You don’t have to go far in Missouri to discover one-of-a-kind entertainment
By Lisa Shames
Bordered by eight states, Missouri isn’t lacking when it comes to interesting neighbors. But the Show-Me State has plenty of enticing charms all its own. From a beloved country music star’s dinner theater and a museum dedicated to vintage appliances to ghost tours in a former jail, Missouri is an experience-lover’s dream.
ST JOSEPH, Missouri MUSEUMS
With five museums under one roof, the St. Joseph Museum Complex more than lives up to its tagline: “something for everyone.” Started by an employee of the Missouri Department of Mental Health, the Glore Psychiatric Museum chronicles the early history of psychiatric treatment. Housed in what was formerly the medical unit of St. Joseph State Hospital, the museum features dioramas, models and reproductions. One such model is the “Bath of Surprise,” which was used to quickly submerge patients into a bath of ice water. Looking for something a little more light-hearted? The Doll Museum features more than 1,500 dolls, toys and unique dollhouses from all over the world. The achievements and contributions of St. Joseph’s African American citizens are spotlighted in the Black Archives Museum, which includes civic and community leaders as well as jazz legends. Additional museums include Native American and History Galleries, The Eckel Collection and the off-site late-1800s Wyeth-Tootle Mansion.
MISSOURI STATE PENITENTIARY, JEFFERSON CITY
Opened in 1836 and decommissioned in 2004, the Missouri State Penitentiary, located near downtown Jefferson City, has seen its fair share of famous inmates, some of whom are rumored to still wander the historic structure as ghosts. The penitentiary offers a variety of tours of the prison once called “the bloodiest 47 acres in America,” ranging from history and photography tours to ones focused on ghosts and paranormal activity. Should you want to spend more time exploring spooky stuff, there’s an overnight investigation tour.
JR’S APPLIANCE MUSEUM, DIAMOND
Ever wonder what happened to the toasters, percolators, waffle irons and other appliances from years gone by? Odds are they ended up at JR’s Appliance Museum, which features some 4,000 rare electrical gadgets in its modest home inside JR’s Western Store (it’s not referred to as “the world’s largest small electrical appliance museum” for nothing). Located in southwest Missouri, the out-of-the-ordinary museum is the brainchild of Richard Larrison, who began collecting small electric appliances some 35 years ago—and never stopped.
ATTRACTIONS in Branson Missouri
An Ozark town located in southwest Missouri, Branson is packed full of activities and adventures that you’d be hard-pressed to find elsewhere. From world-class entertainment and stunning outdoor landscapes to a top-rated theme park, Branson aims to please. An 1880s theme park in the heart of the Ozark Mountains, Silver Dollar City offers an intriguing mix of thrilling roller coasters, live shows and artisan demonstrations with plenty of tasty Ozark Mountain signature dishes to boot. With some 250 different animal species, a 24-foot kelp forest climbing structure and an original 5D submarine adventure, Aquarium at the Boardwalk brings the sea to the heart of the U.S. If exciting horseback riding stunts, musical productions and a delicious home-style meal is more your speed, head to Dolly Parton’s Stampede. Or experience life on the infamous “unsinkable” ship at the Titanic Museum Attraction, which allows you to climb the iconic grand staircase, meet the crew, and interact with artifacts and displays as you traverse the largest model of the famous British passenger liner.
CORN COB PIPE MUSEUM in WASHINGTON, MI
For many who grew up in rural America, odds are the corn cob pipe crossed your path at one time or another. In Washington, Missouri, Missouri Meerschaum Company, the oldest and largest corn cob pipe manufacturer in the world, offers a historic look into this Americana item. Step into the past and allow your museum guide to share the fascinating story of how corn cob pipes came to be manufactured in Washington by local resident Henry Tibbe. You’ll see historical documents and photos of literary personalities and U.S. military leaders who enjoyed Missouri Meerschaum pipes. There are rocking chairs for relaxing and a shop to browse for memorabilia.
CITY MUSEUM, ST. LOUIS
Located in a 100-year-old warehouse in downtown St. Louis, City Museum’s exhibits consist mostly of repurposed architectural and industrial objects. While that may not sound like fun, City Museum, was designed to give visitors a good time. The venue contains some 30 slides, ranging from a dragon slide and a rebar slide to a massive 10-story slide. It also houses a Ferris wheel, tunnels, bridges, castles, secret passages, playgrounds, a circus and a train. It’s also home to an architecture hall, art center and the world’s largest pencil, which weighs 21,500 pounds.
NATIONAL WWI MUSEUM AND MEMORIAL in KANSAS CITY
The National WWI Museum and Memorial is America’s leading institution dedicated to remembering, interpreting and understanding the Great War and its enduring impacts on the global community. Encompassing the most comprehensive collection of World War I objects and documents in the world, this downtown Kansas City museum takes visitors of all ages on an epic journey through a transformative period and shares deeply personal stories of courage, honor, patriotism and sacrifice. Through original objects and documents, video, recreated trenches and interactive tables, the Main Gallery of the museum shares a comprehensive history of the First World War with visitors.
NELSON-ATKINS MUSEUM OF ART, KANSAS CITY
From ancient Egyptian burial objects to Monet’s Water Lilies, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art showcases works from across time and cultures. At this free museum located in the heart of Kansas City, visitors are invited to explore at their own pace or as part of any number of tours offered each day. In the original Nelson-Atkins Building, discover a world-class Chinese collection, American and Native American art, and paintings from the Renaissance to Impressionism. In the Bloch Building, visitors find contemporary art, photography galleries and African art, as well as the serene Noguchi Court. Outside, in the Donald J. Hall Sculpture Park, guests can walk pathways lined with trees, flowers, benches, and modern sculpture.