We searched every corner of Missouri for hidden gems and thanks to our Missouri Life Ambassadors, we found one in each county: 114 of them! Here we explore places in central Missouri that you’ll want to add to your destination wish list.

By Danielle Bopp Breshears, Pam Clifton, Glory Fagan, and Sandy Selby


Right off the Osage River arm of the Lake of the Ozarks you will find Warsaw’s own Drake Harbor Recreation Area, the gorgeous nature area named after the longtime Warsaw mayor Gordon Howard Drake. This area has riverfront trails, playgrounds, picnic areas, boat ramps, and fishing areas. Visit the Osage Amphitheater during an event, take in the lake views from the Joe Dice Swinging Bridge, hike the 3⁄4-mile scenic Harbor Loop, or go on a leisurely stroll on Steamboat Landing Boardwalk. For an extended adventure, bring your bike or rent one in Warsaw and enjoy the five miles of looping waterfront trails. WelcomeToWarsaw.com


Voted the “best place to take a visitor” in a local magazine’s poll, Cooper’s Landing on the Katy Trail near Columbia is a favorite for family fun, camping, dining, and entertainment. This is the idyllic spot to hear live music ranging from roots and blues to rock ’n’ roll on the banks of the Missouri River. Visit for a performance, then spend the night at the campsite. There are on-site amenities, including the year-round, full-service marina, country store, and boat fueling station.CoopersLandingMo.com


Some of the best known automobiles throughout history sit right here in Fulton, within the sprawling, 18,000-square-foot Auto World Museum. Displaying both vintage cars and modern classic cars within a historical context relevant to their particular era, this museum puts an interesting twist on how we view cars over time in comparison to how we lived, worked, and played. The display rotation doesn’t allow for every car in the collection to be out at once, but some cars you may see during your visit include a 1920 Model T Center Door, 1931 Rolls Royce Phantom II, 1057 Ford Thunderbird, or 1982 Delorean (just like the Back to the Future model). AutoWorldMuseum.com


It’s the hot spot in Camden County to pick up dinner or food for a social gathering. The Butcher Block has been a downtown Camdenton staple since 1993. The business, owned by Chris and Sherry Stevens, is the Lake of the Ozark’s largest smokehouse and offers wild game processing and a plethora of meats and other options: hand-cut steaks, barbecue brisket and pulled pork, signature smoked bacon, chicken wings, jerky, deer and summer sausages, seafood, and many ready-to-eat selections. The Butcher Block staff, who have a combined 50 years of butcher experience, offer superb customer service and treat their customers like family. They believe it’s easy to see why they’re the best at what they do because “quality has no competition.” ButcherShopAtTheLake.com


In the early 20th century, the area of Jefferson City now known as the Old Munichburg District was an independent village of German immigrants, complete with its own schools, fire department, grocery store, and brewery. Today, the area with its sturdy brick architecture and charming shops (including the destination gifts and home goods store, The Schaefer House), remains a thriving part of the larger Jefferson City metro. The annual Oktoberfest (September 30 this year) draws big crowds who come for the wine garden, live entertainment, and the hilarious Dachshund Derby. OldMunichburg.com


A local landmark and a salute to preservation, the Katy Bridge at Boonville is truly a Missouri River sight to see. Once a thriving part of the Union Pacific railway, the MKT Bridge No. 191.1 now stands as a stoically ‘stuck’ giant, the central vertical lift-span railroad  currently raised without full operation of the lift span. Visitors can admire the views of the river from the viewing platforms near the first lift and then head down the trail to tour the original Boonville Depot and MKT caboose. SaveTheKatyBridge.org


“One of my favorite places, the Old Order Mennonite community in Dallas County is a treasure,” says Jacquelyn Strickland, the Missouri Life ambassador for that county. “I don’t think it’s well-known statewide. What sets it apart from other Old Order and Amish communities is that it is isolated from surrounding towns; it’s in the middle of nowhere.” The settlement is an hour north of Springfield near Buffalo. It’s an area known for producing harnesses for horse-drawn buggies, hand-stitched quilts, canned goods, custom furniture, and homemade goods. The Lead Mine Country Store and Restaurant welcomes visitors to this Pennsylvania Dutch enclave of dozens of Old Order Mennonite families. At a weekly produce auction every summer Monday, Lead Mine area merchants peppered around Missouri Highways T, E, and YY sell their wares.


The Henry County Museum in Clinton honors a bygone era through exhibits of local history and art. Permanent and rotating exhibits are on display in the historic Anheuser-Busch building on the northwest corner of the town square. Museum admission also gives visitors access to a replica 1900s village, an authentic dogtrot homestead, and a one-room school. A gift store offers handmade gifts and art, plus books of local interest. The museum will immerse you in Henry County and the lives of those who have called it home. HenryCountyMoMuseum.org


Known today as The Diamond of Dirt Tracks, Wheatland’s own Lucas Oil Speedway has become one of the hottest spots in the racing world. It features a 3/8th mile oval dirt track, Drag Boat Lake, and an off-road track located where Highways 54 and 83 meet. Originally the Wheatland Raceway, this racing operation quickly grew into the multimillion-dollar facility you see today. The Speedway hosts some of the Midwest’s largest dirt track events such as the Show Me 100, Diamond Nationals, and the USRA Nationals. Guests can catch weekly racing events featuring USRA Modifieds, USRA Stock Cars, USRA B-Mods, and Late Models in what has been called “some of the best weekly racin’ in the nation!” LucasOilSpeedway.com


