Discovering Mark Twain in Hannibal, Missouri

After major spine surgery in January, I had hardly left my house. Travel in general has been cut down the last few years because of my health, but now I needed to once again take another step down.

When I felt I finally could go somewhere, I was careful to pick a place that’s very accessible and would allow me lots of rest and breaks. 

With Brittany taking pictures, and Amanda accompanying her on active activities, it was a perfect mix.

The two were very helpful to me with my medical scooter.

I thought I had all the plans in place for this first trip of the year (even though half the year was over).

Then, less than a week before we were to go, I received an email that the place had overbooked, and they couldn’t accommodate us.

It is a place I hope to visit someday so I’m not going to go into details, but I was ready to finally get out a little and I didn’t have much time to plan.

The wonderful team at Visit Missouri and their PR agency, Handl Partners, worked quickly and diligently when I asked if they had a location that might work.

They came up with the perfect one: Hannibal.

Hannibal had been on my radar for a few years, so I was very excited. It was the perfect time to go because, in 2019, the city is celebrating its bicentennial.

The drive to Hannibal, Missouri, took less than three hours in perfect weather.

Our first stop was at the Hannibal Convention & Visitors Bureau, to pick up our tickets and passes to attractions.

We hadn’t stopped for lunch and the Mark Twain Dinette was right there, so we went in for something to eat. Our eyes immediately went to the beverage menu.

For Amanda and me, it was the homemade root beer that was calling, and I had to have mine as a root beer float, with ice cream. It was as delicious as it sounded and came with free refills on the soda.

Brittany decided on something a bit more exotic, trying one of the diner’s boozy floats. She had the Coffee-Milk Stout, with vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup, topped with a fresh-baked glazed donut!
From there, we were going to meet Henry Sweets, Director of the Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum at Museum Gallery.

We got a bit confused with all of the historical sites and ended up at the Interpretive Center instead.

We checked in, thinking it was the right place, and began to acquaint ourselves with the biggest star to every live in Hannibal, MarkTwain, aka Samuel Clemens.

The Interpretive Center had some very interesting exhibits to give us a preview into the family history. 

It was also in a complex of buildings that includes the Becky Thatcher House, JM Clemens Justice of the Peace Building, and other “famous from the books” spots, such as Tom Sawyer’s Fence, where he convinced his friends to pay him to whitewash.
When a guide at the center found us, she relayed the message that we needed to go to the Museum Gallery a few blocks away. We headed straight there to meet with Henry Sweets.

He told us about the importance of the Mark Twain/Samuel Clemens family to the town and all the connections they made. 

We also learned about exhibits in the Museum Gallery that were must-see. I certainly agreed as I especially loved the Norman Rockwell galleries, the Life Magazine covers featuring Twain characters, and artifacts from the Clemens family.

We checked into the new Holiday Inn Express & Suites after leaving the museum.

It’s a very comfortable and modern hotel, with an open lobby where you can use computers, buy snacks, pour yourself some coffee.

I took a nap before we left for dinner to meet Hannibal CVB Director Gail Bryant and Assistant Director Megan Rapp. They had chosen LaBinnah Bistro and it was just perfect.

LaBinnah (Hannibal spelled backwards) reminded me of a genuine Parisian bistro. I loved the paintings and the décor, and the way they managed to make it comfortable with only 28 seats.

This restaurant is family owned and was rated the “Best Bistro Under the Radar” in Missouri by I can’t disagree.

We started with a toast of Country Red from Missouri’s St. James Winery. Although the restaurant has a selection of wines from around the world, I wanted something from the state.

The owner brought around some Dolmas (a Greek dish, with rice inside grape leaves) for us to try. They were the best I’ve ever had.

As for the main courses, even with the elimination of seafood because of my allergy, I found half a dozen items that sounded wonderful.

I finally settled on the Queen Victoria, a pork chop in blueberry and cranberry chipotle sauce. It was tender and flavorful, with the chipotle just adding a very slight kick.

Brittany loved her salmon, in fact everyone was more than pleased with their meal. I was the most impressed with the Chicken Tikka Masala. It was served different than I’ve ever seen, with the sauce on a full chicken breast. It’s a local favorite and, after tasting it, I agreed with the accolade.

Not only were the desserts looking to good to pass up, but it was pretty difficult to even make a decision on what to get.   

We ended up with four different ones and couldn’t help sharing: Belgium Chocolaterie, handmade truffles from Belgium with fresh fruit and whipped cream, House made Baklava from a family recipe, Godiva Double Chocolate cake, rich, fudgy, and sinful, and a creamy White Chocolate-Red Raspberry Cheesecake.

Needless to say, we did not walk out of LaBinnah Bistro hungry!


  1. I loved the Hannibal trip! It’s good to know that there is an accessible trip so close to Iowa. And, I haven’t been there since the 90’s!

    Thanks for the tips.
    Stephany in Iowa

  2. Definitely return! There is so much to do (and eat) there. Stay tuned for more of my trip :)

  3. It's a great place with so much to do!


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