Rural Missouri Magazine

Washington, Mo.

by Jim McCarty

It wasn’t until recently that residents of Washington saw their quaint German-heritage town on the Missouri River as a tourist destination. Washington’s hardworking, frugal residents took good care of the many brick buildings built in the 1800s. For this reason, they never had to be replaced and remain the source of the city’s charm.

Outsiders took note of the fine architecture and the thriving riverfront, which features a boat ramp, riverside park and a hiking/biking trail, along with monuments to Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery. It didn’t hurt that numerous restaurants — ranging from the downhome Cowan’s Cafe (home of magnificent pie) to the funky Cool Beans Pizza, based in a double-decker bus — call the town home.

It wasn’t long before Washington, however reluctantly, was discovered. Today, tourists flock to the east-central Missouri town, arriving on Amtrak or riding bicycles through city streets. Shops offering everything from the river-inspired paintings and prints of artist Gary Lucy to crafts, antiques, fudge and upscale coffee line the vibrant downtown (shown at left) while a dozen wineries are located nearby.

One of the favorite pastimes in Washington is watching the sun set to the strains of live music during the Sunset on the Riverfront, held every fourth Thursday through September. The Highway 47 bridge featured on our cover makes a dramatic backdrop for these relaxing evenings.

Museums such as the Missouri Photojournalism Hall of Fame, the Washington Historical Society, the Firehouse Museum and the Corn Cob Pipe Museum appeal to history buffs. And this month, visitors can take part in the Fall Festival of the Arts and Crafts on Sept. 26.

For more information, call 636-239-7575 or log on to


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