Weekend Getaways in (and around) Missouri

Quick trips and nearby destinations in southwest Missouri and beyond for every week of the year.

By Katie Pollock Estes and Joan Whitaker

Jan 2024

Banner collage of southwest Missouri getaway destinations

It’s the start of a new year and the end of a busy holiday season. For a lot of us, that means we are ready for a break. For a weekend away. Or maybe, for a whole lot of weekends away. Plan ahead for a fun-filled year with our guide to weekend getaways for every week of the year (plus a few more)! Pick how far you want to travel below and start planning.

Looking for Local Spring Activities?


Less Than Two Hours Away

66 Drive-In Theatre in Carthage, Missouri
Photo courtesy Notley HawkinsEnjoy some classic Route 66 kicks with a drive-in movie.

Take a Roadtrip on Route 66

Who it’s for: Nostalgia hunters
Why it’s great: The Mother Road is the  classic road trip, born in Springfield and stretching from Chicago to Santa Monica.
Must-do list: Route 66 Drive-In (17231 Old 66 Blvd., Carthage, MO, 417-359-5959), Gay Parita (Ash Grove), Blue Whale (2600 U.S. Rte 66, Catoosa, OK), Golden Driller (Tulsa Expo Center, 4145 E. 21st St., Tulsa, OK)
Where to stay: The Mayo Hotel in Tulsa (115 W. 5th St., Tulsa, OK, 918-582-6296) your turnaround spot
First song on your playlist: “Route 66” by Nat King Cole
The trek: Head west on I-44.

Downstream Casino

Who it’s for: A group of girlfriends who need some kid-free friend time away
Why it’s great: You get to relax a little and risk a little all in one trip.
Must-do list: Get a massage at the spa, belly up to the blackjack table, treat yourself at Downstream Casino’s Red Oak Steakhouse (69300 E. Nee Rd., Quapaw, OK, 918-919-6000).
Where to stay: A modern-comfy suite at Downstream’s Kappa Tower
First song on your playlist: “The Gambler” by Kenny Rogers
The trek: 1.5 hours west of Springfield

Aerial photo of Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Photo courtesy Eureka Springs City Advertising and Promotion CommissionTake in the small town vibe in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.

Eureka Springs

Who it’s for: Ghost hunters and small-town admirers
Why it’s great: There’s a quaint and walkable downtown with an artsy vibe and “haunted” hotels.
Must-do list: Downtown Underground Tours (3 Spring St., Eureka Springs, AR, 844-537-8687), Thorncrown Chapel (12968 US-62, Eureka Springs, AR, 479-253-7401), shopping on foot.
Where to stay: Crescent Hotel (75 Prospect Ave., Eureka Springs, AR, 855-725-5720) for something haunted or 1905 Basin Park Hotel (12 Spring St., Eureka Springs, AR, 479-253-7837) for something historical
First song on your playlist: The Ghostbusters theme song
The trek: 1.5 hours south

Smallin Civil War Cave in Ozark MO
Photo courtesy Ozark Chamber of CommerceHead underground for some history at Smallin Civil War Cave in Ozark, Missouri.

A Cave-Hopping Adventure

Who it’s for: Spelunkers and geology fans
Why it’s great: Missouri’s karst topography means we have plenty of underground wonders worth exploring nearby.
Must-do list: Fantastic Caverns (4872 N. Farm Rd. 125, Springfield, MO, 417-833-2010), Smallin Civil War Cave (3575 N. Smallin Rd., Ozark, MO, 417-551-4545), Talking Rock Caverns (423 Fairy Cave Ln., Branson West, MO, 417-272-3366), Marvel Cave in Silver Dollar City (399 Silver Dollar City Pkwy, Branson, MO, 417-338-8220) and Bluff Dwellers Cave (163 Cave Rd., Noel, MO, 417-475-3666)
Where to stay: Big Cedar Lodge (190 Top of the Rock Rd., Ridgedale, MO, 417-335-2777)
First song on your playlist: “Underground” by David Bowie
The trek: Springfield to Ozark to Branson

Talking Rocks Cavern

It takes about an hour to trek all the way through Talking Rocks Cavern on this guided tour across wooden boardwalks and concrete stairs, and it’s worth every step. Tour guides focus on educating visitors on the history and geology of the cave as you walk through and spy a variety of incredible formations.

Marvel Cave at Silver Dollar City

A tour of Marvel Cave, which sits underneath Silver Dollar City, takes visitors down about 500 feet below the surface on a one-hour guided trek. You’ll see a massive 
cathedral room and lots of cool formations in this wet limestone cave. As you learn about the colorful history of the cave and the park, you’ll get a thigh workout because there are a ton of stairs here!

