Situated in northeastern Missouri, 90 mi/145 km northwest of St. Louis, Hannibal is a picturesque Mississippi River town closely associated with one of the nation's most famous writers, Mark Twain. Twain (then Samuel Clemens) grew up in Hannibal, and you can visit his childhood home on Hill Street. The house, which has been carefully restored, is a museum containing manuscripts and memorabilia. Be sure to see the series of Norman Rockwell paintings based on Twain's most popular books.

Hannibal also contains several locations thought to have inspired settings in the stories of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn (though they tend to be rather touristy): Becky Thatcher's house, Grant's Drug Store and the fence that is supposedly the one Tom Sawyer cleverly convinced his buddies to whitewash. Mark Twain Cave and Cameron Cave (the "Indian" caves that figured in five of the author's books) are just southeast of town—take a sweater if you visit them, as it's chilly inside. At Cardiff Hill, there are statues of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, and a statue of the author stands in Riverview Park.

After you've seen the Twain sights, you might want to visit two of the city's most impressive historic homes: the Garth Woodside Mansion, an elegant Victorian home, and Rockcliffe Mansion, a river estate with art-nouveau appointments. The Molly Brown Dinner Theater presents musical revues April-December (the theater is named for the "unsinkable" Molly from the Titanic disaster, who was once a Hannibal resident).

Although Twain spent most of his youth in Hannibal, he was born 35 mi/55 km to the southwest, near the Missouri town of Florida: The cabin where he was born is in Mark Twain State Park. West of Hannibal is Bethel, founded as a German communal colony. Historic homes, antique shops and the country cooking at Bethel Fest Hall make it worth a visit. Annual events in Hannibal include National Tom Sawyer Days (competitions, parade, fireworks—July) and the Autumn Historic Folklife Festival (entertainment, arts and crafts, performances, food—October).

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