11 Fantastic Summer Vacation Spots in Missouri

Last updated on July 21st, 2023 at 07:04 am.

Missouri is one of the most underrated states for tourism in the United States. From the natural beauty, like the Ozarks and Table Rock State Park, to historical landmarks like the World War I Museum and Memorial and National Parks like Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield and everything in between, Missouri has dozens of fantastic summer vacation spots for a weekend getaway or a full week family vacation.

Missouri is a vibrant and diverse Midwestern state that boasts several beautiful lakes and even a few beaches, including Lake of the Ozarks. You can plan a day out hiking or biking in one of Missouri’s state parks.

Art lovers can explore Kansas City, among other large cities, to appreciate the renowned artwork. For your upcoming summer vacation, consider booking a stay at one of Missouri’s many vacation rentals. Don’t forget to check out the best things to do in Missouri as you plan your summer vacation.

Vacation Spots in Missouri
Photo Credit: Missouri Division of Tourism

Best Summer Vacation Spots in Missouri

I have taken the time to narrow down the best options the Show-Me State has to offer into my top 11 summer destinations in the state of Missouri for 2023. With everything from family vacations with extravagant attractions, to fine dining, and beautiful nature and wildlife, this list has a destination for all types of travelers, ensuring a fantastic vacation this summer. 

Here are our recommended travel destinations in Missouri for this summer. But, don’t forget to check out our summer camping guide as well as our list of treehouse vacation rentals in Missouri!

Kansas City (big City Summer Vacation)

BBQ at q39
Photo Credit: Q39

An obvious top choice for travelers looking to spend their summer vacation in Missouri, Kansas City is full of vibrant culture, activities, as well as both natural beauty, and tons of historically significant landmarks. It’s also a great starting point if you plan a multi-city Missouri vacation or road trip.

Home to what is in my opinion, the best barbecue in the world, Kansas City barbecue is a must try for anyone who hasn’t had it before, and those who have had it know that it’s a must get when they are in Kansas City. Some of the top places for barbecue in Kansas City include Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que and Q39. Famous for its burnt ends and ribs, Kansas City barbecue is a staple of the culture of the city, and something everyone who goes to Kansas City should try at least once.

Some of the other top of the list activities to do in Kansas City this summer is to visit the National World War I Museum and Memorial. It is not only a monument, but a beautifully done museum where you can take a tour and learn about America’s history during World War I.

Another museum I would recommend checking out is the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, which is within a mile of the Country Club Plaza. Country Club Plaza is a famous part of Kansas City as it has pretty much any retail shop, you can imagine, as well as dozens of restaurants, ranging from high class, to affordable lunch spots.

Some more spots to visit while you’re in Kansas City include the world famous Kansas City Zoo, Worlds Of Fun, which is a fantastic amusement park for families, SEA LIFE Kansas City, the Arabia Steamboat Museum and so much more. Kansas City is a fantastic destination for long weekend trips, as well as even spending a whole week. With countless activities to do and places to explore in the large Kansas City metropolitan area, it is sure to be a fun vacation at an affordable price. 

Best Hotels in Kansas City

Hannibal (Mark Twain History Trip)

Hannibal MO
Photo Credit: Visit Hannibal MO

Located right on the Mississippi river, Hannibal, Missouri, is a beautiful town with loads of historical significance. It is most well known for being where famous author Mark Twain spent most of his childhood.

With places to visit like the Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum, the Mark Twain Cave, and the Mark Twain Memorial Lighthouse, you will get more than enough Mark Twain knowledge for a lifetime.

Outside of the Mark Twain attractions, Hannibal also offers activities and attractions such as Historic Downtown Hannibal, Lovers Leap, Riverview Park, Bluff City Theater, Center Street Landing, and so much more. A perfect weekend getaway trip for those who live near the St. Louis area, or a fun day. Stop for people going on a road trip, Hannibal is a charming little town in the countryside in Missouri. That is definitely worth stopping by to check out. 

Best Hotels in Hannibal

Hermann ( A Wine Country Trip)

Train Station in Hermann, Missouri
Photo Credit: Missouri Division of Tourism

A summer vacation in Hermann, Missouri is a great choice for anyone interested in wine tasting, German-American culture, early Missouri history, and outdoor adventures. This charming town is located in the heart of Missouri’s wine country and is known for its picturesque vineyards, historic architecture, and strong German heritage.

