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What Is Missouri Known for and Famous For?
Missouri is the Show Me State for a number of reasons, and it certainly has lots to show those who visit or live there. Home of the Mississippi River, the birthplace of Mark Twain, this state has an abundance of beauty and a deep and colorful history. However, that is not all this state has to offer.
Missouri is known for its geographical features, rich history, and unique cuisine. Many prominent figures started here, including Harry Truman, Mark Twain, Walt Disney, Jesse James, and George Washington Carver. Missouri is home to the Anheuser-Busch Brewery and world-renowned Country Club Plaza.
Despite Missouri’s often painful history, the Cave State still has some wonderful secrets to reveal. Missouri offers a great diversity of terrains from prairies to mountains, delicious local cuisine, and history in spades. Please read on to find out what this state is known for and just what makes it so famous.
Although it’s not the most well-known mountain range in the United States, the Ozarks boast their own spectacular views and wildlife. Located in an area known as the United States Interior Highlands (between the Appalachians and the Rockies), the Ozarks sit along southern Missouri.
Native Missourians and tourists alike love the Ozarks, as the area provides numerous outdoor recreational activities for families and adventurers, including (but not limited to):
Southern Missouri also offers the Lake of the Ozarks State Park, a popular vacation destination. The calm, lakeside setting offers breathtaking views of the Ozarks and the opportunity to see much of the fascinating landscape, including rolling hills, waterfalls, forested valleys, raging rivers, and deep caves and caverns.
In the Great Plains, wild prairie grasses stay short, but just to the east in Missouri, prairie grasses grow between two to six feet (0.6 to 1.8 m) in height.
Missouri receives more precipitation than most areas in the Plains. That, in combination with the deposits of sediment left behind by the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, allows for the growth of taller grass species.
The tallgrass prairies of Missouri stretch as far east as Indiana, as far south as Oklahoma, and as far north as the Dakotas.
Jefferson City, MO
Jefferson City is Missouri’s state capital and home to over 40,000 residents. Like Jefferson County, also in Missouri, Jefferson City received its name in honor of the third United States president, Thomas Jefferson.
Lewis and Clark passed the hill long before the city was established. The Jefferson City Capitol Building sits atop that bluff today.
Jefferson City is home to Lincoln University, a historically black university founded in 1866. This University is noteworthy as Missouri was notorious for its political divide regarding slavery during the American Civil War.
Kansas City, MO
Kansas City is world-renowned for its fountains, shopping, murals, food, and sports teams.
City of Fountains
While it’s known by numerous monikers, including the “Barbecue Capital,” Kansas City has one name that you might not know — The “City of Fountains.”
In the 1890s, Kansas City was a middle destination for travelers coming to and from the American West. Travelers used these fountains to hydrate their horses and refill their canteens for their long journeys.
Today, there are over 200 fountains throughout the city, some of which are intricate and breathtaking, whereas others are quaint and simple. They’re found in parks, courtyards, gardens, and even along the roadside. In fact, fountains are so common in Kansas City that residents boast the city has more fountains than Rome, Italy.
The Country Club Plaza
The Country Club Plaza is Kansas City’s most popular shopping district. The privately-owned shopping center opened in 1923 and today remains a city hotspot.
Visitors can trek along and enjoy over ten blocks of shopping in the center of Kansas City. The plaza is home to over a hundred stores and a variety of dining facilities. The Project for Public Spaces lists Country Club Plaza as one of the World’s Greatest Places, thanks to the breathtaking architecture inspired by Seville, Spain.
Kansas City Murals
Impressive murals dot the Kansas City buildings, bridges, sidewalks, and streets. Many Instagram influencers flock to the area to take photographs using the murals as artistic backdrops.
In Kansas City, visitors can visit Minnesota Avenue to take in eight stunning murals within a four-block radius, known as “The Avenue of Murals Project.”
Kansas City Barbecue
The barbecue-style in the midwest differs greatly from the east coast. While states like Virginia and South Carolina utilize tangy vinegar or mustard-based sauces, Kansas City implements a sweet, thick sauce with a tomato base.
