The state of Missouri stretches almost 70,000 square miles — making it the 21st largest state in the United States by land mass. Drive along the state, either west to east or north to south, and you’ll come across some of the most charming small towns in all of America and, most definitely, small towns in Missouri.
Ultimately, these small towns in Missouri influence its distinct personality — more so than major cities like Kansas City or St. Louis. However, these towns rarely ever get the attention they rightfully deserve, until now, that is.
In this article, we wanted to bring attention to towns most worth your time. So if you’re riding through the Show Me State, why not take a detour to the best small towns to visit in Missouri?
Read on to start exploring Missouri’s charming towns.
Most Charming Small Towns In Missouri to Visit This Year
The first among small towns in Missouri is named after its Founding Father and third US President, Thomas Jefferson. It also happens to be the state capital.
Jefferson City is one of the best small towns to visit in Missouri whether you’re part of the political landscape or not. But if you do work in politics, you’ll certainly find your way there.
All of the state’s lawmakers — from the governor to senators to smaller representatives— will do their business here. Whether it’s a bill about Missouri sports betting or tax reform, all the pressing issues that affect the 6-plus-million residents of the state are handled within Jefferson City.
Being the hub of politics means lots of history worth exploring in Jefferson City. We mean, visiting the Capitol Building — which is modeled after the one in Washington D.C. — is a must-do activity while visiting.
Scoping out the Missouri State Penitentiary is another recommended activity. Don’t worry, it’s abandoned now — that is if you don’t believe it’s haunted by ghosts like many of the locals do (seriously).
Besides that, you’ll have fun walking through Jefferson City and mingling with the easy-going locals. The town has a reputation for having some of the friendliest people and we sure believe it from our experience!
You’ve probably heard of the Ozarks, a mountain range that occupies the southern part of the state (and delves into Arkansas). This lush-green section of the state attracts out-of-state and in-state tourists far and wide.
Which is why it has landed on our list of small towns in Missouri to visit.
The Ozarks’ popularity has only shot up thanks to Netflix’s hit TV show, also named Ozark. Ozark fans are flocking to see the area the fictional characters call home — but may be disappointed to find out it was filmed elsewhere, in Georgia.
The Netflix show, Ozark, might not be filmed in the Ozarks, but that doesn’t mean the area isn’t as pretty as you see on TV. Osage Beach has access to the beautiful Lake of Ozark and is surrounded by the real Ozarks.
Most importantly, the Lake of the Ozark is situated here, making it one of the best small towns in Missouri.
Because of that lake, water activities are strongly recommended in Osage Beach. Going on a cruise, kayaking, and fishing are all prime things to do while on the waterside.
Visiting Arrow Rock is like being transported back 200 years ago. The town is designated a National Historic Landmark for its old-time look. Thus, it’s one of the most historic small towns in Missouri.
Arrow Rock’s history goes back to the country’s westward expansion. Remember, the arch in St. Louis is the “gateway to the West,” so that story runs deep throughout the state.
The actual town itself is said to have less than 100 habitants full-time. But many more come there to work and keep the tourists afloat.
Arrow Rock has several things to do for visitors. Our favorites are antique shops (of which there are seven), museums, and even a one-room jail.
You might have to visit Kimmswick on multiple occasions this year. The tiny town — 25 miles south of St. Louis — has different yearly festivals. This makes it one of the most upbeat small towns in Missouri.
The first weekend of June is reserved for the Strawberry Festival. As the name suggests, this festival is dedicated to delicious red-colored fruit — fresh strawberries, chocolate-covered strawberries, or other variations.
The most famous aspect of the festival is the jars of strawberry jam that is sold, though. But be aware that these always sell out, so try to buy one early if you want a souvenir to go home with.
Then on the last weekend of October is the Apple Butter Festival. This is more attended than the Strawberry Festival.
It gets so packed with people that the town streets are closed from 10 am to 5 pm. During these hours, the streets became occupied by hundreds of food, drink, and craft vendors.
What’s great about both festivals is that there’s something for everyone — kids, families, singles, etc. All people are welcome for either event.
Did you know Missouri is one of the best states to grab wine? California gets all the attention, but the Midwest grows its wine too.
New Haven is one of the go-to spots to explore the state’s wine scene. It has a ton — and we mean a ton — of wineries to explore making it a top choice for small towns in Missouri.
Of course, sip freshly-made wine at these facilities. But you can also tour the wineries and get a first-hand look at the creation process.
We’d also suggest stopping into the Astral Glass Studio. Glassblowers are hard at work, creating unique items with master-level precision.
Like Osage Beach, this town is perfect for exploring the nearby Ozarks. However, that’s not its only feature. What makes Ironton worth checking out is its history. Specifically, we’re talking about Civil War history.
The Battle of Fort Davidson is a classic in the Confederate vs. Union war that raged during the 1860s. More than 1,000 soldiers died during this battle.
You can visit that battleground in Ironton, making it one of the most interesting small towns in Missouri. The grassy field includes a pair of Confederate burial trenches and a visitor center with a narrated story of the entire battle.
As it’s in the Ozarks, there are many nature things to do in town too. Look into the mountains for great hikes and bike paths.
We’re not done talking about history. Missouri has abundant it, which also goes for the small town of Fulton.
But what’s unique about this one is that it’s not necessarily American history. It’s more England’s history, but did have a global impact.
English prime minister Winston Churchill made his famous Iron Curtain speech here in 1946, shortly after World War 2 ended. The speech was a rallying cry for the world, warning about the rise of the Soviet Union and communism.
So why did Churchill make this speech in this random town in Winston? He was invited to speak by the Westminster College president.
The rest, as they say, is history. The Iron Curtain speech became one of the most famous of the 20th-century.
An entire museum inside Fulton dedicated to Churchill was recently renovated too. Exhibits not only discuss the speech in detail but give an inside look at life during wartime and World War II spycrafts.
That museum is a must-visit for any WW2 enthusiast. Even for those less informed, it’s worth visiting to see how those events changed history forever.
We could continue naming small towns in Missouri, but the ones above are perfect starting points. Undoubtedly, while driving to these locations, you’ll cross other enchanting little towns too.
So grab a car, fill up the gas tank, and explore everything small towns in Missouri offer inside its state lines. We promise you; you’ll have a grand time and see a little bit of everything.