MO: The Places You Can Go!

MO: The Places You Can Go!

The Show-Me State is home to some of the most beautiful scenery, geography and people, so it’s no wonder our state offers such a wide variety of unique destinations to explore. From the young, to the young at heart, I hope you will venture out this fall and enjoy one of the many fun diversions Missouri has to offer. I’ll briefly describe some of my favorite landmarks in this month’s column, starting in our southwest community.

Naturally, the setting for many stories from our neck of the woods is nostalgic Route 66. The Mother Road served as a pathway to hope for people during the Great Depression who were escaping poverty and the remnants of the Dust Bowl and moving west in search of better opportunities. More than 200,000 visitors annually experience the “mystique and romance” of “The Main Street of America.” The Route 66 Museum and Research Center in Lebanon offers a free, self-guided tour, complete with a 1950s style diner and gas station, antique cars and a collection of articles. Springfield, referred to as the birthplace of Route 66, also has a visitor center to reminisce on simpler times. At the “crossroads of America,” or the intersection of Routes 66 and 71 in Carthage, guests can enjoy rooms restored to their 1940s décor at Boots Motel.

Another thing that is unique to southwest Missouri is prairie land. When our state joined the Union in 1821, over 30% of its topography was tallgrass prairie, but over time, that percentage has dwindled to less than 1%, a portion of which can be found in Prairie State Park in Barton County. In addition to the park’s panoramic views, swaying tallgrass and seasonal wildflowers, visitors may also observe the resident herd of bison that roams and grazes the area. Within the park, the Regal Tallgrass Prairie Nature Center offers multiple exhibits and interpretive programs, including a diorama of the prairie’s changes between spring and fall. The phone number to the park office is 417-843-6711.

If you like foraging for berries, mushrooms, plums or honey, Persimmon Hill Farm in Lampe is the place for you. Established in 1982 as a “you pick” farm where persimmon trees once grew, patrons will want to indulge on one of their signature Blueberry Thunder Muffins and other specialty items after picking their fill of fresh produce. Call 417-779-5443 for details.

Are you up for a hard-boiled egg eating contest or for a battle of clucking, cackling or crowing? Make plans to attend Cackle’s Annual Chicken Festival at their hatchery in Lebanon on Oct. 6-7. Cackle Hatchery is a third generation, family-owned business that has offered more than 200 varieties of U.S. Pullorum poultry since 1936. If you are in the market for chickens, waterfowl, turkey, guinea or game birds, call 417-523-4581, and they’ll ship them directly to your local post office.

History buffs will enjoy a trip to Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield in Republic to learn about the pivotal, second major battle of the Civil War. Over 2,500 people perished on both sides during the first five hours of fighting on Aug. 10, 1861. The battlefield’s visitor center offers an educational film, museum and rotating exhibits, and afterwards, guests can take the 5-mile guided driving tour or walking trails to see markers from the battle. Their phone number is 417-732-2662.

It will require a little planning, but one of Ellen’s favorite road trips is to Quilt Town, U.S.A. Nestled in the rural community of Hamilton in Caldwell County, northeast of Kansas City, the 12 shops that comprise this quilters’ paradise center around the original boutique, Missouri Star Quilt Company. Since 2008, Jenny Doan and her team have offered basic quilting supplies, the world’s largest selection of precut fabrics and quilting and sewing classes, popularized by her YouTube channel, Quilting with Jenny. Hamilton is also the hometown of retail clothing giant, James Cash Penney.

I’ll close with what is considered a modern Missouri marvel, Bonne Terre Mine, an abandoned lead mine in eastern Missouri that has been transformed into an underground walking, boating and diving adventure. Coined as “One of America’s Top 10 Greatest Adventures” by National Geographic, visiting this underwater ghost town of a once thriving mine should definitely be on every Missourian’s bucket list. Boat and walking tours are available to give visitors an up close look at the Billion Gallon Lake and surrounding artifacts and machinery used to chisel lead from the mines’ walls prior to 1962.

Of course, this is just a handful of exclusive places you can go in our incredible state. Check out for trip ideas, events and hundreds of other things to do in Missouri and heed this advice from Dr. Seuss, “…you’re off to Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, so get on your way!”

This column appeared in the Joplin Globe’s Better Living publication on Sept. 2, 2022.