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6 of the Most Overlooked Towns in Missouri

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6 of the Most Overlooked Towns in Missouri


While Missouri is a largely rural state, over half of the population was living within the Kansas City and St. Louis metro areas as of 2021. It is easy to see how the littlest towns get overlooked, with their historic downtowns, waterfronts, and surrounding nature often untouched by the urban footprint. Most eager to get a cultural rush, they open their hearts to tourists, like Boonville and Parkville along the illustrious Missouri River. Camdenton, home to the Ozarks Amphitheater, welcomes you to a lakeside lifestyle.

The small town of Cuba features one of the few remaining drive-in theaters in the state for an atmospheric evening. Its moniker, Route 66 Mural City, conveys the galore of experiences for daytime. Every single one of these six charming overlooked towns deserves a second look, starting with Boonville, a Civil War site with modern-day attractions like Lions Park Aquatic Center and the Isle of Capri Casino and Hotel.

Boonville

Boonville, Missouri: MKT Depot. By robertstinnett from Boonville, MO, USA – Boonville MO MKT Depot, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

Overlooked despite convenient access on Interstate 70, this beautiful town on the Missouri River is a must-see for a culturally enriching experience. Halfway between Kansas City and St. Louis, Boonville, the site of one of the first land battles of the American Civil War, paints the landscape with landmarks, a fun way to explore the area, like the Katy Trail. Visitors can prowl through sights and small-town businesses along the 400 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places for local treasures, including shopping, dining, and theater venues. Welcoming you with over 450 hotels and bed and breakfast rooms, as well as regular events and festivals, there are loads of entertainment for every age and taste.

Explore at your leisure or join a walking tour for interesting remnants of earlier times in this old railroad town, now with lively cultural and artistic scenes. In between the notable stops for the whole family, like car museums and historical societies, there’s a whole lot of natural beauty through the Katy Trail State Park and to soak up at the riverside. Families enjoy the expansive Boonville Lions Park Aquatic Center, while the Isle of Capri Casino and Hotel is a great way to experience local hospitality and gamble for another night’s stay. Make it a day’s itinerary to the nearby historic small towns like Rocheport, Blackwater, and Arrow Rock.

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Camdenton

Lake of the Ozarks photographed from an overlook at Ha Ha Tonka State Park in Camdenton, Missouri.
Lake of the Ozarks photographed from an overlook at Ha Ha Tonka State Park in Camdenton, Missouri.

It is a shame that the unique town of Camdenton is often overlooked, hidden along the shores of the beautiful Lake of the Ozarks, with a plethora of natural charms in the outdoor area to explore. Whether you’re in for the popular summertime or the shoulder seasons, the year-round small lake town delights families with attractions like the Adrenaline Zipline in the fall colors. Minutes southwest, one of the nation’s best state parks, Ha Ha Tonka State Park, has something for every outdoor enthusiast, including rafting adventures and the Niangua River Oasis. The festivals, like Festival Faye May and the outdoor Ozarks Amphitheater, are an exclusive experience here.

This tiny town of just 4,000 residents meets the summertime demand with charming B&Bs and resorts on the Lake of the Ozarks, with easy access to all those great activities. Home to friendly townspeople, visitors can mingle among them along an array of parks and trails, as well as venues for each taste of entertainment, like Ballparks National or Jon’s Rock & Roll Theater. From the numerous restaurants and bars like El Caporal Mexican Restaurant to the several local shops with little treasures you won’t find anywhere else, don’t miss the Old Kinderhook Ice Rink-Sand Volleyball at the appropriate time of year.

Cuba

A vintage car next to a rock building on Route 66, Cuba, Missouri.
A vintage car next to a rock building on Route 66, Cuba, Missouri. Image credit Logan Bush via Shutterstock

The small town of Cuba, a two-hour drive from St. Louis, is overlooked yet has all-tourist allure for the bright future. A must-visit any time of the year, Cuba hosts the popular Crawford County Fair in July, and every corner is Instagram-worthy in this historic town, aka Route 66 Mural City. The fair is an over 70-year-old tradition with family activities and events at Hood Park, like agricultural exhibits, pageants, live concerts, food, and carnival rides. The welcoming vibes make it easy to feel part of the picture over only local experiences, like one of the few remaining drive-in theaters in the state on a warm-weather evening.

This pretty little town of about 3,000, where art meets history, is also about driving and wining, which makes it a hit place for every taste for a fun getaway. Nestled right up against Route 66, which runs through the heart, adventures await. At the intersection with Highway 19, Weir on 66 offers a unique dining experience—a new take on an old tradition—of a 1931 Phillips 66 Station. Likewise, don’t miss the Historic Landmark Wagon Wheel Motel and Connie’s Shoppe, the Route’s oldest operating motel. From the many historically important attractions around the Mother Road to the street murals and little hotspots for local food and memorabilia, snap a memento by the big red rocking chair!

