Stretching across the northern part of Missouri, Highway 36 is known as The Way of American Genius. The route connects individuals and inventions that embody creativity, innovation and ingenuity. There’s also outdoor adventure, great food and drink, and historic bed-and-breakfast inns.
You’ll find genius on display in dozens of places along Highway 36. Here are some suggestions to get you started:
Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain, spent much of his boyhood in Hannibal – the Mississippi River town that inspired many of his greatest works including The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Learn more about the author, humorist, publisher and lecturer at the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum.
In 1892, Dr. Andrew Taylor Still established the country’s first school of osteopathic medicine, A.T. Still University, in Kirksville. Today, more than 100,000 doctors have graduated from more than 30 accredited colleges of osteopathic medicine in the United States. Discover the history of this approach to health care at the Museum of Osteopathic Medicine.
As a boy, Walt Disney spent several memorable years in Marceline, a place that nurtured his vivid imagination. He modeled Main Street USA at his Disney theme parks after Marceline’s downtown. Visit the Walt Disney Hometown Museum to explore the early life of the world-famous animator, writer and entrepreneur.
Learn the story behind Chillicothe’s claim to fame at the Home of Sliced Bread Innovation Center. In 1928, the Chillicothe Bakery Company was the first company in the world to sell commercially sliced loaves of bread. See the first bread slicing machine – on loan from the Smithsonian Museum.
The town where retail pioneer J.C. Penney was born and raised has been revitalized in recent years by the Missouri Star Quilt Co. – known as the “Disneyland of Quilting.” Although its dozen shops are currently closed due to the pandemic, the company continues to operate its online quilting supply business. Drive through downtown Hamilton to see murals honoring the area’s history and the world’s largest spool of thread.
As the west was being settled, a relay system of horseback riders to deliver the mail was developed in St. Joseph – and the Pony Express was born. With their saddlebags stuffed full of letters, the riders could deliver correspondence far quicker than a stagecoach could. Housed in the stables where the horses were once kept, the Pony Express National Museum features interactive exhibits about the riders’ adventures as they made their way through the untamed wilderness.
Enjoy solitude and scenic views at Mark Twain State Park, located in north central Missouri. Bluffs covered by stands of oak, hickory and maple are filled with deer, turkey and other wildlife line a beautiful, clear lake. The park has campgrounds, picnic areas, boat ramps and hiking trails.
The 2,430-acre Long Branch Lake is the centerpiece of Long Branch State Park, located near Macon. Camping, fishing, hiking and picnicking are popular activities.
At 151 feet in length, the Locust Creek Covered Bridge near Meadville is the longest of the four surviving covered bridges in Missouri. Built in 1868, the bridge once carried travelers across Route 8, the nation's first transcontinental highway.
Covering more than 10,000 acres, Swan Lake National Refuge near Sumner is a popular birding spot – more than 241 species of birds have been spotted there. It’s also one of the best places in Missouri to see bald eagles, especially during the winter months.
In 1804, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark noted large quantities of fish and geese at what is now Lewis and Clark State Park near Rushville. Bordering Lewis and Clark Lake, the park is still a great place for bird watching as well as camping, picnicking, boating and fishing.
Treat your taste buds to flavors from around the world at La Binnah restaurant in Hannibal. Located in a historic building dating back to 1870, the European-style restaurant offers fine dining in a cozy and romantic atmosphere.
The batter-dipped lobster and hand-breaded onion rings are just two reasons to visit the Pear Tree Kitchen and Bar in Macon. Pair a gourmet burger or a black Angus steak with a signature cocktail for a memorable dining experience.
Located on the square in Chillicothe, Boji Stone Cafe is part coffee house, part cafe and part bookstore. The cafe offers coffee and espresso drinks, fruit smoothies, pasta specialties, grilled sandwiches, salads, wraps, quiche, homemade cheesecake and tiramisu.
The majestic Shakespeare’s Chateau was built in 1885 when St. Joseph was known as "The Queen of the River Cities.” The home is one of several mansions in the Hall Street Historic District, known locally as "Millionaires' Row." The interior features 47 original stained glass windows and of a bust of the Bard himself above the grand fireplace in the front foyer.
Sitting on 36 acres with a gazebo, meadows, ponds, walking trails, llamas and wildlife, the Garth Woodside Mansion Bed and Breakfast in Hannibal offers eight guest rooms and three cottages. Amenities at the stately mansion, built in 1871, include feather beds, jetted tubs, a full bar and an extensive wine list.
Located in an 1889 Victorian home built for a lumber baron, Reagan’s Queen Anne B&B houses four guest chambers and two suites. The home features twin parlors with ornate cherry and walnut fireplace mantles and antique furnishings. A candlelit breakfast is served in the dining room, near a wall of 19th century stained-glass windows.
Experience the small-town charm of Macon at Phillip’s Place Bed and Breakfast, housed in a Classical Revival style home, built in the 1890s. The inn offers four guest suites, a formal dining room, parlor and an adjoining court yard.
The Romanesque Revival style Vineyard Mansion and Carriage House was built in 1890 for a prominent attorney in St. Joseph. The property is located in the Museum Hill Historic District, an area known for its stunning, Victorian-era homes.