23 Great Missouri Bucket List Ideas, Activities + Food

Updated

Are you getting ready to travel to Missouri? Then you’re going to need access to a car to see the state’s main attractions. Unlike some states where the tourist spots are centrally located in one metropolitan area or National Park region, Missouri’s most popular sites are a couple of hundred miles away from each other.

Jump ahead to these sections:

Kansas City is located on the state’s western side, and St. Louis is on the opposite border to the east. In the middle is Columbia, home to The University of Missouri. Branson, a popular tourist destination, lies on the southern edge of the state. 

Fill up your gas tank and be prepared for a very diverse bucket list as you see what the “Show Me State” has to offer.

Missouri Bucket List Destinations

Whether you are an art-lover, history-lover, or nature-lover, Missouri has something for you. Our first item on our list often appears on U.S. travel bucket lists because it is so iconic. 

1. The Gateway Arch

You are probably familiar with the St. Louis Arch, but you might not know the symbolism behind the design. The arch symbolizes the entrance to the western part of the United States because many pioneer settlers started their journey west in St. Louis. 

Visitors to the Gateway Arch can ride an elevator to the top. However, it’s not recommended for people with claustrophobia or issues with heights. There’s an exhibit about western expansion at the base that you should take time to see. 

2. Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

On the other side of the state in Kansas City, you will find the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. While art lovers could spend hours enjoying pieces by European masters and one of the finest collections of Chinese art in the West, those more into taking selfies will enjoy the large installations on the grounds of the museum.

Scattered throughout the grounds are large shuttlecocks (or “badmitten birdies”) designed by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje Van Bruggen. These whimsical installations are fun and make art more accessible for many.

3. Forest Park

St. Louis was host to the 1904 World’s Fair, and Forest Park was the backdrop for the gathering. The park includes ponds, gardens, and more than 45,000 trees. It’s also home to many of the city’s top cultural attractions, such as the St. Louis Zoo, Saint Louis Art Museum, the St. Louis Science Center, and the Missouri History Museum.

Spring and Summer Bucket List Ideas in Missouri

Missouri is a beautiful state. Even though there is not a national park within its borders, plenty of outdoor recreation areas are perfect for a hot summer weekend.

4. Lake of the Ozarks

Kansas Citians who say they are “going to the lake” for the weekend may be referring to the Lake of the Ozarks. All types of water recreation are available there, and it is known for its party atmosphere.

5. Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park

Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park can be best described as a natural water park. It’s a narrow canyon cut through hard rock with many shoots, pools, and rock water slides. While you’re there, take time to wander around nearby Elephant Rocks State Park. 

6. Silver Dollar City

Although there are other large amusement parks in Missouri, Silver Dollar City has a unique Missouri feel. While there are roller coasters and other rides, visitors can also watch educational demonstrations by more than 100 artisans, including glassblowing, woodworking, and candy making.

7. Katy Trail

The Katy Trail gets its name from the “KT” abbreviation that initially described the Missouri–Kansas–Texas Railroad. Since the railroad has been unused for years, it has become a popular path for bikers, hikers, and nature-lovers.

8. Riverboat ride down the Missouri River

Steamboats were used for travel and commerce on the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers in the 1800s. Several companies will recreate this experience for tourists, but you might consider using a company in Hannibal. While there, check out the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum.

9. Fishing

Missouri is home to some of the best fishing in the country, especially at Lake Taneycomo near Branson. It is most famous for trout fishing, but anglers can also catch bass, crappie, and bluegill.

Fall and Winter Bucket List Ideas in Missouri

October is a great time to visit Missouri. The weather is excellent, and the leaves are beautiful. It’s a great time to go on a hayride, attend a football tailgate, or roast marshmallows over an open fire. Here are some fall and winter holiday activities to consider on your visit to Missouri.

Wondering if you should make a travel bucket list? It’s more fun if you have items that push you out of your comfort zone. 

10. Country Club Plaza Lights

Each Thanksgiving night in Kansas City, thousands of people gather for the annual lighting of the Country Club Plaza. The lights align the Spanish-style buildings that make up this high-end shopping and restaurant district. In addition, visitors can go on horse-drawn carriage rides throughout the holiday season. Make sure you check out the Christmas lights display at nearby Union Station too.