Smallin Civil War Cave
With its super-wide mouth, Smallin Civil War Cave has one of the prettiest entrances around. Make sure you visit after a rain, so you can see a stream trickling over the rocks and out of the mouth of the cave. A guided tour filled with information about the area’s indigenous people and the cave’s history takes visitors along a boardwalk for an easy and flat trek.

Fantastic Caverns
This is the only cave on our list where you ride through on a Jeep-pulled tram instead of walking through. That means it’s great for visitors who might struggle on an hour-long and sometimes steep walk. You’ll hear fun history (like how the cave was discovered by a local farmer’s dog) as you travel through wide spaces filled with stunning formations.

More Cave Content

Looking for a full guide to caves? Check out our recent guide to caves in southwest Missouri.


Live concert at Lake of the Ozarks
Photo courtesy Lake of the Ozarks Convention & Visitor's BureauLake of the Ozarks is perfect for outdoor concerts and much more.

Lake of the Ozarks

Who it’s for: Cove-seekers and sun-lovers
Why it’s great: This busy lake is great for the social boater to spend a day on the water.
Must-do list: Rent a boat and wakeboard and hit the water, get brunch at On the Rise Bakery & Bistro (5439 Osage Beach Pkwy, Osage Beach, MO, 573-348-4224), hike Ha Ha Tonka State Park (1491 Missouri D, Camdenton, MO, 573-346-2986)
Where to stay: Camden on the Lake (2359 Bittersweet Rd., Lake Ozark, MO, 573-365-5620)
First song on your playlist: “Lake Song” by The Decemberists
The trek: 1.5 hours north of Springfield

Two kids in a canoe
Photo courtesy ShutterstockTake to the water on Truman Lake.
Photo of mountain range in Arkansas
Photo by Jeff RoseEnjoy incredible views in Ponca, Arkansas.

Ponca, Arkansas

Who it’s for: Outdoor adventurers
Why it’s great: There are loads of amazing trails, gorgeous scenery, and even wild elk that you can spot as you drive around.
Must-do list: Big Bluff Goat Trail (challenging), Lost Valley Trail (easy), Buffalo Outdoor Center zipline, floating the Buffalo National River
Where to stay: Mountain Sunrise Cabin at Buffalo Outdoor Center (4699 AR-43, Ponca, AR, 870-861-5514)
First song on your playlist: “Here Comes the Sun” by The Beatles
The trek: Just under two hours south of Springfield

Cycling in Bella Vista, Arkansas
Photo courtesy Discover Bella VistaHit the trails on two wheels in Bella Vista, Arkansas.

Bella Vista, Arkansas

Who it’s for: Lake-loving bikers
Why it’s great: This community  has seven little lakes, a blue heron rookery and properties walkable to mountain biking trails.
Must-do list: The Back 40 trails, Little Sugar Trail System, Blowing Springs Park (700 Blowing Spring Rd., Bella Vista, AR, 479-855-8075)
Where to stay: Trails Edge Cabins (16 Trails Edge Ln., Bella Vista, AR, 479-366-7233)
First song on your playlist: “Bicycle Race” by Queen
The trek: Almost two hours southwest of Springfield, near Bentonville

2–3 Hours Away

Photo from touring downtown Warrensburg
Photo courtesy Warrensburg Main StreetHead to wine country in Warrensburg, Missouri.

Warrensburg, Missouri

Who it’s for: Anyone charmed by all things Victorian
Why it’s great: This town offers lots of small-town sweetness.
Must-do list: Grover Street Victorian Historic District, Dickens Christmas event, Main Street Shopping District, Spin! Pizza (14 W. South St. #105, Warrensburg, MO, 660-543-7746)
Where to stay: Gelbach Manor Bed & Breakfast (300 S. Holden St., Warrensburg, MO, 660-747-5085)
First song on your playlist: “Victoria” by The Kinks
The trek: Two hours north via MO-13

Aerial photo of St. James in Missouri
Photo by Josh BeecherSee a spectacular spring and much more in St. James, Missouri.

