Tucked away where the wide plains of the West meet the forested hills of the East and the swamps of the South, Missouri — nicknamed the Show-Me State — offers plenty of summer fun for visitors of all ages. Most Missouri vacation rentals put you within easy driving distance of the top attractions ranging from sunny lakeside beaches to foot-stomping country music festivals to mysterious caverns ideal for exploring. With that said, take a look at the 10 best places to take a summer vacation in Missouri.

1. St. Louis

Make the “Gateway to the West” your next family getaway. Vacation rentals in the St. Louis area immerse you in a region rich in history. The Louis and Clark Expedition set out from St. Louis in 1804, and you and your family can visit the Museum of Westward Expansion to see artifacts and exhibits of this defining moment in U.S. history.

The St. Louis Arch is the visual and symbolic landmark of the city. Take a ride up to the top of this majestic 630-foot wonder for breathtaking vistas of St. Louis, the Mississippi River, and western Illinois. Be sure to take a camera along!

Baseball fans can catch an exciting game at Busch Stadium, home of the multiple-time World Series Champions the St. Louis Cardinals. Visit the St. Louis Zoo to get up close to several critters from near and far, or catch one of the many roller coaster rides at Six Flags in nearby Eureka, Missouri. For a taste of history, buy a local hot dog or ice cream cone. Some historians believe that both of these popular foods have their origins at the 1904 St. Louis World Fair.

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2. Osage Beach

Vacation rentals in Osage Beach and other small towns nearby give you easy access to one of Missouri’s largest and most popular lakes. Lake of the Ozarks offers warm beaches for summer swimming and picnics, and dozens of boat rentals in the area make it easy to get out on the water. Nearby Ha Ha Tonka State Park features interesting geological features such as hot springs, caves, and natural bridges. Lake of the Ozarks State Park offers plenty of hiking trails to explore, so be sure to bring your hiking boots, backpacks, field guides, and bug spray to your vacation rental!

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3. Branson

Branson is a vacation gem hidden within the scenic Ozark Mountains. Don’t let this town’s small size deceive you — Branson puts you immediately within driving distance of more than three dozen theaters and over 100 live shows, including Country music festivals. Summertime means fun on the water, and Table Rock Lake offers just the right setting for boating, swimming, or a picnic on the beach with family and friends. For a fun ride on the water with food and entertainment, hop aboard the Showboat Branson Belle paddle-wheel boat. Silver Dollar City offers fun rides for all ages, including roller coasters and water rides. Craftsmen and women are on-site to recreate old-fashioned glass blowing, broom making, and other crafts for the public.

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4. Hannibal

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Join in the adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn by getting a vacation rental in historic Hannibal, Missouri. This small town is the birthplace of renowned author Mark Twain, and kids can explore sites related to both the author and his immortal characters. Take a stroll down the Mississippi River shore, or take an old-time ride down the river on the Mark Twain Riverboat paddle boat. Enter into the darkness with Tom and Huck by visiting the Mark Twain Cave and Cameron Cave. The Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum lets you see where the author spent his earliest years.

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5. Jefferson City

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As the capital of Missouri, Jefferson City lets you experience the rich political history of the state by tours of the state capital building. For local history, take a stroll through the Cole County Historical Museum.

Easy access to lakes and the Missouri River offer ample opportunity for boating and scenic bike rides. Experience a good scare by going on a ghost tour at the old Missouri State Penitentiary.

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6. Kansas City

As one of Missouri’s largest cities, Kansas City offers lots of fun, food, and culture to those who choose vacation rentals in the area. Take your family and friends on wild rides and wet fun in the neighboring Worlds of Fun and Oceans of Fun, where roller coasters and water slides are sure to keep you chill in the heat. Catch a summer baseball game at Kauffman Stadium, home of the Kansas City Royals.

Kansas City is world-famous for its tasty barbecue, and you can find numerous barbecue joints both within the city and in the surrounding suburbs. Jack Stack Barbecue, Woodyard Bar-B-Que, Arthur Bryant’s, and other restaurants let you sample such Kansas City specialties as tasty burnt ends.

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7. St. Joseph

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St. Joseph is another destination rich in history, and it is the birthplace of both Walter Cronkite and Jesse James. The Jesse James Home Museum lets you go on location to where the notorious criminal met his death. History comes alive at the Pony Express Stables, where many original stables continue to stand. Give your kids a glimpse of 19th century Missouri life by riding a 1860’s train at the Patee House Museum.

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8. Springfield

Located in the beautiful Ozark hills, Springfield in many ways is an outdoor lover’s paradise. If your getaway includes outdoor sports, you can stock your vacation rental with fishing tackle, boating supplies, and other gear from the Bass Pro Shop. The Springfield Conservation Nature Center offers easy trails for all ages, while the indoor exhibits offer exciting, educational tidbits on the animals and plants in the region. If adventure into the deep is up your alley, take a guided tram ride through Fantastic Caverns and learn about the cave’s history and formation.

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9. Independence

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A starting point for the famous Oregon Trail, Independence has a rich pioneer history. While the city has come a long way from its humble roots, you can still experience its past by visiting the bustling Independence Square or by taking old-time wagon rides. The Mormon Visitors Center educates all ages about the influence of this major American religion on the region.

Among the city’s famous former residents is Harry Truman, the 33rd President of the United States. The Truman Home and Truman Presidential Museum and Library offer tours and artifacts that give you an intimate glimpse into the man who took the United States through the final moments of World War II.

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10. Columbia

Vacation rentals in Columbia offer access to a sizable Midwestern town surrounded by rural farmland and forest. The Museum of Art and Archaeology and the Columbia Art League offer a taste of art from both the past to the present. If outdoor activities are on your list, visit Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area for breathtaking views of the Missouri River and the Boone County countryside. Kids and adults will love the old-fashioned corn mazes at Shryocks Callaway Farms, as well as tigers and other wildlife under the care of the nearby D&D Animal Sanctuary.

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