Fun and Unique Things to Do in Hannibal, Missouri

Hannibal 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. Let’s talk about all the fun and unique things to do in Hannibal Missouri that make this place so special.

Downtown Hannibal "Welcome to Historic Hannibal" sign.
You can find this Instagram-worthy photo opp downtown Hannibal by the Visitors Bureau Center.

We spent some time exploring the area with my family – brother, sister-in-law, and two nephews – and loved every minute of it!

What is Hannibal MO known for? 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.

The best Hannibal Missouri Attractions include the Mark Twain Cave, discovered in 1819.
One of the best things to do in Hannibal is the Mark Twain Cave, discovered in 1819.
Hannibal Missouri Attractions
The Mississippi River in Hannibal, Missouri.
Hannibal Missouri Attractions
Mark Twain Brewing Company has fantastic beer and food! It should be on the top of your list of things to do in Hannibal MO.
The Mark Twain Riverboat Entrance. Fun things to do in Hannibal Missouri include a ride on the Mark Twain Riverboat.
One of the fun things to do in Hannibal MO is to get out on the Mark Twain Riverboat. 

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 made my list of Fun Spring Break Destinations in the Midwest, click here to read what other places did too!

Hannibal, Missouri: Where you can meet Mark Twain himself!
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.

Where is Hannibal, Missouri?

Location of Hannibal, Missouri on a map.

Hannibal sits on the Great River Road along the Mississippi River roughly 115 miles northwest of St. Louis, Missouri. With Lambert International Airport being the closest commercial airport to the city and no train service, driving is your best option for your visit. 

It is a short driving distance from a few major Midwest cities: 

    • 3 hours & 20 minutes from Kansas City, Missouri.
    • 3 hours & 30 minutes from Davenport, Iowa.
    • 4 hours & 30 minutes from Chicago, Illinois
    • 4 hours & 30 minutes from Indianapolis, Indiana.

Top Things to do in Hannibal Missouri

The Adventures of Dang Travelers

Hannibal Missouri Attractions
The Mark Twain Riverboat runs seasonally so make sure to check below for dates.

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.

Tom Sawyer's Fence and House, one of the top things to do in Hannibal Missouri.
One of the top things to do in Hannibal Missouri is to explore The Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum.
The front of Becky Thatcher's House in Hannibal Missouri.
Did you know Becky Thatcher was based on a real person? Her name was Laura Hawkins and she lived most of her life in or near Hannibal MO.

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.

Hannibal Missouri Attractions

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
Oooh the 1890 entrance to the Mark Twain Cave…

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 being left alone in such a blackout for days could blind you.

Hannibal Missouri Attractions
She is going to turn off her flashlight?? Inside the Mark Twain 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 in the Mark Twain Cave

Mark Twain Quote about Cave Exploring: 

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 MO Caves: Mark Twain Cave
Climbing in the cave

Tips for visiting the Hannibal MO Caves: 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).

Special Note: The Hannibal Trolley runs from April 15th – October; and in November by appointment only. 

A map of the Mark Twain Cave System, one of Hannibal Missouri attractions.
The Mark Twain Cave System, a Registered National Landmark.

The Legend of Lovers Leap

On the way to or from the cave, stop at Lovers Leap, one of the free things to do in Hannibal, MO. 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 River.

Hannibal Missouri Attractions
The view from Lovers Leap in Hannibal, MO.
Hannibal Missouri Attractions
Very interested in the story
Hannibal Missouri Attractions
Monument of The Legend of Lovers Leap.

Hannibal MO 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.

If you like visiting quaint river towns, read Top Things to do in Cape Girardeau next. 

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 a ride on the Mark Twain Riverboat.

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? ~on the Mark Twain Riverboat.

Details: The Mark Twain Riverboat runs from April 1st through November 6th. 

Mark Twain Brewing Company: Lunch and Local Beer

One of our favorite restaurants in Hannibal, Missouri is 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 is 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 Brewery is one of the best restaurants in Hannibal. 

Mark Twain Memorial Lighthouse: Working off our Lunch

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

Hannibal Missouri Attractions
Halfway up to the Mark Twain Memorial Lighthouse.

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!

Update: Unfortunately, Big River Train Town is permanently closed. 

Another one of the fun things to do in Hannibal is to 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 at the Big River Train Town and Museum. 

Hannibal Missouri Attractions
Excuse me, can you tell me where the trains are?

Twain on Main Festival: Twain-a-Mania

Hannibal Missouri Attractions
Twain on Main Festival in Hannibal, MO
Hannibal Missouri Attractions
Is that Becky?

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?
Twain on Main Festival in Hannibal MO
Playing games at the Twain on Main Festival.

Riverview Park

And last but not least, head over to Riverview Park for scenic views of the Mississippi River. With no admission required, it’s another one of the free things to do in Hannibal, MO. 

The scenic overlook at Riverview Park in Hannibal Missouri above the Mississippi River.
One of the scenic overlooks at Riverview Park.

Take the Riverview Trail to the overlooks and the large Mark Twain memorial erected by the State of Missouri in 1913 just three years after he passed away.

The plaque states, “His religion was humanity and a whole world mourned for him when he died. The whole loop is an easy 3 flat miles if you include the section near the playground or you can head straight to the lookouts and come right back to shorten the distance. 

The park was officially listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2005 and also has a shelter, picnic tables, walking trails, a playground, and restrooms. 

The Clemens Memorial at the Riverview Park, another one of the free things to do in Hannibal Missouri.
The Clemens Memorial was erected by the State of Missouri in 1913, three years after Mark Twain died.
One of the scenic overlooks above the Mississippi River at Riverview Park in Hannibal, Missouri.
The Wabash Bridge connects Hannibal, Missouri to Pike County, Illinois by one railroad track over the Mississippi River.

Other Things to Do in Hannibal Missouri 

There’s never enough time to do everything so we definitely want to get back to explore more. Here are a few places on our list for the next visit that might interest you.

  • The “Unsinkable” Molly Brown’s House & Museum: Ever since we toured the Titanic Museum in Branson followed by a viewing of the movie with our nephews, I’ve been dying to take them back to Hannibal to see the Molly Brown birthplace. One of their favorite passengers – and mine too – was Molly Brown and would you believe she was born in Hannibal? The museum lays out her entire rags-to-riches story.
  • Haunted Hannibal Ghost Tours: Departing from the Hannibal History Museum, the nightly tours will introduce you to the spooky side of town. 
  • Sawyer’s Creek Family Fun Park: With bumper boats, mini-golf, train rides, arcades, and a shooting gallery, it’s a place where the whole family will be entertained.
  • Rockcliffe Mansion: Built between 1898 and 1900, the historic mansion is a grand sight to see. Guided tours are available April 15th – November 15th. 
  • Cave Hollow West Winery: Located right next to the Mark Twain Cave serving up Missouri-made wines, the Cave Hollow Winery is a fantastic way to cap off the day. 

Is Hannibal Missouri Worth Visiting? Final Thoughts 

Is Hannibal MO worth visiting? Absolutely! 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.

If you are interested in the man himself, you can also read about our cool experience visiting the Mark Twain home in Hartford, Connecticut, and his study and burial site in New York.

Places to Stay in Hannibal MO

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Hannibal Missouri makes for an interesting road trip stop. The small river town was once home to Samuel Clemens (*Mark Twain). See where his inspiration came from!

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!

Follow Angela:

Angela E. is a travel writer from the Chicagoland area who has visited all 50 states in the US and has traveled extensively around the world. She is passionate about exploring the great outdoors and hiking in particular. Her love for nature has taken her to some of the most beautiful locations on the planet. She has written extensively about her travels on her own website, Dang Travelers, and has been published in collaboration with other travel websites and multiple visitor bureaus around the country.

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.

    • Dang Travelers

      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. Megan Bannister

    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.

    • Dang Travelers

      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. Lauren Craving Sunshine

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

  4. Paul

    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!

  5. Nancy Pitman

    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!

  6. Aisha

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

    • Dang Travelers

      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.

  7. Brianna

    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!

  8. Jessica

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

  9. Kerri

    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.

  10. Lara Dunning

    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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