When traveling across the Show-Me State, don’t limit your stops to fuel fill-ups and fast-food breaks. Take some time to stretch your legs—and your imagination—at some of Missouri’s most memorable roadside attractions.
The old saying “the greatest thing since sliced bread” comes to life in Chillicothe, where a mural pays tribute to the town’s claim to fame as the home of sliced bread. Ninety years ago, Chillicothe became the first place in the world to sell machine-sliced loaves—and sandwich making has never been the same.
In Marshall, a bronze statue pays tribute to Jim the Wonder Dog, whose powers of prediction were legendary. The Llewellyn setter puzzled psychologists with his abilities to pick the winners of the Kentucky Derby, correctly guess the sex of unborn babies and other amazing feats. In 2017, state lawmakers passed legislation recognizing Jim as “Missouri’s Wonder Dog.”
Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! Odditorium in Branson proudly displays the World’s Largest Ball of Twine—although its title is up for debate. Nonetheless, it is a sight to see along with hundreds of other entertaining oddities.
It’s easy to recall one of Mark Twain’s most famous stories at the spot where Tom Sawyer cleverly convinces his friends to whitewash a fence. The Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum in Hannibal includes six historic buildings and two museums about Missouri’s most famous writer. In Riverview Park, a stately statue of Samuel Clemens overlooks the Mississippi River.
A young Walt Disney spent countless days dreaming beneath a large cottonwood tree near his boyhood home in Marceline. Years later, many of the cartoon characters he created were inspired by his time at the Dreaming Tree. The tree died in 2015, but a decade earlier, Disney’s grandson planted a sapling grown from a seed harvested from the original tree. Now the Son of Dreaming Tree carries on the legacy at the Disney Farm. Visitors are invited to write messages to Disney inside a nearby barn, where he put on his first production.
The Patee House Museum in St. Joseph features the house where Jesse James, one of Missouri’s most infamous outlaws, was murdered in 1882 by fellow gang member Bob Ford. The home includes artifacts from Jesse James’ life as well as items from Frank James and the Ford brothers.
A 15-foot bronze statue in St. Charles pays tribute to two of the most famous explorers to set foot in Missouri. Meriwether Lewis and William Clark met in the city—known then as Les Petites Cotes—in 1804 to gather final supplies before embarking on their expedition into the Louisiana Purchase territory.
Take a walk through ancient history at Graham Cave State Park, near Danville, where artifacts from 8,000 to 10,000 years ago have been unearthed. Visitors can enter the mouth of the cave and view interpretive exhibits throughout the park that explain the cultural and natural significance of the site.
One of the most colorful spots in Kansas City is a parking garage for the Central Branch of the Kansas City Public Library. When the structure was built in 2006, area residents were asked for beautification ideas, and the Community Bookshelf was born. The façade features a “row of books” 25 feet tall with titles that include Charlotte’s Web, the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Lord of the Rings.
Interstate 44/Route 66
At just over 42 feet tall and 27,500 pounds, the giant rocking chair near Cuba was once certified by the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest in the world. But records are made to be broken. The rocker, fittingly erected on April Fools’ Day, now ranks number two.
Catch a glimpse of the heyday of Route 66 at Gary’s Gay Parita in Ash Grove. The re-creation of a 1930s Sinclair gas station includes the original gas pumps and other memorabilia from The Mother Road.