St. James, Missouri

Who it’s for: River rats and amateur hydrologists
Why it’s great: St. James has a gorgeous spring near shady picnic spots and ironworks ruins—all within a half-hour drive of caves and rivers.
Must-do list: Maramec Spring Park, Meramec Caverns (1135 Hwy W, Sullivan, MO, 573-468-2283), Sybill’s Restaurant (1100 N. Jefferson St., St. James, MO, 573-265-4224), floating the Meramec River, St. James Winery (540 State Rte B, St. James, MO, 800-280-9463)
Where to stay: Cooper + Stone Cottage Airbnb
First song on your playlist: “Take Me to the River” by Talking Heads
The trek: A two-hour drive from Springfield via I-44 east

Stadium in Columbia, Missouri
Photo courtesy Columbia Convention and Visitors BureauTrue fans can watch the Mizzou Tigers play in Columbia, Missouri.

Columbia, Missouri

Who it’s for: True Tigers at heart
Why it’s great: Any alum will tell you that Columbia on a game day has a vibe like no other.
Must-do list: Mizzou Tigers football and tailgating, Shakespeare’s Pizza, strolling Francis Quadrangle, burgers at Booche’s Billiard Hall (110 S. 9th St., Columbia, MO, 573-874-9519), Devil’s Ice Box at Rock Bridge Memorial State Park
Where to stay: The Tiger Hotel (23 S. 8th St., Columbia, MO, 573-875-8888). You can’t miss it as you drive through downtown Columbia; it has the word “Tiger” in giant illuminated letters on its roof.
First song on your playlist: “Every True Son and Fight Tigers” by Marching Mizzou
The trek: 2 hours and 45 minutes north of Springfield

The Momentary in Bentonville, Arkansas
Photo courtesy The MomentaryThe Momentary is one of the many places to enjoy the arts in Bentonville, Arkansas.

Bentonville, Arkansas

Who it’s for: Art aficionados
Why it’s great: Bentonville is a study in contrasts, with trail life and world-class art living side-by-side around a quaint and sweet town square.
Must-do list: Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art (600 Museum Way, Bentonville, AR, 479-418-5700), The Momentary (507 SE E. St., Bentonville, AR, 479-367-7500), Slaughter Pen Trail, The Preacher’s Son, Bentonville City Square
Where to stay: 21C Museum Hotel (200 NE A St., Bentonville, AR, 479-286-6500)
First song on your playlist: “Yellow” by Coldplay
The trek: Two hours southwest of Springfield

Fayetteville, Arkansas

Who it’s for: Arkansas alums and mural-selfie fanatics
Why it’s great: This college town near Bentonville, Arkansas, is packed with personality, public art and a hopping food truck culture.
Must-do list: Botanical Garden of the Ozarks (4703 N. Crossover Rd., Fayetteville, AR, 479-750-2620), War Eagle Mill (11045 War Eagle Rd., Rogers, AR, 866-492-7324), Razorbacks football, hunt for public murals and food trucks on a VeoRide bike or Spin scooter share
Where to stay: The Graduate Hotel (70 N. East Ave., Fayetteville, AR, 479-442-5555)
The trek: Two and a half hours from Springfield

Cycling trail in Jefferson City, Missouri
Photo by Tyler BeckCycle the Haunted Bridge Loop in Jefferson City, Missouri.

Jefferson City, Missouri

Who it’s for: Government buffs
Why it’s great: You can see where Missouri lawmakers do their thing.
Must-do list: Missouri Capitol tour, Central Dairy (610 Madison St., Jefferson City, MO, 573-635-6148) banana split, cycle Haunted Bridge Loop along the Missouri River, Missouri State Penitentiary (115 Lafayette St., Jefferson City, MO, 866-998-6998) ghost tour
Where to stay: Parker’s Place
First song on your playlist: The Hamilton soundtrack
The trek: Two and a half hours from Springfield

The Gathering Place in Tulsa, Oklahoma tourist photo
Photo courtesy The Gathering PlaceFind family fun in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Tulsa, Oklahoma

Who it’s for: Families looking for some fun
Why it’s great: There’s so much to do in Tulsa! But for a kid-focused trip, The Gathering Place’s (2650 S John Williams Way East, Tulsa, OK, 918-779-1000) expansive outdoor adventure space takes the cake.
Must-do list: The Gathering Place, Tulsa Zoo (6421 E. 36th St N, Tulsa, OK, 918-669-6600), Oklahoma Aquarium (300 Aquarium Dr., Jenks, OK, 918-296-3474), Tulsa Air and Space Museum & Planetarium (3624 N 74th E. Ave., Tulsa, OK, 918-834-9900), Rose Rock Microcreamery (502 E. 3rd St. #35, Tulsa, OK, 918-396-8001)
Where to stay: Hotel Indigo (121 S. Elgin Ave., Tulsa, OK, 918-779-4445)
First song on your playlist: “Tulsa Time” by Eric Clapton
The trek: Almost three hours west of Springfield

