Known as “the Gateway to the West,” St. Louis, Missouri is home to a bounty of unique attractions, as well as surrounded by many charming towns situated within easy driving distance. Venture to quaint cities within Missouri, or go beyond state borders to neighboring areas such as Illinois, Kansas, and Kentucky. Explore historic sites, walk through caverns, hike trails, and go golfing. Book one of numerous St. Louis vacation rentals as your home base, then take a short road trip to nearby destinations. This list outlines big attractions in small cities within driving distance from the Arch in St. Louis.

1. Sullivan, Missouri

A weekend getaway in Sullivan, Missouri, puts you in a small town with under 7,000 people with big attractions. Located just an hour from downtown St. Louis, this quaint Missouri city is home to Meramec Caverns, one of the oldest attractions along Route 66. Tour the caverns and see the river that flows underground before setting out on a fishing excursion at the Blue Springs Creek Conservation Area. Treat the thrill seekers to an afternoon of ziplining with Caveman Zipline, and then spend an evening bowling at Sullivan Bowl.

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2. Springfield, Illinois

Make the state capital of Illinois your vacation destination for a weekend getaway after an hour and a half drive from St. Louis. This historic city is home to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum and Library and even features a statue of Lincoln where you can rub his nose for good luck. Tour the state capital during your weekend getaway, or spend a spring Saturday afternoon viewing the blooming flowers at the Washington Park Botanical Gardens. Let the kids expel some energy with a stop in at the Ergadoozy Creative Play Center before divulging in a Horseshoe Sandwich at Charlie Parker’s Diner.

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3. Hannibal, Missouri

Spend a weekend in a historic Missouri city that was the boyhood home of Mark Twain. Take old-fashioned trolley rides through the city, or float down the waters on the Mark Twain Riverboat Cruise. This city, located just under two hours from St. Louis, is home to the 40-room Rockcliffe Mansion available for weekend tours. Snap a family photo in front of the Tom and Huck’s Statue in the city center, and then get in some rest and relaxation while hanging at the Cave Hollow West Winery.

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4. Hermann, Missouri

Known as “Missouri’s Wine Country,” Hermann, Missouri is a small German city that features vacation rentals adjacent to wineries, historic sites, and the lush greenery of the Katy Trail. Time your weekend trip to Hermann, located an hour and a half from St. Louis, for one of the many festivals the city hosts, such as the Wurstfest in March, the Kristkindl Markt in December, and the Maifest in May. Spend your weekend tasting homemade wines at Stone Hill Winery, the Oak Glenn Winery, and the Hermannhof Vineyards with friends, or thrill the outdoor enthusiasts with a round of golf at Loutre Shore Country Club or a hike on the Katy Trail.

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5. Lawrence, Kansas

Enjoy warm hospitality in the small city of Lawrence, Kansas, located just four hours from downtown St. Louis. A vacation rental in Lawrence gives you and your family a chance to learn about the pioneering history of the state with tours of the Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area, Black Jack Battlefield Park, and the Watkins Museum of History. Take in a show at the Black Box Theater, or see underwater creatures at the Lawrence Outdoor Aquatic Center. The Baker Wetlands Discovery Center is also a popular attraction for locals and tourists alike.

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6. Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri

In just under three hours, you can find yourself surrounded by the expansive waters of the Lake of the Ozarks, as well as fun-filled attractions. If you’re traveling during the off season or winter months, get in some retail therapy at the Osage Beach Outlet Malls or let the kids explore the arcades at Miner Mike’s. A weekend getaway during the summer months gives you a chance to get out on the lake with jetski or kayak rentals from Adventure Boat Rentals. Sign up for a thrilling ride with Paradise Parasail, or get in some exercise with a vigorous hike on the trails of the Lake of the Ozarks State Park.

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7. Shelbyville, Kentucky

A four and a half-hour drive from St. Louis puts you and your family in the heart of the equestrian area of Kentucky. Shelbyville offers an annual horse show in the spring, and is known for breeding American Saddlebred horses. When traveling in the fall, stop in for some pumpkin picking activities at Gallrein Farms, or pick some fruit at the Mulberry Orchard. This small Kentucky city is also home to local distilleries along the Bourbon Trail such as Jeptha Creed and the Talon Winery Tasting Room. Before retreating back to your cozy vacation rental, pick up some antiques or souvenirs at the Wakefield-Scearce Galleries.

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