Alyssa has been writing about exciting travel topics for Trips to Discover since 2013. After living the big city life in Chicago, Washington, DC, and Atlanta, Alyssa sold the bulk of her possessions and became a digital nomad, living full-time in her camper and working from wherever she could find an outlet and an internet connection for her laptop.
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Situated right in the middle of the country in Missouri, St. Louis is a great destination if you enjoy a good road trip. There are lots of fun places that you can drive to in other parts of the state, as well as in nearby Illinois, Kansas, and Tennessee. You can reach some destinations in just a couple hours, while even more opportunities for adventure are slightly further but still doable in a weekend. Here are our favorite weekend getaways to plan for from St. Louis.
In about three hours, you can get to Lake of the Ozarks from St. Louis, Missouri. Come here for endless watersport opportunities like renting kayaks, jet skis, or a boat. Hiking and parasailing are other fun ways to get outdoors and enjoy nature here. Bring the kids along to check out the arcade games and shop at the great outlet malls if the weather isn’t cooperating. When you’re in the Lake of the Ozarks area, it’s easy to stay entertained with golf courses, resorts, picnic areas, and restaurants.
Meanwhile, Hannibal is less than two hours from St. Louis and an easy weekend trip if you don’t want to do a lot of driving. Hannibal was the childhood home of Mark Twain and a historic city with lots of family-friendly attractions. You can take a riverboat cruise here and a trolley ride to explore the area in a festive way. Other fun things to do in Hannibal include taking a haunted tour, experiencing the Mark Twain Cave and Cameron Cave, and checking out the Big River Train Town specialty museum.
If you have a three-day weekend coming up, consider taking a drive about 4.5 hours to the northeast to spend the weekend in Chicago. There’s so much to see and do in Chicago that this destination actually warrants several weekend trips from St. Louis. Top things to do for first-time visitors include taking an architecture tour by boat, watching one of the local sports teams play a game at an iconic stadium, walking around Navy Pier, and visiting the aquarium and Art Institute. It’s also fun to catch a live improv comedy show at Second City, explore festivals in the city’s diverse neighborhoods, and get some exercise with a view on the paved trail that extends along Lake Michigan.
A quick, easy, and family-friendly weekend getaway from St. Louis is Meramec Caverns, which is just over an hour from the city. This is the largest commercial cave in the state and open year-around. Rangers take visitors on guided tours, which depart every 20 to 30 minutes starting at 9am. The tours take about an hour and 20 minutes to complete and go for about 1.25 miles round-trip. There’s even a campground for your weekend stay.
Kansas may seem far away from St. Louis, but you can get to the Kansas City metro area in less than four hours from the city. This is a great place to visit for music fans because the American Jazz Museum is here. There’s also the Kansas City Zoo and some amazing restaurants to check out in this top foodie city. Kansas City is famous for its barbecue and other down-home American favorites that the city does just as good or better than anywhere else. Both Kansas City, Missouri and Kansas City, Kansas have unique offerings for travelers, so plan this trip for a three-day weekend to see and do more in the area.
For an adventurous and outdoorsy weekend getaway, plan a trip to the Shawnee National Forest in Southern Illinois. Shawnee is an awesome place to go hiking, overnight backpacking, and rock climbing. Garden of the Gods, Cave in Rock, and Pomona Bridge are popular attractions here. Forest cabins are also available for weekend trips. When you’re in this area for the weekend, it’s also fun to take a scenic drive along Great River Road or the Ohio River National Scenic Byway.
Anyone in St. Louis who enjoys live music, great food, and a fun nightlife scene should start planning a weekend getaway to Memphis. There are lots of music venues here where you can listen to live jazz, blues, country, and rock bands take the stage. Beale Street is the place to be for bands and bars. Memphis is also a historic city where you can learn about civil rights history and the life of Elvis Presley at nearby Graceland.
To learn a bit about history with your family, take a weekend trip from St. Louis to Springfield, Illinois. This capital city is about an hour and a half away and an easy weekend trip. Here you can learn about the life of Abraham Lincoln by touring his home and visiting the Presidential Museum. You can also take a tour of the state capitol building and enjoy the blooms at the Washington Park Botanical Garden. Grab an authentic corn dog along Route 66, catch a minor league game during baseball season, and watch a live theater performance while you’re in Springfield for the weekend.
Branson is one of the top destinations in the Midwest and less than a four-hour drive from St. Louis. This is one of the best places to be for live entertainment, with daily and nightly shows to suit every musical taste and interest. Silver Dollar City is a popular attraction in Branson that offers roller coasters, thrilling water rides, and other family-friendly attractions. Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede is a local favorite for dinner and entertainment, while Table Rock Lake State Park is an awesome place to camp in a tent or RV while you enjoy the great outdoors for the weekend.
You can get from St. Louis to Peoria, Illinois in about 2.5 hours and enjoy this family-friendly riverfront city. The Peoria Riverfront Museum is a popular attraction here, as well as the Peoria Zoo. You can catch a performance at the Peoria Civic Center and also enjoy nature at the George L. Luthy Memorial Botanical Garden on this trip. This destination has a great children’s museum if you’re traveling with little ones and also the Forest Park Nature Center to hike in the forested woodlands of the area.
In about four hours, you can reach the fun destination of Louisville and enjoy some great food, local bourbon, horse racing, and museums. The Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs is always a popular event, but you can visit the Kentucky Derby Museum any time of the year. Other top picks for your weekend getaway include the Louisville Slugger Museum, Louisville Zoo, Copper & Kings American Brandy Distillery, and Fourth Street Live.
A drive of about 2.5 hours will get you from St. Louis to the quaint Amish community of Arthur, Illinois. Come here to slow down your pace of life and enjoy a home-cooked meal, horse and buggy ride, and browse local craftsman shops. This village of around 2,300 people is a popular destination in the fall to visit the Great Pumpkin Patch. Beachy’s Bulk Foods, Country Cheese and More, and Yoder’s Country Kitchen are great places to stop by and soak up the local Amish culture. Meanwhile, the village puts on an amazing 4th of July celebration and hosts a fun cheese-themed festival over Labor Day weekend.
Nashville is an awesome road trip destination from St. Louis if you have a three-day weekend coming up. It’s about a 4.5-hour drive to get here and tons of fun once you arrive. Nashville is known for its live music scene and country music traditions, so make sure to catch a performance or two while you’re here. The Grand Ole Opry House and Ryman Auditorium are famous Nashville venues. There are lots of great craft breweries in town for your weekend trip, as well as the Country Music Hall of Fame and Centennial Park for recreation.