Joplin Missouri is located in the southwestern corner of Missouri, close to the Arkansas border, and was a major stop along historic Route 66. Although the town currently has fewer than 50,000 permanent inhabitants, thousands more people from the surrounding counties come into Joplin Missouri during the day to eat, drink, and enjoy the attractions. Historically a successful boomtown for the mining of lead and zinc, today Joplin Missouri is a vibrant hub for commerce and for the arts, and it is a great place to start if you want to check out the parks, rivers, and trails in southwest Missouri. As the town is a popular tourist destination, Joplin MO hotels are plentiful and well-appointed for a restful stay.
To gain a feel for Joplin's past as a mining town, be sure to visit the Joplin Missouri Museum Complex, a good place to start for understanding the town. The Mineral Museum is a respected institution detailing Joplin's history as a mining town, and displays artifacts, historical tools, and models of the town in its past incarnations. It also has a replica of a mining shaft that you can explore to experience the feeling of being in a real zinc mine—though Joplin is honeycombed with mining shafts, this may be your only chance to visit one in safety. The nearby Historical Museum is the best place to learn about Joplin's history, with exhibits about famous robber couple Bonnie and Clyde's escapades in Joplin, historic Route 66, and other facts about Joplin's past.
For a glimpse of Joplin in action, head to Main Street for shopping and for some of Joplin's most popular restaurants. There are several old brick buildings lining the street that are undergoing renovation in an effort to revitalize Main Street; you can find a farmers market here and some very reasonably priced, but popular restaurants, such as Fred & Red's Chili, Columbia Traders, and Bradbury Bishop Deli. Don't miss Candy House Gourmet Chocolates for hand-dipped chocolates and treats.
Near Main Street, the Murphysburg Historic Residential District is comprised of some gorgeous Victorian homes that have been preserved in their original condition. Although most of these grand old homes are still being used as residences, the Murphysburg Historic District hosts tours of the houses and gardens throughout the year. Don't miss First United Methodist Church, an impressive stone building built in 1905 and founded by Reverend Harris Joplin, from whom Joplin Missouri gets its name.
If you love nature and wildlife, Wildcat Park should be one of the first places you visit. The park houses some of the world's only remaining chert glades, an ecosystem made up of hard chert bedrock and a thin layer of soil and moss. Stay on the trails while walking through Wildcat Park to preserve this fragile ecosystem, and admire the chert cliffs, meadows, and the beauty of Shoals Creek. The creek is a prime bird-watching destination and is home to Grand Falls, which is the largest waterfall in Missouri and a famous attraction for the Ozarks area. The Audubon Conservation Center in Wildcat Park is a good place to learn about wildlife, with its aquarium, terrarium, trails, and wildlife viewing areas.
Joplin MO hotels tend to be of the good mid-range variety. You'll find a wide assortment of international and local chain hotels in the 3-star range, from big names such as Hilton Garden, Residence Inn, La Quinta, and more. If you prefer a little more local flair, a good alternative to Joplin MO hotels are local B&Bs like the quaint Bit of Eden B&B. There are also several campgrounds in the vicinity if you want to stay out in nature before heading off on a day of fun in Wildcat Park.
Image: Missouri Division of Tourism (flickr)