Famous for providing the inspiration and backdrop for the legendary ‘Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’ the state located in the Midwestern United States is a laid-back place filled with wide-open spaces, a famous sprawling mountain range, large plains, meandering rivers, and plenty of gorgeous hidden gems.
If you’re looking to explore the best of the state, here are the best and most beautiful places to visit in Missouri…
1. Ozark Mountains and Lake of The Ozarks – the famously beautiful area and vacation spot in Missouri
Made famous by a popular Netflix series and a huge sprawling expanse covering Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma and the far southeastern corner of Kansas is a must-see (and stay!) beauty spot when exploring this state.
The area is actually made up of three separate areas the Boston, Springfield, and Salem Plateaus, and is heavily forested.
It’s a tranquil place and a family vacation favorite and there are many great things to here including hiking, golfing, boating, camping, and exploring the many quirky little gems on offer.
Don’t miss the beautiful Lake of the Ozarks, a reservoir created by impounding the Osage River and one of Missouri’s premier vacation destinations.
My must-do highlights of Ozark Mountains and Lake of The Ozarks
- Check out the magnificent rock formations at the Bridal Cave, well know for being one of the most scenic caverns in America.
- Visit the ruins of the 20th-century castle in Ha Ha Tonka State Park where you can also see spectacular views of the lake.
- Taste the delicious flavors of handmade dipped chocolate, fudge and saltwater taffy at Grandma’s Candy Kitchen.
2. Blue Spring – the most beautiful natural spring to visit in Missouri
Located in Eminence Township, the spring is absolutely gorgeous and will entice you in right away. It has been around for more than four decades and is the type of attraction that you will never forget.
Surrounding the spring are trails that you can hike for roughly three miles, and they end right where the spring is, and both the trail and the spring are spectacular and eye-catching.
Even if all you want to do is visit the spring and dip your toes in it, it is worth a trip to Eminence Township to be able to do so.
My must-do highlights of Blue Spring
- Snap an Insta-worthy shot in the vibrant blue water before enjoying a swim around.
- Admire the scenery along the hiking trail to get to the Blue Spring.
- Pack a picnic for lunch and stop off at one of the picnic areas for a break.
3. Wah’Kon-Tah Prairie – a stunning protected area to explore in Missouri
This is a gorgeous and unspoiled spot to explore in Missouri. It’s a huge 3,350-acre area and a large part is a conservation area owned by The Nature Conservancy of Missouri.
The aim of the trust is to restore native grasslands and protect the prairie ecosystem that did once cover a much larger part of Missouri.
It’s a stunning and tranquil spot dotted with wildflowers, rare plants, and wildlife, and is well worth a visit with your camera especially during the Fall when the leaves change.
My must-do highlights of Wah’Kon-Tah Prairie
- Soak up the tranquillity of the area whilst being surrounded by the most beautiful wildflowers.
- Go for a walk through the unspoiled area before catching a breathtaking sunset.
4. Big Cedar Lodge – America’s Premier Wilderness Resort surrounded by stunning Missouri landscapes
Big Cedar Lodge is located in Ridgedale on Table Rock Lake and is a beautiful vacation resort visited by tons of people each and every year. It sits in the heart of the Ozarks and therefore offers an incredible view regardless of where you are.
With mountains in the background and plenty of trees to enjoy, you will love Big Cedar Lodge, regardless of which season you choose to visit.
Indeed, from the bright orange and red leaves in the Fall to the warm temperatures of the summer, you’ll fall in love with this place the very first time you go there.
My must-do highlights of Big Cedar Lodge
- Take the 2.5 mile golf cart tour to discover the rock formations and waterfalls surrounding the Top of the Rock Lost Canyon.
- Play a round of golf at the award-winning courses designed by famous players.
- Stay overnight at one of the unique accommodations in Camp Long Creek for an unforgettable experience.
