This historic Mississippi River town is etched in virtually every reader’s mind thanks to its favorite son: Samuel Clemens, better known by his pen name, Mark Twain. Located roughly 100 miles northwest of St. Louis, Hannibal unabashedly trades on the Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn creator’s connections — and there are many.
What We Love
The Huck Finn Freedom Center — Jim's Journey: This memorial to Jim, the fictional runaway slave befriended by Huckleberry Finn (whom Twain based on a real person named Daniel Quarles), links Mark Twain’s writings to the African American experience.
Becky Thatcher's Home: The Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum acquired and refurbished this wood frame house, located across the street from Twain's childhood home and once owned by Elijah Hawkins, whose daughter Laura was the inspiration for Becky Thatcher — many a young male reader's first literary crush.
Best Known For
Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum: The author's childhood home, where the Clemens family resided from 1844 to 1853, is hands down Hannibal's most popular attraction. Interactive exhibits and storytelling reveal details of his young life, recreating a raft ride on the river, exploring a cave, and painting the fence with whitewash.
"Adventure" Sites: Both "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" and "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" have been translated into multiple languages, so visitors from around the world flock here to see the locations where the stories took place. Happily, it's all accessible — from the Mark Twain Cave to the Huckleberry Finn House, a recreation of the family home of Tom Blankenship, upon whom Twain based his Huck character.
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Who It's Best For
Mark Twain Fans: Anyone enamored with the celebrated author's adventures and tall tales will be in seventh heaven.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
It Can Get Very Crowded: In peak season, and on boat days, Hannibal will be packed with sightseers. A tranquil place to take in the setting is the hill above the town and river.
Theodore W. Scull is a New York-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has written several books on crossings.