Family fun is easy to find in the Show-Me State. Rent a canoe, peruse a museum, pet an elephant, or just join a good old-fashioned Fourth of July celebration. There are activities for every age group, for the young, and the young at heart, making Missouri an ideal place for families to visit. Book your vacation rental in Missouri, pile into the car, and be prepared to make frequent stops, because there’s plenty of fun to discover and memories to be made this summer in Missouri!

1. Jefferson City

jefferson city

Located on the banks of the Missouri River, Jefferson City is a small-town setting filled with historic charm. It’s the capital of Missouri, meaning that there are plenty of things to do. Discover Missouri’s rich history, starting at the Capitol. Completed in 1918, this building covers three acres in downtown Jefferson City and is definitely a sight to see. The dome rises 238 feet above ground level and is topped by a bronze statue of Ceres, the Roman goddess of vegetation. While the structure is notable for its architectural features, don’t forget to point out to the kids that this building also houses the two legislative bodies, and provides office space for the governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, treasurer, state auditor and administrative agencies. Who says you can’t learn over summer vacation? Free 45-minute guided tours are given daily.

2. Belleview

elephant rock park
Source: Flickr/Missouri Division of Tourism

Get away from it all with a trip to Elephant Rocks State Park in Belleview. Explore natural wonders and work up a sweat climbing around these giant, billion-year-old granite formations. The name “Elephant Rocks” comes from the fact that they stand end-to-end like a train of red circus elephants at this park. Take the self-guiding trail as it winds among these geologic wonders and takes you past what remains of the long-dead mining operation. You can even still read the names and comments carved into the red granite by the 19th-century miners who used to work there.

3. Ha Ha Tonka State Park

castle ruins
Source: Flickr/Crestfallen Fotografie

Ha Ha Tonka State Park is the destination for families looking for an adventurous lake vacation. Enjoy a majestic view of the Lake of the Ozarks from towering bluffs, and more than 15 miles of hiking and walking trails that take you past caves, a spring, sink-holes, a natural bridge and down to the lake. One of the most popular attractions in the park is the 1904 European-style stone castle. Go fishing and have a picnic, or stay a little longer in the special-use camping area.

4. Branson

outlaw run
Source: Flickr/Missouri Division of Tourism

Branson is another great destination for family fun in the Midwest. This city has countless shows, indoor and outdoor water parks, museums, fun eats, and a family-friendly atmosphere. Start your adventure at the Bucks and Spurs Guest Ranch where you can enjoy great horses, great food, a dude ranch, cattle drives, horse roundups, fishing, arrowhead hunting, horse training, and kayaks and tubes while having all of the amenities of country living with rustic, comfy cabins and natural home-cooked meals. If you’re more comfortable in your vacation rental, visit Branson’s Butterfly Palace and Rainforest Adventure where you can walk among more than 1,000 live tropical butterflies. It’s interactive, educational, and entertaining for the whole family. Another great place is Silver Dollar City, an 1880s-themed amusement park, where the adventure of the past is combined with the high-tech thrills of the present. There are two dozen rides; 60 unique shops; 12 restaurants; 40 live shows daily; and more than 100 resident craftsmen and artisans demonstrating America’s heritage crafts.

5. St. Louis

rhinoceros

Take a walk on the wild side in St. Louis. Start with a visit to the World Aquarium which as more than 10,000 outrageous sea creatures and fun river critters. You’ll also find unique land animals such as sloths, alligators, two-headed snakes and two-headed turtles. To see even more exotic animals, head to the St. Louis Zoo. Walk through an underwater tunnel into sea lion habitat to see the animals swimming all around you, check out the underwater view of the Penguin and Puffin Coast exhibit, or just enjoy any of the 18,000 other animals, many of which are rare and endangered.

6. Joplin

small falls
Source: Flickr/Jo Naylor

Visit Joplin for a fun getaway that combines indoor fun and outdoor adventure. Start with a walking or driving tour of the historic district to see houses built during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, many of which have been restored to their former glory. Leave plenty of time to enjoy a glorious sunset at Grand Falls, Missouri’s largest continually flowering waterfall, and one of the state’s most scenic destinations.

7. St. Joseph

pony express stables
Source: Flickr/Jimmy Emerson, DVM

St. Joseph offers the best of the past and the present with its eclectic mix of culture, arts, and entertainment along with beautiful scenery, making it a great getaway for families. Enjoy the view from Houston Wyeth Hill, a westward-facing scenic overlook high on the Missouri River bluffs. Here, you can get a panoramic view of the Missouri River. You and the kids will get a kick out of seeing a live show at the Missouri Theatre, a renovated vaudeville palace from 1927. Do even more cool sightseeing at the Pony Express National Museum. A lone rider left on April 3, 1860, from this very point, making it the start of the Pony Express. The stables now house a modern, interactive tribute to the history and legend of the Pony Express.

8. Springfield

dickerson zoo
Source: Flickr/Gene

Springfield, located “in the middle of everywhere,” is a growing city with small-town charm and home to scenic Ozark views and fun for the whole family. Chocolate lovers young and old will not want to miss a visit to Askinosie Chocolate, a bean-to-bar chocolate manufacturer. This Missouri favorite was recently named one of America’s best chocolates by Bon Appétit magazine. Visitors can see where and how the chocolate is made as well as sample different varieties. How else would you decide which chocolates to take home with you? Then, let your kids “run wild” at the Dickerson Park Zoo, known for their special exhibits, including “A Walk on the Wild Side,” and the children’s area.

9. Weston

red barn farm
Source: Flickr/Crazybananas

Come to Weston to enjoy a slice of America’s heritage, including antebellum homes and other historic sites, museums, exhibits, tobacco barns, orchards, educational farms, the old distillery, an award-winning winery, and an operating brewery at the site of the oldest brewery west of Hudson River in New York. If you’re looking for a Fourth of July filled with outdoor fun, there’s the Lewis and Clark State Park on the bluffs of the Missouri River where Lewis and Clark walked, with beautiful views, trails, picnic, and camping sites. Another perfect place for families is the Weston Red Barn Farm, a working farm that features traditional farm animals and crops.

10. Monroe City

national forest
Source: Flickr/John W. Iwanski

We couldn’t make a list of Fourth of July vacations without one visit to a lake, the Mark Twain Lake to be exact. This 18,600-acre lake is ideal for a day on the water. You can also enjoy the trails for walking or horseback riding, and sleep under the stars in one of the four Corps of Engineers developed recreation areas, many of which have full hookups, electric, fire grills, lantern hangers, picnic tables and asphalt pads. Enjoy the beaches, playgrounds, or rent a boat and head out for some great fishing.