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With cities large and small, an abundance of nature, and the Mississippi River, Missouri is the perfect state for a family vacation. From Branson to St. Louis—the “Gateway to the West”—and Kansas City to Kimmswick, these seven spots are guaranteed fun for all ages.
With countless live music acts, an amusement park, and plenty of educational opportunities, everyone is sure to have fun in Branson. As the state’s country music hub, there are tons of concerts throughout the city year-round. Nature-lovers can go swimming, boating, or fishing at Table Rock Lake, and the whole family can combine all of the above—plus an adrenaline rush—at Silver Dollar City. This famous 1880s-themed amusement park has live shows and concerts, craft shopping, and more than 40 rides and attractions for the entire family to enjoy. For iconic views of the city, end your trip with a ride on the Branson Ferris Wheel to take in sweeping views of the Show-Me State.
Many a Missourian has memories from summers spent at The Lake, and it’s time the rest of the world does, too. The city is built around the man-made lake, which in the warmer months, is filled with boats, jet skis, and people fishing and swimming. When you’ve had enough of the water, stop by the massive outlet mall, which has everything from Gymboree to J. Crew, or foster that friendly family competition on the golf or mini-golf courses. Stop by The Landing on Main Street for the arcade, souvenir shops, and a gooey and delicious cinnamon bun at Stewart’s Restaurant.
As the largest metropolitan area in the state, St. Louis has loads to offer families. The Saint Louis Zoo is consistently voted among the top in country. It’s free, and they have shows, events, and exhibits for kids and adults. The City Museum is a giant fantasy playground, where parents and kids alike can play in the huge ball pit, climb the indoor treehouse, and ride the 30-foot Ferris wheel. At Grant’s Farm, the family can get close and personal with loads of animals, ride a camel, see animal-encounter shows, and pet massive Clydesdales horses, goats, and more. Finish the trip with a visit to the world-famous Gateway Arch, and see the city from 630 feet (192 meters) above the Mississippi River.
For an educational trip, head to Hannibal, where author Mark Twain spent much of his childhood. Tour the Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum Properties, and visit the Hannibal History Museum for even more on the author and the town. Visit the Molly Brown Birthplace & Museum to learn about The Unsinkable Molly Brown, an activist and philanthropist who survived the sinking of the Titanic. Hannibal also has many monuments, galleries, theatre performances, and tours, including riverboat rides down the Mississippi and an old-fashioned trolley tour that makes stops at some of the attractions along the way.
Start your Kansas City family adventure at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, where admission is free, and the impressive collection spans the world and its cultures. Young kids—and maybe the young at heart—will love running around the field among the huge sculptures of badminton shuttlecocks. The city also boasts a superb zoo with animal shows, rides, and zookeeper chats. Before heading home, make a stop at LEGOLAND Discovery Center, where everyone can enjoy the 4D cinema, visit the LEGO Ideas Studio, ride the interactive Kingdom Quest, and when Mom and Dad need a little liquid energy, take a breather at the coffee shop.
Springfield is a charming town with friendly people and an abundance of nature activities. Explore the interactive habitats at the Wonders of Wildlife National Museum & Aquarium, including the encompassing 300,000-gallon (1,135,623.6-liter) aquarium, which hosts 35,000 underwater animals like fish, sharks, and jellyfish. Then, head to the Springfield Botanical Gardens to walk among the flowers, through the butterfly house, and into the Mizumoto Japanese Stroll Garden. For a little adventure, hop on a jeep tour of Fantastic Caverns, a series of caves, just outside of downtown Springfield. Observe the animals that make their home there, and see the impressive stalactite and stalagmite formations.
A tiny town just about 25 miles south of St. Louis, Kimmswick is filled with artisan craft stores and souvenir shops, many of which have been there since the town was founded in 1859. For a true dose of ancient history, visit Mastodon State Historic Site to see the Kimmswick Bone Bed, where scientists first discovered real proof that humans and the American Mastodon coexisted. Afterward, take a relaxing riverboat cruise before heading to The Blue Owl Restaurant and Bakery for a home-cooked dinner followed by a slice of the famous Levee High Apple Pie.