Rachael Rachael, a mom of two daughters, is a freelance editor and writer who enjoys gardening and dreams of keeping chickens in her suburban St. Louis backyard. In her spare time, she helps to edit her husband’s science fiction books. Read more of Rachael's work at www.rachaelsjohnston.com or contact her by emailing rachael@mumblingmommy.com.

The kids are out of school and it’s time to have some fun. Fellow blogger and Indiana resident Lori recently shared 5 Summer Must-Dos in Indiana, highlighting attractions like Holiday World and the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo. I moved from Indiana nine years ago to a suburb of St. Louis, Missouri. Over the years I’ve explored many family-friendly venues in St. Louis, and now that our daughters are getting older and can handle travel better, we are gradually branching out to explore the rest of the state, and we have a few destinations on our bucket list. We don’t have unlimited financial resources, so I love traveling close to home in the Midwest because it’s easy on our budget, and we can usually get to our destination on a single tank of gasoline.

I present 5 Summer Must-Dos in Missouri:

1. The Saint Louis Zoo. St. Louis in eastern Missouri boasts a multitude of fun attractions ranging from the Missouri Botanical Garden to the City Museum to Busch Stadium, and of course the Gateway Arch. The Saint Louis Zoo with its variety of animals and garden-like setting remains one of my favorite family-friendly destinations. Admission is always free, with a $15 fee for parking. The zoo allows visitors to bring food, so our family always packs lunches and eats at one of many picnic spots on the grounds. A few attractions in the zoo have small fees, such as the Children’s Zoo, stingrays, carousel, sea lion show, and train. However, the Children’s Zoo, stingrays, and carousel are free during the first hour the zoo is open each day, so it pays to arrive early. Even if you don’t do the extras that cost, there is plenty to see and do at the zoo to last most of the day. The zoo is part of Forest Park, which is also home to the St. Louis Science Center, St. Louis Art Museum, and St. Louis History Museum (all of which have free admission).

The sea lion show at the Saint Louis Zoo.


2. Branson, Missouri. This area in southwestern Missouri is on our family’s agenda to visit someday. Branson is home to many live shows and musical performances. There’s also Silver Dollar City, an 1880’s-themed amusement park. Branson also features niche attractions like a Titanic museum and the World’s Largest Toy Museum. Table Rock State Park is nearby for those who like to camp and boat, and the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home and Museum where Laura lived as an adult is an easy day trip from Branson, for those who are fans.

3. Hannibal, Missouri. This town in northeast Missouri was the home of famous writer Mark Twain, who penned The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huck Finn. Our family is waiting to officially visit Hannibal until our daughters are a little older and can better appreciate Tom and Huck. We did pass through Hannibal recently and noted some fun, kitschy Twain references, like Injun Joe Campground. The main attractions in Hannibal are the Mark Twain Boyhood Museum and related properties like the Becky Thatcher House and the Huckleberry Finn House. Visitors can also cruise the Mississippi River on the Mark Twain Riverboat and tour the Mark Twain Cave Complex.

4. Lake of the Ozarks. The lake is the big attraction here in central Missouri, with opportunities for fishing and boating (either with your own boat or a rental). Nearby attractions include Timber Falls Water Park, Bridal Cave, shopping, and several wineries and golf courses. The area also features Lake of the Ozarks State Park, which offers tours of Ozark Caverns, including a shorter tour for children. Ha Ha Tonka State Park is also nearby and is home to the ruins of a 1900s-era castle.

5. Harry S. Truman Library and Museum in Kansas City. The 33rd president of the United States was a Missouri native, and this museum in western Missouri highlights key aspects of Truman’s presidency as well as illuminating his personal life. Reviewers on Tripadvisor describe the museum as kid-friendly and interactive.

Feeding trout at the hatchery at Bennett Spring State Park.


I could go on to list places like Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park, sometimes called Mother’s Nature’s water park. Last summer, our family camped at Bennett Spring State Park known for its trout fishing, and we sampled the local fish caught by some friends. We also recently visited the Walt Disney Hometown Museum in Marceline, Missouri, and we have season passes this year to Six Flags St. Louis. Our state has many great attractions, and we’re looking forward to revisiting our favorites and visiting new ones in the coming years.

What are your favorite places to visit in Missouri?

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Category: Family Free Time

Tags: Branson