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The Group Travel Leader Going on Faith Select Traveler

Missouri Charm

Located almost exactly in the middle of the map, Missouri is a popular meeting destination for both the Midwest and for planners who are bringing in attendees from all corners of the country. And while St. Louis and Kansas City are both estimable in their own right, the smaller cities have unique personalities and offer relaxed charm.

There’s natural beauty around the state as well, from the lazily majestic Mississippi River to gently rolling hills and the dramatic scenery of the Ozark Mountains. Here are five destinations in the Show-Me State to consider for your next meeting.


In the 1830s, the German Settlement Society of Philadelphia sought a place to establish a traditional “heart of German-America” to perpetuate traditional German culture. The rolling hills of mid-Missouri reminded scouts of their homeland in the Rhein Valley. They called the new settlement Hermann and planted grapevines. Prior to Prohibition, the area was the second-largest wine producer in the country.

Today, meeting planners will find a variety of venues in this small town, accommodating groups of up to 300. The historic Showboat Theatre welcomes up to 250 guests, and the Sherry House at Stone Hill Winery (the state’s largest) can seat up to 300. For lodging, choices range from elegant spa suites to cozy cottages, and the walkable historic district infuses meeting atmospheres with Old World Charm. Be sure to take a stroll or a cycle at Katy Trail State Park, the longest developed rail-trail in the country, and grab a bratwurst or schnitzel at the Concert Hall and Barrel Tavern. Built in 1878, it’s the oldest continually operating tavern west of the Mississippi.


Centrally located and a quintessential college town, Columbia combines big-city amenities and laid-back hospitality to make this destination a standout. The city is home to the University of Missouri and two colleges (Stephens and Columbia), and all three campuses surround the walkable downtown area. “The District,” as it is known, is home to a food scene that punches well above its weight, along with a solid collection of independent shops and entertainment venues. The town is also a hub for events and is home to True/False, one of the country’s best documentary film festivals.

Columbia offers a variety of meeting space options that planners love and an array of team-building activities for groups of all sizes. The 298-room Holiday Inn Executive Center and Columbia Expo Center has 40,000 square feet of meeting space, while the Courtyard by Marriott (133 rooms), the Hilton Garden Inn (151) and the Stoney Creek Hotel and Conference Center (181) all have more than 10,000 square feet. The downtown 62-room Tiger Hotel is another excellent choice. Built in 1928, the recently remodeled landmark can hold seated events for up to 200 in its elegant Grand Ballroom. Alternate venues include the historic Blue Note (for up to 500) and the Missouri Theatre (capacity 1,200), both right downtown. Bur Oak Brewing Company can hold up to 480 guests, and the Orr Street Gallery has meeting space for 200 and a 950-square-foot outdoor area.

The town offers plenty of adventure in the great outdoors, with 70 city parks, 50 miles of trails and an awe-inspiring rock bridge at the aptly named Rock Bridge Memorial State Park. For more fun, bring your group to The Blufftop at Rocheport. This trailside vineyard offers magnificent views of the Missouri River, a wine tasting room, a gift shop and live entertainment at the A-Frame.


Legendary humorist and author Samuel Langhorne Clemens, better known as Mark Twain, was born and raised in Hannibal, as was the Titanic survivor  known as “the Unsinkable Molly Brown.” This vibrant little town’s history is evident in every neighborhood. The picturesque riverfront remains a busy hub for riverboats, just as it was in Twain’s time, and its downtown would still be recognizable to its most famous citizens.

Named St. Petersburg in Twain’s writings, Hannibal was immortalized through real-life stories from his childhood, evoking the excitement of a rapidly growing river town, the majesty and mystery surrounding the Mississippi River, and the lush and beautiful surroundings of bluffs, woods, creeks, and of course, the Twain’s famous cave.

Visitors can tour the Mark Twain Museum, which offers its conference room for rental, and many other unique places are available to host meetings for up to 200 people. For an unforgettable event, book a two-hour dinner cruise on the Mark Twain Riverboat. Serving up to 200, the journey includes a buffet dinner and live entertainment. Once a popular movie theater, the completely restored Rialto Banquet Hall can now seat up to 300 guests and also features an outdoor courtyard. The 94-room Quality Inn and Suites has event space for up to 300. Seven miles outside of town, the Pointe D’Vine Vineyard and Venue is nestled on 35 acres, offering a lovely setting for private events.

Downtown, visitors can indulge their sweet tooth and their taste for nostalgia at Jill’s Hand Picked Treasures and John’s Soda Pop Shop, an old-fashioned soda counter that features more than 100 vintage sodas, floats, and ice cream treats.

For lodging, there’s an 83-unit Holiday Inn and Suites, along with the beautifully restored 1871 Italianate Dubach Inn and many other options.

Cape Girardeau

Farther south down the mighty Mississippi, the town of Cape Girardeau is rich in history and natural beauty. Founded as a trading post in 1733 by Jean  Baptiste De Girardot, the city flourished as a trading post. Louis Lorimier established a Spanish military post in 1793, welcoming Lewis and Clark as they headed on their westward expedition. Steamboats arrived in 1835, and Cape Girardeau became an important center between St. Louis and Memphis.

Steamboats on river cruises still stop at the port, and the Cape River Heritage Museum (located in the old Cape Fire Station) displays river-related artifacts. The city is protected by a 1.3-mile, 16-foot-tall floodwall, and two murals along the “Great Wall” display the city’s history in colorful paintings.

Meeting space abounds, including 14,000 square feet of space at the 168-room Drury Plaza Hotel and Conference Center and 7,450 square feet at the 69-room Riverview Hotel and Century Casino Event Center. After hours, there’s plenty of fun, including Prospect League baseball games at Capaha Field, where attendees can root for the home team, Cape Catfish, against rivals like the Thrillville Thrillbillies. Downtown Cape boasts cute shops and fun food, like Cajun fare at Broussard’s and Dogwood Social House with arcade games, bowling and relaxed dining.

Excelsior Springs

Known for its healing waters, Excelsior Springs is a quaint town north of Kansas City with four National Register Districts and three local Landmarks Districts. The Hall of Waters is open for visitors to explore and learn more about the town’s history.

Groups will want to stay and play at the grand Elms Hotel and Spa. With 16 acres of manicured grounds and 11,000 square feet of elegantly restored meeting space, this 153-room property has hosted gangsters such as Al Capone and Pretty Boy Floyd, as well as movie stars and most famously, former U.S. President Harry Truman.

When attendees aren’t enjoying the Elms, they can explore downtown Excelsior Springs via trolley. The trolley offers wine tours with dinner and wine at four different venues around town. For award-winning barbecue and live music, gather at the Wabash BBQ and Ice House Blues Garden, located in the depot of the Wabash railroad.

State parks and historic sites nearby include the Watkins Woolen Mill State Park and Historic Site, and the Jesse James Farm and Museum.