If you’ve ever driven I-55 from St. Louis to Memphis, you are well aware that there isn’t much along that 4 hour route. Lots of truck stops and fields, but that’s about it. About at the halfway point between the two cities, is Cape Girardeau. This isn’t my hometown, but it basically is. It’s where we went for all our major shopping, eating, and medical care. Cape is a decent size town with a state university, so it makes it the perfect place to stop for the night or day.
The city sits right on the Mississippi River. The riverfront is a great place to sit and watch the barges go by. The flood walls are covered in murals of the city’s history and heritage, as well as 47 prominent people from the state. The murals are on both sides of the wall, so make sure to go on the river side of the wall as well. If you’re lucky, a riverboat or something similar will be docked and open for tours. The Cape River Heritage Museum is a few blocks up on Independence Street, in the old fire station.
Downtown Cape sits right on the river. There are a number of boutiques, antique stores, bars, and restaurants. The county courthouse sits on a hill overlooking the river. If you are a movie buff, you might recognize some of the locations from Gone Girl, as it was filmed here. The Red House is located downtown as well. It is a recreation of Louis Lorimer’s home and training post. He was a founder of the city and the house displays authentic items to the early 19th century.
If you are a lover of gorgeous old houses, pay the Glenn House a visit. It’s located just a couple blocks from downtown. Built in 1883, the house has been completely restored. It is open for tours on the weekends.
Conservation Nature Center
The county park has a great center that any kid would love. Located right off Highway 61, the center has trails, exhibits, classes, and an auditorium.
Trail of Tears State Park
The park sits right on the Mississippi River and offers great views from the bluffs. Hiking, camping, and fishing are all available. Swimming isn’t wise in the river, but you can swim at Lake Boutin. The visitor’s center offers the story of the Cherokee who where relocated from the Carolinas to Oklahoma on what became known as the Trail of Tears.
There are a number of wineries in the immediate area that offer tastings and full restaurants. These include Steele Crest Winery in Jackson, Apple Creek Winery in Friedheim, and The Riverhouse in Scott City.
Bollinger Mill State Historic Site
The original mill was built in the early 1800’s, with the current mill having been built in 1867 after the first was burnt during the Civil War. The mill continued operations until 1953. The mill is open for tours with exhibits of different milling methods and equipment. A covered bridge sits over the river and is the oldest in the state.
Bollinger County Museum of Natural History
If you plan to drive out to the Bollinger Mill, stop in Marble Hill and take the kids to the museum. Sometime in the 40’s dinosaur bones were found in the area. The museum holds a replica of that dinosaur, as well as exhibits on the ice age, Missouri in the Civil War, and geology. It’s very kid friendly.
Tower Rock Conservation Area
If you’re adventurous and the Mississippi River is low enough, you can walk out to Tower Rock. It’s about an hour’s drive north of Cape, but it’s kind of a big deal when the water is that low. People make the trek up to walk out and some even climb it. There are lots of stories around the rock, including that it’s haunted, but it was used as a landmark back in the day.