29 Spontaneous Day Trips That Are Less Than 3 Hours Away From St. Louis
You know summer is coming to an end when you see start seeing people walking around drinking Pumpkin Spice Lattes from Starbucks. But just because we're coming up into the fall season doesn't mean you still can't have some fun!
Take advantage of this season turnover by exploring all that Missouri has to offer. It's home to gorgeous buildings, massive forests, relaxing spas and a whole lot of wineries. A wine tour? Yes, please. Sitting by the water enjoying the weather? Yes, yes, yes.
Nobody ever really wants to plan out major trips, so we've got you covered with these day trips that can last up to a weekend. All you have to do is just pick a place and go. Well, it's also best if you pick up your squad, grab some snacks and choose the perfect playlist on Spotify for the road trip. Go out and explore!
Content disclaimer: We strongly advise that before you go swimming or visit a potentially hazardous location, you check for the most recent updates on potential hazards, security, water quality, and closures. The locations listed below may or may not have changed their regulations in regards to what you can or cannot do on site since the article was last updated. Always consult with local authorities. If you do plan to visit a location, know the risks beforehand and respect the environment.
Ha Ha Tonka Castle Ruins
Time from St. Louis: 3 hours Where: Camdenton
You always think you'll only see castles in Europe, but you've got one right here in Missouri. Well, the ruins of one. Walk along the crumbled walls and what remains of this castle that could have been straight out of a fairy tale.
Go Ape Zip Line & Treetop Adventure
Time from St. Louis: 30 minutes Where: Maryland Heights
Adventure isn't far from St. Louis! A quick drive will take you to Creve Coeur Park where you can experience what it's like to fly through the forest over the tops of the highest trees. If you're up for something slower paced, you can do one of their many obstacle courses. Up for recreating a Disney classic? They even have Tarzan swings!
Onondaga Cave State Park
Time from St. Louis: 1.5 hours Where: Leasburg
There's a reason why Missouri is called the "Cave State." If you can't stand the hot weather, escape it by exploring the mysterious and creepy underground wonderland. This could be in a day trip in itself, but there are also campsites available in the park. So maybe you can tell scary stories about what goes on in the cave at night while you roast some marshmallows!
Mark Twain National Forest
Time from St. Louis: 1.5 hours Where: Rolla
You don't have to read Mark Twain's books to enjoy this forest. But this might be a great place to read his books if you wanted to. Sit on the grass by the water and have a picnic or go exploring on one of the many hiking trails. If you aren't scared off by the cold temperature of the water, you can go swimming in one of 350 streams!
Big Surf Water Park
Time from St. Louis: 3 hours Where: Linn Creek
Your childhood isn't gone just yet! Spend a day with your BFFs at this water park for all ages. It's got crazy water slides, an insane wave pool, and a lazy river. So catch up on each other's lives and talk about the latest tv shows you've seen while you sit in an inner tube and float down the river. That kind of sounds like the perfect lazy Sunday activity.
Time from St. Louis: 1.5 hours Where: Hermann
Hermann is a charming city that has sidewalks lined with old brick buildings. It's home to many wineries that offer tours and free tastings. If you're looking for somewhere to go for a fun girls weekend, this should be your destination. Walk on the Katy Trail to sober up after your many wine tastings or head to one of Hermann's many bakeries to stuff your face with delicious donuts.
Bonne Terre Mine
Time from St. Louis: 1 hour Where: Bonne Terre
Calling all divers! Bonne Terre has crystal clear water for you to dive in and explore. You'll see underwater archways, shafts, and tools left behind from the miners. If diving isn't your thing, you can also take a walking and boat tour of the mine.
Time from St. Louis: 2 hours Where: Cape Girardeau
Take a road trip down to Cape Girardeau and spend the day touring the city. You'll find that this place has fantastic views of the Mississippi River and has a gorgeous conservation nature center. If you can, head over to The Glenn House. It's a museum in a renovated Victorian house that has clothing, furniture, and architecture from that period.
