The City That Jack Built – Joplin, Missouri

Like many people, we are learning that there are lots of things to do in some of the medium sized cities. Our visit to Joplin, Missouri lasted just over 24 hours, but could have easily been extended to a full weekend. (We packed a lot into our timeline.) Joplin is a name that many have seen in recent years, due to the massive tornado that struck a significant portion of the city. While there are still scars from this event, the people of Joplin have pulled together to rebuild from this tragedy. With so much history in this region, it was important for them to show the country the results of a “can do” attitude.

We want to thank Visit Joplin, Mo. and the businesses of Joplin for their hospitality. Rest assured that all opinions are our own.

Route 66 is a main thoroughfare through Joplin, Missouri.

Joplin is the fourth largest city in Missouri, and was an original Route 66 destination. Our weekend of travel was focused on the “Mother Road”, so Joplin was a must-see. The city has quite a few sights specific to Route 66, which draw hordes of travelers each year. This was a constant conversation item with the business owners that we spoke with. Through the years, they have actually made a couple of realignments of the route, so there are three unique sections of the highway within the city limits.

The Joplin Museum Complex offers visitors two museums for the price of one.

Learning The History

Our first stop was at the Joplin Museum Complex. This place is a history buffs dream, as it is actually two museums in one. This first side we visited was the Dorothea B. Hoover Historical Museum. This is a collection of galleries featuring historical artifacts associated with various aspects of life in Joplin, Missouri. (You can read more about the history museum here.) It is easy to wile away a couple of hours looking at the assorted collections. My favorite had to be the circus room.

Once you finish with the general history side, we suggest a visit to the mining museum. The same admission price gains you access to the Everett J. Ritchie Tr-State Mineral Museum. This set of galleries is dedicated to the business of mining, which helped put Joplin on the map. While lead was the primary mineral discovered, the miners soon realized that zinc, often referred to as Jack, was much more profitable. (You can read more about the mining museum here.) Those from the region are well aware of the dangers and rewards associated with this profession. The museum offers a chance to view some of the tools of the trade, as well as lots of beautiful specimens brought out of the earth.

Red Onion Cafe offers customers vibrant and flavorful dishes served in a relaxed atmosphere.

Going Downtown

The morning filled with museums had worked us up quite the appetites. After a brief stop at the Visitors Bureau, we made our way to lunch at the Red Onion Cafe. This restaurant came highly recommended by locals, who we polled prior to our arrival. Boy, were they spot on! The staff was so inviting, and the dishes were amazing. Of course, we ate more than we should have, but we also knew we would be doing a good bit of walking afterwards. (You can read more about the Red Onion here.)

Candy House Gourmet uses decades old recipes to deliver some of the best tasting chocolates around.

A Sweet Stop

Just a couple of blocks from our lunch stop was our next destination. The Candy House Gourmet has a long history in Joplin, although it has changed owners and names over the years. Started by the Richardson family, the people who have taken up the gauntlet of candy making are attempting to stay true to the traditions. These days they are only operating out of the downtown location, but are using the tried and true recipes of the original owners. Whatever they are doing, they are doing it right. The silky smooth chocolate is delicious and a wee bit addicting. (Read more about Candy House here.)

The George Washington Carver National Monument is dedicated to educating the public about the importance of perseverance.

Lessons Learned

Whenever we plan a trip, our itinerary will be packed full of stops. Sometimes these take longer than expected, but other times we will have some spare time for unexpected destinations. This was the case in Joplin. While speaking with the staff at the tourism bureau, the George Washington Carver National Monument came up in conversation. We had looked at making a short side trip to the site, but had not formally included it in our schedule. With a short window of opportunity opening, we decided to fill it with a visit. This ended up being an excellent decision. This stop opened our eyes to the world of a man who broke boundaries and forged new paths for future generations. (Read more about G.W. Carver here.)

Eagle Drive In, in Joplin, Missouri, surprised us with their gourmet style dishes served up in a converted drive in diner.

