Since moving back to the US from Europe, I’ve been obsessed with visiting small towns, both those in Oklahoma and those a little further afield. Basically, if a small town is cute and less than four hours from OKC, I want to see it in person. These adorable smalls towns in Missouri are the stuff my Missouri weekend getaway dreams are made of.
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How to Get to the Best Missouri Small Towns
If you are new to this part of the world, you might be shocked at just how hard it is to get around without a car. If you are flying into Missouri, I have tips for renting a car below. Getting almost anywhere out of the cities without wheels is very difficult.
Driving in Missouri is pretty easy. Roads are well marked and maintained other than in very rural areas. I get skittish driving in the mountains in winter, but that might just be me.
Google Maps and other navigation apps work great in this part of the country, though navigation systems in cars can miss some major landmarks if they haven’t been updated.
The Best Small Towns in Missouri
The Show Me State has no shortage of beautiful small towns, so it’s hard to narrow the list down. Here are my favorites, in no particular order…
The Village of Arrow Rock is a charming small town in Missouri that has a great history. The town is also named under the National Register of Historic Places for the many historical buildings that have been preserved here. The area has also been designated as the Arrow Rock State Historic Site.
Founded in 1829, above the ferry crossing bluff, Arrow Rock is in Saline County, Missouri.
This Missourian town has a visitor center museum and portions of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail and the Santa Fe National Historic Trail (which are both Missouri national park sites). Beyond its picturesque main street and historic downtown, the greater Arrow Rock area is ideal for hiking, camping, and picnicking.
Located just forty-five minutes west of Columbia, it’s a great small town in central Missouri.
This particular tiny town is a quaint river town famous for its historical buildings that date back as far as 1830.
Founded in 1825, back when it served as a trading post for Native Americans and settlers, Rocheport is in Boone County, Missouri. There are many activities to engage in whenever you’re in this beautiful river town, including hiking, visiting cozy hotels, enjoying the local cuisine, shopping in charming stores, etc. You really can’t run out of things to do here!
Rocheport is another great central Missouri getaway idea since it’s just twenty minutes west of Columbia.
Home to Westminster College my sister’s alma matter, this town is famous for a bit of Cold War history.
A visit to Fulton is a perfect getaway for visitors interested in architecture, history, and outdoor adventures. This particular small town was famous for being a traveler’s respite whenever traders came to cross the Missouri River.
Founded in 1820, Fulton is 4 miles south of US Highway 54 and Interstate 70 interchange, making it quite easy to reach.
This small Missouri town is a great destination for history buffs as you get to visit the National Churchill Museum and the Historical Society Museum as well as taking in the beautiful views of the college.
If you will be visiting Columbia, why not add Fulton and do a full Missouri college road trip? The town is just thirty minutes east of Columbia on I-70.
Fulton also makes a great getaway or day trip from Jefferson City, as it’s just a thirty-minute drive between the two.
Maybe one of the most famous small towns in the Midwest, Branson is a beloved tourist destination for many. Located in far southwestern Missouri, here you can enjoy Silver Dollar City (an Ozark-themed retro amusement park) or zip off to a day of sun-filled fun at Table Rock Lake. It’s a popular destination for those wanting to explore Missouri with kids on a family vacation.
Branson straddles Taney and Stone counties, and, while it’s not the smallest town on the list, it only has about eleven thousand permanent residents. However, it may feel bigger once you’re here since it’s a popular Missouri vacation spot.
Founded In 1882 when Reuben Branson opened a general store and post office, the town today celebrates its roots by keeping an old-timey theme to most of its best landmarks and activities.
While people come from all over to visit Branson, it’s only forty-five minutes south of Springfield and less than two hours from Joplin, so it is extremely popular with travelers from southwest Missouri as well as northeast Oklahoma and northwest Arkansas.
Ste. Genevieve is a lovely small Missouri town listed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Ste. Genevieve is a distinctive destination that’s uniquely suitable for a small-town getaway.
This Missouri town is the oldest since it was founded in 1740 by Canadian migrants and settlers east of the Mississippi River. Today it’s listed as a national historic site and overseen by the National Park Service as one of the NPS sites in Missouri.
Ste. Genevieve town is located near the Illinois state line along the Mississippi river’s western bank. There is a river rapid waterpark that’s ideal for people of all ages. Those who are adventurous can go rock climbing or water sliding whenever they visit. There’s also a secret Missouri castle located here!
Ste. Genevieve makes a great weekend getaway from St. Louis since it’s located just an hour south along the Mighty Mississippi River.
This small Missouri town is a historic mining village with lovely views of St. Francis Mountain and the Black River. Centerville has several historic buildings that create a strong sense of nostalgia for days gone by.
Founded in 1846 after a post office was established, the town was later renamed to what it was currently called in 1892. This town is in Reynolds County, along the west fork of the Black River.
Centerville is a great place to base yourself to enjoy outdoor activities, but it’s also ideal for history buffs, making it a great destination for families with various interests to enjoy time together.
Centerville makes a great weekend getaway from Rolla as it’s just ninety minutes southeast.
