Monday, July 11, 2016

Missouri--From the Perspective of an Arkansas Girl

Missouri. The Show-Me State. Home of the Gateway Arch. Border state during the Civil War. 
Maybe that’s all you know about it (or maybe you didn’t even know that much). Just what does it have to offer travelers and residents?
It’s funny how life works out.  
I grew up in Arkansas, but most of our vacations were to Missouri (Branson to be exact, but more on that later).  At one point in my life, I thought I wanted to go to college in Missouri, and even visited some colleges there.  The main reason was just because I wanted to get out of the home state, and I was most familiar with Missouri. I thought I would like it because I thought it was mostly like the Ozark region I was familiar with.
Alas, I did not end up going to college out of state, Missouri or otherwise.  I did, however, meet a guy from Missouri, marry him, and ended up living in the state as a true resident.
So, here I am.
As it turns out, I wasn’t as well-versed in Missouri as I thought I was.  Here are some of the things I’ve learned since I’ve been here.

  1. Missouri seems to do parks really well.
Arkansas is The Natural State, so I’m used to State Parks in abundance.  So far, the parts of Missouri I’ve been to do not have as many State Parks, but I’ve noticed more and better city parks than what Arkansas has. 

In fact, the town I’m living in now is significantly smaller than the town I was near in Arkansas, but this town has bigger and better parks.  The grounds are well-kept and pretty, with lots of grassy areas, flowers and water features, vs. the parks that are just playground equipment for kids, with nothing to offer the adults that accompany them that I was used to in Arkansas.  I was particularly impressed with the parks I saw in Kansas City.

  1. The Katy Trail is awesome
There is one State Park that stands out though. The park is just one long hiking or biking trail, but it is 237 miles, and cuts across almost the entire state! According to the website, there is quite a variety in the nature you’ll encounter on different portions of the trail; you could see anything from “ tree-shaded areas, open fields, impressive Missouri River bluffs and quaint communities,” depending on what part of the trail you’re on.
I’ve only encountered a few sections of the trail—mostly the tree-shaded areas, but also some bluffs.  What I’ve seen is beautiful, and the trail is wide and well-kept. The parts that I’ve seen were also fairly flat and easy hikes, so this is a great trail for anybody; what the hike lacks in difficulty can be made up by going a great distance, it’s wide enough to accommodate walkers, bikers, joggers, and any size group easily, and the scenery is top-notch.

  1. I still love Branson and Silver Dollar City.
Perhaps you’ve heard of these places.  Branson was the place that us Arkansawyers vacationed. But if you’re not familiar, let me give you the run-down.
Branson is sort of a family-friendly, hillbilly version of Las Vegas.  There’s no gambling, and nothing you do there would have to “stay” there, as the Vegas saying goes. But there is a “strip” filled with live shows and attractions. The town started out as a country music destination, but many of the well-known country stars have retired or moved on.  Today, you’re as likely to see a magic show or a music revue featuring a specific decade as you are a country show, but family entertainment is still key.  Many shows ARE families.  The two FIRST shows on the strip are still going strong, and are performed by families: The Presleys  and The Baldknobbers (the actual family name is Mabe).  Besides the originals, there are numerous family shows that have been in Branson quite a while and have a strong fan base, like The Duttons, The Haygoods, and The Hughes Brothers.
And then there’s Silver Dollar City.  One of their sayings is “You have a great past just ahead of you.” It’s a theme park, but even more than rides, the focus is on a different time period.  Almost all of the park (minus a few sections) is styled to look like it’s straight out of the 1880s, and craftsmanship is a big part of the park’s attraction. You can find all sorts of “old-timey” crafts, such as candle-making, ironsmithing, glass-blowing, and many others. 

But you can also find plenty of rides for the thrill-seeker, such as the roller coasters Wildfire, PowderKeg, and Outlaw Run.
Be careful though.  Branson and Silver Dollar City can give you a false sense of being in the South.  Despite the many attractions of the town that focus on or depict “hillbillies” and the Southern hospitality you’ll encounter, remember that you are still in the very Southern edge of Missouri. If you go any further north, things will be different.  I say that with love and respect, and don’t mean it as a jab against the state or it’s people, it’s just the truth; not all of Missouri is particularly “Southern.”

  1. Not all of Missouri is mountainous.
First of all, I must make a disclaimer about the sort of mountains I’m talking about: They aren’t your Rockies or Smokies. But there is a range called the Ozark Mountains that covers a portion of Arkansas and a portion of Missouri. Branson lies in this area, and thus the Ozark area of Missouri was just about the only area I ever saw growing up.  It’s the area that made me think I could handle living in Missouri.
It’s not all like that.
Missouri also has a lot of farm land that looks nothing like the Ozarks. That doesn’t mean it’s not pretty. It’s just different.
And there is a variety, too. When my parents and I made our first trip further north for me to visit my then-boyfriend, my parents joked about how the areas we were driving through were “flat as a pancake.” Well, after a while, we encountered some hills. I took it upon myself to describe this area as “waffle-y,” in contrast with the pancake land. 

Regardless what type of topography you prefer, you can probably find something you like somewhere in Missouri.

  1. Missouri has some awesome cities
If all this talk of parks and country and nature has you worried, never fear. There are several cities in Missouri that offer city life and culture. The most obvious city is St. Louis, but I’m actually not familiar with it.  Other cities of significant size include Springfield, Jefferson City, Kansas City, and Columbia.
These cities have so much to do, and let’s be honest, most of the “things to do” lists that you see are going to include attractions found in the cities (here’s a list for Missouri) . From parks, museums, shopping, college/university campuses, music, food (I mean, come on, KANSAS CITY BARBEQUE), there’s really way too much to do to even discuss fully.  I’m not qualified to really even talk about what the cities have to offer, because I’ve only been to them a few times. Here’s some random tidbits though that stand out:
  • St. Louis and Kansas City get a lot of great concert tours. I’ve been to the Uptown Theater and Sprint Center in Kansas City.  I don’t have personal experience with any venues in St. Louis, but both of these towns are going to get your big name concert tours, so keep your eye out.
  • KC has the only World War I museum and Union Station.
  • Jefferson City is the capital, and the Capital grounds are beautiful.
  • Columbia has a great college town vibe. It’s been a long time since I’ve been in the downtown area, but I remember loving it.

This all just barely scrapes the surface, because I have just barely scraped the surface. I’ve only been living in Missouri a few months now, and though technically I’ve been visiting for years, I still have so much to learn about what the state has to offer.
Have you been to Missouri? What are your favorite things to do and see?

About the Author

Whitney LaDon is a new wife in a new state, and she’s relatively new to the blogging world. She writes about anything and everything important to her: marriage and relationships, faith and Christianity, education, adventures in teaching, what she’s reading, and beyond.  Check out her blog The Poetry That is Life and follow it on Facebook. She’s also on Bloglovin’ and Pinterest

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