One of the top attractions in Hermann is the wineries. The town is home to more than a dozen wineries, each with its unique ambiance and wine offerings. Visitors can sample a variety of award-winning wines, take vineyard tours, and learn about the winemaking process. Some of the most popular wineries in Hermann include Stone Hill Winery, Hermannhof Winery, and Adam Puchta Winery.

For those interested in German-American culture and early Missouri history, Hermann is a treasure trove of fascinating sites and attractions. The town was founded in the 19th century by German immigrants, and visitors can explore historic buildings, museums, and other sites that showcase the town’s German heritage. The Hermann Farm Museum and the Deutschheim State Historic Site are two must-visit attractions for history buffs.

Nature lovers will also find plenty to enjoy in Hermann. The town is located near the Katy Trail, a 240-mile trail that winds through some of Missouri’s most beautiful scenery. Visitors can hike or bike along the trail, taking in breathtaking views of the Missouri River and the surrounding countryside.

When it comes to dining, Hermann offers a variety of options for foodies. The town is known for its German cuisine, with many restaurants serving traditional dishes like schnitzel, sauerbraten, and bratwurst. Some popular restaurants in Hermann include the Tin Mill Brewery, Stone Hill Winery Restaurant, and Black Walnut Bistro.

Best Hotels in Hermann

Lake of the Ozarks (for Outdoor Beauty and Exploring Caves)

Lake of the Ozarks
Photo Credit: Missouri Division of Tourism

Wake up, the Ozarks can be a pretty big umbrella term, but for clarification, when I say Lake of the Ozarks, I am speaking specifically of the Osage Beach area. I picked the Osage Beach area because it is probably the most tourist friendly area in the Lake of the Ozarks, not including Branson.

The Lake of the Ozarks is a beautiful waterway, filled with cute towns throughout, as well as some other natural beauty attractions, such as the stunning Ha Ha Tonka State Park, right outside of Osage Beach. While in the area, if you’re looking for fun day, trips around massage beach, Clinton, Warsaw, and Village of Four Seasons are all beautiful little towns to visit within a short driving distance of Osage Beach.

There are several caves near Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri that you can visit. The two most popular caves are Bridal Cave and Jacob’s Cave.

Bridal Cave is located in Camdenton, Missouri, just a short drive from Lake of the Ozarks. The cave features unique rock formations and crystal-clear underground lakes. Guided tours are available, which take visitors through the cave’s various chambers and provide insight into the cave’s history and geology.

Jacob’s Cave is located in Versailles, Missouri, approximately 25 miles from Lake of the Ozarks. The cave features stunning rock formations and underground lakes, as well as a gift shop and mini-golf course. Guided tours are available year-round.

For the adults, the Ozark Distillery and Brewery, Seven Springs Winery, Big Surf Waterpark and Jolly Mon Indoor Water Park, and the Funny Farm Petting Zoo.

Ha Ha Tonka State Park is one of the most popular state parks near Lake of the Ozarks. It is located approximately 15 miles southwest of the lake and offers hiking trails, picnic areas, and stunning views of the surrounding countryside. The park is home to a historic castle ruins that visitors can explore.

Another nearby state park is Lake of the Ozarks State Park, which is located on the northeast side of the lake. It is Missouri’s largest state park and offers a variety of recreational activities, including hiking, biking, swimming, boating, and fishing. The park also has several campgrounds and picnic areas for visitors to enjoy.

Other state parks in the area include Bennett Spring State Park, located approximately 40 miles to the east, and Thousand Hills State Park, located approximately 50 miles to the west.

A great summer getaway to check out some beaches and some natural beauty with the family, the Lake of the Ozarks is a great, and affordable pick for the summer, and it will be for Summers to come, with the Oasis At Lakeport, a huge amusement park due to open, in the next couple years. 

Best Hotels in Lake of the Ozarks

Table Rock Lake (Fun at the Lake Summer Trip)

Cove Rock Lodge

Table Rock Lake and Lake of the Ozarks are both popular summer destinations in Missouri, each offering its unique charm and attractions.

