Blake Walsh

20 Best Things to Do in St. James, MO

  • Published 2023/02/10

St. James in Missouri’s Phelps County embodies the spirit of a small city with a quaint atmosphere.

The place was founded in 1859 to take advantage of the opportunity opened by the Meramec Iron Works, which was exporting its products across the state.

The city’s name itself comes from the owner of the said ironworks.

Otherwise known as the “Forest City of Ozarks,” St. James is situated near fertile land that supports the city’s agricultural and winemaking industries.

If you’re passing through Route 66 and decide to make a stopover, here are the 20 best things to do in St. James, Missouri:

Connect with Nature at the Maramec Spring Park

A bridge over Maramec Spring Park's water

Victoria ‘Tori’ Meyer /

Head a bit south of downtown St. James to the Maramec Spring Park, a historic place that embraces nature and offers a unique getaway experience.

The site began as the Maramec Ironworks in 1826 but has now transitioned into a nature haven stretching across 1,860 acres of forests.

There are loads of activities you can do at the Maramec Spring Park.

Trees surrounding a body of water at Maramec Spring Park

Hasim Selimovic /

For starters, you can try fishing in the spring rich in rainbow trout constantly restocked by the government.

If you want to instead bask in the beauty of nature, you can try a peaceful walk through the site’s multiple hiking trails.

Along the way, you can also spot some of the wildlife in the area, such as deer, owls, and eagles.

The Maramec Spring Park is also home to many pollinators like bees and butterflies.

Scenic view of Maramec Spring Park

Hasim Selimovic /

Spend a Relaxing Night at Meramec Vineyards Winery

St. James’ small-town atmosphere and tightly knit community makes wine night a perfect activity for friends.

Head to the Meramec Vineyards Winery along State Route, a place by the roadside known for its wooden architecture.

Honoring grapes and Italian roots, Meramec Vineyards Winery’s setting and amenities, such as a back patio area with a tiki bar, stage, and fire pit, have been serving the community since the winery’s rebirth in 2018.

Meramec Vineyards Winery hosts various events like game and music nights, and it also gives back to charity.

Like any other winery, they have different wines, as well as gift bags, wine tasting kits, and other merch.

For a relaxing night, pair their wines with some of their menu food items such as fries, salads, and tacos.

Have Some Splash Fun at Tiger Shark Waterpark

One of St. James’ most prized destinations is the Tiger Shark Waterpark, which is administered by the city.

Located along Bourbeuse Street, Tiger Shark Waterpark is a place that’s only open during select months of the year.

When you enter, you’ll be greeted with slides, pools, and an open space for picnics, making it a perfect place just to have fun.

Tiger Shark Waterpark also offers rentals, such as for birthday celebrations that also come with drinks and nachos or hot dogs.

You won’t need to worry if you don’t know how to swim as Tiger Shark Waterpark also offers swimming lessons.

Visit Saint James Winery

Since it opened in 1970, Saint James Winery has grown to be one of the largest wineries in Missouri.

You can find the establishment along State Route and enjoy sustainable practices across the entire production and brewing process.

If you’d like to visit, you can enjoy drinking in the establishment’s prized outdoor gardens and space.

You can also try wine tasting and join the fun in the multiple events the winery hosts, such as movie nights, marathons, and more.

Looking for some wine to buy and take home?

Saint James Winery has a collection of specialty and seasonal wines.

Interestingly, the winery also has multiple recipes that you can refer to for free.

Savor the Celebrations at St. James Grape and Fall Festival

If your sights are set on wanting to experience the best events in St. James, look no further than St. James Grape and Fall Festival.

This is an annual festival held at the Nelson Hart Park and attracts people both from St. James and the surrounding communities.

During the festival, you can experience multiple events such as concerts, derbies, and queen pageants.

For those looking for some more fun-packed thrills, there are also carnival rides available during the festival.

Because of the multiple activities, St. James Grape and Fall Festival is the perfect time to bond with friends and family.

For accommodations, you can take advantage of the available seating, or you can bring your chairs and blankets.

Enjoy Alcoholic Beverages at the St. James Sip-N-Savor

Thanks to its many wineries, it’s no wonder that alcoholic beverages play a central role in the St. James culture and lifestyle.

One such event is the St. James Sip-N-Savor, held annually since 2009.

This annual occasion attracts thousands to St. James to quite literally “sip and savor” Missouri Wines during what could be considered one of the best mini-vacations in the area.