5. Dogwood Canyon – a gorgeous nature preserve perfect for hiking, biking, and tram tours
With water, trees, and lots of stuff to do, this facility – located in Lampe – truly offers something for everyone. You can go horseback riding, bike riding, or even take a Segway tour if you want some unique fun.
There’s a restaurant and a great view of some amazing waterfalls, so if you’re looking for a place that is fun and gorgeous at the same time, this is it.
Dogwood Canyon is very popular but not well-known to a lot of people, yet the facility is working hard to turn this around, which is why it offers both tourists and locals so much.
My must-do highlights of Dogwood Canyon
- Hire a bike and go cycling through the designated paths to view the picturesque scenery.
- Discover the nature around the area by booking a wildlife tour on one of the open-air trams or segways.
- With over 15-miles of paved paths and nature trails, going for a hike is a must-do activity.
6. Elephant Rocks State Park – a unique state-owned geologic reserve and public recreation area
Located in Belleview, Elephant Rocks State Park has some gorgeous views and offers lots of hiking trails for those who love to hike or jog, picnic tables for anyone who wishes to relax for a while, and enjoy a nice picnic lunch, and much more.
But the highlight of the entire park is the set of rocks that are shaped just like elephants in a circus line.
Yes, these are natural rocks that Mother Nature had a hand in making, and regardless of what you look for when you head out to a certain tourist attraction, the Elephant Rocks State Park is definitely one of the best places to visit in Missouri.
My must-do highlights of Elephant Rocks State Park
- Don’t forget your camera. You will want to grab the most Instagrammable pictures of the uniquely formed rocks.
- Hike along the Braille Trail for the easiest way to view the rocks and an old railroad engine house.
- Walk to the lookout point which will then take you down to a sheltered cove and a small spot for swimming.
7. Missouri State Capitol and Governor’s Mansion, Jefferson City – the best things to do in Missouri for history fans
These are both impressive historic attractions to add to your Missouri itinerary. Located in the capital of Missouri Jefferson City, the State Capitol Building was completed in 1918 and covers a sprawling three acres in the downtown area.
It’s a beautiful Neoclassical-style Dome building and is also home to The Missouri State Museum where you can learn about the history of the state. Free guided tours are also offered year-round.
The Governor’s Mansion is another great historic attraction. Built in 1871, the three-story brick mansion is a fine example of Renaissance Revival Architecture and offers tours where guests will have the opportunity to step back in time and learn about the state’s history.
When in the city make sure you also visit some of Jefferson City’s attractions including the Carnahan Memorial Garden, Missouri State Penitentiary Museum, and the Missouri State Penitentiary.
My must-do highlights of Missouri State Capitol and Governor’s Mansion, Jefferson City
- Embark on a historic tour inside the Gouverneur’s Mansion, perfect for those who want to step back in time.
- Wander through the city to admire the stunning architecture and well known landmarks.
- With many markets and boutiques around the area, a bit of shopping is an ideal way to spend an afternoon.
8. Prairie State Park – a gorgeous public recreation area home to nearly 4,000 acres of grasslands and woodlands
Located at NW 150th Lane in Mindenmines, it is the largest remaining tallgrass prairie in the state.
It is the perfect combination of lush green grass that blooms most of the year and tons of gorgeous wildflowers during the summer months.
Picture a beautiful field filled with lavender wildflowers and healthy green grass dotted with buffalo, birds, deer, and snakes and you’ll understand what makes this state park so special.
If you’re visiting Missouri, this is one place you definitely want to visit thanks to its natural beauty and colorful landscape.
My must-do highlights of Prairie State Park
- Visit the coast with a picnic to enjoy a spot of lunch along the beach.
- Hike along the Prairie Creek Redwoods Walk. This trail is great for all abilities and surrounded by a jungle of giants.
- Check out the 50-foot tall canyon covered with majestic primal ferns.
9. Gateway Arch, St. Louis – the state’s iconic Gateway Arch
This St. Louis icon promises not to disappoint, and it is definitely one of the most recognizable and beautiful spots in Missouri. If you are anywhere near St. Louis, as a matter of fact, you owe it to yourself to explore this iconic landmark.
