Blake Walsh

15 Best Things to Do in Carthage, MO

  • Published 2022/07/24

According to the Carthage Chamber of Commerce, Carthage is “America’s Maple Leaf City” because of its stunning fall foliage.

However, Carthage, Missouri, is more than just a beautiful place to photograph in the fall.

It also offers a fascinating mix of architecture, history, art, and inspiration.

In 1865, a fire destroyed the city founded in 1842.

During the Victorian period, the people rebuilt the city.

The American Civil War also began in this city, with the Battle of Carthage.

Carthage’s top attractions prominently feature this battle.

You don’t have to be a history buff to appreciate the many fascinating sights you’ll find in this city in Jasper County, Missouri.

Check out monuments that pay homage to its storied past to a unique park that combines art and nostalgia.

Are you heading this way soon?

Here are the best things to do in Carthage, MO.

Visit Red Oak II

Restored vintage Phillips 66 Gas Station at Red Oak II

Nick Fox /

The artist Lowell Davis created Red Oak II, a hybrid of a living museum and an art display.

This building pays tribute to past Missouri, specifically the first city of Red Oak, which the artist conjured from his childhood.

Today, you can find Red Oak II in a peaceful field in Carthage.

However, only a few signs on the highway indicate its location.

The office of Marshal Ralph Hooker at Red Oak II

BD Images /

As a result, it is one of the most authentic and one-of-a-kind gems along Route 66.

This tiny village has a variety of art installations and reconstructed historical buildings.

They show a wry sense of humor and the allure of traditional rural life in the United States.

Red Oak II was one man’s vision to create an art project that was indeed one of a kind.

Lowell Davis never intended his creation to become a tourist attraction.

Although he has passed away, his legacy lives on.

It’s well worth your time to take a detour from the interstate to discover it.

View of Red Oak II buildings across a pond

BD Images /

Explore the Battle of Carthage Civil War Museum

This Civil War Museum is easily one of the places anyone must visit in Carthage.

It presents the role that Carthage played during the Civil War.

Paintings and artifacts related to the Civil War Battle of Carthage and the Civil War dominate the museum’s exhibitions and exhibits.

In addition, the museum features a display about the notorious outlaw Belle Starr, who grew up in Carthage during the American Civil War.

Local artist Andy Thomas also painted a mural measuring seven feet tall and 15 feet long.

Likewise, check out the diorama of the Battle of Carthage.

The Battle of Carthage Civil War Museum does not charge admission and has an enthusiastic and welcoming staff.

Explore the Battle of Carthage State Historic Site

Another must-visit historical location in Carthage is the Battle of Carthage State Historic Site.

This 7.4-acre site preserves one of the several Civil War battlefields.

The Battle of Carthage was one of the first battles of the American Civil War, which started in 1861.

The Battle of Carthage happened 11 days before the Battle of Bull Run; it was the first significant engagement of the American Civil War.

Today, you can find a peaceful meadow and a spring within the Battle of Carthage State Historic Site.

Union and Confederate troops used this area as an encampment during the battle.

Since the battle that took place on July 5, 1861, the location has changed very little, which is one of the most remarkable things about the site.

Stop by the museum first, then explore the battlefield to better understand the battle and the Civil War.

The site interprets the battle that took place just a few minutes off of Interstate 44.

The battle was also a stepping stone for the decisive showdown a month later at Wilson’s Creek.

Relax in the Precious Moments Park & Chapel

The Precious Moments Park & Chapel opened in 1989.

It’s a solely dedicated Precious Moments location.

The statues, the gift shop, and the chapel are popular attractions.

An artist named Samuel J. Butcher created the Precious Moments Chapel in Carthage, to thank God for the many blessings he has received.

Located within the park is the Precious Moments Chapel, which people have called “America’s version of the Vatican.”

Visitors to the Precious Moments Park & Chapel will leave feeling uplifted and at peace, thanks to the vision of the chapel’s architect and artist.

Take advantage of daily free chapel tours, which attract thousands of people each year.

