Mark Twain Mania in Hannibal, Missouri

Hannibal, Missouri would probably be a sleepy town in northeastern Missouri if not for Mark Twain. Instead, he catapulted it on the American map by immortalizing the city and its residents as the fictitious town and people of St. Petersburg in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

Hannibal Missouri Attractions

We spent some time exploring the area with my family – brother, sister-in-law and two nephews – and loved every minute of it! There is no doubt that Hannibal’s claim to fame is Mark Twain as you’ll see his name and the names of his characters EVERWHERE throughout the city.

Mark Twain – The Voice of Quintessential America

Samuel Longhorne Clemens, a.k.a. Mark Twain, lived in Hannibal from the ages of 4 to 17. He drew most of his inspiration for his writing from his personal experiences and adventures as a young boy in and around Hannibal.

Hannibal Missouri Attractions
What do you mean Mark Twain is dead… we met him

Mark Twain not only brought the town of Hannibal alive in his stories, but touched on the most significant struggles in American history. On the surface, his two most famous books are coming-of-age stories about innocence, exploration and untamed imagination, but at the core they are about the common folk, identity, prejudice and progress.

America is a vast land of diversity and change so it is hard to pinpoint just one thing that would be considered quintessential America, but Mark Twain’s books are widely accepted as American classics.

Hannibal Missouri Attractions
Tom & Huck Statue: the first US statue erected to honor fictional characters

Hannibal, Missouri Attractions: The Adventures of Dang Travelers

Hannibal Missouri Attractions
Great day for a riverboat ride

Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum: History Comes Alive

The Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum is a collection of five historic buildings, two museums and three museum shops. Wandering on your own through the five buildings -Mark Twain Boyhood Home, Becky Thatcher House, John M. Clemens Justice of the Peace Office, Grant’s Drug Store and Huckleberry Finn House- you’ll encounter photographs of Mark Twain, his family, friends and memorials dedicated to him around the world.

Hannibal Missouri Attractions

The historical site houses a comprehensive collection of printed material including books on Mark Twain, advertising pieces for his writing, original letters written by Mark Twain and first editions of all Mark Twain’s major works.

Mark Twain Cave: The Kids’ Favorite Attraction

The Mark Twain Cave is a short drive or trolley ride outside of downtown Hannibal. Opening in 1886, it is the oldest operating show cave in Missouri and is a National Natural Landmark. Mark Twain referenced the cave in five of his books which brought it instant fame.

Hannibal Missouri Attractions
We are heading in…

The tour guide turns off the flashlight and suddenly the cold, damp room is completely dark. Faint sounds of water are in the background along with my accelerated heartbeat because even though I am an adult, it is unsettling not to be able to see your hand an inch away from your face in an unfamiliar area. She continues to explain the theories of darkness and the premise that left alone in such a blackout for days could blind you.

Hannibal Missouri Attractions
She is going to turn off her flashlight??
Hannibal Missouri Attractions
Funny faces in the cave

The tour is 5/8 of a mile, flat and takes about an hour. The narrow paths are exciting to walk through as the tour guide recalls the adventures of Mark Twain’s characters and of his actual experiences as a boy.

Hannibal Missouri Attractions
Narrow paths

It was miles in extent and was a tangled wilderness of narrow and lofty clefts and passages. It was an easy place to get lost in; anybody could do it–including the bats. I got lost in it myself, along with a lady, and our last candle burned down to almost nothing before we glimpsed the search party’s lights winding about in the distance. – Mark Twain

Hannibal Missouri Attractions
Climbing in the cave
Hannibal Missouri Attractions
Inside the Mark Twain Cave

Tips for visiting the Mark Twain Cave: Wear walking shoes (it gets slippery in spots), bring a sweatshirt as the cave stays around 52 degrees year round, plan your visit if/when it rains (we had a few hours of expected rain so it worked out perfectly) and combine the tour with a trolley ride (the Hannibal Trolley Company provides a 14-mile sightseeing tour in and around Hannibal’s top attractions with one stop being the cave).

Hannibal Missouri Attractions

The Legend of Lovers Leap

On the way to or from the cave, stop at Lovers Leap. It is said to be the spot where long ago, two Indians jumped to their death together to avoid being torn apart. As you can see below, it’s another great location for a panoramic view of the mighty Mississippi.

Hannibal Missouri Attractions
View from Lovers Leap
Hannibal Missouri Attractions
Very interested in the story
Hannibal Missouri Attractions
The Legend of Lovers Leap

Mark Twain Riverboat: Learning about Life on the Mississippi

We hopped on the 11 a.m. sightseeing cruise and our nephews couldn’t hide their excitement if they tried.

Hannibal Missouri Attractions
We’re on a boat, y’all

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime. – Mark Twain

Hannibal Missouri Attractions
The whole fam is ready for the boat ride

We slowly made our way up then down the river while listening to the Captain tell stories and point out significant spots like Lover’s Leap, the cave and the island Tom & Huck ran off to.

Hannibal Missouri Attractions
The bridge that crosses from Illinois to Missouri
Hannibal Missouri Attractions
Traveling Twain joined us on the riverboat

The Mark Twain Riverboat offers a sightseeing cruise which is an hour long and a dinner cruise which is two hours long and includes food, music and cash bar.

