Missouri's small towns define the state just as much as larger cities like St. Louis, Kansas City, and Jefferson City. Between the state's bustling metropolises is the heart of Missouri, a place where small towns and communities populate the areas of the great plains and rugged landscapes of the little hallows throughout the Ozarks. While some rest high above the Missouri River on expansive bluffs, others are nestled and shrouded by forests.
Whether you are searching for places to explore Missouri's plentiful history during a weekend getaway or jam out at a concert, some of these quaint small towns in the "Show Me State" have you covered. Strap on your traveling shoes and come discover the nine most quaint small towns in Missouri.
You'll find the charming town of Arrow Rock between St. Louis and Kansas City. The current population is between 58 and 62, making it one of the smallest double-digit towns. This small river town was an essential stop along the Santa Fe Trail, and the location has been recognized as a National Historic Landmark since 1963. The Santa Fe Spring is a protected natural area south of the Arrow Rock Village. The spring is a beautiful historic site heavily wooded with a stone bench to rest at and a wooden bridge that crosses the spring.
In Arrow Rock, the J. Huston Tavern is one of the oldest restaurants in town and has an incredible menu of home-cooked meals. Badger's Hideaway is a must-visit ice cream shop where all of the ice cream is made in-house. Enjoy a theatrical performance at the Arrow Rock Lyceum Theater. This historic theater pus on various productions throughout the year, including the well-known and popular Charles Dicken's A Christmas Carol.
With a history dating back to the 1850s and resting along the banks of the Mississippi River, Kimmswick, Missouri, comprises well-preserved historic buildings. Kimmswick was founded in 1859 by a German immigrant, Theodore Kimm. Many of the town's modern-day shops are in historic buildings that date back to the late 1850s. The Barbagallo House is a prime example of some of the beautiful French Creole architecture in the area. You can tour the Anheuser Estate, which still includes many of the family's items. During the 19th century, the Port of Kimmswick was an essential trading hub. Today, the port serves as a place to enjoy day-long cruises along the Mississippi River.
When you are ready for a bite to eat, it is worth stopping into the Blue Owl Restaurant and Bakery for homemade food and baked goods. During the fall, the Apple Butter Festival takes place. This annual event is a great place to get food, drinks, and shop at various craft vendors.
Founded in 1833, Van Buren, Missouri, the town gets its name from the vice president of the US, Martin Van Buren. This small town is near the Ozark National Scenic River Parkway and Current River. It is an excellent location for soaking in the great outdoors, with all the recreational opportunities available. Visitors and locals alike spend hours floating, hiking, and camping throughout the area. Mark Twain National Forest, Watercress Recreation Area, and Big Spring are two more beautiful outdoor areas year-round. The Watercress Recreation Site is perfect for day use and overnight camping. The campground is adjacent to the lovely Current River.
The Missouri Down Under Adventure Zoo and Current Caves can make you forget you are in the United States, let alone Missouri, with all the unique and exotic animals. Tour the cave, go gem mining, and even pet kangaroos. It is an awesome place for adults and kids of all ages, making it the perfect stop for the entire family. The Landing Current River is ideal for anyone interested in fun on the water. This business began in the 1980s and has expanded quite a bit. Aside from the deluxe tubes, visitors can find canoes, kayaks, and whitewater rafts for rent.
Hermann, Missouri, is a lovely village along the Missouri River Valley. While photographs do not compare to an in-person visit and experience, the area (especially during the fall and winter) gives off Thomas Kinkade painting vibes. The rolling vineyards are one of Hermann's prized features. While Missouri is known as "Wine Country," it was the second largest wine-producing region in the nation before Prohibition.
You don't have to be a wine lover to enjoy the area. The Katy Trail is about three miles from Hermann and is a popular location for afternoon bike rides. Interactive walking tours throughout the village allow visitors to enjoy the incredible scenery while they learn about the area's exciting history. While you are out and about, keep an eye out for some of the fantastic murals depicting the days of old and the establishments that once served the townsfolk. For instance, the Missouri Valley Ice Cream Mural represents the 1950s Berlener's Pharmacy, the old local hotspot for shakes, malts, and ice cream. Near every mural, unique attractions can be found, like the Lewis and Clark Marker, the Hermann 1837 Cellar Bar, and the Concert Hall (to name a few).
Historic Rocheport, Missouri, is another lovely small town that has maintained much of the old-timey charm it had in 1825, when it was founded. The Katy Trail Rocheport Tunnel combines natural scenery and beautiful architecture. This tunnel was once meant for trains, but today you can walk, bike, or skate through the 240-foot space.
Being a town along the Missouri River, visitors can experience guided boating and canoe tours to learn about the Mighty Missouri and the history of its surrounding area. If you are interested in staying overnight or for a few days, the Rocheport Honey House is a beautiful bungalow in the center of town. It is close to the Katy Trail and various shops. The Meriweather Cafe and Bike Shop is a popular restaurant and bike shop combined. Not only do they serve delicious food made from scratch, but they also offer bike rentals for adults and children.