During this time, you can taste wine and beer samples throughout the entire afternoon.

There’s also live music to go along with the event.

Care to bring home a souvenir?

Watch out for free merchandise available throughout the day, as well as other things you can buy.

Dine and Shop at Sybill’s Restaurant and Gift Shop

There’s nothing quite like eating and shopping, and at Sybill’s Restaurant and Gift Shop, you get the best of both worlds in a single shop.

When the shop opened in 2006, it originally started as just a gift shop before eventually expanding into a restaurant as well.

Head to North Jefferson Street and satisfy your cravings with the restaurant’s exquisite and luxurious food options.

The menu changes depending on the time of day, but the restaurant’s classic drinks and dessert menu are available all day long.

If you’re not sure what to eat, try the steak and seafood options first.

On sale in the gift shop are special gifts and jewelry, as well as some personal items such as soaps, perfumes, and lotions.

Fall in Love with Gardening with Huffman’s Flowers of the Field

Tending to the fields and having your garden are sure-fire ways to help relieve your stress and reconnect you with nature.

With Huffman’s Flowers of the Field along Co Road, you can begin your gardening journey today.

This garden center and gift shop encourages you to take gardening seriously, and its impressive assortment of tools and decorations is a testament to that.

The shop cares for tropicals, perennials, annuals, and trees, plants that can make your garden bloom to life in no time.

Maintaining your garden is also easy with them because Huffman’s Flowers of the Field sells gardening supplies such as mulch, soil, and landscaping tools.

You can also bring some souvenirs home with its assortment of home accessories, statues, decors, gifts, and additional gardening seeds.

Have a Sweet Time at Ruby’s Ice Cream

St. James is also rich in different establishments that cater to your tongue and other cravings, and one of the places you must visit is Ruby’s Ice Cream.

This shop, which opened in 1974, has been proudly serving homemade ice cream all these years.

Go to North Jefferson Street and choose from the shop’s delectable ice cream selections, which are made from fresh ingredients.

If you’re unsure which flavor you should pick, try the strawberry, mint chocolate chip, or black walnut flavors.

Looking for something different?

Ruby’s Ice Cream also offers coffee, sundaes, and even banana split options if you want something more filling.

For a sweet time in St. James, pay a visit to Ruby’s Ice Cream!

Spend a Calm Afternoon at the St. James Golf Club

The laid-back atmosphere of St. James and its surrounding sceneries make it a great place to spend an entire afternoon just playing golf.

Along Missouri Highway 8 on the southern outskirts of the city, you will find the St. James Golf Club.

The golf course offers nine holes with different tee boxes and is located just far enough from the bustle of the city to offer a quieter experience.

Bring your friends along and choose among the course rates and packages that already come with a golf cart.

You should time your visit, too, as the St. James Golf Club also hosts multiple tournaments throughout the year, perfect if you’d like to participate.

Visit the St. James Tourist Information Center

St. James Tourist Information Center is a must-visit during your trip to the city, conveniently found along State Highway B.

It doubles as a tourist center, a park, and a museum as well, featuring a couple of exhibits that’s a nice and free way to enhance your itinerary.

The immediate park around St. James Tourist Information Center is a great way to relax and check out a few fixtures found throughout its walkways.

One of the things that lots of locals rave about are the courteousness and professionalism of the staff, so you’re sure to have a pleasant experience.

Fun and a great way to know about the city of St. James. This tourist information center is a great way to kickstart your adventure.

Go Cycling at Forest City Mountain Bike Trail

If you’re an avid outdoor adventurer, Forest City Mountain Bike Trail is a must-try in St. James, especially since it’s completely free to do.

A trail that will take you to the lush forest areas of St. James, you’ll see tons of various terrains and botanical life.

Because of these, Forest City Mountain Bike Trail is also an intimate spot to take photos with your loved ones as a souvenir in St. James.

If you’re after the biking experience, you’ll be ecstatic to know that even advanced bikers highly rate this place because of its diverse characteristics.

This trail is located along East James Boulevard and will take you down south to the dense forests of the city.

Get Some Exercise at Hart Park

If you want an all-around community experience in St. James, Hart Park is one of the best city parks to visit.

It’s a great recreational space that features several activities for all ages, such as basketball courts and softball fields.

There are also table tennis, foosball, and pool table facilities.

It’s one of the oldest parks in St. James, so it’s a popular place for locals to congregate and even hold festivities.

