15 Best Things to Do in Waynesville, MO

Waynesville, MO
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Waynesville, Missouri, proves that great things come in small packages.

Tucked along the historic Route 66 Highway, Waynesville is your gateway to some of the country’s best natural attractions.

According to the 2020 US Census, this county seat of Pulaski County has a humble population of 5,000.

Established in 1883, Waynesville gets its name from the American revolutionary war hero Anthony Wayne.

Before the Civil War, the place was a trading post for settlers and trappers.

Today, it is home to some of the most iconic sites that reflect the town’s rich history.

Are you tired of the hustle and bustle of modern city life?

Perhaps, it’s time to explore the nostalgia of small-town living.

Grab a warm cup of joe and check out the best things to do in Waynesville, Missouri.

Discover Hidden History at the Trail of Tears Memorial in Laughlin Park

Daytime view of the Trail of Tears
Adam Jones from Kelowna, BC, Canada, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The “Trail of Tears” describes the path nine of the 13 Cherokee nations from Missouri took on their forced march to Oklahoma around the mid-1930s.

Today, Laughlin Park in Waynesville covers part of this trail, offering insightful spots for interested visitors.

This Cherokee Encampment is a memorial where you can learn about the Cherokees’ tragic journey along the Trail of Tears through storyboards.

Storyboard at the Trail of Tears
Adam Jones from Kelowna, BC, Canada, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Near the memorial is a pathway leading to the Roubidoux Spring.

The spring is a second-magnitude freshwater spring famous among certified cave divers across the globe.

The spring is a certified site on the National Park Service National Historic Trail.

It also became a temporary shelter during the Trail of Tears.

Cave divers suggest that the best time to dive in the spring is during the later summer and fall season when the weather is primarily dry.

The waters of the Trail of Tears
Adam Jones from Kelowna, BC, Canada, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Spend Family Days at Roubidoux Park

Waynesville is along the banks of Roubidoux Creek, a 57.4-mile tributary stream to the Gasconade River.

Roubidoux Park gets its name from Joseph Roubidoux, a French-Canadian fur trader who established his trading post on the Missouri River.

Likewise, early residents of Waynesville built the first bridge where people and animals used to cross the Roubidoux Creek.

Today, Roubidoux Park offers complete relaxation for the people of Waynesville.

Its wide-open green space is the perfect place even for athletes who wish to explore the Roubidoux Walking Trail.

It also has a Roubidoux Stage that hosts some of the town’s live music festivals.

They also offer pavilion rentals for a reasonable fee if you plan to have an outdoor family celebration.

Kids can also enjoy playing at their splash pad and “Little Heroes Playground.”

Visiting the splash pad is a must when you want to cool off during the summer heat.

Meanwhile, their playground features unique equipment representing each military branch.

Discover the Attractions along Route 66

Waynesville is also known as the “Birthplace of the Byway,” which refers to the mythic Route 66.

Established in 1926, Route 66, or the “Main Street of America,” was one of the original highways in the US Numbered Highway System.

It covered 3,940 miles from Chicago, Illinois, through Missouri until Santa Monica in Los Angeles, California.

Due to its high demand as the primary route for people migrating to the west, communities along the way grew dramatically, making it a hotspot for travelers and locals.

Today, the distinctive Ozark stone exteriors of several vintage restaurants, houses, cabins, and gas stations remain visible in the area.

Among the must-see attractions are Bell’s Café & Sinclair Gas Station, which now operates as a flower shop.

Drop by and take photos with these one-of-a-kind roadside attractions for that ultimate Route 66 souvenir.

Take a Trip Back to Memory Lane at Pulaski County Courthouse Museum

Exterior of Pulaski County Courthouse Museum
Kbh3rd, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The present-day Pulaski County Courthouse Museum traces its roots back to the 1840s, after Waynesville became the county seat of Pulaski.

At the time, they needed a larger space, leading to the construction of a two-story log courthouse.

After the Civil War, in 1872, the city had to condemn the courthouse due to excessive wartime damage.

Construction of a new two-story brick courthouse followed.

However, lightning struck the new building, which burned to the ground around the early 1900s.

State architect Henry H. Hohenschild designed and built the present Pulaski County Courthouse.

Until today, the courthouse has retained its Romanesque architecture, featuring semi-circular arches, massive thick walls, round arches, sturdy pillars, and decorative arcading.

Part of the Pulaski County Courthouse Museum
Kbh3rd, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The courthouse is also the Pulaski County Courthouse Museum home.

It has distinctive Italianate tower with arched windows on both sides.

Another stunning feature of the courthouse is its bell tower, its rafters adorned with a corbel table, a row of stones that projects from the wall to give extra support.

Experts consider corbels as the most characteristic feature of early Romanesque architecture.

Today, the Pulaski County Courthouse Museum opens for guided tours by appointment.

You’ll witness several themed rooms, including the original courtroom with its wooden jury box.

They also have a gift shop that offers Route 66 souvenirs, 1903 Courthouse T-shirts, and other historical pieces you don’t want to miss.

Experience the Rich Heritage of Old Stagecoach Stop Museum

The Old Stagecoach Stop Museum, commonly known as “The Waynesville House,” is the oldest building in Pulaski County.

In 1854, William Walton McDonald built the house when his duties as county clerk, city clerk, and postmaster required him to live closer to the courthouse.

The Stagecoach Stop became a refuge for many exhausted travelers in the 19th century thanks to its strategic location.