You can also visit the museum and take a cruise on the waters surrounding the Arch for an even better look at it.
If you want to see something truly unique and fascinating, make sure you visit the Arch at nighttime so you can see how it lights up the sky and makes the entire area look stunning.
My must-do highlights of Gateway Arch, St. Louis
- Ride in the retro elevator for a one-of-a-kind experience which rotates whilst your are in it.
- Cruise along the river with a riverboat tour to witness beautiful skyline views.
- Take a moment to appreciate the incredible architecture of this iconic landmark.
10. Ha Ha Tonka State Park – one of Missouri’s main highlights and a great place to take a scenic vacation
This is a beautiful park filled with gorgeous protected scenery which spreads across over 3,700 acres and is located on the Niangua arm of the Lake of the Ozarks.
It’s filled with unique and stunning scenery such as caves, lakes, sinkholes, caves, a large natural bridge, towering bluffs, and Missouri’s twelfth largest spring.
There are many excellent hiking trails (including some paved walkways) here as well as a special-use camping site and flora and fauna such as prairie grasses and wildflowers and valley woodlands.
One of the famous landmarks to explore in the park is the ruins of the Ha Ha Tonka castle which was built in 1905 by businessman Robert McClure Snyde. Even though it was badly burned in a fire it’s still a striking and photogenic sight which stands on a 250-foot bluff.
If you want to take a vacation here the park offers cabins, a campsite and an RV Park as well.
My must-do highlights of Ha Ha Tonka State Park
- Visit the naturally formed bridge which reaches over 100-feet tall and was once the entrance to the castle.
- Climb up the 316 wooden steps from the spring head to the top of the bluff.
- Hire a kayak or paddleboard to spend some time exploring through the river trail.
11. Grand Falls – a beautiful location to explore in Joplin
Grand Falls, located in Joplin, is one of Missouri’s many incredible waterfalls. In fact, it has the distinction of being the largest continuously flowing natural waterfall in the state.
It is absolutely breathtaking, and while you’re surrounded by these incredible waterfalls, you can enjoy a picnic on the shore or even take a dip in the cool water.
Most people in Missouri consider this the most beautiful waterfall in the state, and once you visit it just one time, you’ll understand what all of the fuss is about
My must-do highlights of Grand Falls
- Go for a swim in the still pools located at the downstream of the falls, don’t forget your water shoes.
- Watch a dramatic and vibrant sunset go down over the west side of this location.
- Embark on a kayak journey in the calm water pools by the waterfall before heading downstream with the current.
12. Jacob L Loose Park, Kansas City – a must-see scenic attraction if you’re visiting Kansas City
Kanas City is an increasingly cool place to visit in Missouri known for its fountains, great shopping and its jazz heritage.
There are many awesome things to do in Kansas City but one of the prettiest attractions is the Jacob L Loose Park, a major tourist site and the third largest park in Kansas City, Missouri.
Home to a lovely lake with a central fountain, a shelter house, and Civil War markers as well as recreational highlights including tennis courts, a water park, picnic areas, and a Rose Garden.
It’s located at 51st Street and Wornall Road and once you have explored here take time to visit some of the other attractions in the city including the beautiful Union Station, The Vine District, Arabia Steamboat Museum, and its many excellent Craft Beer Breweries.
My must-do highlights of Jacob L Loose Park, Kansas City
- Admire the beautiful rose garden filled with nearly 3,000 flowers across 1.5 acres of land.
- Check out an exhibition at the Garden Center which also hosts a library.
- Wander along the trails throughout the park to discover the wonderful greenery.
13. Clifty Creek Natural Bridge – a stunning natural beauty spot to visit in Missouri
There’s no doubt that natural bridges are a sight to behold, and the Clifty Creek natural bridge in Dixon is no exception. This bridge is 40 feet long and is found at the end of the 2.5-mile Clifty Creek Natural Area Trail.
