Historic downtown St Charles. Image credit RN Photo Midwest via Shutterstock

12 Best Small Towns in Missouri For A Weekend Escape

The southern Midwestern state of Missouri is a real must-see experience amidst sprawling, vast grassy plains and forested foothills. Missouri's countless towns boast unique character and deep historical significance with modern-day and cultural attractions. Choose an art-laden locale, a getaway into the scenic Ozark Mountains for endless adventures, or many parks with nature trails.

These small towns are the best for a weekend escape to relax, refresh, and recharge with scenic sights and historical knowledge about the "Show Me State." Seek culture at countless museums and venues like malls and theaters, and experience old Southern charm at the hands of hospitable locals for endless memories with your loved ones.


Historic railroad Katy Bridge over Missouri River at Boonville with a lifted midsection and visitor observation deck
Historic railroad Katy Bridge over Missouri River at Boonville.

The town in Cooper County offers a laidback weekend getaway for history fans and nature enthusiasts in the land named after the infamous Daniel Boone's sons, who came west to establish their salt business. Boonville formed after the War of 1812 along the present-day Santa Fe Trail and the Missouri River's natural locale. Stroll the scenic streets reminiscent of the past, home to David Barton and William Ash, and where the Union Forces prevailed in a brief battle.

Seek southern charm in hospitality and sights around places like the nearby Warm Springs Ranch on a fun family day outing. Take on the Katy Trail State Park with a pair of hiking boots or a bike and snap a selfie across the Katy Bridge with the Missouri River backdrop. Enjoy some R&R in the evening at the Mainstreet Pub while the kids snack on the famous treats from Carrie Lyn’s Ice Cream Parlor. The Touch of Class Salon, Spa, and B&B round out the relaxing weekend escape in this lovely town.


Branson, MO water tower near the entertainment strip of Branson, a popular tourist destination.
Branson, Missouri water tower. Image credit Chad Robertson Media via Shutterstock

The Taney County town of Branson, cozily tucked within the Ozarks, is a popular weekend escape. The mountainous destination is perfect for city dwellers to dive into a small-town charming atmosphere replete with outdoor adventures. Named after the area's general store manager, Ruben Branson, in the late 19th century, tourists can enjoy a wide array of cultural pursuits sprinkled along the streetscape against a peaky backdrop. Hike in the day and catch a flick, a concert, or a play at one of the town's many entertainment theaters, or check out the Ralph Foster Museum.

Stroll to Branson Landing along the Lake Taneycomo waterfront to watch the sunset right downtown. The historic Branson Scenic Railway at the old depot on the waterfront is right across from the landing. Sneak in a popular show viewing at the Sight and Sound Theaters after dinner before heading for a peaceful rest at the atmospheric Cabins at the Green Mountains. Reserve a full day to do some scenic shopping at the outdoor mall along the pier.

Cape Girardeau

Cape Girardeau is a City on the Mississippi River and border between Missouri and Kentucky
Cape Girardeau along the Mississippi River. 

The richly historic Cape Girardeau is a perfect weekend getaway for any taste. It is a fun shopping destination with many family-friendly attractions. Find the vibrant West Park Mall right across Williams Street, with nearly 50 name brands and local outlets for fashionistas and window shoppers. Seek movie theaters, shops, and restaurants nearby on a fun family day outing. Hit the downtown area for an antiquing and thrifting spree to bring home a piece of decor unique to this corner of southeast Missouri.

Enjoy an art walk with river views downtown along the 24-panel Flood Wall Mural. The 15-foot-tall painted wall in-between the Mississippi River and Cape Downtown contains flood gates that let out excess water from the river. The Pear Tree Inn, right off I-55, is a convenient stay with comfortable accommodations and modern amenities like an outdoor pool and a spacious sun deck. The Trampoline Center and the Splash Family Aquatic Center cater to energetic kids, while the Conservation Nature Center and the Lazy L. Safari Park are great for knowledge-based discoveries.


town of Hannibal, Missouri
Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn Statue overlooking Hannibal, Missouri.

Tom Sawyer's "father," Mark Twain, was born and lived in Hannibal when he wrote the charming and infamous story while strolling around the same sights you will see today on an inspired getaway. Spend the weekend immersed in small-town charm with a slew of Mark Twain-related attractions like a museum, a statue, and even a lighthouse. Venture into nature on a stroll along the Mississippi River and the nearby cave. The delightful town at the intersection of Interstate 72 and US Routes 24, 36, and 61 is home to many shops and restaurants for a diverse weekend getaway.