Table Rock Lake is located in the southwestern part of the state and is a popular spot for fishing, boating, swimming, and other water activities. The lake’s clear waters and beautiful scenery make it a favorite among nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. Visitors can rent boats, jet skis, and other watercraft, or book a guided fishing trip with a local outfitter. Additionally, the lake has several marinas, campgrounds, and picnic areas where visitors can spend the day or even the night.

Horseback riding near Table Rock Lake is also popular. There are several stables and ranches in the area that offer horseback riding tours and trail rides, including Bear Creek Trail Rides and Cowboy Up Trail Rides. These guided rides take visitors through the Ozark Mountains, offering scenic views of the lake and surrounding countryside. Some stables also offer pony rides for younger children. Horseback riding can be a great way to experience the natural beauty of the area and enjoy the outdoors in a unique way.

There are several resorts, hotels, and house rentals around Table Rock Lake that provide easy access to the lake and its surrounding attractions. Some popular resorts on Table Rock Lake include the Chateau on the Lake Resort Spa & Convention Center and the Big Cedar Lodge, both of which offer luxury accommodations, dining, and a range of outdoor activities.

Visitors to Table Rock Lake can stay on the lake in house rentals or cabins. There are many options for lakefront vacation rentals that offer beautiful views and direct access to the water. These rentals range from cozy cottages to spacious homes and can be found through various vacation rental websites and local property management companies.

Find the best House Rentals at Table Rock Lake

Arcadia Valley (An Outdoor Adventure Trip)

Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park
Photo Credit: Missouri Division of Tourism

Arcadia Valley, Missouri is an excellent summer getaway destination for those who love outdoor adventure and exploring nature. Located in the St. Francois Mountains of the Ozarks, this area boasts some of the most beautiful scenery in the state, as well as a wide range of activities and attractions that are sure to please visitors of all ages and interests.

One of the most popular outdoor activities in Arcadia Valley is hiking. The area is home to several hiking trails, including the Ozark Trail, which runs through the region and offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. Visitors can also hike to the top of Taum Sauk Mountain State Park, which includes the highest point in the state of Missouri. The park’s 7,500 acres offer a variety of hiking options, from easy walks to more challenging hikes for experienced hikers.

Another popular activity in Arcadia Valley is biking. The area boasts several scenic bike trails, including the Katy Trail State Park and the St. Francis River Trail. Visitors can also explore the historic towns and villages of the area on bike, taking in the local culture and scenery along the way.

For those looking for a unique outdoor adventure, the Elephant Rocks State Park and Johnson Shut-ins State Park are not to be missed. Elephant Rocks features massive granite boulders that are over a billion years old, and visitors can climb on and around these unique rock formations. Johnson Shut-ins offers natural water slides and pools, perfect for swimming and cooling off on a hot summer day.

The Black River in Arcadia Valley is a crystal clear river that is perfect for water activities such as floating, tubing, and swimming. Visitors can rent tubes or kayaks and spend a relaxing day on the river, taking in the beautiful scenery and soaking up the summer sun.

The Black River is also home to several great fishing spots, with a variety of fish species such as smallmouth bass, goggle-eye, and catfish, making it a great spot for anglers as well. With so many fun water activities to enjoy, the Black River is another great reason to visit Arcadia Valley this summer.

Lodging Suggestion: Shepherd Mountain Inn (Find prices on Hotels.com or Booking.com)

Springfield (Cave & Nature Getaway)

Fantastic Caverns
Photo Credit: Fantastic Caverns

A vibrant college town, home to Missouri State University, Springfield, Missouri is Nestled in between the lake of the Ozarks, and Branson. With beautiful nature, just a short drive away whether it be the Ozarks, or one of the state parks near the town, Springfield is a great place to stay while exploring a natural beauty of Missouri.

With attractions, such as the Fantastic Caverns, the Springfield Botanical Gardens, the Springfield Conservation Nature Center, and the Mizumoto Japanese Garden in the town, as well as natural beauty in places like Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield, Bennet Spring State Park, Sequiota Park and much more. Springfield is a fantastic getaway for nature lovers of all sorts.

Springfield is not just nature, however.

The town has many types of attractions, from animal life like the Johny Morris’ Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium, and the Dickerson Zoo, to drinking options like Mother’s Brewing Company, and highly recommended dining options like Civil Kitchen, and Café Carouso, that you can dine out after walking through Springfield downtown where you can see things like the worlds largest fork, Springfield really has something for everyone.

