Show Me the Romance, Missouri
Residents of the Show Me State don’t need convincing that Missouri has lots of options for romantic getaways, with or without the kids. Here are just five that you might not have known about, in both cities and the countryside.
A vacation in family-friendly Branson doesn’t mean you need to leave the romance behind. Older kids can enjoy the rides at the 1880s theme park Silver Dollar City (399 Silver Dollar City Parkway, Branson, MO), while you take a cooking class or follow a guide through a lantern-lit tour of Marvel Cave. The cave is cool in the summer and warm in the winter, and Silver Dollar City has plenty of places to warm up on cool days if needed. After biking or hiking through Dogwood Canyon Nature Park (2038 Route 86, Lampe, MO) with the kids, have a romantic dinner an elevator ride away from your hotel room. Get a table for two at Level 2 Steakhouse in the Hilton Branson Convention Center (200 E. Main St., Branson, MO). Ahi tuna with pineapple salsa might make you dream of Hawaii, and the restaurant's 28-day aged beef is seared in an infrared oven at 1,600 degrees F. Share a Missouri butter cake for dessert.
Get your kicks in Springfield, the birthplace of Route 66. The city has several free and low-cost museums (perfect for rain or shine), so you can find your favorite without feeling obligated to stay too long. The Route 66 Car Museum (1624 W. College St., Springfield, MO) will have you singing and wanting to take a classic car to the drive-in after dinner. Cuddle with your sweetheart while you catch the latest flick at the Sunset Drive-In (1601 E. Church St., Aurora, MO). Stay for the second feature at no extra cost.
3. Excelsior Springs
Near Kansas City, this pretty little town has several vineyards and wineries, some of which you can visit by trolley. Hiking, golf, museums and a state park are tempting activities, but if you stay at the gorgeous Elms Hotel & Spa (401 Regent St., Excelsior Springs, MO), you’ll find it difficult to leave the property even when the weather is great. A massive renovation has updated the guest rooms, restored the original European lap pool and added a Roman-style bath and sauna area to the spa.
This tranquil little town along the Missouri River is chock-full of shops, galleries and museums, making it ideal for strolling hand in hand with homemade ice cream from the Rocheport General Store (202 N. Central St., Rocheport, MO). If it's chilly, warm up at Abigail's (206 Central St., Rocheport, MO) with coffee and an award-winning dessert. In the evenings, there's live jazz after dinner and several bistros to choose from. Stay at one of the many bed-and-breakfasts, and be sure to stop by Les Bourgeois Vineyards (14020 W. Highway BB, Rocheport, MO) to take a souvenir bottle home with you.
As the boyhood home of author Mark Twain (also known as Samuel Clemens), picturesque Hannibal brings you a romantic weekend full of stories. Hold hands while you hear ghostly tales during the Haunted Hannibal tour in the evening, or enjoy a stage show or dinner riverboat cruise. You can explore the cave made famous in "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer," open every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas. Or take a tour of Rockcliffe Mansion (1000 Bird St., Hannibal, MO), a turn-of-the-century castle. Four couples at a time can even stay at this romantic B&B overlooking the Mississippi.
Johanna Read is a Canadian freelance writer and photographer specializing in travel, food, and responsible tourism. Writing for a variety of Canadian and international publications, she likes to encourage travel that is culturally, economically, and environmentally sustainable. Links to all her travel stories are at www.TravelEater.net. Follow her on Twitter @TravelEater and on Instagram @TravelEaterJohanna.