Along with a welcoming visitor center and gift shop, you can find the Royal Delights Cafe on the grounds surrounding the chapel.

Enter the Jasper County Courthouse

Exterior of Jasper County Courthouse

Photos BrianScantlebury /

The Jasper County Courthouse opened in 1894.

In 1973, the National Register of Historic Places added the building to its record.

The Jasper County Courthouse looks more like a castle, whose construction used locally quarried marble.

This Richardsonian Romanesque structure is one of the most frequently photographed buildings in the state of Missouri.

The architect Max A. Orlopp Jr. designed the 106-foot-tall building, intending the structure to resemble a medieval castle.

The clock tower of Jasper County Courthouse

BD Images /

To complete the medieval look, it features turrets, towers, and arches, among other castle-like elements.

Inside, you will find a wrought-iron cage elevator that still works.

You can also find a display that represents the history of Route 66.

The courthouse also has an assortment of military artifacts, mining specimens, and mining equipment.

In addition, don’t miss the breathtaking “Forged in Fire” mural.

Lowell Davis painted the mural that depicts the history of Jasper County.

Spend a Few Hours in Historic Phelps House

An affluent family in Carthage built the Historic Phelps House in 1868.

At the turn of the 20th century, this four-story mansion typified the aesthetic standard of grand residential architecture.

The beautiful Victorian-era mansion followed the classical revival style.

Carthage Historic Preservation has brought the Phelps house back to its former glory.

It is now open for tours to the general public.

Visitors are welcome to tour the antique mansion, outfitted with Victorian furniture and interiors.

It features incredible stone masonry and architecture, stunning woodwork, ten original fireplaces, light fixtures, and wall treatments.

The magnificent Phelps House can also host private events like weddings and other celebrations.

Stroll Carthage Municipal Park

Relax between visiting historical sites by heading to Carthage Municipal Park, one of the city’s many exciting attractions.

You can find a public pool, rental pavilions, a great kids’ playground, a beautiful golf course, and more.

The Carthage Municipal Park also a great option if you’re on a tight budget and looking for cheap things to do in Carthage.

You can have a picnic in the park’s beautiful landscape, play a round of golf, or cool off in the pool.

Likewise, you can find Kiddieland, a wonderful playground for younger children with miniature trains and other amusements, at the park.

Visit the Marlin Perkins Statue

The Marlon Perkins Statue in Carthage is a larger-than-life bronze sculpture unveiled in 1988.

It honors the life of the well-known wildlife documentarian and television personality.

During your time in Carthage, don’t forget to stop by this monument, which you can find in the town park.

It sits amid a picture-perfect landscape that transforms every season, complete with towering trees, nearby picnic areas, and other similar features.

Since it’s in the central business district, it is also close to restaurants, shops, and other points of interest.

Snap a few pictures with the Marlin Perkins Statue as the backdrop.

After that, you can have a lovely picnic, take in the fresh air, and check out some of Carthage’s other popular tourist destinations.

Hike the Walnut Bottoms Trail

Walnut Bottoms might suffer from frequent flooding, but it’s still a beautiful place to stretch your legs and enjoy the scenery.

Explore this low-lying forest trail by wearing some comfortable hiking shoes and going for a walk.

Those who enjoy both hiking and biking should make an effort to check out this trail.

Fully mature woods and the Spring River surround the trail.

During your hike, you might find abundant plant and animal life.

The Walnut Bottoms Trail is open to the general public, from sunrise to sunset, daily.

To reach the trailhead, continue driving north on Garrison from Carthage until you reach the parking lot.

From there, you can begin your hike.

Enjoy a Movie at 66 Drive-In Theatre

The grounds of 66 Drive-In Theatre

Steve Lagreca /

How about going to the fantastic 66 Drive-In Theatre with your friends to see an exciting film?

The 66 Drive-In Theatre is a historic cinema that has operated since September 1949.

Ticket booth at 66 Drive-In Theatre

TLF Images /

It provides a variety of amenities, including clean restrooms, a playground, concession stands selling refreshments, and many more.

