Lying adjacent to the Mississippi River is Cape Girardeau, a charming city rich in history and natural wonders.
Simply called “Cape” by locals, the town sits on Cape Girardeau County, with some neighborhoods spilling over to Scott County.
As a riverside city, it offers many nature-related attractions and conservation areas where the region’s flora and fauna thrive.
It is also a historic location, with many past conflicts, discoveries, and other significant events leaving their marks in the city.
Simply put, the quaint town is a blend of natural beauty and a storied past, making it an ideal destination for a relaxing trip.
Here are the 15 best things to do in Cape Girardeau, MO:
Interact With Wildlife at Cape Girardeau Conservation Nature Center
Cape Girardeau Conservation Nature Center is a facility that highlights the rich biodiversity of southeastern Missouri.
Located in the North County Park, this 189-acre facility has verdant meadows, rolling hills, nature trails, and scenic ponds.
The natural features serve as a haven for plants, butterflies, hummingbirds, frogs, freshwater turtles, and other species that are native to the region.
Because of how the facility is structured, these animals that usually live in swamps, forests, and big river habitats can coexist in harmony.
You and your kids will have a fun time exploring these places, as there are plenty of opportunities for wildlife viewing and encounters.
There is also a building with interactive exhibits, native artifact collections, and aquariums where you can learn about the area and its wildlife.
Let the Kids Play at Kiwanis Park
One of the most visited parks in Cape Girardeau, Kiwanis Park is a 55-acre outdoor facility with many attractions for the whole family.
You kids will have a thrilling experience at the many play structures dotting the verdant landscape, such as slides, swings, and small tunnels.
There is also a dog park where you and your furry friend can play fetch or run around.
For those who want to try their hand at fishing, the pond in the middle of the park has many freshwater creatures swimming within the depths.
There are also pavilions and picnic tables under shady trees where you can have a nice meal with your family.
Relax and Unwind at Cape Woods Conservation Area
Located near the city center, the Cape Woods Conservation Area is a scenic park with lots of foot traffic.
It is a bottomland forest tract, with various pockets of woodland, winding nature trails, and the Cape La Croix Creek snaking its way through it.
Because of the park’s scenery and peaceful ambiance, many joggers, bikers, and locals visit it frequently for a relaxing time outdoors.
The facility is also well-maintained, with many modern amenities that will make your stay convenient and hassle-free.
If you’re up for some exploration, the hiking trails will bring you to the deeper parts of the forests, where you can spot the local deer population.
You’ll almost forget that the park is sitting in the middle of town!
Have a Fun Family Picnic at Arena Park
Another favorite local destination in Care Girardeau is Arena Park, a 90-acre facility with sprawling grounds and modern amenities.
Since the park has many play structures, such as slides, swing sets, and a real-life steam train on display, it serves as the perfect destination for those who are bringing kids.
There are also several pavilions and grilling spaces where you can hold special events or simply have a sumptuous lunch with your loved ones.
Every year, the SEMO District Fair is held in the park, with carnival rides, games, and delicious food for everyone’s enjoyment.
The park is also home to local softball and baseball leagues, so if you’re a fan of these sports, be sure to come and watch a thrilling match during your visit.
Learn About the City’s Heritage at Crisp Museum
Located within the Southeast Missouri State University's River Campus, Crisp Museum is a fascinating destination containing many significant collections.
The region's rich heritage is showcased in the facility, with many archeological and historical items displayed in the halls.
Most of these are artifacts, including conch shell effigies, stone tools, and vessels, were excavated from effigy mounds of long-gone Paleolithic cultures.
There are also ancient items from Native American cultures, such as blankets and decorative beadwork.
More modern artifacts, such as military weapons, hand tools, and firearms, are also displayed to commemorate the conflicts that happened in the region.
If you want to learn more about their collections, there are educational programs where visitors can try weaving techniques and attend painting sessions.
Play With Friendly Animals at Lazy L Safari Park
Animal lovers will have a thrilling experience at the Lazy L Safari Park.
The walk-thru zoo houses more than 50 species of mammals, reptiles, and birds from various countries.
You’ll have plenty of opportunities to get up close and personal with zebras, fennec foxes, crocodiles, and sloths.
Some of them are eager to eat from visitors' hands, so don’t pass up this opportunity to feed these lovely animals.
If you’re someone who’s into more daring adventures, the zoo offers close encounters with pythons and alligators.
Aside from animals, the zoo also offers a unique gemstone mining experience.
You can purchase a bag of mining rough, head over to the mining sluice, and clean the dirt away until you find gemstones, fossils, and other treasures.
It’s a neat souvenir that will remind you of an amazing experience at Lazy L Safari Park.
Take Scenic Photos at Riverfront Bridge Park
The Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge is a modern architectural marvel that is best viewed from Riverfront Bridge Park.
Sitting beside the Mississippi River, this facility offers panoramic views of Cape Girardeau, the river, and the bridge.
It’s a great place to take stunning landscape photos to share with your friends or on your social media accounts.
You might also see remnants of an old bridge that was destroyed before the modern one was constructed.
Aside from the lookout, the park also has grassy grounds, benches, and beech trees where you can rest and have a small picnic.
