Arriving in the picturesque town of Hannibal is like stepping into one of Mark Twain’s story books.
This isn’t surprising, as this is where the famous author, whose real name was Samuel Clemens, grew up. In England, I was introduced to Mark Twain’s work at an early age, getting lost in "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" and "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn." I could see immediately how Hannibal not only inspired his books, but also that the characters were based on people he knew and the settings on places he explored!
Honoring Hannibal’s Hometown Writer
Naturally, Hannibal is full of Mark Twain-themed attractions, which are great for all ages. I started my tour at the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum, which is full of interactive exhibits providing insights into how he progressed from humble beginnings to becoming one of America’s most beloved authors. Next up, after a coffee at Java Jive, one of the fabulous shops downtown, I took a ride on the Mark Twain Riverboat. With a captain that gives you a running commentary about the area, both humorous and informative, some delicious drinks and spectacular views of the Mississippi, this boat ride is a must do.
I enjoyed lunch at Becky Thatcher 3rd Street Diner, which has some of the best homemade food I’ve had in ages, and then, we were off to the Mark Twain Cave Complex. The tour through the cave was so much fun, and the stories are fascinating. The cave was the setting for much of the Tom Sawyer stories, and some of the rock formations were named by Twain himself. There’s one area that has more than 2,000 graffiti signatures including some supposedly by Jesse James, who was thought to have hidden in the cave after robbing a train! What better way to enjoy the afternoon after the cave trip than ambling over to the Cave Hollow West Winery next door. The owner is super nice, and the choices of wine are delicious, especially the white port!
Charming Downtown Hannibal
I popped back to my hotel for a short break then walked five minutes into the historic downtown area. Downtown Hannibal really has a nice ambiance, and is full of unique shops. I had dinner at The Brick Oven, which offered a lovely selection of Italian dishes, followed by a pint of local brew at Rumor Has It. The locals of Hannibal couldn’t have made us feel more welcome. We were schooled in the game of shuffleboard and taken to a few other local spots where we had a blast!
Hannibal is at the top of my list for places to see in Missouri – for the culture, arts, history, wineries, restaurants and the locals!