The bottom right corner of Missouri isn’t exactly known as a tourist destination. Probably if you aren’t from there, or have family there, you have never purposely visited! But there are so many great things to do in Southeast Missouri for families! I would know, I grew up there. And I still live just miles away.
Whether you’re looking for an outdoor adventure, beautiful landscapes, relaxation, or entertainment for the little ones, we’ve got it covered in this list!
- Adventure Outdoors
- Animal Attractions
- Entertain the kids while you relax!
- Take in the history!
Southeast Missouri actually has some pretty epic landscapes to explore! Natural waterpark? Got it. Turquoise blue waters? Check. Giant boulders to climb all over? Yep! A cave you can float through? That’s here too. Scuba diving? In Missouri? Believe it!
Johnson Shut-ins State Park is one of the most popular things to do in Southeast Missouri. This natural waterpark is part of the Black River in the St. Francois Mountains. The nearest town is Lesterville, MO.
Things to do at Johnson Shut-ins include hiking, camping, swimming, and picnicking.
The landscape is so beautiful – with huge, smoothed-out boulders scattered throughout the river, and waterfalls flowing between them.
For more information on this state park, visit the Missouri State Park website.
Castor River Shut-ins
Castor River Shut-ins is very similar to Johnson Shut-ins, but less well-known. However, on a summer weekend, you will definitely still find a crowd of locals.
This area is located in Fredericktown, MO. Go explore the pink granite boulders and waterfalls, and swim at the swimming hole at the bottom of the shut-ins.
Alley Spring and Mill is located near the town of Eminence, MO. Come here to explore the mill, as well as Story’s Creek Schoolhouse, and take a hike around the beautiful blue spring waters.
Big Spring State Park
One of Missouri’s first state parks, and one of America’s biggest springs. Big Spring is a few miles from Van Buren, MO.
Come to Big Spring to see the clear, turquoise water, go for a hike, have a picnic, and possibly stay to camp!
Elephant Rocks State Park
Elephant Rocks State Park in Missouri is one of our favorite things to do in Southeast Missouri. Located near Fredericktown, MO, you can come hike around and through the huge, billion-year-old granite boulders.
See more photos and learn more about Elephant Rocks State Park in our post from a recent trip!
Taum Sauk Mountain
Taum Sauk Mountain State Park is located very close to Elephant Rocks. In fact, I would suggest camping around Fredericktown or Ironton, and exploring Taum Sauk Mountain, Elephant Rocks State Park, and Johnson Shut-ins all in the same trip.
Taum Sauk Mountain is the highest point in Missouri. Climb the 72-foot Taum Sauk Lookout Tower to get an epic view. Hike one of the trails, and visit Mina Sauk Falls – the highest wet-weather waterfall in Missouri.
As you can see, it’s an especially beautiful view at Taum Sauk in the fall! See what else you should check out in Missouri this fall!
Take the 2-mile “Trail Through Time” to a double natural arch at Pickle Springs Natural area, located near Farmington, MO.
The trail also passes by waterfalls, canyons, and shelter bluffs. The one-way loop is considered moderately challenging, but we did it with a 2-year-old (not in a carrier) and it went just fine!
Cave Spring is located on Current River, near Eminence, MO. Rent a canoe, or bring your kayaks, and float down the river and through a cave! This has been on my to-do list for a few years, and is going to happen this summer!
You can also take a short trail to a staircase leading down into a sinkhole, called Devil’s Well.
Hawn State Park
Hawn State Park, near St. Genevieve, Missouri, offers trails along sandstone canyons and cliffs. Come walk among the pines, have a picnic, and set up your tent at the campground for a night or two!
Float trip from The Landing
Start at The Landing in Van Buren, Missouri and spend the day just floating down the Current River. The Landing offers several types of tubes, from a basic black innertube, to a tube with a mesh bottom (perfect for the kids), to cooler tubes (so your drinks and snacks can float alongside you), to tubes with backrests and cupholders.
You can also choose to rent a raft, canoe, or kayak. Choose between a 3-hour float, 6-hour float, or if you’re feeling extra adventurous – an overnight float.
When you get off the river, stop at Jolly Cone for ice cream, sandwiches, burgers, and more. It’s basically required.
Bonne Terre Mine
The Visit MO website brags that National Geographic calls the Bonne Terre Mine, “One of America’s Top 10 Greatest Adventures.”
The mine was the largest producer of lead ore until it closed in 1962. Now, you can take a walking tour or even a boat tour on the crystal-clear water to see the abandoned shafts and equipment.
If you are into scuba diving, the mine is the largest freshwater scuba diving venue in the world. Reservations are required to dive.
Millstream Gardens Conservation Area & Silver Mines
Silver Mines Recreation Area is located along the St. Francis River. This river is the only one in Missouri classified as “white water.” The starting point is upriver at the Millstream Gardens Conservation Area.
Aside from that, you can wade in the river, camp, fish, hike, and picnic.
Come to Lake Wappapello State Park to camp, hike, swim, fish, and enjoy nature.
There is a roped-off swimming area at the Alison Cove day-use area.
Big Oak Tree State Park
This state park is located in East Prarie, Missouri. See Missouri as the first explorers saw it. Take the elevated Boardwalk Trail through the bottomland forest.