Molasses is often used to increase the thickness and add a touch of sweetness, along with brown sugar. While pork is the meat of choice in the eastern United States, Kansas City barbecues it all — beef, chicken, and pork.
Kansas City Royals
Residents of Kansas City can be found cheering for their local baseball team, the Kansas City Royals. The Kansas City Royals, a Major League Baseball team, compete every year as part of the American League Central Division.
In 2015, the Kansas City Royals faced off against the New York Mets in the World Series, where they won 4-1.
St. Louis, MO
St. Louis is Missouri’s second-largest city and one of its most popular tourist attractions. The city is world-renowned for beer, baseball, hockey, and of course, the Gateway Arch.
Reaching 630-feet (192 m) into the sky, the stainless steel Gateway Arch welcomes visitors to the lively city of St. Louis. Not only is it the world’s tallest arch, but visitors can actually access the interior of the Gateway Arch. Visitors are transported to the arch in a small capsule-like tram that feels similar to riding in a Ferris wheel basket.
Walt Disney Hometown Museum
Although he was born in Illinois, Walt Disney and his family relocated to Marceline, Missouri, in 1906 when Disney was four-years-old. He arrived via the Santa Fe Railway and became fascinated with trains during this time. While in Marceline, Disney began drawing cartoons, practicing by copying comics from the local newspaper.
In 1911, when Disney was nine years old, his family moved again to Kansas City. He lived here for quite some time, eventually enrolling in the local high school and becoming the cartoonist for the school paper. By 1919, Disney worked in Kansas City at an art studio.
At the age of 21, Disney moved to Hollywood, where he established the Disney Brothers Studio, which later became The Walt Disney Company, the world-famous corporation we know today.
In 1946, Disney made a trip back to Marceline, Missouri. He was overcome by memories of his arrival as a boy upon his arrival. Today, the Walt Disney Hometown Museum stands inside the Santa Fe Train Depot and offers visitors the chance to view memorabilia from the family farm where he spent his childhood.
Food Missouri is Known For
Missouri’s midwest-style cuisine includes pizza, delicious Italian dishes, decadent desserts, and savory dishes.
St. Louis-Style Pizza
Unlike Chicago’s deep, doughy pizzas, St. Louis-style pizza implements a thin, crispy crust, much like a cracker. Instead of the traditional mozzarella cheese, pizza parlors utilize Provel, a white processed cheese found in many traditional St. Louis dishes. To finalize the unique pizza, St. Louis cuts the slices into squares, not the familiar triangular shape.
Long ago and still today, “The Hill” is an Italian-American neighborhood in St. Louis. Legend has it that this is where toasted ravioli originated.
There are multiple stories, each involving different restaurants and chefs. According to one form of local lore, Chef Fritz of Mama Campisi’s diner accidentally dropped a fresh ravioli into the fryer. After removing the ravioli, he realized it wasn’t ruined. Thus, the toasted ravioli became a popular appetizer in St. Louis. The deep-fried ravioli is often served with a side of marinara.
Gooey Butter Cake
Another popular Missouri food said to have been discovered by accident is the Gooey Butter Cake. As the story goes, a baker implemented too much butter in his coffee cake recipe. Instead of tossing it out and losing money on wasted ingredients, he tried his hand at selling the sticky concoction — and it was a big hit!
Today, the Gooey Butter Cake — a lightly sweetened, soft-centered, crispy-around-the-edges cake — remains a staple in Missouri, often featured at dinner tables on Thanksgiving.
Imagine a dish made up of two eggs — any style — hash browns and a hamburger, sans bun, covered in meaty chili. That makes up the “Slinger,” an American Midwest diner staple. It’s often topped with cheese and onions and served with a side of hot sauce. Missourians often enjoy this meal for breakfast but may also indulge for lunch or dinner.
St. Paul Sandwich
One of Missouri’s most popular sandwiches includes egg foo young (a Chinese omelet — meat, eggs, and vegetables) fried into a crispy brown patty. It’s served on white bread with pickles, tomato, and lettuce. This interesting concoction is referred to as the “St. Paul Sandwich.” Some restaurants offer it slathered in mayo, whereas others cover it in a delicious brown gravy.
