A stone church in Branson, Missouri.

The Most Picturesque Small Towns In Missouri

The word “Missouri” means “wooden canoe people” or “he of the big canoe,” perfectly describing this landlocked state in the midwestern region of the United States. Those who have visited this state know it is a natural hidden gem, boasting rugged mountains, a gentle giant river, pristine forests, and naturally climate-controlled caves. From historical landmarks to immaculate lakes, these seven small towns, in particular, encompass all this beauty and more, making them some of the most picturesque locations, ideal for a perfect getaway.


Vibrant buildings in Hannibal, Missouri
Vibrant buildings in Hannibal, Missouri. Editorial credit: Sabrina Janelle Gordon / Shutterstock.com.

Hannibal is a gorgeous small town located 100 miles north of St. Louis along the mighty Mississippi River. This historic town is celebrated around the world as the boyhood home of the famous author Mark Twain. The town has wonderfully preserved its charm, which visitors can admire through its historic buildings. The Hannibal River cruise on the Mark Twain Riverboat takes visitors up and down the river. The one—or two-hour sightseeing cruise brings the mystique of the Mississippi River and the history of Hannibal to life.

To know more about the life of beloved writer Mark Twain, visiting Mark Twain's boyhood home and museum is a must. The museum is very well done, with lots of interactive exhibits. Besides this, tourists love to explore the wonder of the mysterious labyrinth that inspired Mark Twain’s work, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, in the Mark Twain Cave complex. It offers a 60-minute guided tour capturing the area's inspiring literature and rich history.


Aerial view of Branson, Missouri.
Aerial view of Branson, Missouri.

Branson is an Ozark town in southwest Missouri known as a family-friendly destination. The town is also revered for its live entertainment and is recognized as the “Live Entertainment Capital of the World.” It has over 45 theaters with thousands of seats to captivate visitors year-round.

Make the most of your trip by visiting Silver Dollar City, Branson’s number-one attraction for over 50 years. It features six world-class festivals, 40 live shows daily, 30 thrilling rides, and several family restaurants. For outdoor adventure, Ruth and Paul Henning Conservation Area is the place to be. It is a great place to hike and be surrounded by nature for a few hours. Moreover, Branson is home to three pristine lakes: Table Rock Lake, Lake Taneycomo, and Bull Shoals Lake. Each of the lakes offers spectacular views, pristine waters, and ample opportunities for water sports like water skiing, scuba diving, and jet skiing for the whole family to have a great time.


Mackay Hall at Park University campus in Parkville, Missouri,
Mackay Hall at Park University campus in Parkville, Missouri. Editorial credit: JHVEPhoto / Shutterstock.com.

Parkville is located in southern Platte County and is home to Park University and the National Golf Club. Originally, it was a thriving port for hemp and other products and grew faster than Kansas City. For visitors with a family, Parkville Nature Sanctuary is a must-visit. It is a 115-acre wildlife preserve and educational site, ideal for hiking in the woods. Hiking trails are available in various skill levels, and visitors enjoy the beauty of this place, from wildlife to waterfalls. Not too far from here is the Heartland Center, where a lot of activities can be planned for a day for the whole family, like swimming, archery, and horseback riding. Downtown Parkville will also give visitors inviting vibes with its unique shopping, beautiful scenery, and elaborate shopping experience.


Downtown Kimmswick, Missouri.
Downtown Kimmswick, Missouri. Image credit: Paul Sableman via Wikimedia Commons.

Kimmswick is located in Jefferson County and has a population of just 150. Theodore Kimm platted the town in 1859, and today, it is a picturesque destination in the heart of Missouri with a rich history.

The Port of Kimmiswick is a serene place for visitors to take a stroll along the charming riverfront and get a beautiful view of the mighty Mississippi River. Some of Kimmswick’s top tourist attractions include the Mastodon State Historic Site, where one can have a look at the bones of mastodons and other now-extinct animals. A full-size replica of the Mastodon skeleton will surely be a hit among kids. For antique lovers, Anheuser Estate and Museum will be the perfect place to go and look at the portraits, family heirlooms, antiques, and the family library. Kimmswick’s buildings, landmarks, and museums all tell the story of the town’s past, and everyone takes lovely memories back to their home with them.

Ste. Geneviève

Ste. Genevieve, Missouri
Historical buildings in Ste. Genevieve, Missouri.

The village of Ste. Geneviève was settled around 1740 by the French Canadians on the west bank of the Mississippi River, about two miles south of its present location. With all kinds of recreational activities to do all year round, the Ste. Gen-Modoc River Ferry is always a good option regardless of the season, except when river conditions make ferry operations unsafe. Locally referred to as the French connection, the ferry ride is loved by visitors for the pleasing and serene views along the journey.

The nearby Hickory Canyons Natural Area is also an ideal location for nature lovers; it is a hiking gem off country roads and leads to an amazingly gorgeous waterfall to mesmerize. Those in love with the outdoors will be in for a treat with the option to camp at the Hawn State Park Campground. The fantastic landscape offers a scenic and relaxing setting where visitors can hike, picnic, camp, and enjoy nature.

Van Buren

Arkansas and Missouri Railroad bridge crossing the Arkansas River between Fort Smith and Van Buren.
Arkansas and Missouri Railroad bridge crossing the Arkansas River between Fort Smith and Van Buren.

Van Buren, located in Carter County, was founded in 1833 as the county seat of Ripley County and was named after then-Vice President of the United States, Martin Van Buren. Van Buren lies deep in the southeastern Missouri Ozarks, a lovely and peaceful town of less than 800 people.

The first recommended place in Van Buren will surely be the Ozark National Scenic Riverways Park. This is such a wonderful state park for hiking; between the breathtaking views, the creek, and the short-leaf pine forests, everyone will be in awe of this park. Big Spring is another wonderful place to explore on the Van Buren trip. It is the largest natural spring in Missouri, averaging a flow of over 250 million gallons of water a day. Additionally, the whole family will find the Missouri Down Under Adventure Zoo a worthy stop. It is a family-friendly animal park with something for everyone to enjoy and enjoy an amazing time at Van Buren.


Downtown Main Street in Weston, Missouri
Downtown Main Street in Weston, Missouri. Editorial credit: Matt Fowler KC / Shutterstock.com.

The cozy town of Weston is in Platte County, with a population of 1,750. Weston was at one time the second-largest port on the Missouri River, surpassing both Kansas City and St. Joseph. Holladay Distillery is a gem to discover. It offers a unique opportunity to explore 160 years of history and witness real Missouri Bourbon being made. Visitors return loving the informative tour and understanding of the whiskey distillation process.

Another must-visit for nature lovers will be Weston Bend State Park, which offers exceptionally beautiful views of the Missouri River from an overlook and trails. A three-mile paved loop trail takes bikers and hikers through the scenic woody terrain. For a more relaxed experience, there is Pirtle Winery. It has produced quality wines since 1978 with great individuality and character. This winery gives every visitor a unique escape from everyday distractions and something to look back on and cherish.

Those looking for a memorable experience have several options in these picturesque small towns. From Missouri Down Under Adventure Zoo to Pirtle Winery, there is something for all ages to explore, enjoy, and have a fantastic time in seven of these small towns. The state of Missouri has nearly endless outdoor opportunities to enjoy. While large cities dominate the tourism landscape, taking off the beaten path to these small towns rewards visitors with a more bona fide taste of the homey charm and small-town living.

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