The building became a hospital during the Civil War.

In the 1980s, the National Register of Historic Places added the Old Stagecoach Stop Museum to its record.

Currently, the building boasts ten restored rooms depicting significant phases of its history.

Here, you’ll find the dentist room, the McDonald Cabin, Civil Room, Stagecoach Stop Tavern, and a period kitchen from 1915.

Then, check out the 1941 sleeping room, and a restoration room that doubles as a quaint gift shop.

Each room showcases original artifacts and other ancient home tools unique to a specific period in the building’s history.

Guides in period costumes lead the tours around the Old Stagecoach Museum, making the experience completely immersive.

Discover the Tale of the Frog Rock at the W.H. (Waynesville Hill) Croaker

The tale of the Frog Rock started with a huge blast.

In 1996, Missouri’s Department of Transportation began adding lanes to the historic Route 66.

In the process, they had to blast out a portion of Waynesville Hill, leading to a rock outcrop formation.

However, the Waynesville Hill Croaker ultimately took on its present-day look after local tattoo artist Phil Nelson volunteered to sculpt and paint the vast granite.

He painted the rock with deep green and yellow iridescent stripes along each side of its body.

Today, locals and tourists flock to the site to snap photos with the famous “Frog Rock.”

For decades, locals have celebrated an annual festival titled “Frogtoberfest” to celebrate this unique landmark.

Aside from taking touristy shots, visitors eat exotic dishes like frog legs and even participate in a frog-kissing contest.

Bring your friends to the Frog Rock at the Waynesville Hill Croaker!

Other Things to Do Nearby

Take a Snap of Stonehenge at Missouri University of Science and Technology

Stonehenge in Missouri University of Science and Technology
Nebraska Puffer Fish, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Did you know you don’t need to travel to England to see the megalith Stonehenge?

Just visit the Missouri University of Science and Technology at Rolla, Missouri, 28 minutes from Waynesville.

Take stunning photos with the half-scale replica of Stonehenge at the northwest edge of Missouri University of Science and Technology.

Built in June 1984, the replica used approximately 160 tons of granite.

It also embraces many of the features of the original Stonehenge.

The formation of the rocks employed modern versions of ancient practices like the Ancient Egyptian water jets used to mine gold-bearing ore.

Today, the replica is the largest monument cut using a water jet.

While it’s only a half-scale replica of the final stage of Stonehenge, it still gives you an idea of how massive the actual megalith is.

Find informational markers around the vicinity explaining the significant history of how the real Stonehenge in England’s Salisbury Plain appeared.

Interpretive signs also help you understand how Stonehenge works with the planetary cycle.

Learn history at Stonehenge in the Missouri University of Science and Technology.

Jump into the Wild World of Uranus Sideshow Museum

You can find the eccentric Uranus Sideshow Museum tucked in the beautiful town of St. Robert, Missouri, eight minutes from Waynesville.

Uranus Sideshow Museum is nowhere close to the conventional idea of a museum.

As the “world’s second-largest collection of oddities,” it showcases pieces designed to tickle your curiosity for the strange and unusual.

The odd pieces in their collection are two-headed animals, Fiji Mermaids, unicorn skulls, and even a Chupacabra.

This monstrous creature originates from a Latin American legend, known for attacking animals and sucking their blood.

To say that these pieces will make your mind run wild is indeed an understatement.

If you’re curious about the future, they also have tarot readers who can show you an exciting insight into your fate.

Pay Tribute to the Military at St. Robert Military Tribute & Freedom Rock

St. Robert is a city less than half an hour from Waynesville, Missouri.

It’s an equally lovely place, considered a gateway community to the United States Army Fort Leonard Wood.

Fort Leonard Wood is a U.S. Army training installation in the Missouri Ozarks.

You can also find the St. Robert Military Tribute & Freedom Rock in the city, a display of stone murals representing the different battalions within the US Military.

The project began in March 2017 after the acclaimed artist Ray “Bubba” Sorensen expanded his “50 State Freedom Rock Tour.”

He paints a “Freedom Rock” in other communities during the tour.

The Freedom Rock is a patriotic mural on a large boulder that thanks and honors the nation’s veterans.

St. Robert’s Freedom Rock spans approximately nine feet, painted on twelve-inch concrete.

Visit the Freedom Rock at Saint Robert Boulevard adjacent to the St. Robert Military Tribute display and M60 Tank.

Take a Dip at the Tiger Typhoon Water Park

They say you’re only one swim away from a good mood.

Luckily, summer never ends at the Tiger Typhoon Water Park, which allows you to have water fun like no other.

This sprawling water complex offers twisting tube slides, family slides, and even an indoor therapy pool for seniors.

They also allow visitors to play water basketball and volleyball.

If water play isn’t your cup of tea, you can enjoy their rock-climbing wall and party deck.

They also have a multipurpose room with huge tables available for rent if you plan to host a birthday or family celebration.

Children two and under can enter the park for free, while older guests must pay a reasonable rate.

Visit the Tiger Typhoon Water Park across the St. Robert Municipal Park.

Final Thoughts

The best things in life are free.

However, the next best things shouldn’t be that expensive either.

If you need to refresh and recharge, take a weekend drive to a small city like Waynesville, Missouri.

Bookmark this to-do list for a handy itinerary if you explore this charming city.

Book your trip today and discover the best things to do in Waynesville!