in Joplin: a family-owned restaurant that features a great menu and a fascinating history – and it’s built into the side of a limestone bluff.
At Cave Vineyard in Ste. Genevieve, pick out your favorite wine(s) and a picnic lunch up top in the tasting room, then take an easy walk down to enjoy your feast in the cave. Shuttles are available most weekends during summer and fall.
And for liquid refreshment for adults, relive the Prohibition era at one of Missouri’s underground speakeasies, like P.S. Speakeasy at Hotel Phillips in Kansas City…the Thaxton in St. Louis…and El Puerco Ciego at 1785 Restaurant in St. Joseph.
Dip below the surface and explore the Show-Me State underground.
Written by Barb Brueggeman