Whether you are a nature loving family, looking into colleges, and wanting to check out, Missouri State University, or someone who just loves to travel and experience new parts of nature, Springfield is a great place for anyone looking to get away for a few days. 

Branson (Family Fun & Live Entertainment)

Dolly Parton’s Stampede in Branson
Photo Credit: Dolly Parton’s Stampede

Drowns out this list comes one of the most obvious choices. Branson has for a long time been known as one of the best tourist spots and vacation destinations in all of Missouri. sitting in the middle of the Ozarks, Branson has everything a family on vacation could want from beautiful lakes to swim in, to amusement parks, to incredible, live, entertainment, and more.

Some of the top attractions in Branson include the Titanic Museum, Silver Dollar City a fantastic amusement park, one of the best in the Midwest, Aquarim on the Boardwalk, Dolly apatron’s Stampede, Sight & Sound Theatres and much more.

For those who prefer to spend more time, exploring the outdoors in nature, Table Rock State Park, one of the most beautiful state parks in the entire state, is right outside of Branson. Some other notable attractions in the Branson area include Table Rock State Lake, Brandon’s Promised Land Zoo, White Water, a water park, Veterans Memorial Musuem, Bigfoot Fun Park, The Butterfly Palace & Rainforest Adventure, Runaway Mountain, and so much more.

All around in my opinion, the best place for a family vacation this summer, Branson, Missouri is a beautiful tourist town filled with anything family on vacation could want, from fantastic food, to live theater, two dozens of activities, to some of the best natural beauty and the entire state, grandson is a fantastic option for a family vacation this summer. 

Jesse James Road Trip (for Wild West history)

Jesse James road trip

A Jesse James road trip in Missouri would be a fantastic summer getaway for anyone interested in the Wild West history of the United States. Jesse James, one of America’s most infamous outlaws, spent much of his life in Missouri, and there are many historic sites throughout the state that tell the story of his life and legacy.

The Jesse James Trail is a great place to start a Jesse James road trip in Missouri. The trail stretches from St. Joseph, where Jesse James was shot and killed in 1882, to the James Farm and Museum in Kearney, where he grew up. Along the way, visitors can explore historic sites such as the Jesse James Home Museum and the Patee House Museum in St. Joseph, which offer a fascinating look into the life of Jesse James and the Wild West era.

Another must-visit site on a Jesse James road trip is the James Farm and Museum in Kearney. This historic site is the family home of the James family, and visitors can explore the farmhouse and see artifacts related to Jesse James and his family. The museum also offers guided tours that provide insight into the life of the James family and the history of the Wild West.

In addition to these historic sites, a Jesse James road trip in Missouri offers visitors the opportunity to explore the beautiful countryside of the state. Visitors can take scenic drives through the rolling hills and lush forests of Missouri, stopping along the way to enjoy local cuisine and explore charming small towns.

Overall, a Jesse James road trip in Missouri is a great summer getaway for history buffs and anyone interested in the Wild West era of American history. With historic sites such as the Jesse James Home Museum and the James Farm and Museum, as well as scenic drives through the beautiful Missouri countryside, there is something for everyone on a Jesse James road trip in Missouri.

Jefferson City (For Missouri Cultural Heritage)

Jefferson City MO

Jefferson City, Missouri is an excellent summer getaway destination for history buffs and anyone interested in exploring the unique cultural heritage of the Midwest. This capital city of Missouri offers a wide range of activities and attractions that are sure to please visitors of all ages and interests.

One of the most notable historical landmarks in Jefferson City is the Missouri State Capitol Building. This iconic structure is a must-visit for anyone interested in politics or architecture, as it features stunning murals, intricate artwork, and a magnificent dome that is visible from miles away. The building is also home to the Missouri State Museum, where visitors can learn more about the state’s rich history and cultural heritage.

Another fascinating historical site in Jefferson City is the Missouri State Penitentiary. Once one of the most notorious prisons in the country, the facility has been closed since 2004 but now serves as a museum where visitors can learn about the lives of the prisoners and the history of the prison system in the United States.