Two of the trees in this state park qualify as state champions for their size. Take the 1.5-mile Bottomland Trail to pass by some of Missouri’s tallest trees.
You can also fish, camp, and play at the playground. During fall, there is an annual Living History Day with old-time crafts and homemade goods, as well as music and concessions.
Cape Safari Park
(previously called Lazy L Safari Park)
Visit this walk-through petting zoo to get up close with several species of deer, alligators, kangaroos, camels, and more.
Feed the parakeets in Parakeet Jungle, mine for gemstones, and go on inside the goat enclosure.
Crown Ridge Tiger Sanctuary
This is one of the coolest things to do in Southeast Missouri! Crown Ridge Tiger Sanctuary is in St. Genevieve, in a very scenic location.
Visit for a guided tour to learn where the tigers were rescued from and hear about their very different personalities! Then head to the education center and gift shop to see artifacts, make donations, and pick up a souvenir – like a canvas painted by one of the tigers!
Choose the VIP Tour to make your own enrichment item to throw down to the tigers from the observation deck.
Missouri Down Under Adventure
(Previously Cave Spring Park)
Visit Van Buren, Missouri to pet kangaroos at the kangaroo petting zoo. Stay for a cave tour and gem panning, and visit the Nature Center too!
Conservation Nature Center
This one could have landed in so many different categories! It’s one of our favorite places to visit during the week (closed Sundays & Mondays.) And it’s FREE!
The Nature Center is located in Cape County Park. Come see the animal exhibits – such as a snapping turtle, Missouri tarantula, and a rare 2-headed snake!
Other exhibits show the history of the area with artifacts, as well as facts about area wildlife. Look out the large glass windows to see the resident groundhog in his natural habitat.
Hike one of the trails starting behind the building, or fish in the kid’s fishing pond across the parking lot. Fishing gear can be borrowed from the Nature Center.
Entertain the kids while you relax!
Ultimate Air Trampoline Park
The trampoline park is a perfect rainy-day thing to do in Southeast Missouri. It’s located in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, and offers jumping by the hour. There is also a time specifically for toddlers, although they can bounce at the regular times as well.
They also offer comfy reclining seats and massage chairs for parents to relax and watch, as well as concessions.
Cool off at Cape Splash waterpark in Cape Girardeau. This waterpark has a splash pad, zero-entry pool, lazy river, several slides, and a play area for younger kids.
River Rapids Waterpark
River Rapids Waterpark is in St. Genevieve, MO. They also offer several slides, a kid zone, lazy river, and lap pool.
SEMO Aquatic Center
The Student Aquatic Center at Southeast Missouri State University swimming pool is open to the public for a fee. This indoor pool has a zipline over the water, rope swing, climbing wall, hot tub, and lap pool.
It’s our kids’ favorite local swimming pool.
Cape Girardeau’s children’s museum is ideal for kids 11 and under (although all are welcome!)
The first floor has activities perfect for younger kids, including a toddler play area, a pretend grocery store, vet, farm, nursery, bank, and more.
The second floor has a real airplane that kids can climb into, a stack of tires to climb around, a Lego wall, a planetarium, and more.
Train Ride on the St. Louis Iron Mountain Railway
Despite the name, this railway is located in Jackson, MO. Get your tickets early for themed train rides such as the Dinosaur Train, James Gang Robbery, Pirates and Princesses, Halloween Express, and the Santa Express (which sells out immediately every year!)
Rock ‘n’ Roll Drive-In
The Rock ‘n’ Roll Drive-In Theater is located in Chaffee, Missouri. They show new releases as well as classic movies, and even have live music.
Take in the history!
If you have any history buffs in the family, are looking to add educational field trips to your homeschooling, or just want to explore, there are several options for things to do around Southeast Missouri.
St. Genevieve Museum Learning Center
Experience life-size dinosaurs in the Hall of Giants. See hundreds of artifacts in the Ancient Cultures Gallery, and learn about the history of the town in the St. Genevieve Gallery.
This was a small museum, but so good. The lady working there guided us through the whole place, explaining and educating us on all the exhibits.
The museum is located in historic downtown St. Genevieve.
Bollinger Mill State Historic Site is located near Jackson, Missouri. Take a tour of the historic mill to learn how wheat and grain were ground into flour in the Civil War era. Walk through the covered bridge, and enjoy a picnic along the stream.
Trail of Tears State Park
Near Cape Girardeau and Jackson, MO, Trail of Tears State Park commemorates the sad history of the Cherokee Indian groups being relocated to Oklahoma on a forced march in harsh conditions.
Learn about the past at the Visitor Center, hike one of several trails, and walk out on the overlook to get great views of the Mississippi River, or take a swim in Lake Boutin.
Mo-Ark Regional Railroad Museum
Take your little train lovers to the Mo-Ark Regional Railroad Museum in Poplar Bluff, MO. Inside the museum, see the model train layout, which takes you on an imaginary train ride through countryside, cities, deserts, and over rivers.
Other relevant posts to check out:
- The Ultimate Guide to Cape Girardeau with Kids
- Our Wild Day at Missouri Conservation Day on the River
- Our Wild Day at Tower Rock
- Things to do Around Cape Girardeau this Fall
- 21 Best Family-Friendly Things to do in Missouri this Fall
If you found this list helpful, consider pinning it for later!
Let me know – what did I leave out? Do you have anything to add?