On the banks of the Missouri River, you’ll find the charming town of Washington, better known as “The Corn Cob Pipe Capital of the World.”

History buffs will love digging into the roots of this historic town, established by German settlers in the 1830s and named after a founding father. Washington got its nickname thanks to woodworker Henry Tibbe. In 1869, he first began producing sweet-smoking pipes fashioned out of corn cobs and coated with plaster. In 1907, Henry—inspired by meerschaum, a Turkish clay used in high-grade pipes—named his company the Missouri Meerschaum Company. As Henry’s corn cob pipe’s popularity soared, imitators followed, and by 1925, there were a dozen corn cob pipe companies in Franklin County. The only one left today is the original—Missouri Meerschaum.

Corn Cob pipe factor, Missouri Meershaum
Missouri Meerschaum Company

Today, picturesque Washington is a hub of activity for arts, shopping, and outdoor exploration. The five-mile Rotary Riverfront Trail offers scenic views of the water, and downtown is packed with antique shops. Best of all, Washington is smack-dab in the middle of prime Missouri wine country.

Lodge at 2nd Street Loft, a self-check-in luxury boutique hotel in the center of downtown. The two-story brick building was built around 1883 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the Fred Schnier Building. The first floor functioned as a storefront for the family tailor shop and the second floor was the residence. Pick from two stylish rooms: the Riverview Loft, with windows facing the Missouri River, a queen bed, and a kitchenette or the Deck Suite, with two queen beds, a kitchenette, and an outdoor dining space.

Dine at Hotdog Man where Marcus Daily serves up inventive takes on the hot dog via his enormous nine-foot cart—Guinness World Records named it the largest hot-dog cart in the world in 2015. His most popular offering is the Pizza Dog, topped with marinara, pepperoni, and melted Provel cheese, but there’s also a mac-and-cheese dog and the BaconTatorWeiner (a dog wrapped in bacon and topped with potato salad.)

Don’t pass up the chance to experience some Missouri vino: Lake Creek Winery is ten minutes from downtown Washington. In the tasting room, you’ll find traminette, vignoles, and cabernet sauvignon alongside an elegant menu of modern favorites, such as salmon florentine and German classics like schweineschnitzel.

The Bryan Haynes Studio is located on West Second Street.

Visit any number of the downtown art galleries, including the Bryan Haynes Studio and Gallery. Bryan is an award-winning artist with murals at the Missouri Botanical Garden and the Museum of Westward Expansion in St. Louis. The Gary R. Lucy Gallery showcases Gary’s paintings inspired by the Missouri River along with custom framing and decor. In addition to the galleries, there are more than a few antique shops downtown to explore.

Train aficionados will want to make a stop at downtown Washington’s historic train depot, built in 1923 and still in use along the Amtrak route. There’s also the Iron Spike Model Train Museum, which features fully operational vintage train sets.

Photos // Washington Area Chamber of Commerce, Missouri Meerschaum, Bryan Haynes