Cuba is famous for its apples and the barrel-making industry that dates back to as early as 1895. Founded in 1857 and named after the Island of Cuba, this particular small Missouri town is located in Crawford County.
Cuba is renowned for its outdoor adventure opportunities and is famous with outdoor enthusiasts. It has twenty campgrounds and rustic lodges, three rivers, and numerous lakes. Whenever you visit Cuba, you can spend time at the museums, try your hand at fishing, or do both!
The town has some presidential history as well. President Truman stopped in Cuba while doing a tour to promote Route 66. Because of its location on Route 66, Cuba is one of the most-visited small towns in Missouri!
If you are coming through on a Route 66 adventure, make sure to stop at the Cuba City Jail and stay at the Wagon Wheel Motel. Both of these sites belong on any Route 66 bucket list!
If you won’t be traveling Route 66, Cuba is a great getaway from Jefferson City or St. Louis as it’s a ninety-minute drive from either city!
Weston is among the most beautiful small towns in Missouri. This particular town was once the second-largest steamboat port in the state after St. Louis.
Weston is a popular tourist destination as it has fancy shops and a scrumptious collection of restaurants. If wine is your thing, stop at the Pirtle Winery, which is housed in an old church!
Most people don’t know that Missouri was once one of the world’s leading wine regions (they don’t even know that there’s any such thing as Missouri wine country), so make sure to visit this Missouri hidden gem!
It also has a lovely museum that boasts items from rare Native American moccasins to early physician instruments to vintage clothing displays.
Founded in 1837, Weston is in Platte County, Missouri. Just a few minutes from Kansas City, Weston Bend State Park offers visitors scenic views and a three-mile trail that’s ideal for hiking and biking. If you visit in winter, make sure to visit the Snow Creek Ski Area.
Van Buren is in the county seat of Carter County. This is one of those serene and lovely small Missouri towns that’s also a great tourist destination. Located deep in the southeastern Missouri Ozarks, just an hour from the Arkansas border, Van Buren is a great place to get away from it all. The town has a population of just about nine hundred, so you know you can find some peace and quiet here!
Van Buren is renowned for having one of the world’s largest springs, the Big Spring. This city was founded in 1833 and named after then vice president, Martin Van Buren.
If you are looking to get outdoors, you can go canoeing and kayaking.
Located in southeast Missouri, Van Buren is about a two-and-a-half-hour drive from either St. Louis or Springfield.
Well preserved on the Missouri River bluff, Lexington is a great small town. The city was founded in 1822 near William Jacks ferry, which had been in operation three years earlier.
Lexington is located in Lafayette County, Missouri, and offers guests an experience like no other. Visitors can access one of the closest Civil War sites near interstate 70, the Battle of Lexington State Historic Site, among other remarkable places such as dining and lodging areas. This makes it one of the places in Missouri that is great to add to a Missouri road trip! After all, the town boasts that it is “Offbeat and original, but not off the beaten path!”
The town offers free audio tours of its four historic districts, including its charming downtown area. Other must-sees include Victorian and Antebellum architecture and the Madonna of the Trail statue.
Lexington makes a great weekend trip from Kansas City since the drive is slightly less than an hour.
Settled by German immigrants whose heritage majorly influences Westphalia, the town has a definite European vibe. Westphalia was founded in 1835 and is located in Osage County, Missouri.
Like many towns in Missouri, outdoor enthusiasts will find a lot to love here. This small town contains a forest with six ponds, a clubhouse lake ideal for camping, hiking, bird watching, and fishing.
It also boasts a painted rock conservation area that’s nearly fifteen hundred acres and is renowned for having breathtaking landscapes, a river intersecting the western boundary property, and two boardwalk trails.
Westphalia is located just twenty minutes from Jefferson City, so it makes a great day trip if you’ll be in central Missouri!
Considered the most coveted and metropolitan places to live or visit, Parkville is also among the most charming communities in Missouri while still being close to vibrant Kansas City.
This small Missourian town is also famous for its historical and modern-day culture, which is among the most creative and innovative in the Midwest.
Founded in 1844, Parkville is in Platte County, Missouri. Whenever you’re around this particular town, you can always visit the Parkville Nature sanctuary, art galleries, and antique shops.
The town played an important role in the country’s westward expansion,
This particular town is renowned for its breathtaking scenery, its winery, history, and cultural heritage. Most of the Hermann wineries are known to date back as early as the 1800s. Yes, a visit to Hermann is a delight because you get to see Missouri Wine Country, a true hidden gem in the US.
Founded in the 1830s by Philadelphia’s early German settlement society, Hermann is in Gasconade County, Missouri. If you’re around the vicinity, you can always visit the Stone Hill Winery, where you’ll get to know more about the area’s wine history. Alternatively, you can also visit a number of highly-reviewed restaurants available in Hermann.
Nature enthusiasts will often pass through Hermann as it’s part of the Katy Trail.
Herman is a great getaway from Jefferson City or St. Louis since it’s located between the two.
Famous for its literary history as much as its present-day incarnation, Hannibal has a lovely ambiance and is among the region’s best tourist destinations. Hannibal is better known as Mark Twain’s home and the setting place for Adventures of Huckleberry Fin and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. It also makes an appearance in a modern Missouri literary classic, Gone Girl.