It’s a charming stopover if you’re visiting this Cape Girardeau’s downtown.
Cool Down at Cape Splash Family Aquatic Center
For a fun day with plenty of water-related activities, visit Cape Splash Family Aquatic Center.
The water-recreation facility has many slides, pools, artificial rivers, and other attractions that will help you cool down during hot summer days.
Kids will have an amazing time at the splash pads, water playground, and speed slides.
You can also grab a tube and float lazily along the winding river that traverses a large area of the center.
Cape Splash Family Aquatic Center is open the whole summer but is closed when fall starts in September, so make sure your trip fits this schedule if you plan to visit the facility.
Test Your Luck at Century Casino Cape Girardeau
If you like the thrill of gambling, then a stopover at Century Casino Cape Girardeau needs to be part of your itinerary.
This recreational facility has more than 900 slot machines, 19 table games, and 4 live poker tables, so there’s something for every taste and preference.
It’s also spacious, with enough room for more than 500 guests.
If you get hungry in the middle of a game, there are in-house restaurants that serve American staples and other satisfying comfort food.
With the facility’s pleasant atmosphere, friendly and professional staff, and many amenities all around, you’ll have a convenient and memorable experience during your visit.
And who knows?
You might be leaving with more money than when you came in!
See Union Artifacts at Fort D Historic Site
Cape Girardeau was an important site during the Civil War, and there are markers within the city that highlight its role during the conflict.
One of these is the Fort D Historic Site, a once-fortified area sitting beside the Mississippi River.
Unlike the other forts that once stood in the city, Fort D was never involved in a battle, so it’s the best-preserved site.
Today, visitors can simply enter the park and walk the paths that lead to various structures and artifacts dotting the fort.
You’ll see Civil War-era cannons, gunpowder houses, and rifle pits placed strategically on the perimeter of the park.
While reading the informational plaques of these features, you’ll be reminded of the country's tumultuous past and how much it has evolved since then.
Commune With Nature at Cape Rock Park
Cape Rock Park is another scenic riverside destination that also serves as a historical marker.
It is the original site of the first trading post of the town, which was founded by Ensign Girardot, the same person from whom the city is named.
The 21-acre outdoor facility is mostly left undeveloped to help in preserving the site's natural area.
So you can expect peaceful woods, grassy grounds, and few man-made structures.
It’s a sanctuary for those who want quiet away from the bustling city life.
Aside from the standing rock with a plaque about the city’s origins, there is a small but rustic fountain within the park.
These lovely locations make for great photos to share with friends and family.
Play a Few Rounds at Jaycee Municipal Golf Course
The Jaycee Municipal Golf Course is an 18-hole public golf course with lush greenery, well-maintained facilities, and lots of modern amenities.
Both beginners and professionals alike will experience great gameplay amongst the gorgeous scenery and challenging layout of the holes.
There is also a snack bar offering tasty comfort food, as well as a pro shop where you can rent equipment like clubs and balls.
So make Jaycee Municipal Golf Course a part of your trip and reward yourself with a serene gaming experience.
The course is closed if the temperature goes below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, so check the weather first so you won’t arrive there while it’s unopened.
Get to Know the State’s Famous Figures at the Missouri Wall of Fame
If you’re looking for an interesting way to learn the history of Missouri, then a drive-by at the Missouri Wall of Fame is a great way to do it.
This riverside mural, which also serves as a flood wall, is 500 feet long and filled with vibrant paintings of significant and famous personalities from the state.
Here, you’ll find celebrated authors, TV and news personalities, celebrities, singers, artists, athletes, scientists, and military veterans who have all made a significant contribution to Missouri.
The site also offers great views of the Mississippi, so there’s plenty for the eyes to see.
Experience a Thrilling Tour of the Glenn House
Listed under the National Register of Historic Places, the Glenn House is a significant part of Cape Girardeau’s past.
This storied house has a Late Victorian architecture, with structures reflecting housing trends from the 1800s.
To preserve its features, it was restored by the local historical association and has since attracted many tourists who want to learn more about its past.
During the day, you can tour the house and see the interior architecture, antique furnishings, fashion collections, and other artifacts.
But the real adventure starts when the evening settles in.
Dubbed as one of the most haunted homes in the city, the Glenn House is a favorite destination for ghost hunters and those who want a hair-raising experience.
There are after-dark tours available that let you explore the house and try to experience strange phenomena, such as laughing children, mysterious footsteps, and sightings of shadowy figures.
Other Things to Do Nearby
Once you’re done touring Cape Girardeau, there are other significant locations nearby that are worth the visit.
Learn History at Trail of Tears State Park
Trail of Tears State Park is a historic attraction just 15 minutes away from Cape Girardeau’s city center.
During the 1800s, thousands of Cherokee Indians were forced to cross the Mississippi River during winter, which resulted in many deaths.
The state park serves as a memorial of this dark moment in American history, with exhibits about the sad stories of the past.
On a cheerier note, the facility also offers other activities like horseback riding, fishing, and hiking.
Bring your family over and learn about the past while enjoying the scenic views of the park.
Because of the proximity of Cape Girardeau to the Mississippi River, there are many natural attractions as well as historical destinations in store.
Plan your vacation to the charming town by checking out this list for the best places to be.