Well, you've done it. Everyone you know is jealous, but you're pumped.
You've got 10 days - 10 days! - off and Missouri is your vacation destination.
Should you set your sights on St. Louis and the Gateway Arch? What about seeing how many barbecue restaurants you can visit in Kansas City? Maybe you want to take your time cruising across the state on Route 66.
These are all excellent options. Here's another one: see the small-town of Missouri. The Show-Me State's landscape is dotted with charming communities of fewer than 15,000 residents that are both rich in history and outdoor fun, and full of modern amenities.
Let's take a look at a few ...
Friday-Sunday, Washington - Three days in Washington, population 14,000, opens a world of possibilities for you. Just an hour west of St. Louis and perched on the banks of the Missouri River, Washington caters to outdoor enthusiasts at spots like Rennick Riverfront Park, to history lovers at Fort Charrette Historic Village and fans of the arts at the Gary Lucy Art Gallery. Enjoy fine dining at The Blue Duck, Missouri barbecue at Sugarfire Smoke House and Missouri wines at Augusta Winery (10 minutes north). Hermann, 30 miles west, is a great day-trip destination.
Monday-Wednesday, Steelville - Prepare for three days of outdoor adventure in this small city (population 1,700). The early part of the work week is an ideal time for float-trip fun in Missouri, as you'll avoid some of the weekend crowds and find tranquility on the water. Make The Rafting Company Camping-RV Resort your home base and plan an outing (or two) on the Upper Meramec River. Continue the outdoor fun on the hiking trails at Meramec Conservation Area and cap your day(s) with dinner and a drink at Public House Brewing Company in St. James (20 minutes west).
Thursday, Clinton - It's about a three-hour drive from Steelville to Clinton, where Katy Trail State Park and Truman Lake make the perfect one-two combo for outdoor excitement. There are two marinas (Bucksaw and Long Shoal) within 15 minutes of Clinton, which is one of the trailhead cities along the Katy. Rent a boat or bike and enjoy the fresh air and open spaces of this small town (9,000 residents). Add a dose of regional history to your experience by visiting the Henry County Museum and Cultural Arts Center.
Friday-Sunday, Excelsior Springs - From Clinton, it's a little more than a 90-minute drive north to Excelsior Springs, a city known for its healing waters. Set up shop at The Elms, a resort property which features a luxurious spa and a restaurant. Learn about the history of the area by visiting The Hall of Waters Visitor Center and Cultural Museum, then wine and have a picnic at Fence Stile Vineyards and Winery. Spend your last days of freedom luxuriating poolside or taking day trips to nearby cities such as Liberty, where natural beauty abounds at the Martha Lafite Thompson Nature Sanctuary, and Kearney, home to Tryst Falls Park.
By the time your vacation ends, you'll be well rested and ready to get back to the grind. Oh, who are we kidding? This trip has been so much fun going into the office is going to be brutal. But it pays the bills ... and helps you afford that next Missouri adventure.