First, is the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial on the banks of the Mississippi River in St. Louis, Missouri. Home to the famous Gateway Arch, the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial has much more to offer the visitor. The Gateway Arch itself is located at Memorial Drive and Market Streets. It rises 630 feet into the sky above the place where Pierre Laclede founded his trading post in St. Louis' earliest era. The Gateway Arch opened to the public in 1965 and for more than forty years has stood as a sybmol of the nation's westward exansion. Since St. Louis really was the Gateway to the West for thousands of pioneers in the 18th and 19th century, the Gateway Arch has come to symbolize the entire pioneer era. Within the base of the Arch, visitors can ride to the top of the Gateway Arch aboard the Journey To The Top tram ride. Once on top, visitors can peer out either side of the top of the Arch for a fantastic view. The trip and time allowed at the observation deck is about one hour. Within the same visitor center, three films are shown daily. Each is 45 minutes long. One details the building of the Arch, another chronicles the lie of explorers Merriweather Lewis and William Clark, and the third covers the settlement of the American frontier. The ticket center is open from 8am until 10 pm during the summer and from 9 until 6 during the remainder of the year. The tram ride is $10 for adults, $7 for ages 13-16, and $3 for ages three through age twelve. Combination tickets for the tram ride and one of the movies are also available.
Also part of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial is the Museum of Westward Expansion beneath the Arch. This museum displays exhibits that focus on Lewis and Clark, history of areas west of the Mississippi River, and interactive time circles that give visitors a real feel for the past. The Museum is free and is open every day except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day.
The Old Courthouse at 11 North 4th Street in St. Louis is another part of the Jefferson Memorial. Built in 1862 during the Civil War, the courthouse features many galleries and diorams of history. It is also free.
Number two on the list is the Missouri Rhineland, a fertile area settled by German immigrants in the 1800's along the Missouri River. Located almost midway between St. Louis and Kansas City, the Missouri Rhineland is a rich area of the state. Vineyards cover many of the rugged hills that rise from the Missouri River Valley. The centerpiece of this crowning jewel of Missouri's diverse culture is the small city of Hermann, Missouri. Hermann is a German town and it is filled with architecture that makes visitors feel as if they are in the Old World The picturesque town is home to many bed and breakfast inns, each unique and comfortable. German cuisine is found here with favorites that include sauerbrauten, rouladens, and the ever popular bratwurst. Five wineries operate in or just outside Hermann. Visitors can tour these wineries and learn how wine is made. Samples of the local wines are also available. At the end of First Street in downtown Hermann, the Hermannhof Winery offers tours and tastings. They also offer a wide variety of European sausages and cheeses. Stone Hill Winery crowns one of Hermann's many hills and also offers extensive tours. A small museum in the city's former school offers insight into how the town was settled by German immigrants in 1836. The Deutschheim State Historical Site allows tours of two of German's earliest homes and a look into the past with everything from wooden shoes to spacious rooms. Traditonal German festivals are held in May and October while other smaller celebrations are held throughout the year.
Kansas City is home to the third item on the top ten list. Although Kansas City is a city rich with history and sprawling over an incredible number of miles, the must-see attraction in Kansas City is the Arabia Steamboat Museum. Discovered in the late 1980's in a farmer's field along the banks of the Missouri River, the Arabia is a steamboat that sank back in 1856. The ship was fully loaded when it went down into the murky waters of the Missouri River in a spot that later became part of a cornfield. Most of the 200 ton cargo was recovered and is now part of the musuem. These artifacts, preserved by the water and mud, offer a look into life of the mid-19th century. The museum displays frontier supplies, personal items, guns, bottled fruits and vegetables, and much more. The stern ad a paddlewheel were also recovered and are on display. A full size replica of the original deck is in place so visitors can get a true feel for steamboat travel of the past. Located at 400 Grand Avenue near downtown Kansas City, Missouri, this musuem is one of a kind and well worth visiting.
Just an hour's drive up the interstate in St. Joseph, Missouri is the fourth must-see stop on any Missouri Tour. St. Joseph is another small city, one that predates Kansas City by several decades. Also located along the banks of the Missouri River, St. Joe is filled with a rich history. Eugene Field's most famous poem, "Lover's Lane, St. Jo" was written about a throughfare that still exists today. The Pony Express began here and outlaw Jesse James died here. The place that must be visited here is the Patee House Museum at 12th and Penn Streets. Housed in what was once one of the finest hotels west of the Mississippi, The Patee House opened in 1858. Although the building later served as a school and factory, it was derelict for decades until efforts began in the mid-1960's to restore the building. Today it is one of the finest museums in a city filled with museums. Exhibits include portions of old St. Joseph homes, a recreated railroad office, Pony Express office (which were once located in the original World Hotel), an extensive vintage firearms collection, and much more.
On the grounds, the Jesse James Home can be visited. A hole in the wall where the bullet that killed the outlaw lodged is stil visible and the home is furnished today in period style. Some pieces are orignal. Nearby, at 914 Penn Street, the original Pony Express Stables are another museum. While exploring the past, take a moment to visit the small park across the street where one of the last steam locomotives from St. Joseph's railroad era is on display.