Diamond In The Rough

After all of this exploration, we had burned up our big lunch. As the sun prepared to set, we knew it was time for our dinner plans. The Eagle Drive In was another fan favorite from our Facebook poll. What looked in pictures to be your average burger stand, was so much more. Everyone we spoke with during the day raved about the place, so we were anxious to test the waters. This place does not disappoint. The eclectic menu offers up a little gourmet dining in the most unusual setting.

Our stay at the Drury Inn was comfortable and convenient.

Well Deserved Rest

With all of this activity in one day, we were ready for a break. Visit Joplin, Mo. had arranged a room for us at the Drury Inn and Suites, which is a chain we had never used. It actually has quite a bit to offer travelers. While we had our own dining plans for all of our meals, this hotel offers comps that make the price of a stay even more competitive. Our Friday evening stay included a dinner buffet and manager’s reception. (Free drinks anyone?) In the morning they have a breakfast buffet for guests, as well. If you consider the cost of two meals that can be enjoyed on site, this hotel chain makes for an affordable option. We will certainly keep this in mind for future trips.

Breakfast at The Bruncheonette is an event attended by a growing number of locals and visitors alike.

Focus On The Food

A lesson that we learned on this trip is that Joplin residents like their restaurants as much as we do in Kansas City. Our breakfast plans were to dine at the number one spot from our poll results. The Bruncheonette was another place that completely fools you with its outside appearance. We were advised to show up early, but it was already overflowing with customers. Not to be discouraged, we joined in the long line of guests waiting their turn for some of the delectable eats. This gave us a chance to strike up some conversations with others, who helped explain the overwhelming draw of this eatery. This is certainly a must try place for anyone planning a visit to Joplin. (Read more about Bruncheonette here.)

Joplin, Missouri is home to a good collection of murals that appear in unusual locations throughout the downtown area.

City of Murals

Being from Kansas City, we love to check out fountains. They are the artwork of our hometown. Joplin has its own style, which includes a wonderful selection of murals. All through the downtown area we would spot these pieces on buildings. It became a game for us to see who could spot a new one first. When you make your plans for a Joplin visit, be sure to allocate some time to check them our for yourself. Let us know how many you spot, so we can see how many we missed.

Visitors from around the world travel Route 66 to see the vanishing sights of nostalgic Americana.

Heading On Down The Route

With our heads filled with memories, and our camera’s memory card filled with images, it was time to head to our next destination. Part two of our weekend road trip was to move across the state line to the Kansas side. Here we would meet up with a group of other social influencers who were gathering for an Instameet held by Travel Kansas. Exploring the Mother Road is certainly a great way to see plenty of artifacts and memorabilia from days gone by. Who says a little nostalgia can’t be fun? (You can read about our Route 66 event here.) Tell us some of your favorite Joplin sights that need to be added to our next visit!

the authors signatures.

12 thoughts on “The City That Jack Built – Joplin, Missouri”

  1. Carol Colborn

    Joplin is only about 30 minutes from Pittsburg, Kansas, Bill’s hometown so we have visited it a lot. So I agree with all the things you said about the city. But I also love the day trips around Joplin. Like the Grand Falls and George Washington Carver Museum.

  2. Doreen Pendgracs

    I’ve not previously heard of Joplin, Missouri. It looks like there is a lot to see, do, and taste! Thx for sharing it all with us.

  3. I love it when a small town exceeds our expectations. The Drury Inn sounds like a real deal. Two comped meals and free drinks. Wow! We’ll have to put a trip to Joplin on our wish list the food looked delicious!

  4. alison abbott

    I had never heard of Joplin, Missouri. You’ve pointed out some great things to do there and I do love street murals. I have a feeling I am going to learn a lot about small town USA reading Our Changing Lives, so happy to have found your blog!

  5. Also, in Joplin – on W. 34th Street and Hearness Blvd, is the infamous Bonnie & Clyde Garage Apartment, where the shootout occurred before they drove up to Platte City, MO – where another shootout occurred at The Red Crown Tavern.

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