Explore central and northern Missouri on one tank of gas.

This article is presented in partnership with Visit Missouri. 

Buckle up and get ready to explore Missouri — it’s road trip season. The name’s Road Trip Mo, and I’ve got a fun itinerary that will take you to Columbia before heading across “The Way of American Genius” all the way to Hannibal on the bank of the Mississippi River. The best part? You can follow this itinerary on one tank of gas. Plus, it’s a loop, so you can jump in wherever you’d like! 

The District in Downtown Columbia. Photo — Visit Missouri

Columbia Area

Columbia is a great place to start a Show-Me State adventure. Our first stop is The District in Downtown Columbia, which has something for everyone. Enjoy the college-town vibe (Go Tigers!), take in the historic architecture, grab a coffee, head out for a shopping extravaganza or spend the afternoon at a local bar or restaurant. 

Head west from Columbia to The Blufftop at Rocheport, a vineyard retreat along the banks of the Missouri River. Inside, you can sip on the award-winning blends by Les Bourgeois Vineyards at The A-Frame Winegarden. You can also grab a bite to eat while enjoying spectacular river views at The Bistro at Les Bourgeois Vineyards

Just a little further west is the breeding and training facility for the legendary Budweiser Clydesdales at Warm Springs Ranch in Boonville. If you’re a vintage auto or bike enthusiast, pay a visit to Lewis Miller’s Mitchell Collection, a museum which houses a one-of-a-kind assortment of Mitchell motorcycles, bicycles and cars from the 19th and early 20th centuries. 

Walt Disney Hometown Museum. Photo — Visit Missouri

Highway 36 

Cruise north to Highway 36, known as “The Way of American Genius,” named for the numerous inventions that were developed in towns along the road and the number of extraordinary people who called this ribbon of highway home.  

In Marceline, explore the Walt Disney Hometown Museum, which commemorates one of America’s most brilliant animators and entrepreneurs. In the museum, you will find Disney’s plans to build a theme park in Marceline that unfortunately never came to fruition before his death in 1966. Disney loved his hometown so much that Main Street, U.S.A. in Disneyland was inspired by downtown Marceline.

Next, head west to Chillicothe, the home of sliced bread. The city is filled with the Americana charm you’d expect from a historic small town. Around many street corners, you’ll find 25 larger-than-life murals, perfect for a family photo op. After you’ve admired the artwork, check out the Boji Stone Cafe to recharge with a homemade sandwich, salad or famous sliced bread pudding. 

Make your way back east along Highway 36 for an afternoon or evening show at the Maples Repertory Theatre. Theater lovers from across the region come to Macon to enjoy full-scale, union-grade productions and cabaret concerts. Shows typically run from June to December.

Mark Twain Cave. Photo — Hannibal CVB


On the eastern edge of Highway 36 is Hannibal, a town made famous by one of its most storied residents — Mark Twain. Born Samuel Clemens, Twain was raised in Hannibal and used the city as inspiration for Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn’s adventures. You can learn more about his life, novels and characters at the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum

Just outside the city is Mark Twain Cave, Missouri’s oldest show cave and another inspiration for some of the scenes in Twain’s stories. The cave remains a constant 52 degrees and is accessible rain or shine, perfect to explore any time of year.

Round out your road trip with a stop at Mark Twain Lake. In addition to the numerous hiking and equestrian trails, visitors can also cast a line for crappie, bass and catfish. If you’d like to spend a night under the stars, camping sites are available in four recreation areas.  

Looking for more ways to see the Show-Me State? Check out VisitMo.com and discover your road trip M-O with summer and fall drives.