Planning a vacation doesn’t mean you have to find a big city, book a flight, and head out to see world-famous attractions. Sometimes visiting a smaller town can be even more fun.
Rolla, Missouri is halfway between Springfield and St. Louis. It’s known for the Missouri University of Science and Technology as well as its great natural beauty.
If you’re planning to visit Rolla, check out this list of the best things to do.
Best Things to Do in Rolla, Missouri
When you’re wondering what to do in Rolla, you have a lot of different options to choose from. The city has several beautiful parks and forests. It also has a great antique shopping culture.
There are fun things to do with kids as well.
One of the most popular Rolla things to do is visit the Mark Twain National Forest. It covers 1.5 million acres across 29 Missouri counties, but there are plenty of trails for hiking, biking, and even riding horses right in Rolla! There are several picnic areas in the forest, as well as several campsites.
For fans of canoeing, kayaking, and floating, there are more than 350 miles of streams in the Mark Twain National Forest. A lot of them have tree coverage so you can enjoy them even in the hottest weather.
The forest provides a nice escape from the sun, though you might want to bring a jacket if the weather isn’t incredibly warm. It can stay cool under the canopy.
Kids can’t come through Rolla and skip a day at the Fugitive Beach!
This is a hidden gem in the city. It’s not a standard beach, but something closer to a natural water park. Fugitive Beach is in an old rock quarry, converted into a manmade beach. You can climb the rocks and jump from tall cliffs into the waters below!
While it’s not a real beach, this Rolla, Missouri attraction still has plenty of sand to get in-between your toes and build sandcastles.
The fake beach at this incredible water park gives you a place to recline and soak up the sun. When you’re ready to get wet, take advantage of the waterslides and beautiful water for swimming or floating.
The Rolla Lions Club created a park for families to enjoy, and it’s a great place to get some fresh air, enjoy a picnic and let the kids run wild.
There’s one large playground and two smaller areas so the kids can play. The Rolla Lions Club also keeps the lake stocked with perch, catfish, and bass for fishing.
You can have picnics in the park or even rent one of 10 pavilions for a bigger bash. Before you visit, check with the Lions Club to see if they’re hosting any festivals there.
Many local sports teams use this park for their games because of the two baseball fields and four soccer fields. If team sports aren’t your forte, there is a 4.5-mile trail around the back of the park. It’s perfect for a nice hike or a mountain bike ride.
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Another great park in Rolla, Missouri is Ber Juan Park.
This location is a great place to get out and stretch your legs if you’re traveling. There are plenty of wide-open grassy areas for games of frisbee or catch with the kids and dogs. You can have a picnic there as well.
Along the walking path are exercise stations to help you stretch your muscles. There are also dedicated spaces for disc golf. Tennis courts are available if you hit them at the right time – there’s no reservation process, so you’ll just have to try your luck.
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One last natural area in Rolla is the Little Prairie Conservation Area.
There’s a peaceful lake in the center of the land. You can boat and fish in the lake. From there you can follow plenty of hiking trails to enjoy a beautiful walk, watch for birds, or have a picnic in the greenery.
Since these grasslands are a conservation area, you’ll see evidence of the work the Missouri Department of Conservation is doing.
They place signs to show how they’re encouraging native plants to grow. There’s also information about what animals live in this space. Hunters with special permits can hunt for deer, rabbits, quail, turkey, and more.
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The recreation of Stonehenge on the campus of Missouri Science and Technology is worth a visit if you like quirky roadside attractions.
Unlike the real Stonehenge, this replica wasn’t chiseled into being with basic hand tools – students and faculty used technology to laser cut rocks to create the sculpture.
Stonehenge is set in a green area, so it’s a great place to stretch your legs and let the kids get some energy out if you’re traveling.
There are informational plaques nearby so you can read about the creation process. If you’re staying at the Pear Tree Inn Rolla which is now the Days Inn by Wyndham Rolla, this stop is just 10 minutes away.
While you’re checking out quirky destinations, you can’t miss the Museum of Vacuums.
While this unique collection once had a dedicated building, it’s now moved to Mid-Missouri Vacuums. The curator, Tom Gasko, is happy to show off the collection, and even show how several models work. He also sells and repairs vacuums in that location.
Even if you’re not passionate about household chores, seeing the evolution of the vacuum across the decades is an interesting experience. Gasko has Hoovers from the 1910s, so it’s fun to see how those models compare to the new ones he sells.
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The Ed Clark Museum of Missouri Geology is a great attraction for science fans. You’ll see a collection of fossils, rocks, and minerals unique to Missouri.
There’s even a meteorite a scientist found about 30 miles away. A replica of the state’s namesake dinosaur, Hypsibema missouriensis, is also on display.
