Skip to main content

Show Me!

Since I criss-crossed Missouri twice this year, which is more than the tiny southwest corner I slipped through previously, I thought I should stop to see what the Show Me state has to show. 

The Writer

I grew up reading series about three female heroines - Anne Shirley (from Anne of Green Gables), Trixie Belden (the lesser known Nancy Drew), and Laura Ingalls from Little House on the Prairie. I read all the Little House books multiple times and watched every episode of the show multiple times too. I loved it. So it seems a little odd to me that I've never done any Little House tourism until this year when her home in Mansfield happened to be on my way to Lexington. 

She actually had two homes on this property, the farm house and the stone house. The farm house was my favorite, and hers too since she moved back into it after building the stone house and trying it out for a while. This is the farm house dining room. Almanzo, her husband, made the lamp after their daughter Rose paid $3,000 to have electricity installed. It's so weird to think of Laura Ingalls Wilder living in a time with electricity and plumbing and cars. She was still alive when my parents were born! In my mind, she's forever that little girl on the prairie in South Dakota (which I also tried to visit but it wasn't open yet on Sundays when I drove through).

She used to sit and write in this corner with the wide armed chair where she could set her notebooks down. The corner bench offers a beautiful view of her property. And just like she had plumbing and cars, the tour guide said that up the stairs in this photo was her "junk" room. Laura didn't have a junk drawer, she had a whole junk room!

This was my absolute favorite part of the house - her writing room for the middle of the night thoughts. The bedroom was through the door to the left, but if she woke up and needed to write down an idea, she would come to this room and write at the desk, which has a stool beneath it that Almanzo built her, and then she would fall back asleep on the fainting couch, rather than going back to the bedroom and possibly waking up her husband. I love this more than I can describe. 

This is the Rock House, which has some mission style elements inside, inspired by her trip to see Rose in San Francisco. The house itself was built off a pattern from a Sears Catalog house ($2,000) but they designed it differently outside with a mason. Laura Ingalls Wilder perused the Sears Catalog! It's just too modern for me to comprehend. My parents' first house after they married was a Sears house

The property also has an excellent museum. I had to take a picture of this library dedication. Missouri has a national literary treasure in its history, yet this year just weeks before I visited the homestead, the repulsive GOP voted to defund public libraries. Ingalls Wilder would be horrified, and Missouri lawmakers should be ashamed of themselves.

I also loved this little display. Laura had everything a woman needs in this world - a good book, a pistol, and a portable writing desk.

The Visionary

Apparently, nothing says "pioneers!" like steel, and so we have the Saint Louis Arch. Incongruity aside, Eero Saarinen's arch is actually pretty cool and worth a stop if you're passing through town. It's impressive, the park surrounding it is beautiful, and the extensive and free museum underground is incredibly well done. The displays cover the history of the region and our westward expansion, as well as the arch design and construction. From the $10 levee parking lot, you can also get on a Mississippi River cruise or a helicopter ride, so there's lots to do from this one location.

Unfortunately, I didn't get to do either of the two main attractions. The Old Courthouse was being renovated and was totally closed, and I didn't book my tickets to the top of the Arch in advance. There were same-day walk up tickets available (on a Saturday), but not until two and a half hours after I got there. I couldn't sit around waiting that long with a nine-hour driving day. But this was a perfect break halfway between Lexington and Kansas City.

The Outlaws

I know it's bad to romanticize criminals and dying young, but there's just something something I love about old west train robberies and bank robberies and outlaws hiding out in the forests and caves. I've loved these tales ever since I was young. 

These two stops were only drive-bys for me, but still, I couldn't resist the chance. The first was Bonnie and Clyde's garage hideout. I actually swung by this spot in the far southwest of Missouri in November 2022, but thought it made sense to add to this post. There's not really anything to see since the place has been renovated, but the infamous couple hung out in this garage apartment for a few weeks while they robbed businesses in the area. 

The second was the Jesse James birthplace in the far northwest of the state. Yes, I know he's especially scummy because he fought for the Confederacy, and as a vicious guerilla fighter, but I can't help my attraction to these outlaw tales! I would have gone inside to explore, except the Sunday I was there it didn't open until noon and I couldn't sit around that long waiting. I drove up to the property and that was about it. The same with the two other Jesse James sites in northwest Missouri - Sunday morning is not the time to try to go.