Rocheport, Missouri

Who it’s for: A low-key getaway with you, your partner and another couple or two
Why it’s great: A sweet town just north of Columbia, Rocheport offers Missouri River views from the Katy Trail or a local vineyard.
Must-do list: Katy Trail State Park, Meriwether Cafe & Bike Shop (700 1st St., Rocheport, MO, 573-698-1222), Les Bourgeois Vineyards
Where to stay: Schoolhouse Bed & Breakfast (504 3rd St., Rocheport, MO, 573-698-2022)
First song on your playlist: “Take it Easy” by The Eagles
The trek: Three hours north of Springfield

Farm in Hermann, Missouri
Photo by Judd DermalineConnect with some German roots in Hermann, Missouri.
Grand Canyon Sleeper Train
Photo courtesy AmtrakTake a railway odyssey on the Grand Canyon Sleeper Train.

Grand Canyon Sleeper Train

Who it’s for: Awe-seeking families
Why it’s great: You can drive just three hours to Kansas City to start a Grand Canyon adventure! Book a four-person Amtrak sleeper room to Flagstaff, where you can join a day tour to the Grand Canyon.
Must-do list: Guided day tour with Grand Canyon Adventures
Where to stay: Amtrak Southwest Chief
First song on your playlist: “Long Train Runnin’” by The Doobie Brothers
The trek: Three hours to KC

Kansas City Chiefs stadium
Photo courtesy Kansas City ChiefsKansas City, Missouri is a Cheifs super-fan’s dream.

Kansas City, Missouri

Who it’s for: Citizens of Chiefs Kingdom
Why it’s great: Kansas City is a super-fan’s dream these days, and this trip is all about KC barbecue and KC sports.
Must-do list: Kansas City Chiefs Football, Kansas City Royals baseball, Kansas Speedway racing, Fiorella’s Jack Stack BBQ
Where to stay: The Fontaine, located in Country Club Plaza (901 W. 48th Pl, Kansas City, MO, 816-753-8800)
First song on your playlist: “Run it Back” by Blane Howard
The trek: Three hours north of Springfield

3–4 Hours Away

St. Louis Cardinals stadium stock photo
Photo courtesy ShutterstockSt. Louis, Missouri offers its fair share of sports fan thrills, too.

St. Louis, Missouri

Who it’s for: A group of friends on a guys’ trip
Why it’s great: It’s a beer-and-baseball road trip for Cardinals fans and microbrewery stans.
Must-do list: St. Louis Cardinals game; Cardinals Hall of Fame & Museum (700 Clark Ave., St. Louis, MO, 314-345-9600); Beast Craft BBQ (4156 Manchester Ave., St. Louis, MO, 314-944-6003);  brewery hopping at Civil Life (3714 Holt Ave., St. Louis, MO), Perennial Artisan Ales (8125 Michigan Ave., St. Louis, MO), 4 Hands Brewing Co. (1220 S. 8th St., St. Louis, MO, 314-436-1559), Urban Chestnut (3229 Washington Ave., St. Louis, MO, 314-222-0143), and Anheuser-Busch (1200 Lynch St., St. Louis, MO, 314-577-2626)
Where to stay: Angad Arts Hotel (3550 Samuel Shepard Dr., St. Louis, MO, 314-561-0033)
First song on your playlist: “Glory Days” by Bruce Springsteen
The trek: 3.5 hours east via I-44

The Elms Hotel and Spa in Excelsior Springs, Missouri
Photo courtesy The Elms HotelPresident Truman stayed at The Elms Hotel in Excelsior Springs, Missouri after winning the 1948 election.

Excelsior Springs, Missouri

Who it’s for: A girls’ getaway
Why it’s great: Harry Truman slept here! The hotel dates to 1888 but its most storied claim to fame is that in 1948, Harry Truman spent the night he was elected President there. The grounds are beautiful but it’s the spa that steals the show. It is first-class all the way. Although a flood last summer damaged the indoor lap pool causing it to be closed for repair, there are plenty of other perks to lower your heart rate and stress level. The Grotto is the centerpiece of the spa. It includes a dry sauna, steam sauna, hot tub, cold plunge shower, steam shower and an exfoliation bar. Can you say “aaahhh”?
Must-do list: A spa day
Where to stay: The Elms (401 Regent St., Excelsior Springs, MO, 816-630-5500) 
First song on your playlist: “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” by Cyndi Lauper
The trek: 3.5 hours north.

River in Innsbrook, Missouri
Photo by Brian SchaffLove the lake life? Spend some time in Innsbrook, Missouri.