Stock up on books and souvenirs, and visit the Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum, open for over a century to worldwide visitors wanting to relive Mark Twain’s life. Stick to the theme on a stroll through sights like the Garth Woodside Mansion Estate local B&B, the Mark Twain and Cameron Caves, and the Hannibal Free Public Library. Stray away from the literature on a Ghost or Vampire Tour in town or take a breezy boat ride along the Mississippi for a different view of delightful Hannibal.


Black Shire Distillery, Hermann, Missouri
Black Shire Distillery, Hermann, Missouri. Image credit RellMade via Shutterstock

Hermann, a town in the center of the Missouri Rhineland in Gasconade County is the commercial center for the production of wine in the area, which equals one-third of the total share in the state. The land of lush vineyards, established by German immigrants in the 19th century, experienced setbacks during the Prohibition period, but then flourished thereon. Hermann once again thrives through wine tourism as an ideal location for wine lovers to score a rare or discounted bottle during a weekend escape.

The town named by the Germans remembers its heritage during the Maifest in May and the Oktoberfest in October, while juicy sausages are a daily thing many come looking to sink their teeth into. The Stone Hill Winery is one of the state's largest winery businesses, while the Adam Puchta Winery is the oldest continually family-owned winery in the US. Balance the weekend of wine consumption along the Katy Trail, or combine the two on the Hermann Wine Trail, with samples of Missouri's best wine. The charming town is also home to many feel-good pursuits like antique shopping and visiting historic sites.


The historic Kimmswick market, built in 1877.
The historic Kimmswick market, constructed in 1877. Image credit Logan Bush via Shutterstock

The Jefferson County town of Kimmswick is easily reachable over a 25-mile drive south of St. Louis on a weekend getaway. Save precious days off work and escape back in time to the town founded in 1859 by Theodore Kimm, a St. Louis native merchant. Kimmswick spreads idyllically along the powerful Mississippi River, the growing town's lifeline. Visit in autumn for lovely fall colors and the Applebutter Festival in late October. 

The 1970s flood during the construction of Interstate 55 luckily omitted the town's historical and architectural treasures that constitute a destination in themselves. Take in the scenery on a stroll and snap selfies, as well as stop by one of the many antique and craft stores to bring home a memorable piece. If even Oprah mentioned the Blue Owl restaurant in her magazine, you know where to grab dinner in town. 


Route 66 Munger Moss Motel funny signpost, travel destinations, cloudy spring day
Route 66 Munger Moss Motel, Lebanon, Missouri. Image credit rawf8 via Shutterstock

Find the town of Lebanon along the "Mother Road," Route 66, parallel to Interstate 44, with the Hotel Hampton Inn, a comfortable home base for pursuits around town. Seek out the nearby local fruit farms with berry-picking and over a dozen antiquing places, or stay for a race along the Lebanon-I-44 Speedway. Learn trout fishing from the pros at the Jim Rogers Fly Fishing School, and then head for a fun stroll through town with family attractions, shops, and restaurants.

The central town along the rolling hills of mid-Missouri sits scenically surrounded by the Mark Twain National Forest. Learn about the famed Route 66 at a local museum and research center dedicated to this unique road. The historic forest is the ultimate getaway into the outdoors, with Missouri's most wondrous natural landmarks. Seek more pursuits at Bennett Spring State Park, like fishing and boating along the Niangua River or flying over treetops on a zipline. Explore the hiking trails around town with Missouri's most wondrous natural sights. 


Cyclists at Rocheport station on Katy Trail
Rocheport station on Katy Trail. Image credit marekuliasz via Shutterstock

With a small population of under 300, Rocheport offers a perfect respite at a must-see destination in Missouri. Lewis and Clack visited this trading post for settlers and Native Americans on their westward journey during the pioneering days. Follow their example and make a pit stop in Rocheport on your next Midwest road trip, or visit on a biking trip along the renowned Katy Trail through the quaint town.

The "Rocky Port," in French, with the 225-mile-long bike path across Missouri-wide traverses the heart of town in place of the former railroad. Choose the historic and restored Amber House for an atmospheric stay in a cute B&B with relaxing massages. Explore the scenic landscape on an art stroll and seek mental escape at the Les Bourgeois Winery and Tasting Room. Enjoy a shopping spree for unique finds at the Art & Antiques and Blacksmith to commemorate the trip.