Harry S. Truman
Former president Harry Truman was raised in Independence, Missouri. He left for France to fight during World War I as a young adult. After the war, Truman returned to Missouri, where he opened a men’s clothing store. He continued to move up in the ranks of politics in the state, becoming the judge of Jackson County in 1922.
Truman was a popular figure in the state. Once he became president, he held many addresses in Missouri. In fact, his last campaign address was held in 1948 at the Kiel Auditorium in St. Louis.
Jesse Woodson James
Infamous outlaw Jesse James was born in Kearney, Missouri, in 1847 and spent most of his childhood in Little Dixie.
It’s unknown what caused Jesse James to lead a life of crime, but some suspect that the tensions and mistreatment by Union soldiers in Missouri changed something in him.
During the height of the Civil War, Jesse James went on to become a notorious bank and train robber and legendary outlaw. His end came about when Bob Ford, a fellow gang member, betrayed him in exchange for the reward money for James’ capture.
More commonly known as Mark Twain, Samuel Langhorne Clemens is a well-known American writer, often referred to as “the father of American literature.”
Twain spent most of his life in Missouri, beginning from birth. In 1835, his life began at a small log cabin in Florida, Missouri. The site of his birthplace still remains a historic landmark and is owned by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.
From 1844 to 1853, Twain resided in Hannibal, Missouri. That home is now the Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum.
Needless to say, Missourians revere Mark Twain, as evidenced by not only the two historic landmarks donning his name but also the Mark Twain National Forest and Mark Twain State Park.
Budweiser by Anheuser-Busch
In 1876, Adolphus Busch and Carl Conrad worked together to develop a new lager. Arriving back in St. Louis from Bohemia, they took their inspirations and brewed the lager — it was an instant success.
That day marks the humble beginnings of the Anheuser-Busch company. Today, St. Louis remains the home to Budweiser’s flagship brewery and headquarters, where they brew over 30 brands of beer.
Today, visitors to the Anheuser-Busch brewery can enjoy a public tour of the largest and oldest brewery in St. Louis.
Located in tornado alley, Missouri experiences approximately 30 tornadoes per year. Most of Missouri’s tornadic storms occur during mid to late spring in April and May. However, the most destructive tornadoes occur during the fall and winter months.
As one of the top five states for tornadic activity, Missouri is a high-risk state when it comes to the spinning cyclones — and this is nothing new. In 1896, a tornado tore through the St. Louis area, resulting in over 250 fatalities and 1,000 injuries.
Other well-known tornadoes that have tracked through Missouri include The Tri-State Tornado (the longest tornado ever recorded) and the 2011 Joplin tornado (an EF-5, multi-vortex tornado with a width of one mile).
Missouri is home to a variety of landscapes, including big cities like St. Louis and Kansas City, as well as the towering Ozarks. However, most of Missouri consists of 63 percent farmland. Over 27.8 million acres of farmland (11.3 million hectares) dot the state, most of which are family-owned and operated.
The most popular crops in the state include soybeans and corn.
The Missouri River is the longest river in North America and the 15th longest river in the world. It rises high above the rocky mountains and flows downwards, east and south, for over 2,000 miles before converging with the Mississippi River just north of St. Louis.
For centuries, the Missouri River has been a significant transportation route and source of fresh water. There are fifteen dams on the main stem of the river.
Only second to the Missouri River in length, the Mississippi River has the second-largest drainage system in North America, second to the Hudson Bay.
The confluence of the Mississippi, Missouri, and Illinois Rivers has drawn visitors for generations, including those looking to trek the journey taken by Lewis and Clark.
Road trippers and adventurers love the Missouri Great River Road, which takes drivers along multiple historic sites, including the Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum, St. Louis Arch, and various other cultural hotspots. You’ll trek along to the Anheuser-Busch Brewery and various French heritage sites.