If you have some spare time and you’re feeling sociable, Hart Park is a great afternoon agenda during your trip, accessible along South Jefferson Road.

Try the Hearty Buffet at Country Bob’s Cafe

If you’re famished during your trip to St. James, Country’ Bob’s Cafe is a surefire way to have your fill of American classics.

One of the most visited restaurants in St. James, Country Bob’s Cafe offers a mini buffet that’s cost-effective, especially for large family groups.

They have all your favorite American comfort food here, ranging from pies, deep fried finger food, to hearty breakfast plates.

They have all your favorite American comfort food here, ranging from pies, deep fried finger food, to hearty breakfast plates.

Country Bob’s Cafe is conveniently found near Sybill’s Restaurant, so you won’t have to venture far to try out their delicious menu.

Take a Breather at St. James Park

Just a stone’s throw away from Tiger Shark Water Park lies St. James Park—a scenic outdoor respite accessible along East Johnson Street.

St. James Park has one of the best foliage you can find in the city because of its sprawling trees that change in beauty depending on the season you visit.

If you’re into photography, the park receives some of the best sunshine that becomes even prettier during sunset.

There’s also a lake here with several benches, along with a playground that makes it a great all-rounder for family relaxation.

A must-see in the city, St. James Park is a serene way to enjoy the natural beauty of Missouri.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Watch Performances at the Leach Theatre

Exterior of Leach Theatre

Nebraska Puffer Fish, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The neighboring city of Rolla has a lot of attractions that you might want to check out, such as the Leach Theatre.

Only a little under 12 miles from St. James, the Leach Theatre is part of the Missouri University of Science and Technology.

Since it opened in 1991, the Leach Theatre has been hosting about 100 events each year, such as concerts, plays, orchestra, and theater performances by local performing arts groups.

If you’re interested, the theater also occasionally hosts stand-up comedy.

Because of its proximity to St. James, the Leach Theatre is your go-to location to satisfy your urge for entertainment.

Shop for Eccentric Items at the Rolla Antique Mall

At just about 6 miles away, the Rolla Antique Mall is one of the most popular places to go outside of St. James.

The establishment is located along Dillon Outer Road and is one of the largest and most visited antique and collectible shops in the area.

Within its over 23,000-square-foot location, you can find a wide assortment of furniture, glassware, tack, tools, jewelry, crafts, and books.

If you’re on the lookout for rarer items, you’ll be glad to know that there are also collectibles and other eccentric materials you will find here.

With each visit, there’s always something new to get your hands on!

Try Birding at Ozark Rivers Audubon Chapter

Who wouldn’t want to reconnect with nature no matter where you are?

If you want to spend some time in nature, head to Ozark Rivers Audubon Chapter in the neighboring city of Rolla, just 11 miles from St. James.

Here, you can inspire your conservationist spirit, or hike, run, and bike in the area.

Although, Ozark Rivers Audubon Chapter is popular for its birding activities.

Because it hosts over five different types of ecosystems, over 400 bird species flock to the area at any given time of the year.

It’s no wonder then that the place also emphasizes bird conservation efforts.

For some nature getaway trips, head to Ozark Rivers Audubon Chapter!

Take a Dip at The Fugitive Beach

Located almost 20 miles away from St. James and taking about 30 minutes of travel time, The Fugitive Beach is one of the most unique destinations you can visit when you’re in the area.

The Fugitive Beach is located in Rolla and features a beach at a former quarry site.

Fringing the waters are towering bluffs and slides, as well as a volleyball court and bar.

The beach itself features 30,000 square feet of shallow water, as well as some deeper areas that require a life jacket to visit.

For a comfortable time, you may also rent private areas that contain space for charcoal grills.

Bond with Your Family at Kokomo Joe’s Family Fun Center

For some fun quality time with your family, head on over to Kokomo Joe’s Family Fun Center in Rolla, about 8 miles away from St. James.

There are loads of activities to try out, such as riding go-karts, mini-golf, and baseball/softball batting cages.

If you’d like to treat your child to a fun party, Kokomo Joe’s Family Fun Center also offers party packages.

For larger groups, there are discounted rates as well as options for private rentals, so you can truly own the place to yourselves.

With Kokomo Joe’s Family Fun Center, you’re sure to have an experience you will never forget!

Final Thoughts

St. James’ small city vibe doesn’t stop it from being one of the most interesting places you can visit.

With its proximity to nature and variety of things to do and places to visit, St. James makes for a complete vacation all on its own.

Visit St. James today!

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