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It’s hard to feel bored in exciting St. Louis. With an interesting history, unique cultural events, and an emerging foodie scene, the city provides many opportunities for entertainment. But for a day when you’re looking to venture outside of the city, there are plenty of adventures to be had. Here are three great day trips you can take from St. Louis to explore its surrounding history:
1. The town of St. Charles
Just 30 minutes west of St. Louis is the quaint river town of St. Charles. Here you’ll find a colonial town with a rich history and residents who are passionate about preserving it. Founded in 1769 by Louis Blanchette, a French Canadian fur trader, this town served as Missouri’s first capitol. Its location on the banks of the Missouri River made it a busy trading center and a frequent stop for many who travelled west to pick up necessary supplies. Today, you can visit the the First Missouri State Capitol State Historic Site and get a sense of the state’s first legislature. You can also explore the Foundry Art Centre and take a tour around a 1920s train-car factory that was owned by American Car & Foundry. St. Charles is also home to the Lewis & Clark Boat House and Museum, so be sure to check it out to learn about the history of Lewis and Clark and their journey that began on this river bank. On your visit, be sure to walk through the Frenchtown area where you’ll find 58 historic French Colonial and German buildings.
2. French Colonial Territory
At about an hour south of St. Louis, you can explore the history of French colonial territory through the Creole Corridor in Ste. Genevieve MO, Chester IL, and Cahokia IL. Make sure to grab a brochure found in St. Louis’s visitor centers to use on your self-guided tour. Start your adventure in Ste. Genevieve, MO, which was founded in 1735 and named after the patron saint of Paris. This unique village rests on the west bank of the Mississippi River and was the first permanent European settlement in the Louisiana Territory. Being Missouri’s oldest town, this charming place has preserved its history through eighteenth-century architecture. You can even tour some historic homes, like the Bolduc House (from 1770) and the Maison Guibourd-Valle (from 1784). From here, your day trip continues southeast across the old Mississippi River channel over to Kaskaskia Island, Illinois, where you can check out the Liberty Bell of the West, a gift from King Louis XV of France to the Catholic Church of New France. From here, venturing across the Mississippi River either by ferry or the Chester Bridge will take you to Chester, IL. At the Randolph County Museum, you can explore the archives and French Colonial records. Just north in Ellis Grove, you can visit the Pierre Menard Home State Historic Site, a fascinating 1815 French Creole-style home. Continue north from here to Prairie du Rocher where you can make a stop at the restored Fort de Chartres State Historic Site from 1753. North of here, and only about 10 minutes from St. Louis in Cahokia IL, you can visit the Cahokia Courthouse, the vertical log Church of the Holy Family, and the Jarrot Mansion.
3. Mark Twain’s Hannibal, MO
Travel two hours north of St. Louis to explore the town of Hannibal MO, the place where young Mark Twain called home. Here you can get a real sense of how this river town influenced the writing and shaped the characters of one of America’s most beloved writers. Visit the Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum where you can engage with interactive exhibits and occasional live performances. There are eight different properties and museums to tour, including the Becky Thatcher House, Huckleberry Finn House, J.M. Clemens Justice of the Peace Office, Museum Gallery, and Interpretive Center. Admission to all of these places are included in one ticket price, making it a great deal for visitors. You should also make a point to visit the Mark Twain Cave and take a scenic Mark Twain Riverboat cruise. After you’ve gotten to see Hannibal through the eyes of Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, you’ll have a new perspective on your surroundings.
For history buffs and those who enjoy gaining a sense of the history around them, there are many resources around St. Louis shining light on the region’s past. Just a short day-trip from of St. Louis can lead you on an adventure where you can delve into the area’s rich past and develop a well-rounded vision of the region and its influences.