Offering breathtaking views and scenery, the bridge is definitely something you’ll want to see when you’re visiting this town that sits almost smack-dab in the middle of the state.
Mother Nature provides us with some pretty amazing natural phenomena, and this is one you won’t want to miss.
My must-do highlights of Clifty Creek Natural Bridge
- Take the scenic 2.5 mile trail that leads you from the conservation area right to the bridge.
- Keep an eye out for the beautiful natural features along the trail and have your camera on hand to grab a shot.
14. Cape Girardeau – one of the best towns to add to your Missouri itinerary
This city perched on the western bank of the Mississippi River has been named as one of the prettiest towns in the state of Missouri and is worth a visit if you’re traveling around the state.
The city is located in Cape Girardeau and Scott Counties in the U.S. state of Missouri and has over 250 bars of history.
Head for the historic Old Town for the most charming part and here you’ll also find a great collection of restaurants, boutique shops, and historic landmarks.
Other things to do in Cape Girardeau include the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail, the Cape Girardeau Conservation Nature Center, the Missouri Wall of Fame, the many Antique Shops, and also the nearby Bollinger Mill State Historic Site which is home to one of the only few covered bridges in the state and is an especially stunning place to visit in the Fall.
My must-do highlights of Cape Girardeau
- Visit the Wall of Fame to check out the murals created by famous Missourians.
- For those who love to shop, spend an afternoon at the West Park Mall.
- Discover the historic site of Fort D which was built during the civil war.
15. Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park – is one of the most popular attractions in Missouri
Funny name, beautiful place to visit. This state park is located in Little Brook and if there’s one thing you can say about it, it’s that there is a lot of water surrounding the area.
In fact, you’ll see lots of large rocks and swimming holes, so if you go there any time during the summer months, you’ll want to wear your swimsuit.
You can hike, view waterfalls, have a picnic, and go exploring through some of the most beautiful terrain you can imagine. If you’re looking for a great family-oriented activity, look no further because this is it, and it will create a lifetime of memories as well.
My must-do highlights of Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park
- Stop by the the visitor center to see the geological wonders of the park and learn about the history.
- Hike through the forest to the valley then along the stream bed and up to the ridge on the Scour Trail loop.
- Take a quick refreshing dip in the cold waters after hiking along the trails.
16. Meramec Caverns – the largest commercial cave in the state of Missouri
Meramec Caverns is located in Sullivan and is nothing short of breathtaking. This natural wonder is certainly a beauty and you have your choice between a short half-hour tour or one that is a little longer.
When you come up above ground, you can enjoy activities such as ziplining and a great climbing wall, so if you want to, you can make a day out of a visit to these caverns.
A perfect family-oriented activity, a trip to Meramec Caverns is one adventure you will never forget – a great way to spend a fun-filled day.
My must-do highlights of Meramec Caverns
- Explore through the caverns to see the spectacular natural mineral formations that have taken 1,000’s of years to create.
- For those seeking an adrenaline adventure, soar through the sky on a zipline tour.
- After all of the fun, stop for some delicious food at the restaurant located just by the caverns.
17. Table Rock Lake – one of the most beautiful lakes to visit in Missouri
Located in Branson, Table Rock Lake is one of the most beautiful places in Missouri because of its gorgeous water and scrumptious views.
Although there are no areas considered official beaches, you can still swim there in several different locations, as well as go kayaking, canoeing, and boating.
In fact, it is such a versatile lake that you can take your family and spend the entire day there and never get bored. For people who love beautiful sunsets and lots of water-based activities, you simply can’t beat Table Rock Lake.
My must-do highlights of Table Rock Lake
- With lots of water sports available to do, choose your favourite activity and have some fun out on the lake.
- Find out what concerts are being held at Black Oak Amp and watch some live entertainment.
- Soak up the marvellous views of the surrounding lush and vibrant scenery.
