With this article dedicated to Missouri, we continue our tour along the Route 66 states. Our series of articles does not intend to provide you with a detailed guide with step-by-step directions to follow on the route (by the way: do you know how to plan a trip on Route 66 and what are the best Route 66 sights? And why route 66 is so famous?), but rather help you to get an idea of what you can find along the route, so you can organize your road trip by the attractions that you consider most fascinating.
The main attractions we will encounter along the Route 66 route are presented here from east to west. If for some reason you prefer to move from west to east, all you have to do is start at the end! So… What are the best attractions of Route 66 in Missouri? Take note of things to see and places not to miss: your journey will be impossibile to forget.
Route 66 Missouri: Attractions Map
Throughout U.S. history, the state of Missouri has been famous for being the starting point for expeditions to the West including the well-known Overland, Oregon and Santa Fe Trails, and the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Even the battles of the Civil War have left evidence of their passage and you will find many historical sites and museums dedicated to those events. During our route we will also discover one of the most important natural attractions in the state, the Meramec Caverns.
The most famous attraction of Saint Louis is the Jefferson Expansion Memorial (11 N 4th St.) that houses the Gateway Arch, a true and just symbol of the city. The arch can be visited and inside it has two elevators that take you to the top to admire the beautiful view. Inside the complex, there is a museum dedicated mainly to the acquisition of Louisiana and the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
If you’re looking for a bite to eat and a rest, two great options are the Blueberry Hill Café (6504 Delmar Blvd), where you’ll find hundreds of vintage memorabilia items from years gone by and (if you’re lucky) live music, or Fitz’s American Grill and Bottling Works (6605 Delmar Blvd), where you can watch the local beer being bottled live.
While wandering around the city, you might come across a reproduction of a Dutch windmill, which is the Bevo Mill (4749 Gravois Avenue), a well-known local restaurant. If you’re a beer lover, you can’t miss a tour of the Anheuser-Busch Brewery (1200 Lynch St), while motor enthusiasts can’t miss the opportunity to visit the St. Louis Car Museum (1575 Woodson Rd), with hundreds of vintage vehicles, the Kemp Auto Museum (16955 Chesterfield Airport Road) and the Moto Museum (3441 Olive St).
One very picturesque neighborhood to visit is undoubtedly the Cherokee-Lemp Historic District with its nineteenth-century red brick houses and its famous Lemp Brewery, one of the largest breweries in the world. You will also find Lemp Mansion, now a restaurant, which owes its fame mainly to the fact that it is believed to be haunted by ghosts (the spirits of four members of a family who committed suicide in the building and a fifth who died under mysterious circumstances). Don’t forget to read our article on what to do in Saint Louis, Missouri!
In this town on the outskirts of St. Louis, you will find the residence of Frank Lloyd Wright, built in the 50’s and that you can visit on special tours. Also noteworthy is the Museum of Transportation (3015 Barrett Station Rd), which, for lovers of Route 66, is of particular importance, also because it houses the reproduction of the Coral Court Motel with clear indications of architectural features that could be encountered in the past.
Eureka is famous for hosting the Six Flags Over Mid-America amusement park, which may be worth a stop-of, and the Black Madonna Shrine and Grottos, a shrine dedicated to Our Lady of Czestochowa, built entirely by a Franciscan monk.
This town is home to two quaint motels: the colonial-style Gardenway (update January 2022: unfortunately the sign has been removed) and the Sunset, also known for their neon signs that make them easily recognizable, in true Route 66 style!
Fans and collectors of antique toys may consider stopping by the Antique Toy Museum (update January 2022: unfortunately the museum is closed), which contains hundreds of vintage exhibits. Nearby is the Jesse James Wax Museum, which is well known among Route 66 enthusiasts.
Dedicated entirely to the famous American criminal, the museum also offers a special historical and scientific reconstruction, according to which Jesse James did not die of a gunshot wound in 1881, but lived many more years to die only in 1951. If this reconstruction particularly intrigues you, don’t hesitate to ask the museum staff for more information!
The town of Stanton is best known for being one of the main access points to Meramec Caverns.
The caverns have been open commercially to the public since 1935 and are best known for being one of Jesse James’ hideouts. Thanks to this and advertising strategies along the Route 66 route, Meramec Caverns have become one of Missouri’s most visited natural attractions.
