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5 Of The Best Historical Stops Along The Missouri River!

The Missouri River flows along Missouri’s north western border down to Kansas City before travelling across the state and emptying into the Mississippi River. Along the way there are many vibrant Missouri cities filled with attractions, entertainment, outdoor recreation, art and culture, and history. The history in some of these cities is significant, especially those cities that feature important historical landmarks and buildings. Whether you are a history buff or a traveler within the Missouri River Valley, the following historical stops along the river can make for a fun educational and interesting experience for everyone.

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The Missouri State Capitol building in Jefferson City is one of many beautiful historical buildings along the Missouri River. Finished in 1924, after the first two capitol buildings burned down, the building is especially cherished because of the efforts made by some of the most notable artists at the time to decorate its interior. The capitol features an impressive and extensive collection of stained glass, murals, carving, and statuary, offering a glimpse into the cultural and natural legacy of Missouri. Here, you can explore all four floors of the building by yourself, or join a guided tour to learn about the historic and decorative features of the building. The Missouri State Capitol also holds the Missouri State Museum where you can view exhibits, dioramas, and displays showcasing Missouri’s cultural and natural history.

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East of Jefferson City, you can find Union Station in Kansas City. Built in 1914, Kansas City’s Union Station started out as a working train station and was significantly important during WWII when an estimated one million travelers, mostly soldiers, passed through. With 850,000 square feet of space, the station originally held restaurants, a cigar store, a barbershop, offices, and the nation’s largest Railway Express Building. Today, the station features an Amtrak stop, the KC Rail Experience, a planetarium, museum exhibit spaces, Science City, and a Theater District, after being renovated in 1999. Many of the experiences at Union Station today are interactive and fun for people of all ages, and you can join tourists from all over to marvel at the beautiful interior architecture and design while exploring all the station has to offer.

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Another great historical stop to check out in Jefferson City is the Missouri State Penitentiary (MSP). Decommissioned less than 20 years ago, the penitentiary was first opened in 1836 by the State of Missouri and served as an operating prison for 168 years until 2004. Today, the MSP is a popular historic landmark in downtown Jefferson City where many tourists find a great afternoon spent on one of the prison’s various tours, including historical, paranormal, and photography. Walking through the halls, you’ll get a first hand look at the prison interior allowing you to imagine your guide’s stories about infamous inmates, events, and paranormal activities in their actual settings on one of the many historical or ghost tours. On the photography tour, you can spend a couple of hours exploring MSP with a guide and your camera, snapping some great photos of this interesting, yet eerie landmark. You can expect to explore several historic housing units, the upper yard of the property and the gas chamber on all of the tours.

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St. Joseph is a city right on the border between Missouri and Kansas featuring the Pony Express National Museum, a tribute to the legend and legacy of the Pony Express. Though smaller than your typical national museum, the Pony Express National Museum is full of exciting and interactive exhibits and displays about the original Pony Express riders, their mission, and their importance to the history of the United States. You can explore the original stable and stable grounds, the Hall of Riders, and the Pony School where you’ll step back in time and learn all about history of the group and important figures such as William “Buffalo Bill” Cody, Bronco Charlie Miller, James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok, and their involvement with the Pony Express.

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Kansas City holds another great historical institution, the National WWI Museum and Memorial, which serves to remember, interpret, and understand the Great War. On your visit you can see the most comprehensive collection of World War I documents and objects and learn all about the history and experiences of this time. You’ll hear and see stories of courage, honor, patriotism, and sacrifice while viewing the Main Gallery and the Current Exhibitions. Along with the museum, the grounds feature many outdoor memorials including the Liberty Memorial Tower, the Dedication Wall, and other architectural features and choices that each hold a deep significance.

I am a student, aspiring writer, and avid reader of books. My favorite things in the world are my two German Shepherds. 

Maeve Miller

Writer , River Travel Magazine

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