29 Cool Things Missouri is Known For (+ Famous For)

From the Gateway Arch to Kansas City barbecue, if you’ve come wondering, “what is Missouri famous for?” or “what is Missouri known for?” then you’ve come to the right place!

I’ve traveled extensively around the USA, and I can tell you that Missouri is a total gem with everything from Mark Twain history to a jazz and blues culture.

It’s a place of natural scenery, of Civil War history, and the birthplace of the world famous Walt Disney himself.

Whether you’re just visiting or you’re a local wanting to learn more about your state, read on to find out what foods Missouri is famous for, what people Missouri is famous for, and so many more things that Missouri is known for!

1. Gateway Arch

The Gateway Arch in St. Louis stands as an iconic monument symbolizing the westward expansion of the United States.

Designed by architect Eero Saarinen, this stainless steel structure reaches an impressive height of 630 feet, making it the tallest arch in the world.

2. Kansas City Barbecue

Renowned across the nation, Kansas City barbecue is a culinary treasure that originated in Missouri.

This style of barbecue is characterized by its diverse range of meats, from slow-cooked ribs to succulent burnt ends, all smothered in a tangy, tomato-based sauce.

The city’s barbecue joints have achieved legendary status, with Arthur Bryant’s and Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que being among the most famous.

3. Mark Twain

Samuel Clemens, better known by his pen name Mark Twain, is a literary giant deeply associated with Missouri.

Twain’s childhood in Hannibal along the Mississippi River greatly influenced his most famous works, including “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” and “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”

These novels captured the essence of 19th-century American life and have left an indelible mark on world literature.

4. Jazz and Blues

Missouri’s cities, notably Kansas City and St. Louis, played vital roles in the evolution of jazz and blues music.

Kansas City’s 18th and Vine District was a hotbed of jazz innovation during the early 20th century, fostering the growth of swing and bebop styles.

In St. Louis, musicians like Scott Joplin helped popularize ragtime, a precursor to jazz, while the city’s vibrant nightlife scene contributed to the development of blues music.

5. Branson

Nestled in the picturesque Ozark Mountains, Branson is a one-of-a-kind entertainment destination that attracts visitors with its diverse array of live music shows, theaters, and family-friendly attractions.

Often referred to as the “Live Music Show Capital of the World,” Branson offers an eclectic mix of country, gospel, rock, and comedy performances.

6. Missouri River

The Missouri River is not only the namesake of the state but also a historical and cultural cornerstone.

Serving as a vital trade and transportation route during the westward expansion era, the river played a pivotal role in shaping the destiny of the American frontier.

7. Anheuser-Busch

With its global reputation for brewing excellence, Anheuser-Busch, headquartered in St. Louis, has a profound influence on the beer industry.

The company’s flagship brand, Budweiser, is recognized worldwide, and its Clydesdale horses are a symbol of tradition and quality.

8. Harry S. Truman

Harry S. Truman, the 33rd President of the United States, was born and raised in Missouri. His modest upbringing in Independence shaped his pragmatic and down-to-earth approach to governance.

Truman’s presidency was marked by significant events, including the conclusion of World War II and the implementation of the Marshall Plan to aid Europe’s post-war recovery.

9. Cardinals and Royals

Missouri boasts two prominent Major League Baseball teams, the St. Louis Cardinals and the Kansas City Royals.

The St. Louis Cardinals, one of the most successful franchises in baseball history, have a devoted fan base known as the “Cardinal Nation.”

The team’s storied history includes numerous championships and legendary players.

The Kansas City Royals, with their thrilling victory in the 1985 World Series, captured the hearts of fans and secured a lasting place in baseball lore.

10. Lake of the Ozarks

The Lake of the Ozarks is a sprawling reservoir in central Missouri, offering a recreational paradise for boating, fishing, and water sports enthusiasts. Surrounded by scenic bluffs and forests, the lake provides a serene escape from city life.

With marinas, waterfront resorts, and bustling waterfront restaurants, the Lake of the Ozarks is a year-round destination for outdoor activities and relaxation, drawing in visitors who seek both adventure and tranquility amidst nature’s splendor.

11. Civil War History

Missouri’s complex role during the American Civil War is embedded in its history.

Positioned as a border state, it was home to a blend of Union and Confederate sympathizers, leading to internal conflicts and significant battles.

The Battle of Wilson’s Creek and the Battle of Lexington are among the notable engagements that shaped the state’s wartime narrative.

12. Jesse James

The notorious outlaw Jesse James and his gang left an indelible mark on Missouri’s history.

Born in Clay County, Missouri, James became a symbol of the outlaw culture of the Old West.

His criminal exploits, which included bank and train robberies, made him both feared and revered.

13. Pony Express

St. Joseph, Missouri, holds a special place in the history of communication as the starting point of the Pony Express.

This innovative mail delivery system, operational for just 18 months in 1860-1861, aimed to expedite mail delivery across the vast distances of the western United States.

14. Laura Ingalls Wilder

Although born in Wisconsin, Laura Ingalls Wilder spent a significant portion of her life in Mansfield, Missouri.