Hollister

Ye Olde English Inn on Historic Downing Street, Hollister, Missouri.
Ye Olde English Inn on Historic Downing Street, Hollister, Missouri. Image credit Rosemarie Mosteller via Shutterstock.com

This small and eclectic town, comprising a few neighborhoods with Downing Street on the National List of Historic Places, is replete with cute businesses. From a saloon to a rafting outfitter and guide and a day spa, grab a bite at the gumbo seafood shop or the Mexican restaurant. Don’t miss the brand-new art loft and gallery, all of which inspire feel-good browsing for tourists. Truly a remarkable town, a sister city of Branson, Hollister graces the southern shores of Lake Taneycomo, often overlooked for the pizzazz of the latter town. Offering softer appeals like a stroll along the Downing Street Historic District, the stonemasonry is remarkable, including beautiful Tudor-style buildings that look straight from an English village.

Along this historic, tree-lined thoroughfare, the iconic Ye Olde English Inn, also on the Register, offers a great rest to discover this town, with pub-grub comfort food on-site and a dozen golf courses. Over a few days of active exploration and relaxing evenings, the fresh Ozark air will clear your lungs of the city soot. The outdoorsy can enjoy a kayak paddle or a canoe for rent in town along the serene White River, while the nearby Table Rock Lake, home to the famous public beach, is a hit in the summertime, with swimming, boating, and lovely shoreline walking paths. In addition, the riverfront Table Rock State Park on Hollister’s side offers a great campground to get away on a budget with a network of excellent hiking trails.

Parkville

Aerial view of Parkville, Missouri, featuring Park University and English Landing Park during fall.
Parkville, Missouri, featuring Park University and English Landing Park in the fall. Image credit Rachael Martin via Shutterstock.com

Snug up against Kansas across the Missouri River, Parkville, a small city in southern Platte County, is a quintessential riverside escape. Minutes from Kansas City Downtown, the historic town offers a smattering of village greens between antique shops, art galleries, and old architecture for lovely strolls. Boasting its own Park University, Parkville stays youthful throughout the school year with cafes and a spirit of innovative rigor, which makes it one of the Midwest’s most exciting, before turning serene along the riverbanks. Don’t miss the mega-popular Nick & Jake’s after an afternoon at the nearby riverfront English Landing Park.

From Parkville’s historical beginnings to a modern-day culture of creativity, visitors will have a hoot discovering this little town against the most illustrious backdrop. Composed of limestone-carved bluffs, wooded vistas, and the refreshing Missouri River, it is a call to every type of adventurer. In the summer months, tourists can relax on a stroll, picnic, and enjoy sunset views, as well as take advantage of the local National Golf Club, which has two great golf courses.

Sikeston

Front Street in Sikeston, Missouri, United States
Front Street in Sikeston, Missouri. Image credit Brian Stansberry, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Despite being the largest town in Scott County, Sikeston, often considered the start of the bootheel and the cotton in Missouri, is shamefully overlooked along Interstate 55, right in between St. Louis and Memphis, Tennessee. Established in 1853 along the prairies, visitors can explore the proposed railroad route where it crossed the old El Camino Real. The Kings Highway, from the days of Spanish control, is now the Kingshighway, aka the Business US, the primary north-south thoroughfare in Sikeston with a smattering of businesses and old architecture like a railroad depot. From 10 motels to over 40 restaurants, impressive for a small town of about 16,000, prowl through shopping districts, art, antiques, and specialty shops in Historic Downtown Sikeston, with a stop at Lambert’s Cafe to see why it is world-famous.

Much like its history, Sikeston was built upon a wild and varied landscape of cypress swamps, marshes, and bayous to the bottomland forests of oak, hickory, gum, cottonwood, and wild sycamore. Only a small village-supply depot during the Civil War, the crossroads location attracted action. Confederate General Jeff Thompson allegedly hid money from the bank he robbed in Charleston under one of the oak trees at the corner of New Madrid Street and Kingshighway, while Federal General John Pope used the town as a garrison in 1862, awaiting heavy guns from Cairo, for the planned Siege of New Madrid. Today, this fun, new town to discover connects tourists with the history at the historic Sikeston Train Depot and Museum and local nature in the summer. Offering two campgrounds, families can get away on budget for an authentic taste of southern Missouri culture at the local rodeo in August!

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These six unassuming towns offer the authentic Midwest experience for every taste of travelers, like limestone-carved bluffs, wooded vistas, and the refreshing waters in the riverside town of Parkville along the great Missouri River.

