This article originally appeared in our January/February 2021 edition.

Called “Missouri’s North Star,” Kirksville was founded in 1841. The legend surrounding Kirksville’s name is intriguing. Kirksville translates to “village of churches” from the Scottish word for church, “kirk,” but there is apparently no connection to Scottish settlers. Legend says workers in the area named the town after a man named Jesse Kirk because he shared his turkey dinner and booze with them.

Today, Kirksville is home to art galleries and museums, universities, theaters, and performance halls. Whether you’re looking for antiques or western wear, you’ll find it here. Plus, in spite of no Scottish heritage, every October, the town hosts the Scottish Highland Games, including the traditional hammer throw and caber toss.

Plenty of Kirksville’s buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places, including the Grim Building and the Capt. Thomas C. Harris House, but fine dining, theater, and shopping provide a twenty-first century touch.

Take in the view from one of Thousand Hills State Park’s cabins.

Lodge at Thousand Hills State Park’s cabins. These duplex-style units have modern conveniences like kitchenettes, satellite TVs, and patios with grills and picnic tables while also bringing guests close to nature. When you stay in the cabins, you’re within walking distance from the park’s beach, dining, campgrounds, and hiking trails. Units one through eight are located on the nearby lakefront.

Dine at Pancake City. This is the place to go for those who like a good, traditional breakfast. Specials include more than fifteen types of pancakes, including Reese’s and apple cinnamon cakes. A platter of three pancakes costs $7.99 or less. If you’re not in the mood for cakes, try a Mexican breakfast burrito, plus a side of hash browns, toast, sour cream, and a cup of salsa. Try The Greek Corner Gyros for lunch where you’ll find a wide variety of Mediterranean foods. Customers rave about the enormous portion sizes.

Visit the Adair County Historical Society, which houses items used by the pioneers, arrowheads knapped by American Indians, and a cannonball that hit Kirksville’s courthouse during the Civil War’s Battle of Kirksville. The historical society’s building is one of Kirksville’s recognized City Historic Landmarks. Kirksville also boasts the lovely Thousand Hills State Park, a three-thousand-acre getaway where you can fish, hike, bike, or swim. Plus, see petroglyphs left by ancient peoples in Missouri thousands of years ago. Shoppers will like the Princess Emporium, which offers a wide variety of antiques and a little bit of everything, including jewelry and furniture. There are plenty of vintage shops, clothing stores, and gift shops scattered throughout the downtown area. VisitKirksville.com

Photos // Chuck Llewellyn, Debi Boughton