Missouri’s must-see destinations.

When I think of classic experiences here in Missouri, I naturally think of our landmarks. We have world class attractions here in the state — such as St. Louis’s Gateway Arch and Kansas City’s National World War I Museum and Memorial — that people from all over the globe come to see. However, Missouri contains many other parks and monuments that offer impactful and enriching experiences and are must-see destinations.

The Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield, just east of Republic, is the site of the first U.S. Civil War battle west of the Mississippi River. It is a part of the National Park Service and has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1966. The battle was the second major engagement of the Civil War after the First Battle of Bull Run and resulted in the death of Brig. Gen. Nathaniel Lyon, the first Union general killed in the war. The park preserves 1,750 acres of the battlefield and includes an eight-stop driving tour with each stop high-lighting a historically important aspect of the conflict. One of the stops is “Bloody Hill,” where the heaviest fighting occurred. The hill features a monument to Gen. Lyon as well as some display cannons. The battlefield is also home to the Ray House, which was used as a fi eld
hospital during the engagement and was preserved as it was in the 1860s. Plus, there is a Civil War museum and a research library with more than 12,000 volumes about the Civil War. Wilson’s Creek is a great destination, not just for history buff s, but for anyone with even a passing interest in the history of our state and the Civil War.

Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield in Missouri.

Although Missouri is best known as the “Show-Me State,” we also earn the title “The Cave State.” With nearly 7,500 recorded caves statewide, one of the best places to experience these underground wonders is Onondaga Cave State Park in Crawford County. The park contains not one, but two world-class caves: the Onondaga Cave and Cathedral Cave. Onondaga Cave is a registered National Natural Landmark and displays amazing geologic features — including a river that runs through the cave. A tour of Onondaga is about a mile walk with electric lighting and paved pathways. The nearby Cathedral Cave offers similar subterranean beauty, but the tours are by lamplight. For anyone who’s claustrophobic, Vilander Bluff Natural Area is also located in the park. It is home to more than 200 ancient red cedar trees and a rookery of great blue heron nests. It’s a great place to get back to nature.

Onondaga Cave in Missouri.

And let us not forget that Missouri was home to one of the most famous authors of western literature. The Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum in Hannibal preserves the house where Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain, grew up. The museum complex includes multiple buildings, including the Becky Thatcher House and the Huck Finn House, which will be familiar to anyone who’s read Twain’s best-known novels. Nearby, there is also a statue of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn overlooking Hannibal’s historic downtown. The main house was first opened as a museum in 1912 and has been a National Historic Landmark since 1962. The facility offers everything from museum exhibits and self-guided tours to live interpretations of Twain’s works. You can even whitewash a fence or enter a frog-jumping contest. Just outside of Hannibal, you can even tour the cave made famous in his book “Tom Sawyer.” It’s a great place to learn about the man behind the legendary stories.

These are just a few of the world-class attractions here in Missouri, but they are some of my favorites. They are places I think everyone should visit at least once to learn about and enjoy the best of what our great state has to offer.

Sen. Mike Bernskoetter took office in 2019, serving the 6th Senatorial District. Before being elected to the Missouri Senate, he served as a representative for the 59th District in the Missouri House of Representatives.