While you’re at the museum, you’ll learn all about what’s naturally found in Missouri’s land.
The museum even has geologists on staff that can identify rocks you bring in as well! If you don’t have your rock with you when you visit, you can email them a photo later.
The Ozark Actors Theatre has been around since the 1980s, even though the theatre didn’t have a stage at first! The actors still put on shows in this old church building.
Since it became such a popular outing, they renovated the church into a dedicated theater.
There are so many plays and performances regularly put on at the Ozark Actors Theatre, all produced and performed by talented locals. In addition to big-name productions, the theatre also has 24-hour play contests and mystery dinners.
You can always check their season calendar when you’re looking for things to do in Rolla this weekend.
10. Leach Theatre
The Leach Theatre has tons of different shows available throughout the year. Located on the campus of the Missouri University of Science and Technology, this theatre puts on plays and music concerts.
Leach Theatre opened in Castleman Hall in 1991, making it almost as old as the Ozark Actors Theatre. The Leach Theatre hosts at least 100 events each academic year, featuring student productions, touring plays, and big-name musical acts.
The Rolla Antique Mall is a unique place for people who love to shop. It’s a two-story building with more than 90 vendors inside.
Because there are so many vendors trying to make a sale, you have a lot of bargaining power at the Rolla Antique Mall. Since each booth belongs to one person, you’re also likely to find new things every day!
If you’re staying in Rolla for several days, it might be worth checking in at the antique mall more than once.
Once you get downtown, you can park in one spot and walk around to take everything in. There are countless shops and restaurants in the area.
The Mule Trading Post is a Route 66 icon. It opened in 1946, but the construction of Route 66 cut the store off from potential customers. The owner moved the store right to the edge of the highway and the store has flourished since then.
The Trading Post isn’t just a store, it’s also a museum dedicated to the famous Route 66. There’s a lot of historic and delightfully tacky merchandise that owner Herb Baden fondly refers to as “schlock.”
Customers used to pay a quarter for a live chicken to peck a few notes on a tiny piano, but now the attractions are mostly related to the neon sign and strange inventory.
Stay at the Rustic Motel Rolla to get in the retro mindset that the Mule Trading Post embodies. Best of all, the motel is just a 10-minute drive from this Rolla attraction!
If you’re looking for fun things to do in Rolla with kids, look no further than Kokomo Joe’s Family Fun Center.
Kids and adults alike will love everything there is to do here, starting with the arcade that uses handy reloadable game cards.
There are more than regular arcade games here – there are physical activities like bowling, a laser maze, laser tag, bumper cars, and go-karts!
There’s an awesome trampoline park that covers 6,500 square feet, and jumping isn’t all you do there! You can play dodgeball and basketball on the bouncy terrain. For kids who are too little for trampolines, there’s a separate bounce area with slides and tunnels.
That’s not all; Kokomo Joe’s Family Fun Center even has an escape room.
People of all ages will love to team up, choose their room, and work together to solve puzzles. If you’re making a day of your Kokomo Joe’s excursion, the Sunset Cafe and Hideaway Bar are on-site to keep you fed and hydrated.
Staying at the Fairfield Inn & Suites Rolla is ideal for families because of the complimentary breakfast. Make sure everyone gets full so they all have energy for a day at Kokomo Joe’s Family Fun Center!
Kokomo Joe’s isn’t the only fun center for Rolla activities. The Zone is a roller-skating complex that has something for everyone, including:
- Laser tag
- Laser maze
- Bounce areas
- Jungle gyms
- Tons of arcade games
The Zone hosts theme nights for skating, and you can bundle skate time with other attractions on-site. If you get hungry, they have a snack bar so you don’t have to leave to eat.
There’s plenty to do at the Zone, whether you carve a few hours out of your Rolla trip or dedicate a whole day to the entertainment center. If you encounter bad weather on your vacation, the Zone is the place to go.
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With around 70 acres to hike through and explore, the Audubon Nature Center is a must-see for all those visiting Rolla.
There is one long trail that goes on for three miles through different habitats, including woodlands, pine forest, glades, prairie, and a riparian zone (habitat that’s tucked between freshwater and land).
Take your family for a trip around the hiking trail, have a picnic as you enjoy the different biomes, or simply try and spot as many native animals as you can.
You can make a game of it: whoever spots the most, or the animals first, gets a prize!
You can also treat this as a fun and educational experience by learning about the different native plants and habitats.
For bird lovers, you can go birding while learning about the bird conservation efforts of the local Audubon society.
There are monthly lectures with different speakers and group outings for bird watching. Best of all, you don’t need to be an experienced hiker to go on these trips. They welcome individuals of all fitness levels.