Final Resting Place: Despite the fact that Jesse James
did most of his “whomin’ and a’ whoopin'” everywhere but in northwest Missouri, St. Joseph citizens are happy to stake their claim in his notoriety. Locals boast Jesse’s humble residence in the town, even though it was the conclusion to his outlaw days. Tourists can view the place where he took his final and fatal bullet, shot by one of his gang members and can check out artifacts found in the bandit’s grave. The Jesse James Home Museum (12th and Penn Streets, 816-232-8206), according to local historian Ryan Roenfeld, is “…the final home of America’s most infamous figures of folklore, as well as a good example of boosterish small town tourism.”
The Original Snail Mail: Robert Myers, St. Joseph’s city planner, explained the significance of the Pony Express according to the city’s post-civil war citizens. “St. Joseph was primarily an outfitter’s town. Dry goods and whatever type of ware needed for the journeyman’s quest toward California could be found in St. Joseph,” he said. “The influx of trappers and explorers making their way through the country helped to support its economy. The nation as a whole relied on the bravery of the Pony Express rider more so than the income his service could provide to the local citizens.” The Pony Express National Museum (914 Penn Street, 816-279-5059) explains the inception of the relay mail service according to the national need and its short lived span of operation.
Mardi Gras in Missouri: For a taste of Creole, Boudreaux’s Louisiana Seafood Restaurant (224 N. 4th Street, 816-387-9911) is the perfect stop for grown-ups and kids alike. Whether jambalaya is on the plate or even if it’s blackened catfish, this establishment is able to make its customers feel as if they were dining on Bourbon Street. Don’t think that the restaurant has forgotten where its located however; the more than 100-year-old bar boasts bullet holes from the days of the Wild West. “For appetizers, our family loves the alligator,” said St. Joseph visitor Jean Jaskierny. “Even my children, who can be a bit picky, can find something on the menu to keep them happy.”
A cup of St. Joe: Far from the traffic and congestion of St. Joseph’s Belt Highway, the downtown area has everything that the strip malls and Wal-Marts wish they could offer: charm. The perfect way to start the day in this once wild west setting is with a hot cup of joe at the Pony Expresso (112 S. 8th Street, 816-279-9977). Keeping with the town’s claim to fame, the venue is conveniently located just a hop, skip and barely a jump from the best B&Bs in St. Joe, as well as the newly remodeled Holiday Inn. If coffee isn’t your cup of tea, head next door to A to Z’s Freshair Fare (114 S. 8th Street, 816-279-9977), the cicty’s best organic produce market.
Eastward Ho!: In the mid 1800s, St. Joseph was one of the last trading posts before an explorer’s long journey West. But, St. Joseph’s downtown butts up against the Missouri River, so heading east is the only option. To tour the city, hop on the First Street Trolley (816-233-6700), which provides all-day transportation to museums, restaurants and other locales for $3.50.
Drinks Anyone?: According to just about any local yokel in northwestern Missouri, The First Ward House (2101 St. Joseph Ave., 816-232-8500) is the place to be any night of the week. While it’s a bit off the beaten path (but only about fifteen blocks north of the downtown), it’s hailed to be the oldest bar west of the Mississippi. Whether this myth is bona fide or whether it’s just a simple marketing scheme, the atmosphere is welcoming and laid-back. Occasionally local blues artists are known to entertain the patrons and if food is on the mind, the kitchen stays open as late as its bar.