Essential RV Missouri:
8 Top Destinations
in the Show Me State
by Andre Willis
One of the must-see destinations in the heartland of America is the Show Me state—offering all the charm of its neighbors in the Deep South, coupled with good old Midwest hospitality. Missouri is so multi-dimensional in culture, eateries, natural beauty and attractions, planning your itinerary can be challenging! Whether Missouri is your ultimate destination, or part of a cross-country trip, we invite you to discover eight locales that make this “Mother of the West” a rewarding journey.
St. Louis played a central role to westward exploration in the United States, earning the nickname 'Gateway to the West.’ Located on the state’s western border with Illinois, where the mighty Mississippi River meets the Missouri River, the city was founded in the mid-1700s by French and Spanish fur traders from Louisiana. The area later served as a launching point and home base for the famous Lewis and Clark Expedition. St. Louis is a city with a prideful history, blending Midwestern charm with cosmopolitan amenities.
As the crown jewel of St. Louis Gateway Arch is a 630-foot monument built to commemorate the western expansion in the United States. Completed in 1965, the grounds include a museum and national park among its attractions. Your visit isn’t complete, however, without riding the tram to the top for spectacular panoramic views.
From the Arch, head next door to Basilica of St. Louis, a.k.a. Old Cathedral, which dates back to 1776. Across the street sits Old Courthouse, where Dredd Scott sued for his freedom and Virginia Minor fought for women’s suffrage. The City Museum, just a short walk away, is housed in a hundred-year-old downtown warehouse. Take a break from sightseeing at Citygarden Sculpture Park.
A nearby urban oasis, Forest Park hosted both the World’s Fair and Summer Olympics in 1904. At 1,300 acres, it’s larger than New York’s Central Park. Forest Park is home to popular attractions such as the Saint Louis Zoo, Saint Louis Art Museum and Saint Louis Science Center.
RV Parking: Casino Queen RV Park is located in East St. Louis, across the Mississippi River from Downtown St. Louis. Families may enjoy Jellystone Park or Pin Oak Creek RV Park near Six Flags amusement park. Sundermeier RV Park is 20 miles west of the city, in historic St. Charles, and on the banks of the Missouri River.
RV Camping: Several popular state and county parks surround the St Louis-area. Babler State Park, 30 miles west of downtown, offers 2,441 acres with 75 campsites. A little further west is Klondike Lake, with picturesque views of the Missouri River Valley. Nature lovers can also drive one hour northwest to Cuivre River State Park, one of the largest parks in the state.
Situated on the border of Kansas and Missouri, Kansas City’s earliest settlers were French fur traders who traveled up the Missouri River from St. Louis in the 1700s. Once a “gateway to the West” in its own right, the historic Oregon, Santa Fe and California trails all passed through the area. The city is perhaps most famous for its barbeque and jazz heritage.
The National WWI Museum and Memorial features one of Kansas City’s most iconic landmarks, the 217-foot Liberty Memorial tower. A must-see for history buffs, the facility was designated by Congress in 2004 as an official war museum and displays a rich collection of WWI artifacts. Just south of the war museum sits Union Station, built in 1914. This preserved train depot offers rotating exhibits, a science center and a planetarium.
The Country Club Plaza is Kansas City’s premiere dining and shopping destination. This 15-block district is famous for its Spanish-inspired architecture and dozens of water fountains. Be sure to grab a bite at Jack Stack for a taste of Kansas City barbeque. For a different scene, the downtown Kansas City area offers proximity to Crossroads Art District, River Market and Power & Light District.
RV Parking: Worlds of Fun Village, next to a popular amusement park, sits just off I-435, 10 miles north of downtown. Campus RV Park and Stadium Park & Campground are located in nearby Independence, minutes from Interstate 70.
RV Camping: Longview Lake, Lake Jacomo and Blue Springs Lake are freshwater reservoirs located less than 20 miles from Kansas City. Each lake has a campground with full hookup sites. Or head north to Smithville Lake, which offers more than 700 campsites.
Lake of the Ozarks
Lake of the Ozarks is a man-made reservoir in Central Missouri with 1,100 miles of winding shoreline—longer than the coastline of California according to locals. This popular summer vacation spot has something for all visitors—from beaches, boating, and fishing to golf courses and shopping. The surrounding Lake of the Ozarks State Park is 17,00 acres, making it Missouri’s largest state park, and perfect for a trek on or around the lake shore.