Hannibal Missouri Attractions
Who wants to go for a ride?

Mark Twain Brewing Company: Lunch and Local Beer

We ate lunch and sampled local beer at Mark Twain Brewing Co. The food menu is large with everything from soups and salads to barbecue, sandwiches, burgers and more. We sampled a few beers from the numerous beers on tap. The favorites included King Arthur’s Court Imperial IPA, Jumping Frog IPA, Halley’s Blueberry Saison and Huck’s Habanero Apricot Wheat. The most unique being the habanero apricot wheat with a smooth beginning and a bite at the end. Never had anything like it!

Hannibal Missouri Attractions
Creating Hoppy Memories. It’s the Yeast We Can Do.

Mark Twain Memorial Lighthouse: Working off our Lunch

The Mark Twain Memorial Lighthouse was built atop Cardiff Hill in 1935 as a memorial to the man himself for his 100th birthday.

Hannibal Missouri Attractions
Halfway there

You can walk up the 244 stairs leading to the lighthouse from downtown at Main and North Street or park near the top. Unfortunately, the inside is not open, but the panoramic views of Hannibal and the Mississippi River are worth the visit.

Hannibal Missouri Attractions
Lighthouse from the river

Big River Train Town and Museum: All Aboard!

Be transported through time at Big River Train Town & Museum. Its intricate town has kids and adults alike playing conductor. Model trains, vintage cars and memorabilia line the walls with the train town display in the middle. The kids were handed a whistle and let loose to push buttons, maneuver the switchboard and let their imaginations run wild.

Hannibal Missouri Attractions
Bustling life in train town
Hannibal Missouri Attractions
Excuse me, can you tell me where the trains are?


Twain on Main Festival: Twain-a-Mania

Hannibal Missouri Attractions

Every year, Hannibal celebrates Mark Twain by throwing a big street festival called Twain on Main. It’s a family affair with arts, crafts, reenactments, music, games, food and drinks all in the name of Twain!

Hannibal Missouri Attractions
Who wants to play a game with Tom?

Thoughts on our Trip to Hannibal

It was a pleasure walking in the footsteps of America’s literary icon, Mark Twain. Our admiration thickened as we learned more about the world traveler, humorist, steamboat pilot, author and speaker. The state of Missouri continues to impress us with interesting historical sites, mysterious caves, and charming river communities like Hannibal.

Looking for other Midwest travel destinations?

Thank you Hannibal CVB and its associates for hosting us in the city. All words and opinions, however, are my own.

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Hannibal Missouri Attractions

Have you ever been to Hannibal, Missouri? If not, would you like to? What Hannibal attraction would you like to do? Tell us in the comments below!

17 Responses

  1. Chris Travels

    I have been to Hannibal, Missouri…once…years ago. I barely remember much about it at all except that it was a quaint river town with Mark Twain as front runner. Your holiday weekend seems to have uncovered absolutely everything it has to offer. I sure “missed the boat” when I was there (literally and figuratively)! I definately need to go back. Thanks for all the tips and pictures on what to see and do.

    • You’re welcome! Hahaha “missed the boat.” We did have a full weekend, but believe it or not there are a few other things the town has to offer. Rockcliffe Mansion, haunted tours, Molly Brown Birthplace and a few other places for kids (to name a few). We saw all that we could in the short amount of time we had there.

  2. Wonderful post about Hannibal! We passed through earlier this year on our way to New Orleans and weren’t able to enjoy as many of the wonderful attractions since we were there after hours. Your adventure makes me even more sure that we need to return soon!

    If you visit again, be sure to check out LaBinnah Bistro! The food was incredible and the history of Hannnibal’s Labinnah Social Club is really fascinating.

    • I heard great things about LaBinnah (love the name by the way…Hanibbal spelled backwards😊 ) . Hopefully next time we will have a chance to eat there. Thanks!

  3. I had no idea about this place! I only thought Disney had stuff about Mark Twain! (shows how much i know!) great post!

  4. This looks like fun! That impersonator looks great haha. Thanks for sharing and happy travels 🙂

  5. I’ve never heard of this place before, but it certainly does look cool. We need to visit much more of the US to find these hidden gems!

  6. I never realized how much fun is to be had in Missouri. We never have had the chance to visit anywhere in the midwest. The festival looks like so much fun and Mark Twains cave I can see would be on any kid’s wishlist!

  7. I would definitely take my kids here! Looks like a fun day.

  8. I never would have considered visiting Missouri. This looks like an amazing trip for kids. What fun!

    • Missouri often gets overlooked, but we have spent a lot of time there the past few years and have found many hidden gems in the state.

  9. I think I would be Twain-ed out by the end of my visit! But it’s still really neat to see some of the places from his stories come to life. I remember readign about Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer in elementary school!

  10. Great adventure for the family. Good for kids to learn ‘history’ while doing some leisure.

  11. Looks like a fascinating trip all round. Would love the caves and the boat on the M. River. I’ve been to New Orleans before but never had the chance to go on a paddle steamer. Interesting to learn about Mr Twain’s early years and the cool name of the town of Hannibal.

  12. This is a small town I need to put on my list. I haven’t been to MO in a long time. Sounds like it’s time to go back.

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