Her autobiographical “Little House” series of books, based on her pioneer childhood experiences, have captured the imaginations of generations of readers.

The Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home and Museum in Mansfield preserves her legacy, allowing visitors to explore the surroundings that inspired her writings and gain insight into the hardships and triumphs of frontier life.

15. Walt Disney

The imaginative spirit of Walt Disney was nurtured during his early years in Marceline, Missouri.

Although he didn’t spend a substantial amount of time there, Marceline left an indelible mark on his creative vision.

The town’s small-town charm, community values, and the nostalgic Main Street USA at Disneyland were influenced by Disney’s fond memories of his time in Marceline.

16. University of Missouri

The University of Missouri, often referred to as Mizzou, stands as the state’s flagship university and a hub of education and research.

Located in Columbia, Mizzou offers a diverse range of academic programs and has contributed to advancements in various fields.

The university’s rich history includes being the first public university west of the Mississippi River and its role in shaping educational opportunities in the region.

17. Ozarks Culture

The Ozark region of Missouri is characterized by a unique cultural heritage that includes traditions, dialects, and music distinct to the area.

The Ozarks have a strong folk music tradition, and the region is known for its bluegrass, country, and folk music festivals.

The Ozark Folk Center State Park celebrates this cultural heritage through live performances, craft demonstrations, and exhibitions that showcase the history and creativity of the Ozark people.

18. Budweiser Clydesdales

The sight of the majestic Budweiser Clydesdale horses is synonymous with quality and tradition in the brewing world.

These impressive horses, bred for their strength and elegance, have been associated with Anheuser-Busch since the 1930s.

They make appearances at special events, parades, and even Super Bowl commercials, captivating audiences with their grace and beauty while representing the enduring legacy of a beloved American brand.

19. Thomas Hart Benton

Missouri-born artist Thomas Hart Benton left an indelible mark on American art with his distinctive regionalist style.

His murals and paintings captured the essence of American life during the 20th century, depicting scenes of everyday people, landscapes, and historical events.

20. Meramec Caverns

Hidden beneath the earth’s surface, Meramec Caverns offer a subterranean wonderland of natural beauty.

Located in Stanton, these limestone caves have been attracting visitors for generations with their stunning formations, underground rivers, and intriguing history.

Guided tours lead explorers through the awe-inspiring chambers, revealing the geological wonders that have been sculpted over millions of years.

21. Tornadoes

Missouri’s location in “Tornado Alley” exposes the state to a significant number of tornadoes each year.

The dynamic interaction of warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico and cool, dry air from the Rockies creates an environment conducive to the formation of these powerful storms.

22. Big Muddy National Fish and Wildlife Refuge

Stretching along the Missouri River, the Big Muddy National Fish and Wildlife Refuge provides critical habitat for diverse wildlife species.

This refuge is part of a broader effort to conserve and restore natural ecosystems along the river, promoting biodiversity and supporting the health of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems.

23. German Heritage

The influence of German immigrants on Missouri’s culture and traditions is evident in various aspects of daily life.

Many towns in the state have deep German roots, reflected in architecture, festivals, and cuisine.

Oktoberfest celebrations pay homage to German heritage through music, dancing, and traditional foods, fostering a sense of community and shared history.

24. Ha Ha Tonka State Park

Ha Ha Tonka State Park stands as a testament to nature’s beauty and the passage of time.

Located at the Lake of the Ozarks, the park features rugged landscapes, stunning overlooks, and the haunting ruins of a mansion that was under construction in the early 20th century.

25. Educational Institutions

Beyond the University of Missouri, the state boasts a diverse array of educational institutions that offer opportunities for learning and personal growth.

Institutions like Washington University in St. Louis and Missouri State University contribute to the academic landscape, providing students with access to innovative research, academic programs, and a vibrant campus experience.

26. National World War I Museum

Located in Kansas City, the National World War I Museum honors the memory of those who served and sacrificed during the Great War.

The museum’s comprehensive exhibits and artifacts offer a deep dive into the historical, cultural, and human aspects of World War I.

27. Lewis and Clark Expedition

Missouri played a pivotal role in the legendary Lewis and Clark Expedition, which aimed to explore and map the newly acquired Louisiana Territory.

The expedition began in St. Charles, where Meriwether Lewis and William Clark embarked on their epic journey westward.

28. Mark Twain National Forest

Named after the renowned author, the Mark Twain National Forest encompasses expansive woodlands, clear rivers, and rugged terrain.

This vast natural area offers recreational opportunities such as hiking, camping, fishing, and wildlife watching.

The forest’s diverse ecosystems provide a sanctuary for numerous plant and animal species, contributing to the state’s natural heritage.

29. Scott Joplin

The “King of Ragtime,” Scott Joplin, left an enduring musical legacy that continues to resonate today.

Born in Texas, he spent much of his career in St. Louis, where his ragtime compositions gained popularity.

Joplin’s innovative musical style blended classical elements with syncopated rhythms, creating a genre that influenced the development of jazz and other forms of American music.

Want to know what things the other US states are known for? Check out our other guides!

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