With the holidays come visions of Aunt Bethany's lime green Jell-O mold and obligatory family meals of turkey, mashed potatoes and all the trimmings.
If that's not your thing, you're in luck. Missouri has a great variety of dining options near awesome attractions, so you can grab a bite to eat and enjoy an afternoon outing with the family, instead of laboring over dishes half the afternoon.
Let's start with great comfort food. It doesn't get much better - or bigger - than the dishes served up at Lambert's Cafe in Sikeston. Known as the "home of throwed rolls" Lambert's is all about comfort food, from chicken potpies and roast beef to generous helpings of catfish and mammoth burgers. And don't forget all the great pass-arounds, including fried potatoes, black-eyed peas and, of course, warm rolls.
While you're in Sikeston, visit attractions such as the Depot Museum and Art Gallery, and the Sikeston Factory Outlet Stores, and take time to enjoy both the Sikeston Art and Antique Lovers Tour and the Sikeston Historic Homes Tour.
If you're more worried about what's for dessert than the lunch menu, set aside your concerns by visiting Joplin's Candy House Gourmet Chocolate Factory. From peanut butter meltaways and sea salt caramels to fudge, peanut brittle, caramel corn and more, Candy House has something to suit every sweet tooth on your holiday shopping list. Looking for a made-in-Missouri gift? Order up the Route 66 Mother Road Snack Basket and take it back to the family - they'll forgive you for skipping out on that traditional game of dominos.
During your time in Joplin, learn more about regional history at the Joplin History and Mineral Museum, see the state's largest waterfall at Grand Falls, and hop on the rails for a fun tour at the Country Caboose Railroad Museum, where memorabilia is displayed inside two train cars.
Of course, no visit to Missouri is complete without sampling some of our world-famous barbecue. And there's no better place to do so than Kansas City, where more than 100 barbecue joints offer everything from ribs and pulled pork sandwiches to smoked turkey and the Kansas City staple that is burnt ends. You know the famous names, such as Bryant's and Gates, but other local favorites include L.C.'s, BB's Lawnside and Jack Stack.
In Kansas City, the list of attractions to keep your family entertained is as long as the list of barbecue options. Art lovers enjoy Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, history buffs spend hours at the World War I Museum and Memorial and people of all ages like the chilly fun of the Crown Center Ice Terrace. One of the cool (pun intended) things about skating at Crown Center is its proximity to fun attractions such as LEGOLAND Discovery Center and SEA LIFE Aquarium, not to mention shopping, dining and lodging options.
Folks who visit central Missouri during the holidays find dining options abound in the state capital, Jefferson City. Enjoy big salads and Italian fare at Madison's, which is just a block from the Missouri Governor's Mansion (and a stone's throw from a variety of shopping options) in the downtown area. If your palate is decidedly more global, try Arris' Bistro and Liquid Lounge, where the menu has Greek, Italian, Asian and Latin fare and incredible dessert options ranging from assorted cheesecakes and chocolates to Arris' renowned baklava.
Along with the Governor's Mansion - which is beautifully lit during the holiday season - Missouri's Capitol is a must-see stop in Jefferson City. If the kids are with you, visit the Runge Conservation Nature Center, which has interactive displays kids enjoy, plus walking trails to help get your daily exercise and a dose of fresh air.
Another great spot for a holiday meal is found in Hermann, a German settlement on the banks of the Missouri River. Home to several popular wineries, Hermann is noted for its small-town charm, beautiful views of the river valley, proximity to Katy Trail State Park and great eateries. Among them is the Vintage Restaurant at Stone Hill Winery. With varied menus, you find offerings such as pork schnitzel and sauerbraten (marinated beef with spiced red wine sauce) at lunch and kassler rippchen (a smoked pork rib chop topped with maple bourbon sauce) and chicken schnitzel at dinner. Pair any of these dishes - and others - with Stone Hill's award-winning wines for an authentic Missouri experience.
The area's history and heritage are preserved at stops like the Historic Hermann Museum and the Deutschheim State Historic Site. Other wineries in the area include Adam Puchta, Hermannhof Winery, Endless Summer, Dierberg Star Lane, OakGlenn Winery, Bias Winery and Robller Vineyard & Winery.
As you can see, your family has plenty of opportunities to let someone else cook - and do the dishes - when you travel to Missouri this holiday season. And when you're out looking for a great restaurant, take time to enjoy the variety of attractions found in the Show-Me State. Head back to the VisitMO home page to start planning your getaway today!