When in Hollister, don’t miss a stay at the iconic Ye Olde English Inn, on the National Register of Historic Places, and while scavenging around the historic town of Sikeston, its world-famous Lambert’s Cafe is a must-visit!



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New Missouri athletic director Laird Veatch has contract approved. Here are the details

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New Missouri athletic director Laird Veatch has contract approved. Here are the details


That’s that.

The UM System Board of Curators officially approved the contract of new Missouri athletic director Laird Veatch during a special meeting on Wednesday afternoon, a university spokesperson confirmed to the Columbia Daily Tribune.

The curators quickly went into an executive session in their 3 p.m. meeting, with four statutes cited to take the meeting behind closed doors. One of them — 610.021(3) RSMo — concerns “hiring, firing, disciplining or promoting of particular employees by a public governmental body.”

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Guess who?

Veatch is now officially Missouri’s athletic director.

Here are the details of his five-year contract, provided in a memorandum of understanding signed Tuesday, April 23, and sent to the Columbia Daily Tribune by a university spokesperson.

What is Missouri athletic director Laird Veatch’s salary?

Laird Veatch will earn $1.3 million dollars in annual guaranteed compensation at Missouri. His deal is due to end April 30, 2029.

His deal is broken down into three parts: Base salary ($900,000 per year); Non-Salary compensation ($200,000); and deferred compensation ($200,000).

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Both his base salary and non-salary compensation will be paid in equal monthly installments. His deferred compensation will be paid annually.

Veatch’s deal also includes several merit incentives.

The new Missouri athletic director can earn $50,000 if Missouri wins an SEC football title, and can add another $50,000 if Eli Drinkwitz’s team claims a national championship.

For men’s basketball, Veatch is awarded $10,000 if Dennis Gates’ Missouri team wins an SEC title; a further $15,000 if the Tigers make the Final Four; and an additional $25,000 if they take home a national title.

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If Missouri student-athletes graduate at a 90% combined success rate across all sports, Veatch makes $25,000. If Veatch reaches “philanthropy, ticket sales and other revenue generation targets set annually” by UM System President Mun Choi, Veatch earns $75,000. Those targets are currently unknown.

Before leaving for the open AD role at Arizona, former Missouri athletic director Desireé Reed Francois signed a contract extension with Missouri in April 2023 that saw her total compensation jump to $1.25 million annually. Her Missouri annual contract was broken down as $900,000 in base salary; $350,000 in non-salary compensation; and $250,000 in deferred compensation. She was only eligible to receive the deferred compensation at the end of her deal.

Veatch is Missouri’s fourth athletic director in the past nine years. The university also put in a clause that makes sure it isn’t searching for No. 5 any time soon.

The contract states that “the AD recognizes that their promise to work for the University for the entire term is important to the University, and that the nature of their position is unique.”

On that note, the contract also stipulates that should Veatch choose to terminate his deal without cause, he will pay the university 50% of his cumulative base salary plus whatever he would have been paid in non-salary compensation.

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That means, if he leaves for another job with, for example, one year remaining on his deal, he would owe $450,000 (half of his base salary) plus $200,000 in non-salary compensation for a total of $650,000 in liquidated damages. The cost of leaving Missouri begins at about $3.25 million and falls each year for Missouri’s new AD.

On the flip side, and very similarly, if Missouri terminates Veatch’s contract without cause, the university owes Veatch half of his annual base salary plus the full amount he would have received in non-salary compensation. Veatch also would be paid whatever he had accrued in deferred compensation. That means his buyout begins at approximately $1.65 million, which will fall with each passing year.

What’s next for Veatch?

Veatch, who MU hired away after a near-five-year stint at Memphis, could be introduced to the public as soon as Friday. His official start date is May 1.

More: 3 questions facing new Missouri athletic director Laird Veatch on Day 1

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The new head of the Missouri athletic department returns for a second stint in Columbia, after serving in various roles for MU in the late 1990s and early 2000s. At Missouri, Veatch held titles such as assistant AD for development; director of athletics development for major giving; and director of annual giving and development coordinator. He also worked for Learfield Sports, managing Mizzou Sports Properties between 2003-06.

Veatch is a former Kansas State linebacker and team captain under Hall of Fame head coach Bill Snyder. The new Missouri AD has worked in athletic departments at Memphis, Florida, Iowa State, Texas and his alma mater K-State.

The university formed an 11-person search committee and hired the search firm TurnKey ZRG to find its next AD.

Veatch will undertake a $250 million redevelopment to the Memorial Stadium north concourse, with the athletic department poised to foot half of that bill and a considerable chunk of those funds still needing to be raised.

The Missouri football team itself, however, appears to be in its most stable position in a decade. The Tigers went 11-2 last season, a year that culminated in a Cotton Bowl victory over Ohio State, before extending Drinkwitz through the 2028 season.

