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A Touch of France in Missouri

Ste. Genevieve still has a rustic French flavor, thanks to the French farmers who settled this area 200 years ago.

Missouri’s earliest thriving communities were settled along the banks of the Mississippi, to take advantage of the river’s trade routes. Mega-highways have long since made river travel obsolete, but historic river towns are still a place for modern travelers seeking an adventurous departure from ordinary life.

Ste. Genevieve, founded around the 1740’s, is one of the oldest settlements west of the Mississippi. French farmers and fur traders built the original town and today there are still 50 or so historic buildings in the area. The town’s National Historic Landmark District has dozens of buildings dating to the 18th and early 19th centuries.

Ste. Genevieve’s provides an excellent map for a one-mile self-guided walking tour of the historic district. Download the PDF map now to see what’s in store for you when you visit. Not all the homes on the tour are open to the public, and most that are open charge admission to peek inside.

Stop in at the Felix Vallé House State Historic Site, which is a complex of several historic buildings. The house dates back to 1818 and was both a residence and shop for the owner. The Missouri State Park Department has restored the buildings to how they might have looked in 1830, including a fully stocked period store. It charges $4 for those over 13 and $2.50 for children over six for a tour. Children under six are free.

For a little hands on history, stop at the Bolduc House, a National Historic Landmark and privately run non-profit museum. The museum charges $8 for adults and $2 for children, with preschool children free. The homes are furnished in their orginal French-Colonial style. The museum specializes in tours for school groups and homeschoolers.

If you want to inject a little Halloween spirit into your tour, visit during the annual Deja Vu Spirit Reunion held on Saturday, October 22 from 5 to 8 p.m. Actors will bring twenty of Ste. Genevieve’s notable—or notorious--residents back to life while you tour Memorial Cemetery by candle light. The tour is $5 per person, with proceeds to benefit the Foundation for Restoration of Ste. Genevieve.

Memorial Cemetery is a National Landmark and the oldest cemetery in Missouri, dating back to 1787. It’s open to the public. If you can’t make it to the Spirit Reunion, you can still tour it for free.

The town’s historic district is full of quaint antique shops, boutiques, and places for snacks of all kinds. It’s also where you’ll find Sainte Genevieve Winery's main store and the Old Brick House Restaurant, which is the oldest brick house this side of the Mississippi.

To find Ste. Genevieve, take Hwy 55 south to exit 150 and go east on Hwy 32. Follow Hwy 32 as it becomes 4th Street, then turn right on Market Street. The Welcome Center is at the corner of Market and Main Street and is an excellent starting point for your adventure in Colonial France.

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