Quick trips and nearby destinations in southwest Missouri and beyond for every week of the year.
By Katie Pollock Estes and Joan Whitaker
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.
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Less Than Two Hours Away
Photo courtesy Notley HawkinsEnjoy some classic Route 66 kicks with a drive-in movie.
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
Photo courtesy Eureka Springs City Advertising and Promotion CommissionTake in the small town vibe in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.
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.
Photo courtesy Lake of the Ozarks Convention & Visitor's BureauLake of the Ozarks is perfect for outdoor concerts and much more.
Photo by Jeff RoseEnjoy incredible views in 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
Photo courtesy Discover Bella VistaHit the trails on two wheels in Bella Vista, Arkansas.
Photo courtesy Warrensburg Main StreetHead to wine country in 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
Photo by Josh BeecherSee a spectacular spring and much more in St. James, Missouri.
Photo courtesy Columbia Convention and Visitors BureauTrue fans can watch the Mizzou Tigers play in 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
Photo courtesy The MomentaryThe Momentary is one of the many places to enjoy the arts in Bentonville, Arkansas.
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
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
Photo courtesy ShutterstockSt. Louis, Missouri offers its fair share of sports fan thrills, too.
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 more: Visit 417mag.com to read Joan Whitaker’s story about her experience at The Elms.
Photo by Brian SchaffLove the lake life? Spend some time in 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
Photo courtesy Greater St. Charles Convention & VIsitor's BureauHistoric St. Charles was the first state capital of 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
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
Photo courtesy Oklahoma City CVBVisit Oklahoma City for history and colorful local culture.
Photo courtesy StratacaTour an underground salt mine in 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
Photo courtesy ShutterstockDig for (real!) diamonds at Crater of Diamonds State Park in Arkansas.
Photo courtesy ShutterstockMemphis, Tennessee is a must-visit for country music fans.
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
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 more: Visit 417mag.com to read Joan Whitaker’s story about her experience in French Lick.
Photo courtesy ShutterstockHorse racing fans can do it right in 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 more: Visit 417mag.com to read Joan Whitaker’s story about her experience in Louisville.
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.)