Best Day Trips from St. Louis – Spelunking, Bar B Que and Cuba

Looking for an out-of-the ordinary day trip that combines outdoor activity, good eats and an artistic treat? Onondaga Cave State Park and the small town of Cuba offer that and more. Located just 90 miles southwest of St. Louis, the area is easily accessible from I-44.

Onondaga Cave has a colorful history. Discovered in 1886, original cave owners considered using the cave for mining cave onyx, the flowstone deposits found in limestone caves. What followed were a series of land disputes over property ownership, attempts to open the cave to tourists and even an unsuccessful attempt to build a motel air conditioned with cave air.

Then in 1981, Onondaga Cave and the nearby Cathedral Cave became a state park thanks to assistance from The Nature Conservancy. Volunteers lead tours of Onondaga Cave daily between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The tour wanders through almost a mile of subterranean wonders and takes a little over an hour. Millions of years ago, seismic activity along the Leasburg fault provided the catalyst to form Onondaga Cave. Today, visitors will find an active cave stream and stunning cave formations. Onondaga’s Lily Pad room is especially unique. Calcite crystals formed at the water’s surface to create the beautiful, lily pad formations.

Onondaga Cave is at 7556 Hwy. H, Leasburg, Mo. Take I-44 exit 214 towards Leasburg and then following Hwy H about seven miles to the park. Tours are conducted daily from mid-April through October. Be sure to check the park website before you go as photography and other special tours are occasionally offered. Please note the park and cave are closed November through February.

Once you’ve worked up an appetite spelunking, make your way back to I-44 and travel west to exit 208 for lunch at Missouri Hick Bar B Que (913 E. Washington, Cuba). Hick prides itself on smoking all its meats at least 12 hours over cherry wood. The meats are a treat or try the Hick’s famous Ory Spud. This is not your average baked potato. The dinner plate-sized spud comes fully loaded with baked beans, sauced pork, cheese bacon and chives. And of course, save room for the homemade cobbler.

After lunch, take time to tour Cuba known as Route 66 Mural City. The murals are all part of Viva Cuba, a city beautification organization. Viva Cuba not only commissioned the public artwork but also became the first organization to participate in Missouri’s Adopt-a-Highway program. The first mural was painted in 2001. Since then a total of 12 large murals grace the town, most along historic Route 66. From serious themes like the four Civil War murals to the mundane Apple Picking mural, this outdoor art captures the essence of Cuba’s history. There is a mural of Amelia Earhart who made an emergency landing at Cuba in 1928 and a mural commemorating Harry Truman’s visit to the town during the 1940’s primary. For a real treat, visit Cuba during the third weekend in October for Cuba Fest.

Before heading home, travel another four miles west on Route 66 to Fanning Outpost General Store. There is a mural on the side of the general store, but what will grab your attention is the 42-foot, steel rocking chair out front. The Guinness Book of World Records officially listed the chair in 2009 as the World’s Largest Rocking Chair. You can take your picture in the chair on the first Saturday in August for a nominal fee.

Rejoin I-44 just west of Fanning Outpost General Store for your trip back home to St. Louis.

Onondaga Cave State Park –
Missouri Hick Bar B Que –
Viva Cuba –
Fanning Outpost General Store –

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