Innsbrook, Missouri

Who it’s for: Lake life lovers who want an easy vacay
Why it’s great: This small weekend community near St. Louis is a self-contained lake life haven.
Must-do list: Kayak, golf, hike, stand-up paddleboard, The Clubhouse Bar & Grille (1150 Aspen Lake Dr., Innsbrook, MO, 636-928-3366)
Where to stay: An Innsbrook rental cabin
First song on your playlist: “The Lakes” by Taylor Swift
The trek: Three-and-a-half hours northeast of Springfield

Main street in St. Charles, Missouri
Photo courtesy Greater St. Charles Convention & VIsitor's BureauHistoric St. Charles was the first state capital of Missouri.

St. Charles, Missouri

Who it’s for: People who like some history with their small-city sweetness
Why it’s great: Missouri’s first state capital embraces its long history, but the dining and main street shopping are great too!
Must-do list: First State Capitol, Historic Main Street, Lewis and Clark Boathouse and Museum (1050 S. Riverside Dr., St. Charles, MO, 636-947-3199), Prasino (1520 S. 5th St. #110, St. Charles, MO, 636-277-0202), St. Charles Trolley
Where to stay: Boone’s Lick Trail Inn (1000 S. Main St., St. Charles, MO, 636-947-7000)
First song on your playlist: “Small Town” by John Mellencamp
The trek: 3.5 hours northeast

Street in Little Rock, Arkansas
Photo courtesy Little Rock Convention & Visitors BureauVisit the hometown of a past president in the Arkansas state capital Little Rock.

Little Rock, Arkansas

Who it’s for: State Capital bucket listers
Why it’s great: The capital city of Arkansas pays homage to former President Bill Clinton while offering some new cultural attractions.
Must-do list: Clinton Presidential Center (1200 President Clinton Ave., Little Rock, AR, 501-374-4242), Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts (2510 Cantrell Rd., Little Rock, AR, 501-372-4000), Arkansas State Capitol (500 Woodlane St., Little Rock, AR, 501-682-3000), River Market Entertainment District
Where to stay: Capital Hotel (111 W. Markham St., Little Rock, AR, 501-374-7474)
First song on your playlist: “On the Road Again” by Willie Nelson
The trek: Four hours south of Springfield

Green Dirt Farm cheese tasting and wine in Weston, Missouri
Photo courtesy Green Dirt FarmTake a cheese tasting tour of Green Dirty Farm in Weston, Missouri.

Weston, Missouri

Who it’s for: Fans of locally made and grown food
Why it’s great: It’s all about the tasty side of farm life at this sweet and charming town located just north of Kansas City.
Must-do list: Cheese tasting tour at Green Dirt Farm (1099 Welt St., Weston, MO, 816-386-2156), apple picking in the fall at Weston Orchard (18545 Co Rd. H, Weston, MO, 816-640-4013), tastings at Pirtle Winery (502 Spring St., Weston, MO, 816-640-5728)
Where to stay: The Firefly Inn (908 Washington St., Weston, MO, 816-351-3744)
First song on your playlist: “Big Cheese” by Nirvana
The trek: Three and a half hours north of Springfield

Arcadia Valley, Missouri

Who it’s for: Daring river rats
Why it’s great: This part of Missouri is packed with natural wonders from the massive granite boulders at Elephant Rocks to the slippery water chutes at Johnson Shut-Ins.
Must-do list: Elephant Rocks State Park (7390, 7406 MO-21, Belleview, MO), Johnson Shut-Ins (148 Taum Sauk Trail, Middle Brook, MO), the highest point in Missouri at Taum Sauk Mountain
Where to stay: Arcadia Academy (211 S. College St., Arcadia, MO, 573-546-4249)
First song on your playlist: “Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin
The trek: 3.5 hours east of Springfield

Boat on a lake at Carlton Landing in Oklahoma
Photo courtesy Carlton LandingTake to the lake in the picturesque community of Carlton Landing, Oklahoma.

Carlton Landing, Oklahoma

Who it’s for: A family in need of a quiet retreat
Why it’s great: This tiny community on Lake Eufaula has the same coastal vibes as Florida spots like Seaside or Rosemary Beach.
Must-do list: Boat rental, yard games, yoga, community garden
Where to stay: A candy-colored Carlton Landing rental house
First song on your playlist: “Sloop John B” by The Beach Boys
The trek: Almost four hours southwest of Springfield

4–6 Hours Away

River boat in Oklahoma City
Photo courtesy Oklahoma City CVBVisit Oklahoma City for history and colorful local culture.

