Enjoy Winter Outdoors In Missouri
Jefferson City, Mo. — We know it is tempting to just sit in your living room and wait for spring; after all, it is warm and dry in there. As winter tightens its grip, a person’s fancy often turns to thoughts of . . . skiing (snow, not water) and canoeing.
You can do both right here, in Missouri. No need for a 12-hour road trip through treacherous mountain terrain, or to endure the long, demanding lines of airport security. Missouri’s tourism website, VisitMO, has listings for everything you need to get out and experience nature, even in winter.
Missouri has two venues for swishing down the slopes: Snow Creek, north of Kansas City, and Hidden Valley, on the western fringe of St. Louis. Both are perfect for an exhilarating afternoon, regardless of your skill level. Just pick your ride of choice, from downhill or cross-country skis, to snowboards, to tubes, and enjoy a refreshing day outdoors. Yes, both offer professional instructors.
Snow Creek is about 10 minutes north of Weston; a half hour south of St. Joseph. Their state-of-the-art snowmaking machines can blanket the hillside with 12 inches of snow. The venue has a total vertical drop of 300 feet; a 700-foot long tube area; and a terrain section for snowboards. One-day, two-day and season tickets are offered.
The lodge at Snow Creek includes a bar, cafeteria, picnic and barbecue area, a bonfire pit, equipment rentals, souvenir and gift shop, an award-winning ski school, and (just in case) a first-aid station. They hold nighttime sessions some weekends. Watch their website for details.
To make a weekend of it, stay just down the road, in Weston — voted Missouri’s No. 1 Day Trip by Ingram’s Magazine, and the No. 1 Best Overnight Destination by VisitKC.com.
- Weston Bend State Park has hiking trails that meander through the woods and along a bluff with great views of the Missouri river. Picnic sites and camping are available if the weather is good.
- Visit Pirtle Winery, known for their fine Missouri wines and meads (mead is wine made from honey).
- Unwind at O'Malley's Pub, an Irish microbrewery and restaurant.
- The American Bistro-style cuisine at the Avalon Cafe, situated in an 1847 home, has dishes ranging from pizza to wild boar, pasta to beef steaks, elk loin to chicken.
- For a down-home meal and scrumptious breakfast, try the Weston Cafe.
- Spend a relaxing night at the Inn at Weston Landing, a four-guestroom bed and breakfast, built in 1842.
- The 26-guestroom Saint George Hotel opened its doors in 1845. The hotel has been renovated with modern conveniences, while maintaining its original architectural style and beauty.
Across the state, in Wildwood (a western suburb of St. Louis), the skiing hot spot is Hidden Valley ski resort. Their snowmaking system can provide all the snow necessary for skiing, tubing and snowboarding, on 30 acres with an overall 310-foot vertical drop. The ski lodge holds a bar, cafeteria, equipment rentals, and (just in case) a first-aid station. Certified instructors offer skiing and snowboarding instructions (all levels and ages; private and group). Trails at Hidden Valley are lighted for night skiing and special moonlight sessions, some of which last until 3 a.m. Day tickets, group and senior rates, and season passes are available.
After a day on the slopes, it’s about 10 minutes to Eureka, where you can relax, dine and spend the night.
- A highlight of the Eureka area, Route 66 State Park features an original section of old Route 66, plus a visitor center with Route 66 and Times Beach exhibits, Meramec River access, picnic areas and shelters, and trails for hiking, bicycling and horseback riding.
- Plan ahead and make reservations to tour the Endangered Wolf Center. This internationally recognized captive breeding facility raises endangered wolves and releases them into the wild. This is a fascinating attraction you’ll never forget.
- The Holiday Inn at Six Flags features a heated indoor pool, arcade games, a bar and a restaurant (kids eat free).
- Chow down on some of the best barbecue in America at Super Smokers Barbecue Restaurant. This is the home of the St. Louis area’s only World Champion BBQ team; their award-winning barbecue sauce is available on-site and at grocery stores throughout the Midwest.
- If barbecue isn’t your thing, try Poor Richard's Restaurant, where they serve two tons of chicken wings every week, in addition to fish, steaks and daily specials.
Not into snow skiing? How about floating a cool Missouri stream? Yes, in winter. This is a swell season to enjoy the solitude, while drifting along in a canoe . . . and it isn’t crowded. The water this time of year is especially clear; the winter views give you a different perspective of the Missouri countryside; fishing is always good; and there is an abundance of camping and cooking spots on gravel bars. Caution: take extra clothes in a dry-bag, just in case.
About 10 miles east of Steelville, the folks at Bass' River Resort can set you up for a trip on three rivers: the Courtois, the Huzzah and the Meramec. Their facilities include tent camping sites, RV sites and cabins. In January, they offer one free canoe rental with the rental of a log cabin; other specials apply in February and March.
- Seven miles southeast of Steelville, unwind and refresh at Westover Farms, on 475 acres adjacent to the Mark Twain National Forest. Stay the weekend, or longer, in one of their hand-hewn log and stone cabins, equipped with modern conveniences, a wood-burning fire place, and a full kitchen; just take your own food. Hike and bike the trails; fish for rainbow trout year-round; and visit the on-site fish hatchery. Do not take your own firewood.
- While you are in the area, visit Peaceful Bend Winery and try some outstanding Missouri wine. From the coziness of the tasting room, it is a short hike to the banks of the Meramec River, where the wintertime views are worth the walk.
Outdoor and nature enthusiasts are sure to enjoy Missouri’s wintering eagle population. America’s symbolic bald eagles can be spotted along open waterways and lakes throughout Missouri. In winter, Missouri’s resident eagle population is supplemented by migrating birds from the north, with numbers reaching more than 2,500 eagles, the second-largest number of wintering eagles in the lower 48 states.
Several organized “Eagle Days” are held, giving you the opportunity to witness these magnificent birds in their natural habitat. These events include discussions by professional naturalists; spotting scopes for an up-close-and-personal view and refreshments are usually available.
For eagle viewing on your own, try:
- The Osage River, below Bagnell Dam.
- Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area, southwest of Columbia.
- Lock & Dam 24, at Clarksville.
- Lock & Dam 25, east of Winfield.
- Mingo National Wildlife Refuge, northwest of Puxico.
- Old Chain of Rocks Bridge, northern edge of St. Louis.
- Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary, east of West Alton.
- Schell-Osage Conservation Area, north of El Dorado Springs.
- Smithville Lake, north of Kansas City.
- Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge, south of Mound City.
- Swan Lake National Wildlife Refuge, south of Sumner.
- Table Rock State Park, southwest of Branson.
- Truman Reservoir, west of Warsaw.
- Lake of the Ozarks, central Missouri.
- And the Missouri River, statewide.
Missouri has an abundance of outdoor winter activities; these are but a few ideas. The key is . . . get outside and experience this diverse and fascinating season. There is no need to get the winter blahs.
To find more exciting things to do, information about lodging, attractions, events and dining across Missouri, check out VisitMO.com.
About the Missouri Division of Tourism
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The Missouri Division of Tourism (MDT) is the official tourism office for the state of Missouri dedicated to marketing Missouri as a premier travel destination. Established in 1967, the Missouri Division of Tourism has worked hard to develop the tourism industry in Missouri to what it is today, an $11.2 billion industry supporting more than 279,000 jobs and generating $627 million in state taxes in Fiscal Year 2011. For every dollar spent on marketing Missouri as a travel destination in FY11, $57.76 was returned in visitor expenditures. For more information on Missouri tourism, go to http://www.visitmo.com/.