Covering 31 square miles, Joplin is a low-key destination tucked in the southwest corner of Missouri. Two major highways deliver tourists to the modern city that was founded in 1879 and boomed due to zinc mining. Today the community of approximately 50,000 people work and play amid a well-balanced mix of outdoor activities, community events and local attractions.
Thought by many to have been named after composer Scott Joplin, a Missouri native, the city is actually named for Reverend Harris Joplin, a notable early settler who started the first Methodist congregation in the area. The city’s mining past is documented in local attractions, notably the Joplin Museum Complex. The Everett J. Ritchie Tri-State Mineral Museum, part of the complex, has a large display of lead and zinc, and focuses on mining production techniques dating back to the late 19th century. The Dorothea B. Hoover Historical Museum illustrates the impact of mining on the development of Joplin with a collection of artifacts, including Victorian-era textiles, dolls and furniture.
After rapid growth prompted by industrious miners, the demand for zinc declined. The local economy, however, was bolstered by motorists on the cross-country Route 66. The historic highway cuts through Downtown Joplin, which is rekindling interest in the scenic route. A tidy lineup of shops and restaurants are found in the area, enhanced by pedestrian-friendly sidewalks. For transportation options in the city, visitors can climb aboard green trolleys bound for business and entertainment spots. Shoppers can head to the east side of Joplin to shop at Northpark Mall, an indoor bazaar with nearly 100 retailers, a food court and a theme that pays tribute to Route 66. A collection of familiar retailers are found at the adjacent Northpark Crossing shopping center.
Cultural spots in Joplin include the George A. Spiva Center for the Arts. Founded in the late 1950s, the arts showcase features classes and a rotating calendar of exhibits. A national photographic competition, PhotoSpiva, has taken place annually since 1977.
The Murphysburg Residential Historic District offers a well-preserved display of architecturally diverse homes, many of which date from the 19th and early 20th centuries. The tree-lined streets of the district reveal designs ranging from Queen Anne and Dutch Colonial to Colonial Revival and Prairie Style. Visitors admire the Charles Schifferdecker House for its elaborate stained glass work, visible along the front of the distinct Romanesque structure.
The number of parks and outdoor green spaces in the city add to a visitor’s list of things to do in Joplin. The city manages approximately 900 acres of parks and public areas. Catch an outdoor concert or meander along a walking path in Landreth Park, a popular gathering place near Main Street. Located near the Joplin Museum Complex, Schifferdecker Park is a manicured green space, complete with a golf course, gazebo and horseshoe pits. Top among outdoor attractions in Joplin is Grand Falls. Located just south of downtown, the largest natural waterfall in the state drops 25 feet to cascade on a ledge before continuing its southbound flow.