Some 300 of Missouri’s documented caves are in the Ozarks region, with many open for tours such as Bridal Cave and Jabob’s Cave. Within miles is the Ha Ha Tonka State Park, home to the Ha Ha Tonka Castle Ruins.
RV Parking: Osage Beach RV Park, Cross Creek RV Park, and Linn Creek KOA are among the highest-rated RV parks in the area.
RV Camping: Lake of the Ozarks State Park has nearly 200 campsites with basic and electric hookups. All campsites are reservable up to 12 months in advance.
Nestled in Southwest Missouri, Branson is a popular tourist destination that’s most famous for its live entertainment. On a given day, visitors to this Ozark town can choose from dozens of live shows, ranging from country to comedy. Don’t miss the action-packed Dolly Parton's Stampede Dinner Attraction.
Most of Branson’s theaters and attractions are located along Highway 76, known as the Branson Strip. Downtown Branson and Branson Landing offer additional shopping, dining and entertainment options.
RV Parking: Branson Shenanigans RV Park is conveniently located a few blocks from the Strip. City of Branson Lakeside RV Park and Escapees at Turkey Creek are walking distance to the Landing, and a short trolley ride away from downtown.
RV Camping: Branson popularity with RVers means there's an abundance of campgrounds in the area. Branson KOA and Branson View are less than two miles from the Strip. Head 10 minutes west to Silver Dollar City Campground or north to aptly-named America’s Best Campground. Or head south to Table Rock Lake State Park.
Mark Twain National Forest: The state’s only national forest covers 1.5 million acres within the Ozark Highlands, which are divided into seven designated wilderness areas. Mark Twain National Forest has 750 miles of trails open to hikers, bicyclists, equestrians, ATV riders and motorcyclists. The forest also has 350 miles of perennial streams available for floating with canoes, kayaks, rafts and inner tubes.
There are more than 40 campgrounds in Mark Twain National Forest, in addition to lots of dispersed camping areas.
Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park: Johnson’s Shut-Ins is popular for its naturally formed swimming pools, which are the result of river water that’s become confined or “shut in” by the hard volcanic rock. As water weaves through this narrow channel of the Black River, it also creates natural water slides and splash pools. The park has campsites with basic, electric, and sewer/electric/water hookup.
Elephant Rock State Park: This state park features huge granite boulders that stand end-to-end like circus elephants. The largest boulder, nicknamed Dumbo, measures 27 feet tall, 35 feet long, and 17 feet wide.
Taum Sauk Mountain State Park: Located in the St. Francois Mountains, Taum Sauk Mountain State Park is home to the highest point in Missouri at 1,772 feet.
RV Parking: Big Creek RV Park has 65 spaces, and is less than a one-hour drive from Southern’s Missouri popular attractions.
Hannibal is famous for being the hometown of the great American author Mark Twain. The Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum offers a self-guided tour of places around town that inspired Twain’s novels, Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Be sure to stop at the Tom and Huck statue, sculpted in 1926. Next, climb 244 steps to reach Mark Twain Lighthouse for a panoramic view of Hannibal and the Mississippi River.
RV Camping: The Mark Twain Cave & Campground is open April 1st through October 31st, situated just outside downtown Hannibal. You can even explore the scenic caves featured in Tom Sawyer.
A charming town on the Missouri River, Hermann is currently home to nearly a dozen wineries. German settlers arrived by steamboat in the mid-1800s, and proceeded to plant vineyards in the area’s steep, rocky hillsides. The popular Hermann Wine Trail meanders along the Missouri River in a scenic 20-mile tour of seven family-owned wineries between Hermann and New Haven. The historic downtown district is lined with 19th century German-style architecture. Food and wine pairings are hosted throughout the year.
RV Parking: Hermann City Campground has 43 full hookup sites. Advanced reservations are recommended.
About halfway between St. Louis and Kansas City is the state capital, Jefferson City. Tour the Missouri State Capitol building where you’ll also find the Missouri State Museum. Next to the capital is Lewis & Clark Trailhead Plaza, a monument to the plaza’s namesake explorers. A short walk away is the Governor’s Mansion, built in 1871 and open to public tours.
RV Camping: Binder Park Campground, just 8 miles west of Jefferson City, has 17 RV sites and is open year-round.