Hannibal is full of unique shops, ghost tours, trains, and cafes. Founded in 1819, this particular town is in Ralls and Marion’s county, located along the Mississippi River.
Can’t miss places to visit in Hannibal include the Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum and the Rockcliffe Mansion for the best Bed and Breakfast accommodations.
Located in far northeastern Missouri, Hannibal is two hours north of St. Louis.
From the many quaint shops, restaurants, and preserved buildings, Kimmswick is indeed a great place to visit.
Founded in 1859, the town is located in the Mississippi River’s heartland, in Jefferson County, Missouri, just thirty minutes south of St. Louis.
The Anheuser Estate & Museum is a great place to visit as its deck overlooks the Mississippi River and is a great venue for weddings, parties, and events.
On the other hand, you can drop by the Spicery of Kimmswick where you’ll get to visit a great historic village in an exceedingly friendly atmosphere.
Located forty-five minutes south of Springfield and thirty minutes from the Arkansas border, Reeds Spring is a small town that’s popular with tourists. It has lovely Ozark scenery that includes a dense forest, soaring mountain peaks, and creeks going through the wilderness.
Reed Springs is indeed a great place for outdoor adventure and also sightseeing. As per the census report, this particular city dates back to the 1930s and is located in Stone County.
Many choose to stay here in town since it’s a quick fifteen minute drive to Silver Dollar City.
Another quaint town that’s worth visiting is none other than Clarksville. This particular town moves at a slower pace and is ideal for those guests who want to break from the big city’s hustle and bustle.
Platted in 1819, Clarksville is in Pike County. Whenever you’re in town, set some time to visit the historic district and downtown area, where you’ll get to experience great antique dealers, restaurants, riverfront spaces, and beautiful main street.
Clarksville is just ninety minutes north of St. Louis.
Carthage is another historical town famous for Carthage’s Battle which took place during the American Civil War. The town was a center of skirmishes that took place on the Missouri-Kansas border.
Established in 1842, Carthage is situated along the Spring River in Jasper County. Other than the famous historical battleground, the town is famous for being on Route 66. Carthage also has a drive-in theater suitable for all family members and a great choice for a family outing, and a stop at the theater is a popular Missouri Route 66 activity.
Located in southwestern Missouri, Carthage is just twenty-five minutes from Joplin.
Perry was platted in 1866 and is named after the first settler. This small Missouri town is in Ralls County. Perry has a community lake having accessible trails ideal for bank anglers.
Perry is a great weekend getaway from St. Louis as its just eight minutes to the south.
Weingarten is renowned for its great scenery, vineyards, and wineries. Located in Missouri wine country, this small town is also home to old Cornwall mines, which were a source of copper back in the day.
This particular historic town is also home to the famous Hawn State Park. Founded in 1837, Weingarten is in Sainte Genevieve County.
You can always visit the vineyard when you’ve got time to spare whenever you’re in town. Afterall, the name Weingarten means vineyard!
Weingarten is just one hour south of St. Louis and is close to Ste. Genevieve.
Another charming small Missouri town, Boonville has four hundred buildings registered on the National Registar of Historic Places. That’s right – four hundred! At the visitor’s center you can get the information needed to go on a self-guided walking tour to about two dozen of the town’s historic buildings.
Platted in 1817, this town is in cooper county, Missouri, USA. There are many activities to engage in whenever you visit Boonville, including paying a visit the town’s museums and lots of recreational activities for nature lovers. It’s location on the Katy Trail makes it an extremely popular stop for Missouri bikers.
If you don’t want to bike your way to Boonville, the town is just thirty minutes west of Columbia.
Just thirty minutes west of St. Louis, the similarly named St. Charles is much smaller than it’s more famous cousin. While in St. Charles, make sure to visit the beautiful Main Street, which is a popular shopping destination.
Another town on the Katy Trail, it’s got wonderful scenery. You can also visit the Shrine of St. Philippine Duchesne, go antiquing, and or go on a St. Charles Ghost Tour, a guided tour to some of the town’s spookiest spots!
Washington is a beautiful small town with quite a few fun attractions, including the James W Riverfront Park and the Fort Charrette Historic Village.
Founded in 1799, Washington city is in Franklin County, Missouri. Whenever you’re in this charming tiny town, you can always go hiking, fishing, go on a picnic, and visit the historic downtown area.
One thing is for certain, you will leave refreshed and relaxed, so a visit to Washington town is going to make you want to come back! And since it’s just an hour west of St. Louis, it’s an easy town to reach if you do fall in love with it.
Located just a little over an hour to St. Louis’s west in Franklin County, New Haven is a great destination for those looking to do wine tastings, or even whiskey tastings!
Originally called Miller’s Landing, you have probably figured out that New Haven is on the water. This time, it’s the Missouri River, right on the Pickney Bend.
The New Haven Commercial Historic District is on the National Register of Historic Places, along with several other important historic sites. The cute historic downtown area will not disappoint. And who doesn’t love to walk down a beautiful main street in a small town before sipping wine or whiskey?