18. Meramec River and State Park – a tranquil and picturesque place to take a vacation in Missouri
Perfect for rafting, canoeing, or simply relaxing on the shore, Meramec River is absolutely stunning place to explore and offers sand, lots of green trees, and of course, a lot of water to give you a way to spend the day vegging out and refreshing yourself so that you can prepare yourself for whatever comes next in your life.
The state park is also a one-of-a-kind experience that allows you to enjoy all of the beauty that most state parks offer, so if you’re looking for the perfect way to spend the day with family or friends, this place should definitely be a consideration.
My must-do highlights of Meramec River and State Park
- Take a guided tour inside the fascinating and large Fisher Cave.
- One of the most popular activities is to go rafting along the magnificent river.
- Lounge about along the sands of the river shores.
19. Powell Gardens – one of the best places to explore in Missouri
Powell Gardens is located in Kingsville/Kansas City and consists of seven themed gardens, tons of beautiful wildflowers to look at, and unique sections such as the Fountain Garden, the Heartland Harvest Garden, and the Perennial Garden, among others.
If you love flowers, natural grasses, and lots of color, you’ll love Powell Gardens.
It is a great place for flower-lovers and nature-lovers alike, and just one trip there will help you understand why this is one of Kansas City’s most popular tourist attractions, especially if you’re a nature lover!
My must-do highlights of Powell Gardens
- Find out what programmes they are currently running and get involved in their interesting classes.
- Wander around to admire the array of beautiful garden displays and incredible contemporary architecture.
- Check out the Visitor Education Center where you can grab a bite to eat.
20. Taum Sauk Mountain – is the highest natural point in the state and a scenic place to visit in the Fall
If you love mountains, this is the one you want to look for the next time you visit Missouri. These mountains are at the highest elevations in the entire state and offer views like you’ve never seen before.
From unique rock formations to the majesty of the different nearby forests, you’ll never get tired of hiking to the top of these mountains and looking out at the scenery and the fantastic panoramic views.
If you’re anywhere near Highway CC in Ironton, you owe it to yourself to stop by the Taum Sauk Mountain and spend some time there relaxing.
My must-do highlights of Taum Sauk Mountain
- Hike to Mina Sauk Falls which is the highest wet-weather waterfall in Missouri.
- Witness spectacular panoramic views overlooking the lush scenic land.
The town of Florissant calls itself “the beautiful city,” and with good reason. Located 25 miles from downtown St. Louis, Florissant is the perfect respite from the big city.
It’s lovely but offers much more than that, with its numerous city parks, beautiful and well-kept older buildings and their special charm, a log cabin that dates back to the 1850s, a U.S. fighter jet, and lots of unspoiled land that does a great job of reminding you that you can relax because you are no longer in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the city.
If you want to get away from it all and enjoy some beauty of this wonderful state and calmness, this is the place to head to.
My must-do highlights of Florissant
- Play a round of golf at Florissant City Golf Course.
- Visit the beautiful gem that is Bangert Park and go for a swim in their outdoor pool.
- Go to the Old St. Ferdinand Shrine to learn about the history of the city.
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Michael Cowley – writer and photographer
Ever since he was knee-high to a grasshopper Michael has always had an affinity for adventure. Growing up he was lucky enough to live in a handful of exotic far flung locations including Hong Kong, Pakistan, Kenya and Tanzania and since then he’s continued seeking out new places and cultures. In his spare time he explores everywhere from the sizzling street markets in Bangkok to random back alleys in Sri Lanka and everything in between! He also has a special fondness for Cohibas, trying all kinds of street food, playing carrom with random strangers, and fine wine – he knows his clarets from his chiantis. He counts Cuba, Amsterdam, Indonesia, Goa, Cambodia and Italy as his favourite destinations. Find Michael on Instagram or Twitter.
Hotel Reviewing Experience –Asked by many tourist boards and many high-profile travel brands to formally review hotels including Discover Greece, Barcelo Hotels, and Rickshaw Travel. Also travelled around the world scouting out and reviewing all the most unique hotels in the world, check out our Instagram page for photos. Also mentioned as a top UK travel journalist.