Elephant Rocks State Park
Time from St. Louis: 1.5 hours Where: Belleview
No elephants to be seen here, but the rocks look like them! Grab your cute workout clothes and start climbing these gigantic rocks look like a train of circus elephants. Climb on them, climb between them, and enjoy the view at the top once you're tired from all that. Well, take a break after you've taken a selfie at least!
Missouri Botanical Gardens
Time from St. Louis: 10 minutes Where: St. Louis
Sometimes, you don't need to look any further than your own city. Take a quick car ride to the botanical gardens and spend the day exploring the 79 acres of floral displays. There's really something for everyone here so feel free to explore the various gardens. The Japanese Garden takes up 14 acres, so don't miss out on that!
McBaine Bur Oak
Time from St. Louis: 2 hours Where: McBaine
You can find trees anywhere, but they won't look like this. This tree is over 350 years old and has survived everything that's been thrown at it. It's survived extreme flooding, lightning strikes, and drought. So admire it, hang around it, and marvel at it, and know that you're seeing Missouri's largest burr oak tree.
Shawnee National Forest
Time from St. Louis: 2 hours Where: Herod, IL
You aren't in Missouri anymore when you come here. But it's worth the trip! The state park is right in between the Mississippi and Ohio rivers and offers stunning views of the state. You're going to spend hours stumbling across waterfalls, lakes, and wildlife. Do not miss the Gardens of the Gods where you can see panoramic views. Supposedly, it's the most Instagrammed spot in the forest!
Time from St. Louis : 3 hours Where: Sedalia
This cliffside mansion is where we all wish we could live. It's a historic site that will let you tour the 31-room house. Most of the furnishings you see in the house are original. And if you're done taking in the view of Sedalia from one of the many terraces, you can check out the property's hiking trail.
Old St. Ferdinand Chuch
Time from St. Louis: 30 minutes Where: Florissant
Romantics, this one's for you. Housed in this beautiful church are relics from St. Valentine that are thought to be a gift from the King of France. Explore the church and take your time observing the shrine. If you've still got time, explore Florrisant and walk around the suburb. Old Town is especially beautiful and Saint Ferdinand Park has several benches where you can sit and eat lunch.
Elms Hotel & Spa
Time from St. Louis: 3.5 hours Where: Excelsior Springs
This counts as cheating, but you'll love it anyway. The amenities at this spa is out of this world and you'll leave feeling like you're walking on clouds. You will know what it's like to be relaxed after this experience. Elms Hotel & Spa offers a number of spa packages, but the one you choose should definitely have the option to go to The Grotto. It's their modern take on a Roman bath! Take a dip in all different temperature baths and then end your day at the sauna.
Time from St. Louis: 40 minutes Where: Eureka
It's a rule that you have to go to an amusement park at least once a year. Bring a large group of friends or just bring your partner for a fun day of thrilling rides and games. Is it really a relationship if one of you doesn't try to win a stuffed animal for the other in a rigged game? So scream your heart out on those roller coasters or kick your competitive spirit into high gear playing those arcade games.
Laumeier Sculpture Park
Time from St. Louis: 20 minutes Where: Sunset Hills
Ready, set, pose. Walk around the park and be confused by the most random collection of sculptures ever. There's an eyeball, a deer, and a pirate ship. It'll definitely add something new to your Instagram aesthetic! This is probably the most hands-on museum you'll find in Missouri and that's what makes it so much fun. Sit on the sculptures, walk on them, or stand under them. It's up to you!
Leila's Hair Museum
Time from St. Louis: 3.5 hours Where: Independence
This one's weird enough that it's worth the trek. So this is a museum dedicated to hair art. Yup. That was a thing in the 17th century. Leila is the tour guide and takes you along as she explains the importance of hair wreaths in family histories. Don't be grossed out! This will probably be the most unique museum you'll ever go to.