11. Branson

Branson is a popular tourist destination on the southern border of Missouri that is known for its dozens of theaters, outlet shopping, and holiday lights. Silver Dollar City and Big Cedar Lodge are located nearby.

12. Arrowhead Stadium

Arrowhead Stadium is home to the Kansas City Chiefs. The stadium has the designation of being the loudest in the NFL. Kauffman Stadium is across the parking lot from Arrowhead and home to the Kansas City Royals. Of course, baseball lovers can also travel down I-70 to St. Louis to go to a Cardinals game. 

Couples Bucket List Ideas in Missouri

Do you wish to knock off a couple of bucket list items on your couples visit to Missouri? Here are some to consider. 

13. Hermann

Couples travel to Hermann to stay in bed and breakfasts and tour nearby wineries. The town has an “old-world charm” that makes it a perfect location for a couple’s getaway.

14. The Elms

Located in Excelsior Springs, Missouri, The Elms is a historic hotel that offers upscale accommodations. It also has an on-site spa and restaurant, so you don’t have to leave the grounds during your stay.

15. Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis

The Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis is located in a western neighborhood of St. Louis. The cathedral was dedicated in 1914 and features a breathtaking mosaic ceiling. This is a lovely, quiet spot to visit during your weekend trip to St. Louis. 

Bucket List Ideas for Families and Kids in Missouri

Are you traveling to Missouri with your kids? There’s lots to do. Both St. Louis and Kansas City have zoos and science museums. Plus, there are beautiful parks and outdoor recreation areas that your kids would love to explore. 

16. City Museum

The City Museum in St. Louis is hard to describe. Its exhibits consist primarily of repurposed architectural and industrial objects. Your kids will have a blast going down long slides, climbing over the “world’s largest pencil,” and viewing the “world’s largest underwear.” Parents might want to bring some knee pads, as you’ll be following your kids through a lot of tunnels. 

17. American Royal Rodeo

Your kids might get a kick attending the American Royal Rodeo. They’ll see real-life cowboys and cowgirls compete in bull riding, steer roping, and barrel racing. 

Famous Bucket List Foods and Restaurants in Missouri

Food bucket lists always seem to raise a great deal of controversy, and we are sure that this list will be frustrating to some of our readers. There are many amazing places to dine while you are traveling in Missouri. Here are just a few of them.

18. Kansas City Barbecue

Kansas City is known for its world-class barbecue on both sides of the state line. While some people love the older BBQ establishments, like Arthur Bryant’s, Gates, or Joe’s KC (on the Kansas side), others prefer Jack Stack or Q39. 

Regardless of your preference, you need to eat barbecue when you travel to KC. Don’t overlook the lesser-known restaurants. Kansas Citians don’t tolerate lousy barbecue, so if the restaurant has been in business for several years, it must be good.

19. Lombardo’s Trattoria 

One of St. Louis’ signature dishes is toasted ravioli, and Lombardo’s Trattoria is often listed as making some of the best in the city. 

20. Christopher Elbow Chocolates

Christopher Elbow Chocolates makes delicacies for the chocolate connoisseur. Not only are the company’s creations beautiful, but they also produce unique flavors that you wouldn’t imagine would work.

21. Lambert’s Cafe

Kansas City and St. Louis are both home to fine dining establishments that offer world-class service. However, if you would rather enjoy a meal while having servers chuck rolls at you from across the restaurant, Lambert’s Cafe is for you. Lambert’s Cafe is the home of “throwed rolls,” and there are two Missouri locations.

22. Fritz’s

Fritz’s appeals to train lovers and children. This diner-style restaurant is famous because your food order is delivered by a model train that runs the restaurant's perimeter. There’s one Missouri location and two on the Kansas side.

23. Hereford House

We aren’t even going to try to name the best steakhouse in Missouri. However, Hereford House has been serving steaks to Missouri residents for decades. 

What’s on Your Missouri Bucket List?

We know there’s a lot that we didn’t include on our Missouri bucket list. There are neighborhoods and small towns to wander through, caves to explore, and breweries to try. Missouri is also the home to the World War I Museum and Liberty Memorial. 

What did we leave off our Missouri bucket list?

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