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Who it’s for: A few couples looking for a fun small-city getaway
Why it’s great: This city is full of surprises, from a candy-colored boutique hotel to bustling nightlife.
Must-do list: Scissortail Park (300 SW 7th St., Oklahoma City, OK, 405-445-6277), water taxi and dining at Bricktown Entertainment District, First Americans Museum (659 First Americans Boulevard, Oklahoma City, OK, 405-594-2100), Oklahoma City Museum of Art (415 Couch Dr., Oklahoma City, OK, 405-236-3100)
Where to stay: Bradford House (1235 NW 38th St., Oklahoma City, OK, 405-451-3693)
First song on your playlist: “Oklahoma City” by Zach Bryan
The trek: Four and a half hours west of Springfield.

Historic home in Cape Girardeau, Missouri
Photo by Jeremi GriggsHistory buffs and movie buffs alike have some great reasons to visit Cape Girardeau, Missouri.

Cape Girardeau, Missouri

Who it’s for: Movie buffs wanting to see where Ben Affleck hung out
Why it’s great: This river town is rich in history and was a filming site for the movie Gone Girl.
Must-do list: Trail of Tears State Park (429 Moccasin Springs Rd., Jackson, MO), downtown’s public art, Gone Girl self-led tour, Old Mississippi River Bridge Scenic Overlook, Ebb & Flow Fermentations (11 S. Spanish St., Cape Girardeau, MO, 573-803-1611)
Where to stay: Historical Kage House Airbnb
First song on your playlist: “Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen
The trek: 4.5 hours east

Stock photo from Hot Springs, Arkansas
Photo courtesy ShutterstockEnjoy the benefits of some natural spa amenities in Hot Springs, Arkansas.

Hot Springs, Arkansas

Who it’s for: A group of grown-up friends without the kids
why it’s great: Spas sprung up around this town’s natural hot springs—and so did a horse racing culture. It’s a great place to relax and doing a little betting.
Must-do list: Oaklawn Racing & Gaming (2705 Central Ave., Hot Springs, AR, 501-623-4411), Quapaw Baths & Spa (413 Central Ave., Hot Springs National Park, AR, 501-609-9822), Hot Springs National Park (369 Central Ave., Hot Springs, AR, 501-620-6715), Garvan Woodland Gardens (550 Arkridge Rd., Hot Springs, AR, 501-262-9300)
Where to stay: Casa Del Rosa for your whole group
First song on your playlist: “Dark Horse” by Katy Perry
Getting there: Five hours south of Springfield

Photo from inside Strataca Salt Mines in Hutchinson, Kansas
Photo courtesy StratacaTour an underground salt mine in Hutchinson, Kansas.

Hutchinson, Kansas

Who it’s for: Anyone curious about geology
Why it’s great: Charming Amish country shopping and a salt mine you can tour in an underground train
Must-do list: Strataca Salt Mines, upscale hunting at Hooray Ranch (26202 Sego Rd., Kingman, KS, 620-532-1127), Yoder Amish Country, downtown murals and sculptures
Where to stay: The Little House in Yoder
First song on your playlist: “Seether” by Veruca Salt
The trek: Five hours west

Stock photo of Crater of Diamonds State Park sign
Photo courtesy ShutterstockDig for (real!) diamonds at Crater of Diamonds State Park in Arkansas.

Crater of Diamonds State Park, Arkansas

Who it’s for: Treasure hunters
Why it’s great: You can dig for diamonds—real diamonds! And you can keep what you find in the 37-acre field, including other rocks and gemstones.
Must-do list: Dig for diamonds, learn about the area’s history and geology in the Crater of Diamonds State Park visitor’s center (209 State Park Rd., Murfreesboro, AR, 870-925-4000), Telinga’s Mexican Cuisine (100 E. 13th St., Murfreesboro, AR, 870-285-2418)
Where to stay: Jailhouse Bed & Breakfast at nearby Historic Washington State Park (103 Franklin St., Washington, AR)
First song on your playlist: “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” by The Beatles
The trek: Almost six hours south of Springfield

Mural in Des Moines, Iowa
Photo courtesy Catch Des MoinesVisit a culturally vibrant downtown in Des Moines, Iowa.

