Your Summer Road Trip Itinerary

Friday, May 11, 2018
Rear view shot of a happy couple in a car excited about the sun rise
Stock photo

Fun day-trip destinations throughout Southeast Missouri

Ahhh … summer! It’s right around the corner — the warmth of sun on your skin, the smell of barbecue on the grill, and the taste of freedom. Sweet, sweet freedom. Yes, summer, with its glorious long days, gives us freedom to explore, relax and unwind. It’s also the perfect opportunity to lather up with sunscreen, fill the gas tank and grab the snacks for a road trip across Southeast Missouri.

Ozark National Scenic Riverway
James Baughn

But with so many options, where do you even begin? The short answer: exactly where you are. From Sainte Genevieve down to the Bootheel, there is a little something for everyone. History buff? We got you. Outdoor explorer? Yep. Festivals and farms? Of course. Feeling like a foodie? You’re gonna wanna stick around. And the great news? All of the these spots are quick, one-tank-of-gas trips, which means you will be sleeping on your own pillow at the end of the day. Now that’s a win-win.

Stepping into the past

Sainte Genevieve is the oldest town west of the Mississippi. If you like history, you’ll have to stop here to check out the historic district in the downtown square. With much of the architecture dating back to the 1700s, the charming town offers visitors a glimpse into its French colonial past. For less than $15, you can pick up a historic tour passport from the Welcome Center and tour buildings like the Ste. Genevieve Catholic Church, the Bolduc House Museum and the Jacques Guibourg Historic House.

“The stained glass windows in the Catholic church were really beautiful,” says Cape Girardeau resident Connie Lape of her experience touring the homes with friends. “The tour guides were friendly, the homes were rustic, and we learned that owning a mirror in your home was a sign of wealth.”

Tour de Corn bicycle ride
Garry Neesam

Lape also recommends the Jour de Fete festival that runs the second full weekend in August, “if you can stand the heat.” One year it was so hot, she and her friends referred to the outdoor festival as the “Jour de Sweat.” But with art, crafts, food, live music and history demonstrations at every step, it definitely is worth the trip.

Parks and recreation

Alright explorers, this one’s for you. If you really want a full day, head out early and drive to Big Spring, Missouri’s state park right outside the quaint little town of Van Buren, Missouri. With shaded pathways, trails, caves and springs, you could spend a whole day soaking up the quiet, peaceful surroundings of this stretch of the Ozark National Scenic Riverway. The main attraction at this location is the spring itself, which produces over 280 million gallons of freshwater per day and is one of the largest springs in North America.

Of course, most people travel to Van Buren for floating on the Current River, but as Glenda Heiden of Jackson says, “it’s so much more than that.” In fact, Glenda says, “every time we make the trip we say, ‘why don’t we go more often?’”

The Jolly Cone
Submitted Photo

And apparently a trip to Van Buren is not official unless you eat at the Jolly Cone before you leave. The Jolly Cone is a drive-up food shack opened in 1953 and loved by locals and visitors alike — an iconic staple in this little town.

A long day spent in these parts will leave you ready for the comfort of your own bed, but according to Glenda, the sign of a good trip is “if you’re worn out, but you wanna go back.”

Festivals and farms

Love cycling? Corn? Festivals? Then head over to East Prairie, Missouri, for the 16th annual Tour de Corn bicycle ride and Sweet Corn Festival on June 23rd.

Cyclists can choose to ride as few as 15 miles and as many as 100 miles, cycling on the flat terrain through the farmlands and on the Mississippi River Cycling Trail.

Past participants, like Becky Davenport from Marble Hill, Missouri, have enjoyed the one-day event.

“The hospitality was amazing, with many churches and local community members opening their doors to serve a wide variety of corn, snacks and drinks at the rest stops along the way,” she says.

And no worries. If cycling is not your thing, just come for the festival. Lots of barbecue, sweet corn and crawfish to fill your belly.

Knowlan Family Farm
Photo archives

Want yummy summer food without maintaining your own garden? Stop by any one of these fresh produce farms along the way to East Prairie: Bader Farms near Campbell, Missouri, is a great spot to pick your own peaches and continues to be one of the largest peach farms in the United States; Family Friendly Farm north of Cape Girardeau is a wonderful place to grab high quality meats, eggs and milk, plus a little taste of the farm life experience; Knowlan Family Farm in Burfordville, Missouri, produces fresh fruits, vegetables and grass-fed beef. Visiting local farms is a great way to support community and make lifelong friends along the way.

All about the food

While some plan their road trips around a destination, Jackson residents Robert and June O’Dell admit their daytime drives usually are formed on impulse — and food.

Strawberry’s in Holcomb, Missouri, is one of the places they drive for. With pork steaks so big they are served on their own plate, this barbecue will leave you wanting more … just not all on the same day.

“Bring a cooler and take some home,” advises Robert.

Strawberry’s has a store that sells homemade sausages, pork steaks, seasoning and all kinds of goodies for purchase. You will not regret this stop.

Kenny’s Flippin Burgers
Photo archives

Another restaurant, relatively newer to the food scene, is Kenny’s Flippin Burgers in Chaffee, Missouri. Extreme burgers and milkshakes are their specialty, and they seem to be dreaming up new creations every day. Their burgers are built with donuts, gravy, bacon and all the goodness you can imagine.

But burgers aren’t their only gig. Their latest invention is the Cotton Candy Ice Cream Burrito. We don’t know what they will dream up next, but we do know that they are eventually coming to Cape G.

Whether you jump in the car and hit the road or take an extra nap in the hammock, remember to enjoy the freedom that comes with summer. These truly are the best years, so make a memory, discover something new and live life to the full. It’s never been about the destination, so just keep rolling on that journey.

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