A trio of bluegrass musicians performing at the Missouri State Fair.
A trio of bluegrass musicians performing at the Missouri State Fair, Sedalia.

One of Missouri's bigger towns, Sedalia, with a thriving population of some 21,000, sits wrapped in small-town charm, with plentiful amenities. The annual Missouri State Fair brings a stampede to this cultural town. Visit the inspiring Daum Museum of Contemporary Art with 1,500 modern art pieces by celebrated artists from the last half-century. Peek back in time at the Bothwell Lodge State Historic Site and the Katy Depot train station turned into a cool history museum, and find the Trails End Monument.

Sedalia is a perfect weekend escape for couples, with the best music scene around. There is a festival in memory of the famous musician Scott Joplin, with thousands of attendees each June. Make a pit stop in Sedalia on your cycling trip along Missouri’s Katy Trail for souvenirs, local history, and a fantastic art scene. Have a romantic dinner at the Ivory Grille at the Hotel Bothwell, or sink your teeth into the must-try Guberburger at The Wheel In for the ultimate "when in Sedalia" experience.

Ste. Genevieve

The County Clerk building in Ste. Genevieve, Missouri
The County Clerk building in Ste. Genevieve, Missouri.

The oldest town in Missouri, Ste. Genevieve, named after the Patron Saint of Paris dates back to the 1735 settlement by the French Canadians. Stroll the impeccably preserved landscape in-between stores and cafes amidst many historic homes, taverns, churches, and the Art Center. The downtown is replete with specialty craft shops with the most unique finds and cool souvenirs. Had to the River Rapids Waterpark for a fun day of splashing, or a ghost tour, especially popular among older children. Dine at the Midway Bar & Grill and choose the Inn St. Gemme for a night's rest before hiking the Hickory Canyons. 

The first organized European settlement on the west side of the Mississippi River briefly shifted from French rule to Spanish, after the French and Indian War. Today, Southern hospitality with a French flair is a must-experience on a weekend escape. Come in time for one of the many annual festivals that celebrate various aspects of the rich history and vibrant culture like the French Heritage Festival in June with dancing, concerts, and demonstrations. Stroll through the old town district with the Bolduc House Museum and the Felix Valle House State Historic Site, and finish the French-inspired day over a glass at the nearby Weingarten Vineyard.

St. Charles

A crowd of people walking and exploring at a summer street festival in St. Charles, Missouri
People walking and exploring at a summer street festival in St. Charles, Missouri. Image credit Wirestock Creators via Shutterstock

St. Charles is one of Missouri's most historic townscapes and the former state’s capital. On May 14, 1804, Lewis and Clark joined the Corps of Discovery from the St. Charles shore on a history-altering, two-year boat trip down the Missouri River. The town thrived thereon with independent businesses that found their customer base amidst the attractive, historically significant locale.

Browse and buy their work from the wealth of local art and craft places, or choose St. Charles for a scenically wonderful girls’ getaway by the waters, and strolls along the brick-lined streets. There are plenty of boutiques and eclectic stores to satisfy the most avid shopaholics. Enjoy coffee at an outdoor café, revel in local cuisine, and explore the Missouri wine region, all from the expansive shores of the magnificent Missouri River.


The main street in the Downtown Weston Missouri, United States
Downtown Weston Missouri. Image credit Wirestock Creators via Shutterstock

The hometown of the McCormick Distilling Company, the oldest west of the Mississippi, calls for relaxing in one of the best-known ways: over a whiskey and friendly blabbering with strangers. Weston was also the leading producer of industrial hemp until prohibition in 1937. The fun-spirited town is a great family escape into the outdoors with ample pursuits at the Weston Bend State Park or some peaceful one-on-one time with nature.

The adorable small town is also perfect for antiquing ventures through a wealth of artisan and eclectic shops. Head to one of the many cozy restaurants for dinner and hit the downtown wineries and breweries in the evening, like Vox Vineyards, Weston Wine Company, and O’Malley’s Pub. Nearby Kansas City is a fantastic shopping destination with varied opportunities to swipe the card to treat yourself and buy souvenirs.

Visit the oldest town in Missouri, settled by the French Canadian colonists in the first half of the 18th century, or follow Tom Sawyer's adventures. Choose any town in between for the natural scenery, art, and shopping unique to this corner of the country. You may end up amidst wine country or along the famed paved Katy Trail bike path, surrounded by endless cultural pursuits and sights with great places to eat and drink. The first taste of real Southern charm and local hospitality will make you wish the weekend lasted forever.

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