Those looking for anything and everything might just find it at Those Were The Days, an antique mall in Warrensburg. In its second generation of family ownership, the mall has more than 250 booths with upward of 180 dealers selling a little bit of everything. The booths are spread over two buildings with three floors each. One building still retains a ramp once trod by fire brigade horses to access their stables in the basement. The workers are as much of a treasure as the inventory. Known affectionately as “the Fleas,” the staff are retirees who love the world of antiquing and enjoy helping customers find that special something from the good old days. Those-Were-The-Days.business.site


Enthusiasts travel back to a golden age of auto travel at the Route 66 Museum, located inside the Lebanon-Laclede County Library in Lebanon. Take a free, self-guided tour to view pieces of Americana. Explore the 1950s gas station with vintage gas pumps, take a seat at the classic diner, or view actual blueprints of the Route 66 construction. The displays offer a glimpse into what life was like when the iconic Route 66 was known as America’s Highway. Stop at the gift shop to purchase unique items made by locals.Lebanon-Laclede.lib.mo.us/rt66tours.html


For Missouri deer hunters, the second Saturday in November is sacred. The Historical Society of Maries County has created an event for those who would rather not shiver away the day in a deer stand. According to historical society representative Lisa Jones, the Christmas Market Craft and Vendor Show always draws a crowd of shoppers who are eager to bag some holiday gifts. This year’s show takes place on Saturday, November 11, in Vienna’s K. C. Koerber Hall. The show features more than 50 vendors. The Welschmeyer’s Relay for Life team provides breakfast and lunch, with all proceeds benefiting cancer research. Facebook.com/hsmcvienna


Venture to Brumley or St. Anthony to visit any of the six Swinging Bridges of Miller County. Check out the two swaying bridges over Big Tavern Creek, the Twin Bridges of Brumley (a.k.a. The Swingers), or the mother of all swinging bridges, Auglaize. All these bridges were built in the 1920s and 1930s, and some are still drivable—just check the weight requirement first. Some bridges also offer fishing, camping, and picnic opportunities.


Tipton’s 17-room Maclay Home was built in 1858 as Rose Hill Seminary for Girls. Closed with the onset of the Civil War, the home served briefly as a Union headquarters before becoming the home for three bachelor brothers and their five widowed sisters. Maclay family members made it their full-time residence for generations before turning it into a summer retreat to celebrate holidays. The home remained in the Maclay family for more than 100 years and is now maintained by the Friends of the Maclay Home. The site has hosted a Fourth of July Ice Cream Social for more than 40 years. Homemade cakes, burgers, hot dogs, and ice cream are served on the grounds every Independence Day. The celebration includes Civil War reenactors and craftsmen demonstrating their skills, plus live music and games for children.


Delicious country cuisine, exotic spices, and homemade furniture—these are only a few of the many things you’ll find just outside of Versailles, north of Lake of the Ozarks in Morgan County. Known as Mennonite Country, the area includes more than 100 Mennonite businesses open to the public. There is the authentic Lehman’s Restaurant and numerous plant nurseries, including Morgan County Seeds. Bulk grocery stores like Sunrise Markets, Dutch Country Store, and Hoover’s sell Missouri-grown fruits, local honey, spices, jams and jellies, breads, and more. Stop by the Versailles Chamber of Commerce for a map of markets and Mennonite landmarks.VisitVersailles.org/mennonite-country


Beginning its long journey in Chamois as the town school, The Old School on the Hill B&B is worth the trip for an overnight stay. Reportedly sitting atop an old Indian mound, this 146-year-old structure has spent the last 18 years as a bed and breakfast, especially popular with those interested in the building’s architectural history or the town’s railroad and river heritage. Spend the night in Miss Edna’s Room, the Band Room, the Ray Baker Family Room, or Professor Turner’s Room as you reminisce about yesteryear and take a break from the busy, big-city bustle. Reservations are especially sought after during popular local events such as Oktoberfest, Main Street Farmers’ Markets, or Chamois Day Weekend. TheOldSchoolOnTheHillBAndB.com


Sedalia has a hidden gem for art lovers: the Daum Museum of Contemporary Art. Tucked away on the State Fair Community College campus, this museum collects, preserves, and exhibits modern and contemporary works of art created since the mid-20th century. Namesake Dr. Harold F. Daum began this museum in 2002 with just 300 personal pieces. The collection today has grown to include 2,000 objects. Spread over nine galleries on three different levels, the museum entices guests to spend an afternoon exploring the impressive array of abstract paintings, drawings, prints, ceramics, and sculptures by such iconic names as Warhol, Voulkos, Bourgeois, and Chihuly. DaumMuseum.org


The Old Stagecoach Stop sat vacant for 20 years and was slated for demolition when citizens stepped in to save the oldest building in Pulaski County and restored it to its 1890 appearance, based on a surviving photograph. Nine of the interior’s 10 rooms have been restored to chronicle the building’s past and area’s rich heritage. Historically recreated rooms now include a dentist office, McDonald cabin, a Civil War and archaeology room, vintage kitchens, a 1941 sleeping room, and a Stagecoach Stop Tavern to reflect when the building was a stagecoach stopover. The two-story structure is located in Waynesville on Interstate 44 on Route 66, and is open April through September. OldStagecoachStop.org


Sleep where the famous and infamous once slept! The Historic Commercial Hotel located in Osceola is now an Airbnb Hotel, but it originally opened in 1868. The hotel’s notable guests have included Jesse James and the Younger gang, three-time visitor President Harry S. Truman, fan dancer Sally Rand, and movie cowboy Tom Mix. Accommodations on the main floor have modern amenities, queen beds, televisions, coffee, mini fridges, and full baths. Visitors upstairs will find period-accurate lodging. Airbnb.com

Discover Southeast Missouri’s Hidden Gems • Missouri Life Magazine

Discover Northwest Missouri’s Hidden Gems • Missouri Life Magazine

Article originally published in the May 2023 issue of Missouri Life.