For the fifth stop, travel back across the state to the small town of Hannibal, Missouri. This town, immortalized in the works of Samuel Clemens or Mark Twain, is another history filled experience. Although the town, which slopes down to the mighty waters of the Missisiippi, is filled with history and museums, the thing to see is the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum at 208 Hill Street. This is the actual home where young Sam Clemens lived between the ages of seven and eighteen. His father built the home back in 1843 and the home has been restored. Furnishings are what would have been common during Clemen's boyhood. Special displays include the desk at which the author penned the childhood classic, "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer".
Number Six on the all Missouri tour takes visitors to Fulton, Missouri. This central Missouri town is home to Westminister College and is the site of the Winston Churchill Memorial and LIbrary. This is where Winston Churchill, British Prime Minister and hero of World War II, made his "Iron Curtain" speech on March 5, 1946. That historic speech predicted the Cold War. His speech was given in the Westminister College Gymansium but the true centerpiece of the memorial is the historic Church of St. Mary The Virgin, Aldermanbury. This church from London dates back hundreds of years. Originally located in London's Old City, the Church stood for more than 800 years on British soil. It was destroyed by fire during the Great Fire of London in 1866 and was rebuilt by famous architect Sir Christopher Wren. Damaged in the 1940 London Blitz (German air attacks on London during World War II), the church was salvaged and sent to Fulton. The historic church was reconstructed on campus to commememorate Churchill's visit to the college. To stand within the church is to touch history. Countless British historical figures have worshipped here. An extensive mueseum on site details the history of the church and Churchill's visit.
At number seven, head into the rugged Ozark Mountains and the popular resort city of Branson, Missouri. Best known for its' multiple amusement parks and music theaters, Branson is also home to the world's largest museum attractions, The Titanic Museum. This attraction opened in April 2006 and is a half scale replica of the original Titanic ship as far as the second smoke stack. Visitors enter through an iceberg and exhibits offer an up close, hands on look at almost every facet of the ship. Visitors can shovel coal for the massive furnaces, touch an iceberg, visit first and second class cabins, walk on the promenade deck, and meet the Captain. Each visitor is issued a ticket with the name of an actual passenger and in the Room of Rememberance, visitors can see if that individual live or perished. One of the most beautiful portions is a recreation of The Grand Stair Case including the clock made famous by characters in the movie "Titanic". Visitors can have their picture taken on the grand staircase. A large number of actual artifiacts from the ship are on display and it is a moving, educational and informative experience.
Precious Moments figures are some of the world's most popular and inspirational collectibles and rank in at number eight. In Carthage, Missouri, in the southwest corner of the state, the Precious Moments Inspirational Park is another must-visit location. The complex includes a wedding island where actual weddings are perfomed, a visitors center with extensive gift shop and fine dining, and the Chapel. The Chapel features thirty stained glass windows and many murals, all depicting the Precious Moments figures. The mural behind the altar in the chapel features faces of people special to artist and Precious Moments creator Sam Butcher. Other buildings house collections of Precious Moments memorbilia. In another building, the Fountain of Angels offers an amazing light, sound, and water show that is inspiring. It is well worth seeing and visitors are able to ride a motor coach bus from the visitors center to the Fountain of Angels theater. Beautiful gardens with bronze sculptures are another feature of this special and extraordinary place.
Number nine is also in the Ozarks, in the city called "The Queen City of the Ozarks", Springfield. At the Wonders of Wildlife Zooquarium at 500 West Sunshine, visitors are able to become close to nature with interactive exhbits and computer simulated conditions. Guests begin with a walk through an actual Ozark forest and can cross a rope suspended bridge. Birds fly to and fro and squirrels play in the Walk In The Woods area. The Out To Sea Gallery features some of the Midwest's most impressive salt water aquariums. Fresh water aquariums that simulate pond life are also featured here. A conservation message is inherent through this indoor zoo, aquarium, and museum and it's well worth the nominal entrance fee. Families can enjoy at day at Wonders of Wildlife for with an affordable family pass.
Tenth and last but far from least takes us back to St. Louis where the journey began. Forest Park weighs in at number ten. This park opened to the public in 1876 and is one of the country's foremost urban parks. With more than 1200 acres, Forest Park is bound by Lindell, Skinker, and Kingshighway Boulevards and Oakland Avenue. Forest Park is home to mulitple attractions including the St. Louis Zoo, the St. Louis Art Museum, the Missouri History Museum, the St. Louis Science Center, and the Steinberg Memorial Skating Rink which offers both roller and ice skating. The St. Louis Zoo is free to the public and has more than nine thousand animals with eight hundred different species. Areas of the zoo include Red Rocks, Fragile Forest, River's Edge, Penguin and Puffin Coast, Bears Bluffs, the Monsanto Insectarium, and the Children's Zoo. The Science Center offers amazing hands on exhibits and an OMNIMAX theater. The Missouri History Museum features St. Louis focused exhbits and much, much more.
These ten are just a few of the countless opportunities that Missouri offers for all ages but a visit to the state just wouldn't be complete with these stops.
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- The St. Louis Zoo is free
- Visit a replica of the famous Titanic ship in Branson
- See how the West was really won at the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial