You can find the city of Joplin in the southwest corner of Missouri, just along the outer edge of the Ozark Mountains. It has a population of just over 51,000, bisected by the historic route 66 and oozing with both midwestern and southern charm. While Joplin may be relatively small, it fosters deep community pride. The people who call it home will tell you it’s one of the more charming little cities in the region.
Today Joplin is the largest city in its two counties, Jasper and Newton, and owes much of its growth to both the rise of the mining industry and the development of the railroads back in the 1800s. It’s a place that boomed with the emergence of lead and zinc mining, eventually becoming one of the premier stops on the legendary Route 66 highway through the middle of the United States. Historically, Joplin became famous for its large saloon and, later, as one of the hideout cities of the outlaws Bonnie and Clyde.
Joplin has lots of fun and exciting things to do if you know where to look. The region’s natural splendor, historical stops, monuments, and recreational activities abound here. These are our picks for the 24 most exciting things to do in Joplin, MO.
Table of Contents:
- 1. Exploring Wildcat Park
- 2. Visit Shoal Creek Conservation Education Center
- 3. Swimming in Grand Falls
- 4. Running or Walking in Frisco Greenway
- 5. Cunningham Park
- 6. Ewert Park
- 7. Leonard Park
- 8. Joplin History and Mineral Museum
- 9. Bonnie and Clyde’s Joplin Garage Hideout
- 10. Joplin’s Golf Courses
- 11. Route 66 Mural Park
- 12. Joplin’s Historic Architecture
- 13. Spiva Center for the Arts
- 14. Cars on the Route
- 15. Washington Carver National Monument
- 16. Gryphon Historic Building
- 17. Northpark Mall
- 18. Rangeline Antique Mall
- 19. The Bruncheonette
- 20. Red Onion Cafe
- 21. Big R’s Barbecue
- 22. Wilder’s Steakhouse
- 23. Mythos
- 24. Candy House Gourmet
I. THE NATURAL WORLD OF JOPLIN
1. Exploring Wildcat Park
During the warmer months in Missouri, people need to get out and enjoy some sunshine and the beautiful surrounding natural area. Wildcat Park provides residents with just that. The park has multiple trails and shorter loops ranging from just about a quarter of a mile to just over a full mile long, where nature lovers can check out various parts of Shoal Creek and the surrounding wooded areas full of animals in their natural habitat. Don’t forget the camera!
2. Visit Shoal Creek Conservation Education Center
The education center is sort of a sister activity to Wildcat Park. The facility is where you can go before you hike, to get all kinds of information on the trails, landscape, and any plants or animals you might encounter on your walk around Wildcat. It’s wise to stop in here to get the whole experience.
3. Swimming in Grand Falls
Just a few minutes’ drive downstream from Wildcat Park, you’ll come across the largest continuously flowing waterfall in the state of Missouri. Grand Falls is a 163-foot wide ledge with a 12-foot drop, making for a perfectly picturesque site for a picnic, hike, or just a peaceful sitting. As a bonus, swimming is allowed in the area, so it gets really popular during the summer months.
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4. Running or Walking in Frisco Greenway
Did you know that running or walking in natural areas can boost the immune system more when compared to the same activity in urban areas? The Frisco Greenway provides that natural habitat for outdoor exercise. The 3.5-mile trail on a former railway is maintained by the Joplin Trails Coalition and is open to the public seven days per week. Grab the sneakers and get moving!
II. JOPLIN’S PUBLIC PARKS
5. Cunningham Park
For those who don’t want to take time to travel too far outside of the borders of Joplin, Cunningham Park provides some great outdoor space for families as well as individuals. This facility, maintained by the city, offers two separate playgrounds, a basketball court, an aquatic center, a walking trail, and three different shelters with picnic tables perfect for escaping the oppressive sun or rain.
6. Ewert Park
Ewert is another of Joplin’s city parks and features many similar amenities as Cunningham, including basketball courts and shelters for picnics. What sets Ewert apart is its tennis courts, skate park, and pickleball court. It’s an excellent place for locals to get out and enjoy these sports for a fun and exciting afternoon of competition.
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7. Leonard Park
Rounding out our choices for Joplin city parks is Leonard Park. It’s located directly adjacent to the Range Line Road commercial area, making it perfect for people taking a break from an all-day shopping spree. Barbecue grills are available for public use at Leonard, while the kids can have some fun on the well-built playground.
III. ATTRACTIONS AND ACTIVITIES
8. Joplin History and Mineral Museum
There are two separate wings to this facility, and both explore the rich history of Joplin and its contribution to the tri-state mining district. The Everett J. Ritchie Tri-State Mineral Museum has exhibits focused on the local collections of lead and zinc that helped build up the economy of the area back in the 1800s.
The Dorothea B. Hoover Historical Museum, named for one of Joplin’s most celebrated cultural leaders, focuses on the city’s development and includes artifacts from its most significant periods of growth. Both museums are inexpensive and will illuminate your understanding of Joplin’s proud mining history.
9. Bonnie and Clyde’s Joplin Garage Hideout
Americans far and wide know the story of the infamous crime duo Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. The pair went on a two-year crime spree in the early 1930s, robbing banks, stores, and restaurants across multiple states and leaving multiple victims robbed of their lives. In 1933, the pair spent weeks hiding in a garage in Joplin, where they left numerous personal artifacts upon departure when the police were closing in. This garage is now on the National Register of Historic Places. You can visit it anytime to feel like you’ve been touched by notorious criminals.
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10. Joplin’s Golf Courses
Golfers have plenty of options to hone their craft in Joplin, as there are four golf courses within city limits and many more within a manageable drive. The nicest of these courses is at the Eagle Creek Golf Club, which is private, but the general public can hit the links at places like Schifferdecker and Range Line Golf Courses. It’s just one of many ways to get outside and enjoy the Missouri climate.
11. Route 66 Mural Park
In the mid-20th century, the famed route 66 was the path people took to drive across the central swath of the United States. It sparked much of the economic growth of middle America and is still considered a cultural mainstay of people across the seven states through which it passes.
Joplin’s main street is part of route 66, and the city owes much of its development to the bustling activity of the Route. The Mural Park is in downtown Joplin and includes two gigantic murals, both a tribute to the aesthetic and cultural impact of route 66. They’re essential viewing for anyone passing through town.
12. Joplin’s Historic Architecture
Anyone interested in the local history of places will want to check out the architecture no matter where they are. Joplin sure has a lot of solid structures to look at. A city of Joplin’s size is easy to get around on foot, so taking a nice downtown walk is a great way to experience the past and the present of the local culture.
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13. Spiva Center for the Arts
The Spiva Center’s mission is simple: celebrate the creative experience. The place was opened as the Ozark Arts Guild in 1958 by George Spiva to make the artistic experience accessible to all people. Today the center is ever-changing, featuring a wide array of rotating exhibits that will satisfy all the art lovers in the entire region.
14. Cars on the Route
This attraction is a few miles west of Joplin in Galena, Kansas. Still, it is worth mentioning here because it’s close enough to the city and well worth a stop for anyone with kids. What used to be a quirky gas station is now redone entirely in the style of the film “Cars,” with automobiles dressed up to look like the characters and plenty of “Cars” paraphernalia and decor inside the facility. They also have food service and souvenirs for sale.
15. Washington Carver National Monument
Most people probably know the name George Washington Carver for his contribution to the peanut farming industry and the invention of peanut butter. However, the man contributed so many more things to the world of agriculture, education, and humanitarianism. His monument is located in Diamond, about a 25-minute drive from Joplin. It’s accessible for learning about one of America’s 20th-century heroes.
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16. Gryphon Historic Building
As one of the most historic structures in downtown Joplin, the Gryphon Building, also known as the Bagcraft Building, has been home to multiple businesses over the years and continues to be representative of Joplin’s character and culture. Once the home of the central grocery store and eventually evolving into other shops and businesses, today, the building houses an eatery, and live shows are played alongside the facility each week.
17. Northpark Mall
Northpark is a traditional shopping mall with over 50 businesses. If the people of Joplin need something, it can be found here. The mall houses department stores like TJ Maxx and JC-Penny, as well as plenty of clothing stores, electronics, special interest businesses, and a classic food court for grabbing lunch. Malls may be dying out, but Northpark is still serving the people.
18. Rangeline Antique Mall
Who needs new items when you can find things with far more character at an antique store? So many people are discovering the charm of buying older antiques to furnish their homes, create a new clothing style, or live out the nostalgia of their youth. Rangeline has it all, big and small. From furniture to tools to glassware to unique items, you can dig for treasure at this large store, serving the Joplin community for decades.
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V. DINING OUT
19. The Bruncheonette
Open for breakfast, brunch, lunch, or just a few drinks, the Bruncheonette prides itself on sourcing all of its food from local farmers in the community. You know you’re getting only the freshest ingredients in your meal when you take a trip down here. Better get up early, though, because they’re only open until the early afternoon.
20. Red Onion Cafe
Red Onion Cafe has been open since 1995 and is currently housed in the historic Gryphon Building in downtown Joplin. They’re open for lunch and dinner, serving classics like appetizers, steaks, and pasta while adding a nice local twist to dishes. Come in and try things like the bacon-wrapped shrimp and barbecue chicken.
21. Big R’s Barbecue
It is essential to sample the local barbecue fare whenever you hang out in the south. For Joplin, Big R’s is the place to go. With a vast array of classic meats to choose from, a terrific staff focused on good hospitality, and a warm community presence, Big R’s will have you coming back again and again. Everything is made fresh to order, and their freshly baked rolls are a big hit with patrons.
22. Wilder’s Steakhouse
Sometimes you just need to go out for a classic steak. At Wilder’s, you’ll always get them done to perfection in a classy atmosphere with an inviting bar and dining area. The business has been in operation since 1929 and remains a community favorite to this day. The family-owned establishment strives to bring a classic experience to everyone.
Mythos is a family-owned and operated business that’s been open since 2004. They like to say that you’re a customer the first time you come but part of the family the second time. That’s the philosophy of the family that owns the space and has been cooking up some classic Greek and Mediterranean recipes with a modern twist for the contemporary community.
24. Candy House Gourmet
You didn’t think we’d forget dessert, did you? The Candy House Gourmet opened in an old rock and roll tavern nearly 50 years ago and, since then, has been serving up all kinds of sweet treats to help satisfy Joplin’s sweet tooth. Specializing in hand-dipped chocolates, people come from all the nearby states to experience this decadent delight.
Joplin may not be the biggest city in the Midwest, or the south for that matter, but it has heart. Just walking around this city is a perfect way to reveal its community-oriented roots and the deep culture embedded here since the early days of the zinc and lead mining industries. Public perception is that cities like Joplin rarely have fun and exciting things to do. Still, a closer look will show you: for Missouri hospitality, excitement, and fun, Joplin is right up there with the big players.
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