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In Mizzou Arena, Gates and the men’s basketball team are coming off a historically poor season with a historically successful recruiting performance. The Tigers have one of the nation’s top transfer classes and will bring the country’s No. 4 high school class to Columbia this summer. Veatch likely will face questions about MU women’s basketball coach Robin Pingeton, who has entered the final year of her contract.

More: 5 things to know about new Missouri athletic director Laird Veatch



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Jerry Nelson: Missouri Meanderings

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Jerry Nelson: Missouri Meanderings


Missouri is the Show Me State, so when my wife and I recently visited Kansas City we decided to see what Missouri had to show us.

We pointed our car at Springfield, the third most populous city in Missouri. Upon arriving at our hotel, we were told that our room wouldn’t be ready for several hours. All I can say about this is that my wife is the type of person who believes that if you aren’t early, you’re late.

We asked the clerk if there was anything that one could do in Springfield for a few hours, and she immediately recommended a visit to the Bass Pro Shops.

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This sounded as good as anything, so we decided to give it a whirl. The Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World Ultimate Fishing Boat Outlet And Super-duper Hunting Gear Emporium occupies about 80 acres. Some of that is parking lot, but a good share of it is a ginormous building.

Walking into the store, my nose was instantly drawn to a particular aroma. They had a coffee shop! It had been at least ten minutes since my last jolt of java, so my wife and I purchased some hot liquid refreshments, sat on a bench and people watched.

We spotted several Exhausted Toddler Parent roadrunners and some prime examples of Fanatic Angler kingfishers. There was also a good number of Please Honey, I Really Need This Boat warblers.

The establishment proved to be as much of a museum as a retail outlet. I viewed numerous epically large game animals that had been stuffed and mounted and placed in epic poses. This included the mythical 30-point buck that was romanticized in the classic hunting tune “Da Turdy Point Buck” by the talented ensemble Bananas At Large.

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We walked past a concrete enclosure that contained a small pond and what was, allegedly, a live alligator. I say “allegedly” because the creature didn’t move at all during the several minutes that we observed it. Perhaps dealing with all those allegations had worn out the alligator.

An escalator lofted visitors up to the entrance of an aquarium that boasted penguins as its main attraction. Admission was $42 per head which, with taxes and penguin perusing surcharges, would put a big hole in a Benjamin Franklin. We decided that penguins are cute, but not $100 worth of cute.

The next day we motored southeastward toward Poplar Bluff. The Ozarks rolled past our windows, wooded hills punctuated by small towns and an occasional farmstead. The landscape would sometimes open up to reveal an idyllic emerald valley where cows grazed peacefully in their leisurely, cow-like manner. It looked like heaven on toast.

I’m a farm boy from the prairie, so I couldn’t help but wonder why the flatlands weren’t being farmed. The answer could be seen in the roadcuts, which revealed limestone bedrock covered with a thin veneer of grayish topsoil. A guy would bust his plow if he tried to plow it.

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Speaking of mythical creatures, we saw several bumper stickers that featured a bigfoot silhouette. I wasn’t sure what the message might be. Was the car’s owner proud of his family’s sasquatch? Or was he an Uber driver who was open to giving rides to bigfoots?

There is certainly plenty of forest where bigfoot could hide. I personally don’t believe in sasquatches, but then again, I have never been subjected to the eerie hoots and yawps that allegedly arise from midnight Missouri woodlands.

I notched a personal “first” during our drive when I espied a deceased armadillo at the roadside. Sadly, my wife wouldn’t let me stop and claim this trophy.

After viewing the solar eclipse at Poplar Bluff – one of the most memorable parts was seeing hundreds of miniature crescent suns projected onto the ground beneath the trees – we decided to head back to Kansas City. We didn’t realize until too late that approximately a million other motorists had the same idea.

We live in a low-population area. Our version of a traffic jam is when there are two cars ahead of us at a stop sign.

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After weaving our way out of town, we hit the open road. Things went swimmingly for a few miles, but then traffic ground to a halt. Probably just some minor snag up ahead. Wrong!

The view out our windshield revealed a river of vehicles that stretched as far as the eye could see. This was a “first” that I would rather have missed.

As we crept along – sometimes attaining a heady 15 MPH – I closely watched the roadside for my armadillo.

Alas, he was nowhere to be seen. Maybe a bigfoot beat me to it. 

If you’d like to contact Jerry Nelson to do some public speaking, or just to register your comments, you can email him at jjpcnels@itctel.com. His book, “Dear County Agent Guy,” is available at Workman.com and at booksellers everywhere. 

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Mizzou baseball completes season sweep of Missouri State

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Mizzou baseball completes season sweep of Missouri State





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