For outdoor enthusiasts, Jefferson City offers several parks and recreational areas to explore. The Katy Trail State Park, which runs through the heart of the city, offers miles of hiking and biking trails, as well as stunning views of the Missouri River. Visitors can also take a scenic paddleboat ride on the river, or take a beautiful drive to nearby Lake of the Ozarks for water activities such as swimming, boating, and fishing.

When it comes to dining, Jefferson City has plenty of options to satisfy any palate. For a casual lunch or dinner, try the Prison Brews Brewery, which offers a wide range of craft beers and delicious pub fare. For a more upscale dining experience, the historic Canterbury Hill Winery & Restaurant offers delicious cuisine and stunning views of the surrounding countryside. And if you’re looking for a sweet treat, be sure to stop by Central Dairy for some of the best ice cream in town.

St. Joseph (Great Getaway for History Buffs)

Pony express statue in St. Joseph, Missouri
Photo Credit: Visit St. Joseph

St. Joseph, Missouri is off-the-beaten-path destination that’s perfect for a summer getaway. Located in the northwest part of the state, St. Joseph boasts a rich history, charming downtown area, and plenty of outdoor activities, museums, and filled with wild west history for visitors to enjoy.

One of the top attractions in St. Joseph is the Pony Express Museum, which celebrates the city’s role as the starting point of the famous Pony Express mail delivery system. Visitors can see original artifacts from the Pony Express, including a restored stagecoach, and learn about the daring riders who carried the mail across the country in the mid-1800s.

The Jesse James Home Museum is another popular destination, where visitors can learn about the notorious outlaw who spent his final days in St. Joseph. The museum includes exhibits about James’ life and the events that led to his death. And just across the street, you’ll find the Patee House Museum, which was once a luxurious hotel that served as the Pony Express headquarters. Today, the museum features exhibits about the hotel’s history, as well as displays on transportation and industry in St. Joseph.

For outdoor enthusiasts, St. Joseph offers several parks and recreational areas to explore. Krug Park is a popular destination, with its beautiful gardens, walking trails, and scenic overlooks of the Missouri River. Visitors can also take a leisurely stroll through the Rosecrans Memorial Garden, which features a stunning collection of roses and other flowers.

When it comes to dining, St. Joseph has plenty of options to satisfy any palate. For a casual lunch or dinner, try Boudreaux’s Louisiana Seafood & Steaks, which offers delicious Cajun-style cuisine. For a more upscale dining experience, the Frederick Inn Steakhouse is a local favorite, known for its delicious steaks and elegant atmosphere. And if you’re looking for a sweet treat, be sure to stop by the Donut Shop for some of the best donuts in town.

Overall, St. Joseph, Missouri is a great summer getaway destination with something for everyone. Whether you’re interested in history, outdoor activities, or simply relaxing and enjoying great food, St. Joseph has it all.

Golf Resort Weekend in Innsbrook MO

Innsbrook’s 18-hole public championship golf course
Photo Credit: Innsbrook Resort and Golf Course

Golfing is a favorite summer activity and fortunately, Missouri has a number of golf resorts that offer the best amenities and facilities.

Innsbrook’s 18-hole public championship golf course is carved out of the rolling wooded hillsides of eastern Missouri and is the centerpiece of this golf getaway weekend.

Looking for an unforgettable golf getaway weekend in Missouri? Look no further than Innsbrook Resort Golf Course (596 Aspen Way Dr. Innsbrook, Missouri 63390). Recognized by Golf Digest with a prestigious “Four-Star Rating,” our course is among the top-rated resort facilities in the state. According to Golf Digest, Innsbrook is renowned for its “great golf, great people, great challenge, great price.” And that’s not all – Sports Illustrated gave our facility a phenomenal “4.8 out of 5” rating, calling it the “best value in the area,” with “very scenic and peaceful” surroundings and “exceptional course” quality.

The beautiful 137-acre lake is one of the larger lakes in the area, with many smaller lakes in the surrounding area. In fact there are over 100 lakes in Innsbrook MO.

When you visit Innsbrook, you’ll have your pick of lakeside condos with easy access to beaches and amenities, or cozy A-frame chalets nestled in the woods or on a lake. And with plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy, like canoeing, hiking, and of course, golfing, Innsbrook is the perfect summer getaway destination. Don’t miss your chance to experience this hidden gem for yourself!

More Missouri Summer Fun!

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