Des Moines, Iowa

Who it’s for: Artsy adventurers
Why it’s great: The coolness factor of this town has been ticking upward, and now it’s known as an artsy haven with a state fair famous for its food.
Must-do list: Art Route, Pappajohn Sculpture Park (1330 Grand Ave., Des Moines, IA, 515-237-1386), Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden (909 Robert D. Ray Dr, Des Moines, IA, 515-323-6290), Better Homes & Gardens Test Garden (1716 Locust St., Des Moines, IA, 515-284-3994), Iowa State Fair
Where to stay: Surety Hotel (206 6th Ave., Des Moines, IA, 515-985-2066)
First song on your playlist: “I’ve Been Everywhere” by Johnny Cash
The trek: 5.5 hours north of Springfield

Iowa City, Iowa

Who it’s for: Football fan families
Why it’s great: The city comes alive during football weekends, so you can take your kids to get the fan experience and then explore kid-friendly fun.
Must-do list: University of Iowa Hawkeyes football, Iowa Children’s Museum (1451 Coral Ridge Ave., Coralville, IA, 319-625-6255), Devonian Fossil Gorge (2850 Prairie Du Chien Rd NE, Iowa City, IA, 319-338-3543 ext. 6300), Natural History Museum (on campus)
Where to stay: The Highlander Hotel (2525 Highlander Pl., Iowa City, IA, 319-354-2000)
First song on your playlist: “Holiday Road” by Lindsey Buckingham
The trek: 6.5 hours north of Springfield

Colorful photo from downtown Memphis, Tennessee
Photo courtesy ShutterstockMemphis, Tennessee is a must-visit for country music fans.

Memphis, Tennessee

Who it’s for: Elvis super-fans
Why it’s great: There is so much music history—from Elvis’s home at Graceland to the Sun Studio, where Johnny Cash recorded hits.
Must-do list: Graceland, Beale Street, Sun Studio, Memphis in May
Where to stay: The Peabody Hotel (149 Union Ave., Memphis, TN, 901-529-4000)
First song on your playlist: “Graceland” by Paul Simon
The trek: 5.5 hours southeast

More Than Six Hours Away

Hotel in French Lick Indiana
Photo courtesy French Lick ResortFrench Lick, Indiana offers the perfect place for a romantic weekend getaway.

French Lick, Indiana

Who it’s for: Couples on a romantic anniversary trip
Why it’s great: The resort is actually two beautiful hotels—French Lick Springs Hotel and West Baden Springs Hotel—set a mile apart. Both earned notoriety from the medicinal waters that flow through the property. Today though, guests come to enjoy a poolside afternoon, hike miles of trails in the adjacent Hoosier National Forest, saddle up for a trail ride, take aim on the shooting clay range, try their luck in the onsite casino, hit the links or just sit on the expansive front porch with a cool drink and watch the world go by. Be sure to make a reservation for a window table in 1875: The Steakhouse at French Lick Springs Hotel for a romantic dinner. Bonus: French Lick is the childhood home of basketball great Larry Bird.
Must-do list: 1875: The Steakhouse (8670 W., IN-56, French Lick, IN, 812-936-8001), Hoosier National Forest
Where to stay: French Lick Resort (8670 IN-56, French Lick, IN, 888-976-3617)
First song on your playlist: “Night and Day” by Diana Krall
The trek: Seven hours east.

Churchill in Kentucky
Photo courtesy ShutterstockHorse racing fans can do it right in Louisville, Kentucky.

Louisville, Kentucky

Who it’s for: Kentucky Derby bucket listers
Why it’s great: With more than 100 years of refined elegance, The Brown Hotel is the pride of Louisville. It’s easy to see why. Walking through the lobby, you can almost feel money dripping from the ceiling and oozing from the walls. After a day at the races, the lobby bar makes for a perfect place to celebrate your winnings or drown your losses with a tumbler of smooth Kentucky bourbon. Louisville is home to Churchill Downs with a live racing season in May, June, September and early October. No trip to The Brown Hotel is complete without ordering the world-famous Hot Brown, an open-faced turkey, cheese, bacon, tomato and mornay sauce sandwich, created at the hotel in 1926. It’s a knife and fork heart attack on a plate.
Must-do list: The Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs
Where to stay: The Brown Hotel (335 W. Broadway, Louisville, KY, 888-888-5252)
First song on your playlist: “The Race is On” by George Jones
The trek: Seven hours east of Springfield.

