Missouri Road Trip Essentials

From useful apps and snack foods to insider tips, there’s a lot to know when preparing for your epic Missouri adventure.

With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of road-trip essentials to help ensure your Missouri getaway is fun, memorable and worth repeating.

Gateway Arch 2 comp

Awesome apps (the virtual kind, not the ones on a plate at Chili’s)

Gas Buddy – Helps you find the cheapest gas prices in Missouri, which traditionally has some of the lowest gas prices in the U.S.

All Trails – Has listings for more than 50,000 trails, and given that Missouri was named the country’s Best Trails State in 2013, you’ll want to be sure you don’t miss any.

Find Mo Fish 2 – Sometimes, road trips lead to the water. Break out the rod, reel and Find Mo Fish 2, which tells you which waterways have which variety of fish, along with a map showing you access locations.

Waze – This mapping tool is probably going to be most beneficial when traveling in St. Louis and Kansas City, as it is designed to help you find the quickest route from point A to point B and to avoid traffic when doing so.

MoDOT Traveler Information – This map shows you where road work is taking place, if there are any accidents snarling traffic and weather-related closures.

The local CVB’s app – If you’ve got a specific destination in mind, search your app store for anything developed by the local Convention and Visitors Bureau. It likely contains great insider tips for travel.

Missouri-made snacks (the kind you’ll climb into the back seat for, if necessary)

Spicy Guys Pretzels – Whether you order online or find them in a store, you’ll be wowed by flavors like Smoky Sweet, Cinnamon Sugar and Just Ranch. Spicy Guys is based in Independence, Harry S. Truman’s hometown!

Osage River Popcorn – Whether you grab it by the bag or by the tin, you can’t go wrong with flavors ranging from Cajun to cherry chocolate cheesecake. Osage River Popcorn is found at the Osage Beach Premium Outlets, near Lake of the Ozarks, and you can buy online.

Cookies – There are so many great places to get cookies in Missouri, we get a sugar buzz just thinking about them. Grandma’s Cookies in St. Charles, Hot Box Cookies in Columbia and Sugar Leaf Treats in Branson are popular stops for cookies monsters.

Soft drinksFitz’s makes a great line of sodas, including root beer, as do the folks at Crown Valley Brewery, home to Fizzy Izzy Root Beer.

Ted Drewes, St. Louis comp

Shakes, malts and concretes – It’s never too early or too late in the day to enjoy an ice cream or custard, so don’t pass up the opportunity to visit places such as Ted Drewes Frozen Custard in St. Louis, Central Dairy in Jefferson City, Randy’s Frozen Custard in Osage Beach, Andy’s Frozen Custard in Springfield and the Glace Artisan Ice Cream in Kansas City.

Protein packs – Whether it’s pork, beef or elk (yes, elk!) Burgers’ Smokehouse in California, Mo., has a variety of snack sticks to keep you covered – and to keep you from having to snap into another outfit’s products. Buy online or at their shop.

Pro tips (insights from folks who travel the Show-Me State)

Rush hours – Typically you only have to worry about this in Missouri’s major cities, between roughly 4:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Avoid rush hour by spending extra time at attractions or resting in your hotel room before dinner.

Work zones – Slow down and watch for changing traffic patterns, workers and your fellow drivers. Being late is better than being in an accident.

Arrowhead_07_MIN 2-1 comp

Gameday – Big crowds, loads of pedestrians and plenty of traffic are common sights on game day in Missouri. Our home teams include the Chiefs and Royals in Kansas City, The Tigers at Mizzou and the Cardinals and Blues in St. Louis.

Free attractions – There are a boatload of free attractions in Missouri. All of our State Parks have free admission (you’ll pay fees for things like camping or tours of historic properties) and places like the renowned Saint Louis Zoo also are free.

Farmers markets – In a state where agriculture is a leading industry, you can bet we know a thing or two about farmers markets. When looking for huge selections, check out City Market in Kansas City and Soulard Market in St. Louis.

Hidden gems – Chances are you know about Missouri’s must-see stops, from the Gateway Arch to Mark Twain’s hometown and the Highway 76 Strip in Branson. But do you know much about the National Churchill Museum, the American Jazz Museum and the Dickerson Park Zoo?

Friendly folks – We’re a polite bunch here in the Show-Me State, so don’t be afraid to stop and ask an actual person for directions, especially if Siri isn’t cooperating.

Mix it up – Sometimes the road less traveled is the most fun. On your cross-state travels, stay off the interstate and explore cities and sites along Highways 54, 50 and 36. Along the way, you’ll run into Missouri’s Capitol, the home of the Missouri State Fair and Walt Disney’s former home.

To pack or not to pack … – Should I take glassware on my float trip? Nope. Do I need bungee cords on everything I plan to put in the canoe? Absolutely. I have flip flops and aqua shoes, which is better? Aqua shoes. Will my outfitter have life jackets? Yup. Where can I access a great stream for canoeing? Try here!

Missouri nights – The stars at night may be big and bright in another state, but they’re equally stunning here in the Show-Me State, where you find many places to avoid light pollution. Campgrounds are excellent for stargazing. Also, we have mosquitoes, so take bug spray.

Arthur Bryant's Barbecue, Kansas City
Arthur Bryant’s Barbecue, Kansas City

Barbecue, bar-b-q and BBQ – Try it, you’ll love it. From burnt ends at Arthur Bryant’s in Kansas City to St. Louis-style ribs served up at Pappy’s, to the smoky deliciousness offered by the folks in Dexter, your taste buds will crave barbecue long after your trip is over.

On the water – Boating is like driving, so remember to be courteous of those around you and mind your no-wake zones, especially on those lakes with abundant boat docks.

River routes – The majestic Missouri and mighty Mississippi rivers forge paths through Missouri. Two roads that provide excellent river views are Missouri 179, which follows the Missouri between Jefferson City and Rocheport, and Missouri 79, which parallels the Mississippi between Hannibal and St. Peters. They’re good motorcycle routes, too!

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