The Civil War
Missouri started as a slave state in 1821. Due to its central location in the United States, it was a divisive region from the very beginning, even in the years before the American Civil War.
When the war began in 1861, Missouri was at the center of the battleground.
People from both the Union and Confederacy lived in the state, and the state supplied weapons and troops to both sides. Both flags held a star for Missouri, and the state maintained two separate governments during this time.
During the peak of the war, Missouri became a strategic territory, ending with over 1,200 significant war engagements within the state. Over 100,000 Union soldiers came from Missouri and over 40,000 Confederates.
The Missouri Compromise
As mentioned above, Missouri was a political battleground even before the American Civil War. This strong political stance is further evidenced by The Missouri Compromise.
In 1820, the United States enacted federal legislation to prevent the North from ending the expansion of slavery. As a result of the compromise, Missouri became a slave state, with Maine recognized as a free state. The exchange included the prohibition of slavery in all Louisiana Purchase lands north of the parallel.
The legislation was controversial and was later repealed by the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854. By 1857, the legislation was deemed unconstitutional. The decisions were ill-received, and they increased tensions between the North and the South, ultimately playing a role in the start of the American Civil War in 1861.
George Washington Carver
George Washington Carver is known for his peanut-based inventions, including dyes, paints, and fuel. Carver was an agricultural mastermind, teaching students at Tuskegee Institute how to utilize peanut crops to improve agriculture in the American South. Not only that, but Carver was an influential figure during racial tensions in the United States.
Born to an enslaved mother purchased by Moses Carver, the young boy lived a remarkable life. His life started near Diamond Grove, Missouri, where he lived in a tiny log cabin with his mother.
As an infant, George and his mother were kidnapped. Moses Carver sent a search party to recover the boy and his mother, but only George was found. Moses Carver subsequently adopted the boy, raising him as a son and giving him a proper education.
Despite being exposed to severe racism beginning at a young age, George Washington Carver continued despite the odds. He rose to international fame and became an important figure in the agricultural and racial history of the United States.
In 1943, the George Washington Carver National Monument was established in Newton County, Missouri, to celebrate his remarkable life.
Despite Missouri’s painful history regarding neighbor-against-neighbor bloodshed during the American Civil War, the city has evolved into a cultural icon where community members come together to celebrate with impressive murals and fascinating cuisine.
The area hosts vast expanses of both wilderness and farmland and big, bustling cities, including Kansas City and St. Louis. If you’re keen to visit the “Show Me State,” don’t forget to dive deep into its history and enjoy its incredible geographical features.
- Springfield-Greene County Library District: Ozarks Watch – The Ozarks as a Region
- Missouri State Parks: Lake of the Ozarks Region
- Missouri Department of Conservation: Prairies
- Jefferson City, Missouri: Home
- City of Kansas City, Missouri: Home
- Kansas City Parks and Recreation: City of Fountains Foundation
- Country Club Plaza: Shopping
- KCUR 89.3: Explore Kansas City’s Many Murals with this Self-Guided Tour
- Visit Kansas City: Everything You Need To Know About Barbecue in KC
- Baseball Reference: Kansas City Royals Team History and Encyclopedia
- The Gateway Arch: Home
- Walt Disney Hometown Museum: Birthplace of Dreams
- Serious Eats: In Defense of St. Louis-Style Pizza
- 10 Best: Examining The Mysterious Past of St. Louis’s Toasted Ravioli
- The New York Times: St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake Recipe
- Taste Atlas: Slinger – Traditional Breakfast from St. Louis
- Sauce Magazine: Why St. Louis Loves the St. Paul Sandwich
- The White House: Harry S. Truman
- History: 7 Things You May Not Know About Jesse James
- Britannica: Mark Twain
- Anheuser-Busch: History
- University of Missouri: Tornado Season – Are You Ready?
- Missouri Department of Agriculture: Home
- Britannica: Missouri River
- Experience The Mississippi River: Missouri
- The State Historical Society of Missouri: American Civil War in Missouri
- Britannica: Missouri Compromise
- Biography.com: George Washington Carver