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Joplin Family Vacation Ideas with Fishing, Bison, and a Pet Dragon.Joplin Missouri Kids and Rocks Pure Family FunJoplin sits snugly on the western edge of the Ozark Plateau and makes an excellent secret family vacation spot complete with fishing holes, bison herds, and rocks to be discovered.

Here's the scoop.
 American prairie and Ozark hospitality meet in Joplin located on the western edge of the Ozark Plateau. Safe, easy-paced and family-friendly, the city offers visitors of all ages a chance to chill out and simply have fun. I have assembled a list of the good stuff to make a family vacation rich with memories. 

Make one stop for five museums. To get a sense of place the best stop is the Joplin Museum Complex offering more than one unique perspectives of the area. The Dorothea B. Hoover Historical Museum showcases Victorian Era Joplin displaying the town’s vital connection with Tri-State Mining District. Artifacts on display include dolls of the time, a child’s play house, a 1927 American LeFrance fire engine, and the intriguing Merle Evans miniature “Circus Room.”  The Everett J. Ritchie Tri-State Mineral Museum showcases, in cave-like drama, one of the world’s best collections of lead and zinc ore dating from the area’s earliest mining projects. Bonus Points: This is also the location of the National Historical Cookie Cutter Museum, The Empire District Electric Company Museum, and The Joplin Sports Hall Of Fame. Discovery: Free admission on Tuesdays. (4th & Schifferdecker, Joplin, MO 64801. (417) 623-1180, 623-1180 or

Hug a python, pet a dragon. On the east side of town an unlikely community of reptiles has found a home at Reptile World Zoo. Not a zoo in the expansive sense, the facility offers close encounters with a variety of interesting reptiles, including “Snappy” an American alligator and “Pops” a regal looking iguana. Tours take between 45 minutes and two hours, depending of the level of interest within the group. Bonus Points: Willing participants may get the chance to hold a sand snake, pet a bearded dragon or hug Burt, a magnificent albino python. (1733 Kodiak Road,  Joplin, MO,  64804. (417) 206-4443 or

Taste a Missouri Walking Stick. Joplin has a chocolate factory right downtown. Visitors can watch chocolate dipping, through glass walls and enjoy samples of the famous Richardson’s chocolates. Richardson's Chocolate Factory is an expansion of Richardson's Candy House. The smaller original location is still open. Bonus Points: A visit would not be complete without sampling a scrumptious pretzel rod-dipped in caramel, rolled in pecans, and drizzled with milk, dark, and white chocolate. They are known the world over for their luscious English-style caramel taffy. (Richardson’s Candy Factory. (new downtown location) 510 South Kentucky Avenue, Joplin, MO 64801. 1(417) 623-7171. and Richardson's Candy House454 Redings Mill Road, Joplin, MO 64804-8921. 1-800-624-1615(417) 624-1515 or

Count one fish, two fish. Explore the oldest operating federal fish hatchery (established in 1888) in the United States and count the fish. While some official tours are conducted at Neosho National Fish Hatchery, generally the staff is available to answer questions from visitors even when a tour is not being conducted. Onsite is a .3-mile paved walking trail which meanders through grounds, winding between ponds and trees. Neosho is about 15 minutes drive from Joplin.  Bonus Points: There is a picnic area for public use and the grounds are open from dawn ‘til dusk. (520 E. Park Street, Neosho, MO 64850. (417) 451-0554 or  
Joplin Family Fishing Experience

Hear the Roaring River. From March 1st–October 31st it’s all about trout fishing at Roaring River State Park where the river is stocked daily. Not in to fishing, then consider swimming, hiking, biking and camping within the narrow valley surrounded by wooded mountain-like terrain. Bonus Points: The Ozark Chinquapin Nature Center has interpretive displays that showcase the park’s unique natural history. Park naturalists conduct nature programs everyday during the summer months. Bonus Points: Ideal for a family getaway, the park maintains 26 rustic cabins with kitchens. (Route 4, Box 4100, Cassville, MO 65625. 417) 847-3742, 847-2539

Name the 33rd President of the United States. Often the answer needed for a car trivia game, any 12-year-old will know -- Harry S Truman, of course, born in Missouri in 1884. Not far from Joplin, his birthplace is on the map as a state historic site. Harry S Truman Birthplace State Historic Site, a modest complex in Lamar, conveys the humble beginnings and symbolizes the possibilities that freedom and hard work provide to all Americans. Bonus Points: Families are welcome to tour the house and grounds using activity books created by the staff to supplement the experience. (1009 Truman, Lamar, MO 64759. 1(417) 682-2279

Not just peanut butter and jelly. Ask any 10-year-old who invented peanut butter the reply will be instant – George Washington Carver, son of slaves and an amazing agricultural scientist. At the George Washington Carver National Monument, his birthplace site, the whole story is told not and it’s just about peanuts. The site includes a museum, Discovery Lab, and self-guided nature trail and picnic facilities. Bonus points: Throughout the year rangers conduct interpretive programs featuring activities and customs typical of daily life in the late 1800s. (free admission) (West 2 miles on Hwy. V, then south about 1 mile on Carver Road, Diamond, MO . 1(417) 325-4151 or

Hike the prairie. Joplin Missouri Bison on the PraireIn the earliest days on the frontier bison and elk roamed free amid seas of prairie grass highlighted with blankets of wild flowers, hawks circled above and coyotes serenaded at dawn. Then as now the prairie grasses often reached more than eight feet, concealing at least from a distance, much of the daily activity. Today visitors to the 3700-acre Prairie State Park may hike along four marked trails stretching more than 11 miles. Within the park boundaries herds of elk and bison graze. The park is in Liberal about 30 minutes from Joplin. Bonus Points: The park office monitors their location and shares the information with hikers wishing to get a glimpse of the herds. (128 NW 150th Lane, Liberal, MO 64762. (417)

Remember Precious Moments?  Not far from Joplin is the home base for Sam Butler the artist known for his wide-eyed doll /images/ezine. From paintings and cards to bisque figurines and cathedral murals his vision of peace and tranquility is displayed. Precious Moments Park in Carthage contains acres of nearly perfect lawns and gardens surrounding a chapel. Designed to provide a place for quiet reflection or moments of togetherness the Avenue of Angels symbolizes life in balance. Discovery: Within a 10-story theater, the water fountain performances combine inspirational music, dramatic lighting and special effects to provide visitors with a memorable time. (Carthage, MO 64836. 1-800-543-7975 or

Make it happen. Toll-free 1-800-657-2534, (417) 625-4789 or  
Text researched and posted by Nancy Nelson-Duac, Curator of the Good Stuff for the Family Travel Files. Images provided by Joplin CVB and Family Travel Files staff. Copyright updated 2015.
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