Escape the mammoth stadiums and towering skyscrapers of Dallas, Texas, and make your way to Missouri through a rural landscape, pausing occasionally to enjoy a host of small town attractions. You can choose among numerous routes between the two destinations, but the most direct course from Dallas avoids major interstates, and instead involves cutting north through eastern Oklahoma into the southwestern tip of Missouri via a series of mid-size highways. Explore the natural landscapes of the region, from the lush forests of northeast Texas to the vast prairies of Oklahoma, and learn about local history celebrated through area museums.
Heard Natural Science Museum and Wildlife Sanctuary is in McKinney, Texas, 40 minutes north of Dallas. Covering nearly 300 acres, the nature preserve has more than 6.5 miles of trails where you’ll spot hundreds of different amphibians, birds and reptiles. The attached science museum features animatronic dinosaurs, a butterfly house and native Texas snake exhibits. The Sherman Museum is one hour north of Dallas and explores the history and culture of the surrounding Red River region. The Sherman-based institution is home to more than 50,000 objects, including exhibits on farm living, historic courthouses and fossils found in the area.
Tucked away in the small southern Oklahoma town of McAlester, Choctaw Casino includes gaming tables and everything from high-stakes to penny slot machines. The casino’s bar and grill hosts live musical acts, karaoke competitions and televised sports. Sign up for Choctaw Rewards Players Club and you’ll receive discounted rates at select nearby hotels. Soak up fresh air at Honor Heights Park in the northeastern Oklahoma town of Muskogee. The 132-acre park includes picnic shelters, sand volleyball courts, hiking trails, three tennis courts and five lakes and ponds for fishing. A splash pad for kids is open from May through September.
Take a detour to Tulsa and make a stop at Philbrook Museum of Art. The 72-room mansion is filled with an array of artwork from around the globe, including African masks, 14th-century Italian paintings and Native American pottery. Stroll through the 23 acres of lush gardens dotted with bridges, trickling creeks and sculptures. Get in touch with nature at the Tulsa Zoo, an 84-acre complex with 2,500 animals. Watch grizzly bears play in a two-story waterfall, tropical birds fly through a recreated rainforest in a building with 50-foot ceilings and kids interact with farm animals at the petting zoo. The zoo also has a carousel, safari train and camel rides.
Set in southwestern Missouri, the town of Joplin is home to the Wildcat Glades Conservation and Audubon Center. Enjoy a walk through the 27 acres of chert glades filled with wildflowers, succulent plants and such critters as snakes, scorpions and bobcats. The on-site indoor center has interactive science and nature exhibits, a 1,300-gallon aquarium and wildlife viewing areas. Make the 15-minute drive south of Joplin to see Grand Falls, Missouri’s largest continuously flowing waterfall. Spanning 163 feet and measuring 25 feet high, the falls crash down onto jagged rock formations below. Set amid Shoal Creek, the waters are open to the public for fishing and swimming.