Joplin, Missouri: Five Fun Things to Do
If you’ve heard the lyrics to the famous song “Get Your Kicks, On Route 66,” then you know a little bit about the town I call home. The song has had a little bit of a revival since Disney’s Cars came out. After a couple of verses, the lyrics state, “It goes from St. Louis, Joplin, Missouri, Oklahoma City looks oh so pretty.” And the list of places along the highway goes on. Joplin is my little place in the world, and it really is special. Its history and association with Route 66 is just the beginning. You can follow bits of Route 66 through and out of town, but that’s far from the only thing to do while in town. Here is my list of the top five things to do in Joplin.
1. Visit the Grand Falls
Shoal Creek winds around the Joplin area, and many people enjoy fishing or floating through Missouri’s beautiful woods. At one point in the creek, the water descends into the Grand Falls. It isn’t a large waterfall, but it’s pretty. My favorite time of day to visit is at dusk. I love to sit on the edge of the creek and watch the water rush over the boulders. It’s a peaceful spot, and the beauty of nature is stunning.
2. Take a hike on the trails at the Wildcat Glade Audubon Center
These trails are a great way to get close to nature. There are several walking paths, and one follows Shoal Creek to the Redings Mill Bridge. Some of the trails are paved, but for the more rustic among us, the glades offers unpaved trails. The Audubon Center is especially focused on conserving the area habitats for migratory birds and other wildlife, so keep your eyes open along the trail; you never know what animal you may see. It’s also fun to see the rock formations along the trails. In several places, the formations seem to make small caverns. Missouri is known for having many caves.
3. Eat at Del Rio Bordertown Café
This is one of my favorite places to eat. This is actually a chain with two other restaurants. Two are in the immediate area, and one is across the state line in Kansas. Now, this isn’t authentic Mexican food. In fact, it’s probably not even authentic Tex-Mex, but I love it’s cheesy goodness. Not just the decor, but the cheese itself. The queso is a family-favorite, and it makes a perfect topping for my cheese enchilada. You may be detecting a bit of a cheese theme, and you’d be right. If you love cheese, this is your place. I actually only order a cheese enchilada and rice when I come, but they have plenty of familiar favorites, including tacos, fajitas, and chimichangas. I love the flavor of the salsa, too. It’s not spicy, but it has a nice garlic-tomato taste. If you’re looking for good old Missouri-Mexican food, make sure to stop by.
4. See a Double Feature at the 66 Drive-In
Nothing says summer quite like a night at the drive-in. Joplin is lucky to have one of the few remaining drive-in theaters in the country. Technically, the drive-in is right outside of Joplin along old Route 66. At dusk, pull your car into a space in the front row. Or back in your truck or SUV and sit in the back. Many people even bring lawn chairs. There is playground equipment at the front, just like you remember. Tune in the radio, and watch two movies for cheaper than one at the regular theater. Hit up the snack bar between movies, and enjoy your evening under the stars. It doesn’t get much better than this.
5. See the Spooklight
This one seems strange, but I promise it’s a real thing. Just Google the Spooklight of Joplin, and you’ll see what I mean. Sometimes it’s called the Hornet Spooklight because it is near the village of Hornet. The Spooklight is a mysterious light that appears on the crest of a hill on Spooklight Road. At least that’s where I’ve always seen it. Other people claim that the light moves around more, but I have never seen it in another location. In the picture, it’s the white light on the road, not the light on the cell tower. When I was in high school, we used to go to Spooklight Road often. Back then the road was gravel, and the cell tower wasn’t there. Still, the Spooklight phenomenon remains, and no one can explain it. Many have tried, but nothing is conclusive. If you drive towards it, it vanishes. Most people seem to think it’s headlight reflection, but the legend of the Spooklight originates well before there were cars. Some say it’s a Civil War soldier looking for his head, and others say it’s a father with a lantern looking for his runaway daughter. Whatever it is, it’s fun to sit along the road, beginning at dusk, and wait for it to appear. Just be sure to stay on the road and not go onto private property. Be aware of other vehicles as they come down the road. It’s off in the country, so the traffic is not heavy, but you will probably encounter others looking for the Spooklight.
I hope if you ever get your kicks on Route 66 that you will make Joplin part of your journey. Enjoy our history, mystery, beauty, and food. You’ll have a great time!
Read more by Stacey Billingsley at her blog: Love, Laughter, and Luggage