Given the numerous access points and the many tours available, if you are fascinated by the idea of spending some of your time exploring these caves (or you feel like stopping by the camping areas or renting a canoe) I suggest you take a look at the official website, where you can find all the information you need.
This lovely town is also known as Mural City, because of its murals on many buildings. The main attraction is the historic Wagon Wheel Motel (901 E Washington Blvd) which, although completely restored, has kept all its original charm.
To the north of the city, you can visit the Highway 19 Drive-In Theater, which is still in operation. West of Cuba you will encounter the small community of Fanning, known for being the home of the largest rocking chair in the world; a Guinness World Record awarded in 2008.
If you are interested in the history of the American Civil War, you may want to stop off in this town and visit the Pulaski County Courthouse Museum, which contains artifacts and information related to the events of the Civil War, the history of Route 66 and the Trail of Tears, the forced migration of Indian tribes to the West.
If you want to rest a little after the tiring drive, you could stay at the historic Munger Moss Motel, easily recognizable along Route 66 thanks to its huge neon sign.
At the Lebanon-LaClede County Library, there is a Route 66 Museum that contains – among other things – life-size replicas of a diner and a gas station, as well as historical photos and numerous memorabilia from the era.
North of Lebanon, near the town of Camdenton, is Ha Ha Tonka State Park , which contains the remains of a century-old castle.
If you are interested in the history of American pioneers, you can visit Gray-Campbell Farmstead, an agricultural estate of the era where you can visit one of Springfield’s oldest houses, the cemetery, the barn, and learn about how the early settlers of this region lived.
Train lovers can’t miss the opportunity to visit the Railroad Historical Museum (1300 North Grant St.), which contains dozens of locomotives from all eras. History buffs will appreciate the Air and Military Museum of the Ozarks (2305 E Kearney St.), which includes restored military vehicles and a flight simulator in a real helicopter (you can try it for yourself!), as well as General Sweeny’s Museum, dedicated entirely to the events of the Civil War that took place in the Mississippi area.
Just outside of Springfield, you can visit Fantastic Caverns, perfect for the lazy adventurer as they are famous for being the only caverns in the United States that offer a cave tour by train or jeep.
Red Oak II
You’re about to visit a ghost town that isn’t really a ghost town. The town of Red Oak II is in fact a creation by the artist Lowell Davis who was born and raised in the “real” Red Oak, located about 18 kilometers north of the “new” one.
The original town of Red Oak, as happened to many other small towns, slowly began to be abandoned after World War II in favor of larger cities. So it was that Lowell Davis, after returning to his childhood haunts in his 70s, discovered that his birthplace had practically become a ghost town. This prompted him to recreate a real copy of the town where he was born on his property near Carthage .
Today, picturesque Red Oak II includes a gas station, an old schoolhouse, a feed store, a blacksmith store, a diner, city hall, the jail, and several homes. Most of the buildings were taken and moved directly here from their original site. So going through Red Oak II is like taking a real trip back in time.
The War of Secession also passed through Carthage, and as a testament to this, there is the Battle of Carthage Civil War Museum (205 Grant St.) and not far away, the Battle of Carthage Historic Site (Chestnut Street).
We also find the 66 Drive-In Theater and, if you want to breathe in the atmosphere of Route 66, our advice is to stop at the Boots Motel (107 S Garrison Ave), which according to locals was also chosen by Clark Gable, who once stayed in room number 6.
Where to Stay Along Route 66 in Missouri
If you want some advice on the best hotels and motels along this stretch of Mother Road you can read the section dedicated to where to stay along Route 66 in Missouri in our article.
Here are some guides you can rely on
- Lonely Planet Route 66 Road Trips: an overview of the main attractions along the Mother Road
- Route 66 Adventure Handbook a detailed description of all the towns and attractions you will encounter along the way
- Route 66 EZ 66 Guide: (detailed map plus attractions and advice on how to follow the original route
If you want to delve into the individual attractions of each city, each one has its own institutional site, that in most cases are very well maintained, and where you will find all the additional information you need.
Let’s continue the journey…
Here’s what not to miss in other states: