Hannibal, Missouri, is an old, historic town right on the edge of the Mississippi River. Known for its ties to author Mark Twain, many of the sites in the area are either named after him or the characters from his book. A great walking town, you can easily walk to many of the sites after parking downtown. If you are adventurous enough, you can try hiking up all the way from Main Street up to the Mark Twain Memorial Lighthouse that overlooks the river. Here are 8 great places to go see in Hannibal and one that is outside of town, but still worth a side trip.
I’m not sure if it is due to upgrading to a newer phone, or if Apple’s maps need some updating, but Siri and I almost parted ways a few times. Some of the streets in Hannibal dead-end due to natural elements, re-directed road-signs, or construction. If you have an iPhone, this is a great time to a) download Google Maps or MapQuest; b) use an Atlas, or c) stop at one of the tourist centers and get a map. The town’s not that large so just reading road signs and using common sense also works.
When driving into Hannibal, one of your first quick stops should be Huckleberry Park. The 63-acre park has a pond, walking trails, wooded forest, and plenty of rolling hills that dot the Hannibal landscape. There are also tennis courts, racquetball courts, a softball field, and a golf course.
Tip. When you first turn right into the park on Huckleberry Drive, Siri will argue with you to immediately turn left into the National Guard Military Base that is in front of the park. Ignore it. Just keep going straight, and it will take you directly beside the pond and around into the park. I didn’t try it with Google Maps, so that may have a better sense of direction. It was funny though—nothing like being suddenly faced with large pictures of military men with large guns to realize this wasn’t the park.
1000 Bird St, Hannibal, MO 63401 [See note]
Rockcliffe Mansion is a historic mansion with over 30 rooms built in Hannibal between 1898 and 1900 in the Georgian Revival Style, decorated with a mix of late Victorian and Art Nouveau styles. The original family owned the house until it was turned into a museum, so many of the original antique furnishings and fixtures are on display. The tour is worth the admission fee, as you are taken on all three floors, from the main family rooms to the servant’s quarters.
The outside of the mansion affords you a stunning view, as it is on top of a limestone bluff that overlooks the Mississippi River and the town below. The view is free, but I highly recommend the tour as well, if only to see the turn of the century bathrooms that have more features than our modern ones in some ways. Rockcliffe Mansion is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and it is easy to see why since most of the architectural details are still the same as they were in 1900.
*Note: The Mansion is still undergoing restoration as of July 2018. Siri led me to a part that is currently closed off (the front entrance). My suggestion is to keep going, turn right on Stillwell and go to the end of the road and turn right again on Hill St. Keep going, and you will see the back entrance into the Mansion. This is the also main entrance to the Bed and Breakfast part of the mansion. Go to that section and park. Enjoy the view from the top of the vista overlooking downtown and the Mississippi River, and then walk around to the front of the house and up the stairs for the tour.
Hannibal History Museum | Haunted Hannibal Ghost Tours | Downtown
Want to have some fun and learn some fascinating history about the town? The Haunted Hannibal Ghost Tours offer tours of some of the oldest buildings and areas of town. Also, at this location is the Hannibal History Museum, which explores the history from 1819 through the Gilded Age of the Mississippi River area. Parking and visiting the museum also gives you an opportunity to take a walk downtown, hop on the trolley, and explore many of the historic buildings that line the street. The Hannibal Convention and Visitors Bureau is located nearby at 505 N 3rd St. Pick up free maps, brochures, and information about tours.
Parking downtown isn’t a hassle at all, especially if you know how to parallel park. There are also parking areas where you can park for free. The Hannibal Trolley Company is at 220 N Main St., and offers a Hop-on, hop-off tour.
The Mark Twain Boyhood Home tour starts with the Interpretative Center, which houses exhibits about Mark Twain’s life and the period in which he lived. After the center, you can begin by touring the Mark Twain Boyhood Home or the Huckleberry Finn Historic House. In addition to these two homes, you can view other historical buildings, including the Becky Thatcher House, J.M. Clements Justice of the Peace Office. The Mark Twain house was constructed in the 1840s and has been open to the public since 1912. The Huckleberry Finn House is a reconstructed 1910-era house that was located behind the Mark Twain Boyhood Home; it is reflective of the house that Huck would have lived in. The ticket covers access to all the properties on the lot.
At the end of Main Street, and across the road from the Boyhood museum, is the Tom & Huck Statue and the path up Cardiff Hill to the Mark Twain Memorial Lighthouse. Free parking is available if you follow Rock Street and go up a (steep) road to the top of the hill. The lighthouse is not open to the public but offers a seat with a great view of the Mississippi River. The walking trail from the road to the top of the hill is 244 steps. I have no problem with admitting to driving up the way and then walking from there (probably 100 steps?). After huffing and puffing up the steps, there is a great bench to rest at while you enjoy the view. The steps were actually not too steep; there are just a lot of them. There is a parking lot above the structure that is handicap accessible.
Riverview Park is a historic 465-acre park that offers scenic views of the Mississippi River. This beautiful park offers hiking trails, a playground, restrooms, and a Clemens and Pettibone Memorial. Not too far from the park on I-72 is the Mark Twain Memorial Bridge that crosses over into Illinois.
Follow Center Street down to the river, and you will find Glascock’s Landing, a two-acre park with free parking and a picturesque view of the Mississippi River. At the landing, there is a playground, picnic area, water fountains, and a large gazebo. Another way to get up and close with the Mississippi River is to take a Riverboat tour. One that we saw docked was the Mark Twain Riverboat Tour, which has daily and nighttime tours. The cruises consist of sightseeing, river history, and local legends.
Initially called McDowell’s Cave, the Mark Twain Cave is just outside of town. Tours have been given continuously since 1886, making this tour the oldest show cave in the “Cave State” of Missouri. The guided tour of the Mark Twain Cave is a 60-minute tour, while the Cameron Cave is slightly longer at about one and a half hours. The popularity of the cave tour was due to the popularity of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, in which Mark Twain wrote about the cave. Tours are seasonal, so be sure to check the dates. You can also sluice for gemstones at the Cave Hollow.
Although it is a good 40 miles outside of Hannibal, Mark Twain State Park and Mark Twain Lake area also a must-see in north-central Missouri. The 2,775-acre Mark Twain State Park and its Lake are nestled in the Salt River Hills of Missouri. The rocky bluffs also offer 6-miles of hiking trails. Mark Twain Birthplace historic site is also located within the park. One tip is to park at the historic shrine and then walk down to the picnic area and trails. It is a trek from Hannibal, but the natural beauty is a must-see for nature lovers. Missouri has a great variety of state parks that you can easily get lost in.
You can easily spend a full day weekend in Hannibal if you check out all of the sites and explore the natural beauty of the area.
Where to find it? (Map)