Sometimes we all just need a weekend away, a time to relax and recharge for a little while. Luckily, there are some great destinations just a short drive from St. Louis. Whether it's the romance of Missouri wine country or the family fun of historic Hannibal, here are the top picks for weekend getaways near St. Louis.
Hermann is a small German community on the banks of the Missouri River. It's home to charming bed & breakfasts, nice restaurants, unique shops and two of the most popular wineries in the state. For most visitors, a trip to Hermann includes a stop at Stone Hill Winery, Hermannhof Vineyards or both. Hermann is also a good choice for outdoor enthusiasts. There's biking and walking on the Katy Trail, along with golf and a zip line.
For history buffs, a trip to the Deutschheim State Historic Site provides a look at life in the 1840s and 1850s. The historic buildings have been restored to their former glory. Tours are offered to help visitors learn about the German immigrants who settled the area and began the wine-making industry in the region.
Hermann is located in Gasconade County about 80 miles west of St. Louis. To get to Hermann, take I-70 west to exit 175. Then go south on Highway 19 for about 20 miles.
Augusta, MO and the Weinstrasse
Another top destination for wine lovers is Augusta and the Missouri Weinstrasse. Augusta is a small town that sits on the hills overlooking the Missouri River Valley. The biggest attraction in Augusta is Mount Pleasant Winery. The winery has grown from a small operation decades ago to one of the largest vineyards in the area today, complete with tastings, tours, a restaurant, and live entertainment.
Augusta is also home to four other wineries that make up the Missouri Weinstrasse. These smaller wineries are all located on a stretch of road designated as America's first wine trail. They are Noboleis Vineyard, Montelle Winery, Augusta Winery, and Balducci Vineyards. These wineries work together to bring in visitors and host special events throughout the year.
Augusta is located in St. Charles County about 40 miles west of St. Louis. To get to Augusta, take I-64 west to exit 10. Then take Highway 94 west for about 25 miles.
Grafton, IL and the Great River Road
For a scenic getaway any time of the year, the Great River Road and Grafton, Illinois, are a great option. The Great River Road follows the course of the Mississippi River from Louisiana to Minnesota. The section near St. Louis is one of the most beautiful with limestone bluffs on one side and the churning river on the other. The Great River Road is a top local destination for seeing changing leaves in the fall and bald eagles in the winter.
The small town of Grafton is the perfect home base for a weekend away along the Great River Road. Grafton has a variety of restaurants, shops, and guest accommodations. In the summer months, visitors can take in a free concert or show at the marina. Just outside of town is Pere Marquette Lodge located at Pere Marquette State Park. The lodge is a destination all on its own. It has 72 guest rooms, along with a restaurant and winery. The lodge is located inside an 8,000-acre park with plenty of options for outdoor fun like hiking, biking, and horseback riding.
Grafton is located in Jersey County about 40 miles north of St. Louis. To get to Grafton, take Illinois Route 3 north to Route 143 through Alton. Continue north on Highway 100 to Grafton.
Ste. Genevieve, MO
Ste. Genevieve is the oldest town in the state of Missouri and its residents are certainly proud of that history. The community was first settled by the French the 1700s. Much of that French Colonial heritage remains today. The town is filled with historic architecture, including log buildings, narrow streets, and fenced gardens. Most are located in an area of the village known as the National Landmark Historic District.
Ste. Genevieve has built on its rich history to become a popular tourist destination. The town has a number of boutique hotels, bed & breakfasts, and even camping options. There are restaurants, wineries, and plenty of unique shops. The town also celebrates its French history each year with the Jour de Fete festival in August and Mardi Gras King's Ball in February.
Ste. Genevieve is located in Ste. Genevieve County about 60 miles south of St. Louis. To get there, take I-55 south to exit 154. Then take Highway 61 east for about 8 miles into town.
Springfield is much more than the state capital of Illinois. It's a fun and vibrant community with historic sites, arts, music, and more. As most visitors may already know, Springfield is home to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum and Library. The library contains thousands of documents from and about our 16th President. The museum is a state-of-the-art facility with holograms, interactive displays and costumed actors telling the story of Lincoln's life. It also has a replica of the White House as it looked in 1861.
Outside of its connection to President Lincoln, Springfield is a fun destination for shopping, live theater, art galleries, and restaurants. Visitors can also take in a minor league baseball game or tour sites along Route 66 including the famous hot dog on a stick at the Cozy Dog Drive-In. For those who want to see state government in action, there are tours of the Illinois State Capitol Building.
Springfield is located in Sangamon County about 100 miles northeast of St. Louis. To get to Springfield, take I-55 north for about 95 miles.
Kimmswick, Missouri, is a Mississippi River town to the south of St. Louis. It's been named one of the best small towns in America by Midwest Living Magazine. It's also on the National Register of Historic Places. Kimmswick was founded in 1859 and today is a showcase for dozens of historic buildings. Many of those buildings now house gift shops, restaurants, and other boutique stores.
For many visitors, a trip to Kimmswick isn't complete without a stop at the Blue Owl Restaurant and Bakery. The restaurant has been featured on The Food Network, Today Show, and in various national magazines. It's known for its towering Levee High Apple Pie. The restaurant also serves a full menu of breakfast and lunch items. Hungry visitors can also take advantage of the many food-themed events throughout the year. The Strawberry Festival draws crowds each June and the Apple Butter Festival in October is the town's biggest event of the year.
Kimmswick is located in Jefferson County about 25 miles south of St. Louis. To get to Kimmswick, take I-55 south to exit 186. Follow Imperial Main Street to Highway K into town.
History and literature buffs may already know quite a bit about Hannibal, Missouri. As the boyhood home of Mark Twain, the Mississippi River town is featured prominently in his writings. A trip to Hannibal can be a true Twain experience with tours of the house where he grew up, visits to the cave made famous in Tom Sawyer and a ride on the Mark Twain Riverboat.
Beyond Twain, Hannibal offers a fun small town experience with plenty of options for visitors of all ages. The Hannibal Trolley takes visitors on a one hour ride to historic houses and scenic overlooks. Or there's the Haunted Hannibal tour filled with ghost stories and tales of woe. Those wanting a more casual outing can explore the area's specialty shops, restaurants, winery, and brewery. And for the kids, there's the toy train museum.
Hannibal is located in Marion and Ralls Counties about 120 miles north of St. Louis. To get to Hannibal, take I-64 west to Highway 61. Go north on Highway 61 and follow the signs into town.
Lake of the Ozarks
The Lake of the Ozarks is the top water recreation destination in the state of Missouri. The lake covers nearly 90 square miles over several counties in the south-central part of the state. It has more than 1,100 miles of shoreline and is the place to go in the summer for boating, water skiing, swimming and more. Several small towns that cater to visitors are nestled around the lake offering a growing number of hotels, resorts, golf courses, restaurants, and shopping.
For those wanting a more outdoorsy adventure, there's Lake of the Ozarks State Park operated by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. The park has rustic cabins, RV, and tent camping. Visitors can rent canoes, kayaks, and paddle boats for fun on the water. There are also hiking trails, picnic areas, and two public swimming beaches.
The Lake of the Ozarks is located about 200 miles southwest of St. Louis. To get there, take I-44 west to exit 135. Then take Highway F north to Route 5. Continue north on Route 5 to Camdenton and on to the lake.