Enjoy some delicious snacks and catch up on the newest movies from the convenience of your vehicle.

At the same time, families with children can keep themselves occupied while having a good time at the playground.

Neon sign of 66 Drive-In Theatre

melissamn /

Other Things To Do Nearby

Swim in the Grand Falls

Scenic view of Grand Falls

jaimie tuchman /

Grand Falls is a breathtaking natural waterfall that stands more than 25 feet.

This natural waterfall is in Joplin, Missouri, 26 minutes from Carthage.

It’s the state’s largest waterfall with a continuous flow of water.

You can find the waterfall known as “The Falls” on Shoal Creek, just a few minutes downstream from Wildcat Park.

It has a width of 163 feet and drops 12 feet down a ledge made of solid chert.

The waters of Grand Falls

jaimie tuchman /

After that, the Grand Falls crashes into jagged crags before flowing calmly to the south.

The creek is a popular place for swimming.

However, those who don’t want to get their feet wet can always sit and take in the breathtaking scenery.

The outcroppings of the rocks have created pools perfect for playing around and splashing your feet.

Tour the World’s Largest Small Electric Appliance Museum

Carthage is just a short drive away from a unique museum that will leave you speechless.

You can find the world’s largest small appliance museum in a building adjacent to the owner’s boot store.

However, only a small sign marks the location.

Find this museum in nearby Diamond, Missouri, 13 minutes from Carthage.

This fascinating museum features cases, racks, and shelves crammed with everything from early waffle irons and blow dryers to wacky appliances that never caught on.

See over 7,000 items from the golden age of home and kitchen convenience in this charming museum.

This is a worthwhile stop for anyone interested in the history of product design or singularly focused obsessions.

Take a Day Trip to the Joplin Museum Complex

The Joplin Museum Complex is one of the best attractions near Carthage.

You can find it in Joplin, 27 minutes from Carthage.

The Tri-State Mining District is home to four buildings in the Joplin Museum Complex.

In addition to the mineral museum, there are two museums and an athletic hall of fame.

The Joplin History & Mineral Museum also tells the story of lead and zinc mining.

The world’s most prestigious Tri-State mineral specimens feature mined samples and equipment from Joplin’s past, as well as scale models.

Meanwhile, you can also find the National Cookie Cutter Historical Museum, the Joplin Fire Department’s 1926 American LaFrance Fire Engine, and various rotating exhibits/

These museums are in the Dorothea B. Hoover Historical Museum, also within the complex.

Admire the Architecture of the Historic Murphysburg District

Walking through the tree-lined streets of Joplin’s Murphysburg District is like stepping back in time.

Located 16.7 miles from Carthage, the Murphysburg District contains the stately homes of Joplin’s founders.

These houses represent the Craftsman, Queen Anne, American Foursquare, and Eclectic architectural styles.

For self-guided tours, watch out for historical markers in front of many homes that list their names and construction dates.

This district stretches from Byers to Jackson Avenues and 2nd to 7th Streets.

The National Register of Historic Places added the district to its list in 2015.

Explore the Shoal Creek Conservation Education Center

There are only a handful of chert glades left in the world, and the Shoal Creek Conservation Education Center is right next to them.

Shoal Creek is a haven for migratory birds and other wildlife.

One of the Shoal Creek Conservation Education Center’s most notable features is a 1,300-gallon aquarium that mimics an Ozark stream.

Additionally, there are hands-on nature exhibits, a sizeable bird-watching area, classrooms, and a gift shop.

Several picnic areas and over four miles of trails in Wildcat Park encircle the city’s center.

You can find this center in Joplin, 23 minutes from Carthage.

Final Thoughts

Carthage celebrates its rich history and acknowledges the distinctive architectural legacy it has left behind.

If you want to know Carthage, you should visit some of its historical sites, museums, and galleries.

Check out the best things to do in Carthage to enjoy the experience fully.

Book your trip today!

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