Maramec State Park
Time from St. Louis: 1 hour Where: Sullivan
What doesn't this park have?! You will see the Meramec River while you walk along the bluffs. If the weather is nice, consider renting canoes or rafts at the park. If you want to explore underground, look no further than Fisher Cave. The guided tour will take you into narrow passages as you walk through this natural wonder.
Time from St. Louis: 1 hour Where: Cadet
Every seat is the best seat when you go see a movie here. You can see the latest releases as well as some older movies here from the comfort of your car. If you've got a truck, well, you've got it made. Pile on the blankets, start snacking, and enjoy the show! There's no movie experience quite like this, so you'll quickly get addicted to it!
Dolly Parton's Stampede
Time from St. Louis: 4 hours Where: Branson
This is the most ridiculous thing you'll ever do. But you gotta do it for Queen Dolly Parton. It's a unique dining experience that involves a full-on show. You've got animals, a light show, and crazy pyrotechnics. Oh, and you'll be scarfing down a four-course meal. It doesn't get more country than this. So enjoy the live show, eat yourself into a food coma, and get silly!
The Sophia M. Sachs Butterfly House
Time from St. Louis: 30 minutes Where: Chesterfield
Prepare to feel like you're in a Disney movie . Walk through the glass conservatory and witness butterflies all around you. Some will even land on you! There are over 1,000 butterflies flying free and you'll never want to leave.
Time from St. Louis: 2 hours Where: Hannibal
Come here for everything Mark Twain. You can visit his childhood home, you can take the Mark Twain cave tour, and you can even pretend to paint a fence white a la Tom Sawyer. If that isn't the nerdiest thing ever, what is?!
Time from St. Louis: 2 hours Where: Rocheport
Rocheport is a tiny town out of the way, but it packs a punch. Walk around the quaint town and explore the antique shops and boutique stores. There are several restaurants you can eat at that offer great views of the Missouri River. And if you want to get up close to the river, walk along the river bluffs or take a kayak right out onto the river!
Tom Sawyer Riverboat Cruise Tour
Time from St. Louis: 5 minutes Where: St. Louis
All aboard! Meet up at the Gateway Arch in St. Louis to board the riverboat as you ride along the Mississippi River. The great thing about the boat tour is that you dock in Kimmiswick and get to explore the quiet town known for its cute boutiques and the Blue Owl Restaurant and Bakery. Once you've had a meal and explore the town, you head on back to the boat and sail back to St. Louis. It's kind of the ideal day trip.
Bennett Spring State Park
Time from St. Louis: 3 hours Where: Lebanon
Over the camping thing? We got you. Try glamping instead by renting a river-view cabin! It comes with comfy beds, a kitchen, a bathroom, and all the comforts you need while still enjoying nature. Yup, that means no more slumming it in a sleeping bag on the hard ground. And that leaves you free to do all the endless water activities!
Chandler Hill Vineyards
Time from St. Louis: 30 minutes Where: Defiance
Put on your fanciest dress, comfiest shoes, and start sipping that wine. Take those Instagram photos while you're walking through the vineyard, relax on that massive terrace, and enjoy tasting all the wines you could possibly want. Just make sure you decide who's going to be the designated driver first. No fighting!
Finger Lakes State Park
Time from St. Louis: 2 hours Where: Columbia
Take your furry friend on an adventure! Sometimes, humans aren't always the best companions on road trips. So rent a kayak or paddleboard at Finger Lakes and hit the water with your dog. If your dog isn't a fan of water, there are also a ton of trails that you two can go on.
Laura Ingalls Wilder's House
Time from St. Louis: 3.5 hours Where: Mansfield
Come on, Mark Twain can't own the whole state! Let's celebrate Laura Ingalls Wilder too. Go visit her house where the Little House books were written. You can learn about her life as an author, a mother, a wife, an activist and a journalist. Make sure to check out the gift shop for fun costumes you can try on. Take pictures of yourself wearing the various bonnets!