In the heart of the beautiful Ozarks, you will find Fredericktown, one of the oldest towns along the western banks of the Mississippi. Outdoor enthusiasts are always pleased with the abundance of outdoor opportunities and the area's natural beauty. Stop for an afternoon picnic at City Lake, Memorial, or Azalea Parks. You will also find playgrounds and sports fields, making an ideal location for the family. A short drive can lead you to incredible recreation areas, including Caster River Shut-ins, Millstream Gardens, Silver Mines, and Amidon State Park. The Castor River Shut-In is one of the only known pink granite shut-ins in the state. The pinkish-colored granite from the Breadtray formation is an exceptional backdrop amidst the flow of the Castor River.
Founded in 1818, history buffs can enjoy a walk throughout the historic downtown area to explore the Battle of Fredericktown Civil War Museum. You don't have to be a fan of history to visit the historic train depot that has been converted into a restaurant. The Depot Cafe is a historical landmark in the area. What was once the Missouri Pacific Railroad Station is now an exceptional place to grab lunch or dinner.
Historic Weston, Missouri, invites you to step back in time while making your own memories. Founded in 1837, the historic downtown district is the place to be for history fans. A trip to the Spa Weston is the absolute perfect place to wind down and relax. Not only can you enjoy a massage, but the spa also offers other self-care services, like facials. Adults can enjoy a night out at O'Malley's 1842 Pub, where Irish entertainers perform live. The pub has an extensive beverage menu with everything from hot to frozen drinks and a feature menu offering delicious food.
Other dining options in Weston include everything from quick and casual to fine dining. Avalon Cafe, Dirt Farm Cremery, Tin Kitchen Southern Smokehouse, and 640 Pizza and Pints are exceptional places to get some out-of-this-world food. Whether you are a history aficionado or merely want to learn more about the area's profound history, there are various museums to explore. The Lewis and Clark Museum chronicles Lewis and Clark's journey with a primary focus on their stop in Weston. The Silk Art Museum displays over 500 pieces of outstanding silk art pieces from the 15th through the 20th centuries.
"The Middle of Everywhere," otherwise known as Rolla, Missouri, is in the south-central Ozarks Highland region. The quaint town of Rolla was an essential site during the Civil War, part of the importance had to do with the Pacific Railroad's southwest branch. The Fort Wyman Historical Marker is an excellent place to learn more about Rolla's role in the Civil War. Ber Juan Park is a beautiful park with a pool and peaceful walking trails. Schuman Park is an excellent playground for the kids, featuring a restored steam engine. If you have your beloved dog with you, the Rolla Dog Park is a nice place to let them roam.
The Ozark Actor's Theater and S&T's Leach Theater are exceptional venues to explore all things related to the performing arts. You can see everything from comedians and orchestras to acrobats and magicians. For more family fun, Rolla Bowling Center has 16 bowling lanes in a family-friendly atmosphere. The Great Xscape is Rolla's first escape room, with four unique rooms full of puzzles. The Zone is the area's only roller skating complex and has games and various activities.
Runcible Games is a place that does not get enough of the spotlight. Here, you will find a library of various board games with tables to seat yourselves and enjoy. Frisco 1501 Engine is the place to be for train lovers, home to one of thirty 1500 series engines built in 1923 for the Frisco Railroad. The Edward L. Clark Museum displays minerals, rocks, fossils, maps, mammoth tusks, and various historic items.
Established over 200 years ago, Farmington, Missouri, is a proliferating town within the Midwest region. Along the edge of the Ozark Mountains and an hour south of St. Louis, the town is surrounded by some of the state's most scenic parks. You will find hiking trails, golf courses, and an extreme off-road recreation area. St. Joe State Park offers a popular off-road area.
There are 15 local parks in the pretty town of Farmington, each offering excellent outdoor experiences. You can enjoy picnics, barbecues, playgrounds, and sports courts. Disc golf, anyone? Choose between one of the two highly recognized disc golf courses to enjoy a few rounds. Long Park is located in the Farmington State Park. This park is equipped with obstacles, rails, and ramps, with 30,000 square feet for skateboarders and BMX riders to bust moves.
While Branson, Missouri, has all of the big-city feels and attractions, it is a small town. Branson is located in southwest Missouri and is a popular family vacation destination. Home to Silver Dollar City, the Titanic Museum Attraction, Dolly Parton's Stampede, the Butterfly Palace and Rainforest Adventure, and Sight and Sound Theater, the town is fully loaded with something for everyone of all ages to do.
The Historic Downtown district, Branson Landing, brings nostalgia and wholesome fun, and Branson's 76 Country Boulevard is lined with theaters. You'll find touches of history and historical information throughout the town, along with candy shops, restaurants, and the popular Branson Boardgame Cafe. Silver Dollar City is an 1880s theme park with roller coasters, regular live performances, water fun, cruises, and various entertainment. Nature lovers can also glimpse their preferred paradise with the Lakeside Forest Wilderness Area, Ruth and Paul Henning Conservation Area, and White River Balds Natural Area.
Missouri's quaint small towns are full of historic charm and quaint locations. Whether you are in the mood for upbeat and fast-paced fun or the slower, quieter side of life, these small towns do not disappoint. Missouri is an excellent state to travel through, with beautiful scenic roads, abundant wildlife, and attractions throughout.