Discover a Missouri town that offers a unique safari, where you can have a close encounter with an alligator, a python, and a lemur. Also visit a museum that contains 15,000-year-old pottery, plus a Civil War Fort and the Shipyard Music Festival.


By Pam Clifton

Missouri Life Adventurer Meredith Hoenes travels to Cape Girardeau, nestled on the western bank of the Mighty Mississippi River, to explore a community that is rich in heritage, history, and culture for Missouri Life TV’s Season 6, Episode 2. 

Meet an Alligator, Sloth, and Lemur

Meredith’s first stop is Lazy L Safari Park, where Vicky Lantz and her family say the zoo is a lifestyle for their family. They care for more than 500 animals, including alligators, kangaroos, and zebras, and they offer special encounter experiences so visitors can spend time with Mo the sloth, Gus the gator, Pearl the python, Sparky the fox, and Ruby the baby lemur. 

See 15,000-year-old pottery

The next stop in this historic city is Southeast Missouri State University’s River Campus. The Crisp Museum has many displays from talented and sometimes local artists, along with a 4,000-square-foot area for themed exhibits and artifacts from the region, like the riverboat collection with a large pilot’s wheel. There are a variety of collections, including the mineral and fossil exhibition and the prehistoric pottery collection, with some items estimated to be 15,000 years old.

Located only blocks from SEMO’s River Campus is the colorful Mississippi River Tales Mural adorning the 1,100-foot-long flood wall. The artwork is a series of detailed paintings depicting the history of Cape Girardeau in chronological order. A team of local artists worked for about a year to complete the river-and-mural combination of 24 panels which show the city’s various historical events over 200 years. 

Civil War Fort D

The next stop is Fort D, where visitors can walk the same ground where Civil War soldiers once marched. Cape Girardeau was considered “middle ground” during the Civil War, so Union soldiers put extra effort in controlling the area. Four forts were built to protect the area and its roads and river. Fort D is now the site for festivals, reenactments, and living history performances.

Minglewood Brewery

Minglewood Brewery, named after a Grateful Dead song, is located in downtown Cape Girardeau less than five minutes away from Fort D. Owner Stuart Matthews and staff serve up deliciously unique pizza and beer. Personal-sized pizzas in delicious combinations, like sausage and goat cheese, taco, Italian meat, or mac and cheese, and steering-wheel-size soft pretzels pair well with year-round and seasonal-favorites beer. 

Special Festivals

Also in downtown Cape Girardeau, the streets come alive every September with all makes and models of cars that compete in nearly 30 classes. Car enthusiasts travel from Memphis, St. Louis, and many more places to compete in this annual car show.

Another event that draws a huge crowd to Cape Girardeau is the annual outdoor Shipyard Music Festival, on September 22nd and 23rd in 2023. Jeff Rawson organized the first event in 2018, and it’s grown since then. 

“We landed on Shipyard because a shipyard is a place where broken vessels come to be mended and then sent out to work,” says Jeff. “We view Shipyard as a place to bring different groups together and unite them through things we find common in music: food, good drinks, good weather, and being outside.” The event’s location is near the river. 

Jeff says the event is helping to build a stronger sense of community by taking bits and pieces of other shows and ideas from festival organizers.

“The payoff at the end is so worth it,” he says. “When the sun goes down and the lights are up, it’s just the best experience.”

Cape Girardeau offers many fantastic places for food, art, activities and local history. With a city that offers inspiration, warmth, and heavy doses of hospitality, this Southeast Missouri spot is well worth the drive. Don’t miss the chance to experience Cape Girardeau’s rich history, heritage and culture.