Arriving in Carthage is like stepping back in time to a more peaceful era when life was simple and people were in no hurry.
From the town square to Route 66 attractions to restaurants, I felt like checking texts was out of place and living in the moment was expected. Carthage has a history that includes ragtime musicians, women’s activists and Wild West outlaws, and it’s now a town that welcomes travelers with open arms and gives you a taste of small-town USA that is hard to find these days.
Courthouse Square Brings History to Life
The Jasper County Courthouse and Square is where Carthage really comes to life. The architecture of the courthouse is stunning with turrets and towers that have a medieval look. This is where people gather to meet and the town hosts open markets and events. There is a fabulous coffee shop called Mother Road Coffee, where people will tell you stories of times gone by, and the owners couldn’t be any nicer. You’ll also find a small but interesting Civil War museum in the square, and the staff members are extremely knowledgeable.
Mother Road Coffee Shop in Carthage, Missouri
Precious Moments Park and Chapel
After enjoying the square, we drove to the Precious Moments Chapel & Gardens. Inspired by Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel in Rome, the peaceful and serene chapel is like nothing you have ever seen. It tells Biblical stories using the childlike, angelic Precious Moments figures to depict the characters. There are murals and stained-glass windows along with beautiful landscaping, a lovely gift shop and café. It is hard to explain the uniqueness of the chapel; you will have to go and see for yourself.
Precious Moments Chapel in Carthage, Missouri
Ghost Town With New Life
A place called Red Oak II, our next stop, also has a unique story. Artist Lowell Davis grew up in a small town close by, but after World War II, Red Oak had become a ghost town. Davis moved many of the buildings from the ghost town to a new location, which he called Red Oak II, and restored them. The place is very cool to wander around; I had never seen anything like it. Davis still lives there and has some eccentric sculptures outside his house that are fabulous.
Red Oak II in Carthage, Missouri
You’ll find Route 66 attractions throughout Missouri, but a fairly famous one in Carthage is the Boots Court Motel. The motel has radios in every room playing music from the 1940s and ’50s and no TVs, just like it would gave been in the heyday of Route 66. Back in the day, people like Clark Gable and Mickey Mantle stayed at the motel, and I love that there is no room No. 13 for superstitious reasons.
When in Carthage, you also have to drive around the historic district with its lovely Victorian homes. There’s the gorgeous Grand Avenue Bed and Breakfast. The nearby Historic Phelps House offers wonderful seasonal events and tours, and the delightful staff will arrange special events, lunch or high tea for groups. Our brunch was delicious and the homemade lemonade superb. As we sat on the veranda overlooking the grounds, an impromptu parade of classic cars passed by. What a lovely way to spend a couple of hours!
At the end of a great day touring Carthage, we headed to the Lucky J Steakhouse for a classic US feast. On one side of the restaurant is the dining room, and on the other, you can watch a traditional live rodeo. How cool is that?
Grand Avenue Bed & Breakfast in Carthage, Missouri