Nashville, Tennessee

Who it’s for: Country music fanatics
Why it’s great: When we think of Nashville, we think of the sound of live music pouring out of every bar along Broadway!
Must-do list: Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum (222 Rep. John Lewis Way S., Nashville, TN, 615-416-2001), Grand Ole Opry (2804 Opryland Dr., Nashville, TN, 615-871-6779), Lou/Na Rooftop Bar (1000 Broadway, Nashville, TN, 615-622-1234), Prince’s Hot Chicken, honky tonk hopping on Broadway or 12 South.
Where to stay: Dream Nashville Hotel (210 4th Ave. N, Nashville, TN, 615-622-0600)
First song on your playlist: “Outside Nashville City Limits” by Joan Baez
The trek: Seven hours east of Springfield

Mason City, Iowa

Who it’s for: Lovers of Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture (and The Music Man)
Why it’s great: The Park Inn is the last Frank Lloyd Wright-designed hotel in the world. Built in 1912, it has been a hotel, an office building, a strip club and then a vacant eyesore. In the early 2000s, The Park Inn underwent a 12-year, $18 million renovation to restore it to its Prairie School-style beauty. An adjacent law office, also designed by Wright, was incorporated into the hotel to allow for 27 boutique hotel rooms. There’s also a wonderful restaurant and downstairs lounge. But The Park Inn isn’t the only Wright-related architectural draw. Many of his students designed homes in the Prairie School style and they are scattered throughout Mason City. An easy-to-follow driving tour map is available from the visitor’s center. Mason City is also home to Meredith Wilson who wrote The Music Man. Ya got trouble, right here in Mason City, er, I mean, River City. The driving tour includes Wilson’s home.
Where to stay: The Park Inn (7 W. State St., Mason City, IA, 641-422-0015)
First song on your playlist: “That’ll Be the Day” by Buddy Holly (Holly died in a plane crash just outside Mason City)
The trek: Go to Kansas City, get on I-35 north. Seven hours driving time. (On the way take a detour to Winterset, IA and see the covered bridges of Madison Country.)

Direct Flights from Springfield and Branson

Charlotte, NC

Flight time: 2 hours 10 minutes
Must-do: Charlotte Motor Speedway and NASCAR Hall of Fame
Must-yum: Stoke Restaurant

Chicago, IL

Flight time: 1 hour 50 minutes
Must-do: Field Museum, Museum of Science and Industry and Art Institute of Chicago
Must-yum: Giordano’s Chicago Style Pizza

Dallas, TX

Flight time: 1 hour 40 minutes
Must-do: Dallas Cowboys game, John F. Kennedy Memorial
Must-yum: STIRR Restaurant

Los Angeles, CA

Flight time: 3 hours 40 minutes
Must-do: Santa Monica Pier Ferris Wheel, Griffith Observatory and the Hollywood Sign
Must-yum: Mírame [Editor's Note: As of June 2023, Mírame is closed.]

Las Vegas, NV

Flight time: 3 hours 10 minutes
Must-do: Casino-hop on the strip, Cirque du Soleil, Fremont Street Experience
Must-yum: Bazaar Meat by José Andrés

Orlando, FL

Flight time: 2 hours 10 minutes
Must-do: Walt Disney World Resort, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios
Must-yum: Dole Whip float at Disney World

Tampa, FL

Flight time: 2 hours 5 minutes
Must-do: Busch Gardens, historic Ybor City, Tampa River Walk
Must-yum: Cuban at The Columbia Restaurant

Phoenix, AZ

Flight time: 2 hours 55 minutes
Must-do: Desert Botanical Garden, Heard Museum, Camelback Mountain hike
Must-yum: Kai Restaurant

Houston, TX

Flight time: 2 hours 15 minutes
Must-do: Space Center Houston, Houston Museum of Natural Science
Must-yum: Hugo’s

Destin, FL

Flight time: 1 hours 45 minutes
Must-do: Henderson Beach State ParkDestin Harbor Boardwalk, Crab Island
Must-yum: Beach Walk Cafe

Atlanta, GA

Flight time: 1 hour 50 minutes
Must-do: Georgia Aquarium, World of Coca-Cola, Centennial Olympic Park
Must-yum: Bacchanalia

Denver, CO

Flight time: 2 hours 20 minutes
Must-do: Red Rocks Park & Amphitheater, Denver Beer Trail, Rocky Mountain National Park
Must-yum: Safta Restaurant

Punta Gorda, FL

Flight time: 2 hours 25 minutes
Must-do: Don Pedro Island State Park, Fisherman’s Village, Little Gasparilla Island
Must-yum: The Perfect Caper

Austin, TX

Flight time: 1 hour 40 minutes
Must-do: Austin City Limits Festival, South by Southwest
Must-yum: Barley Swine

Katie Pollock Estes

About the Writer

Katie Pollock Estes is the Editorial Director at 417 Magazine. Katie has been working at 417 since December 2005. Her role includes writing, editing and planning stories while leading the team that produces 417’s editorial content. Read more about Katie.