Tourists & locals using state’s welcome centers

Most people think that welcome centers are only for those who are traveling through the area or are not from around here, but in several cases welcome centers in Missouri are assisting local residents looking for something new to do.

“Every year we get several people that come in and plan their vacation for the year,” said Pam Ebbinghaus, manager at the St. Louis Welcome Center. 

The St. Louis Welcome Center gets about 48,000 visitors a year coming from the east, traveling westbound.

“We get visitors from Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, and Wisconsin and in the summer they come from anywhere. We’ve had people from Japan and Australia before,” said Ebbinghaus.

In St. Louis, the welcome center’s busiest months are in the summertime.

“We have been very busy starting in May, but we are usually busy from the start of summer and well into fall,” said Ebbinghaus.

In the fall months they get several people wanting to know about winery tours and festivals.

“Once kids go back to school, we get a lot of adults wanting to know about all the festivals going on in the fall,” said Ebbinghaus.

When visitors come into the center, the staff asks them what they are interested in, in order to help them find something they will enjoy.

“If they are interested in flowers, we refer them to the botanical gardens. If they like history, we give them a list of historic museums. If they want family fun, we send them to Six Flags, the City Musuem, or the St. Louis Carousel by the Butterfly House,” said Ebbinghaus.

There are nine welcome centers in the state operated by the Missouri Division of Tourism, each located on a major highway or interstate:

• Hannibal, on Highway 61 South.

• Joplin, on Interstate 44 at the Mile Marker 2 Rest Area.

• Kansas City, on the Blue Ridge Cut-Off.

• Hayti, at Mile Marker 20 on Interstate 55.

• Rock Pork, on Interstate 29 South.
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• St. Louis, on Interstate 270 at Riverview Drive.

• Eagleville, on Interstate 35 at exit 112.

• Conway-West, on Interstate 44.

• Conway-East, on Interstate 44.

The types of historic places the St. Louis Welcome Center refers visitors to include the Scott Joplin House, the Missouri History Musuem, White Haven, Grant’s Cabin, and Old Town St. Charles.

“We get several ladies groups that we send to Old Town St. Charles because they enjoy that type of historic feel,” said Ebbinghaus.

In addition to museums, the St. Louis center claims that they get several people who are interested in cemeteries because of the history.

“I think some of the strangest things we get asked is how to pronounce Missouri, why it’s called the Show-Me State, and what the population of a certain city is,” said Ebbinghaus.

The Anheuser Bush Brewery Tours is another attraction the St. Louis Welcome Center refers people to.

“They give free tours and people find it very interesting to see the brewing history of America,” said Ebbinghaus.

When it comes to the Conway-East Welcome Center, they get several questions about Route 66 and area Civil War history.

“We have three different brochures and books on battle lines in Missouri, but we usually send them to the Civil War Museum in St. Louis,” said Valarie Nash, manager of the Conway-East Welcome Center.

For Conway, the busiest time of the year is April through Thanksgiving.

“We get several visitors from all over that are interested in totally different things. We get people asking about Route 66, history, and sights to see along their journey,” said Nash.

Most travelers that stop at the Conway-East center are traveling west, toward Branson.

“We also get several people interested in what the state bird is, the state flower, and the state tree,” said Nash.

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