Everywhere you turn in Missouri, our state puts on an epic show. From natural marvels to human-constructed wonders, the Show-Me State offers it all. Look back into the past and you might get an insight into the present and the future. Here are just a few examples to get your mind going.
In St. Louis, admire the opulent and fascinating Chatillon-DeMenil Mansion, built in the mid 1800s. Learn about those who stayed in the house, including buffalo hunters, a Creole-Sioux family, a patent-medicine maker and the DeMenils themselves. The mansion boasts the world’s largest permanent collection of 1904 World’s Fair memorabilia – more than 1,200 items.
Stroll through yesteryear amongst the numerous shops and restaurants along Historic Main Street in St. Charles. This is Missouri’s first and largest Nationally Registered Historic District – dubbed the “Williamsburg of the West” by Southern Living magazine. The brick streets and charming buildings date to the 1800s. Visit the Lewis & Clark Boat House and Nature Center to learn about their epic journey. Among memorabilia and other items, the museum houses full-size replicas of the keelboat and pirogues used by Lewis and Clark.
Today, communication travels with the click of a mouse. However, in the 19th century, sending a message involved quite a bit of time – and quite a bit of bravery. The Pony Express National Museum showcases the fascinating history of the Pony Express, headquartered in St. Joseph. Housed in the original stables, the museum features memorabilia, maps and interactive exhibits sure to captivate visitors of all ages. Next time you send a quick email, remember the Pony Express riders who, in relays, galloped more than 2,000 miles westward from Missouri to California.
Fans of the classic American characters Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn – as well as literature and history buffs in general – cherish a visit to the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum. Located in the beautiful Mississippi River town of Hannibal – where Twain lived as a boy – this complex includes six historically significant buildings and two museums. The museum houses a treasure trove of Twain artifacts. Find out how this Missouri town sparked the imagination of young Samuel Clemens, who would later write under the pen name Mark Twain.
In Mansfield, 45 miles east of Springfield, visit the home of another beloved American author. Tour the Laura Ingalls Wilder Home & Museum, where Wilder lived when she wrote her renowned, cherished series of “Little House” books. The tour includes the farmhouse Laura and her husband Almanzo built in 1894, as well as the Rock House, which their daughter Rose had built for them in 1928. Artifacts in the museum include Pa’s fiddle, family keepsakes, handwritten Little House manuscripts and other items that tell the story of her life.
Travel to a simpler time at the Gray/Campbell Farmstead, the oldest home in Springfield. This picturesque homestead served as the dwelling place of John Polk Campbell, the nephew and namesake of the founder of Springfield. Tour the 1856 home, the detached log kitchen, the two-crib barn, the log granary and the family cemetery. Tours on weekends only; the site is staffed by volunteers, so it is a good idea to call to make sure the buildings are open. Open weekdays for school groups, by appointment.
Independence is the home town of President Harry S Truman. Several historic Truman locations can be toured; among them:
On the subject of historic sites, we would be remiss if we failed to cover the 1836 Missouri State Penitentiary (MSP). Missouri’s penal institution had been in operation for 100 years when Alcatraz started housing prisoners. In 1967, MSP was named the “bloodiest 47 acres in America” by Time magazine. Decommissioned in 2004, many areas of MSP are open (seasonally) for public tours, led by former corrections officers, guards and wardens who worked within its walls. This is a very popular attraction; therefore, reservations (which are required) should be made well in advance.
Step into history at the Historic Daniel Boone Home at Lindenwood Park, 10 minutes north of Defiance (about one hour west of St. Louis). The four-story structure was home to Daniel, his wife Rebecca and their ten children. It is on the National Register of Historic Places. The surrounding village is a simulated town, comprised of more than a dozen 19th century buildings, including: a general store, school house, grist mill, carpenter shop and the Old Peace Chapel. Guided and self-guided tours are offered.
These sites and many others make up the proud heritage of the Show-Me State. Have a great time in Missouri. Share your travels and discoveries with the world by posting your photos on our VisitMO Facebook page.