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On Location: Hannibal MO


On Location: Hannibal MO

I have always said that I am a unique blend of city and country. I grew up as an inner city kid but I spent most of my summers on farms in Missouri. Every summer I would pack my bags and head to Missouri to visit with family. I have driven through Hannibal so many times, I have lost count. Getting to Hannibal was a landmark of sorts. It meant that I was one hour from seeing my grandma, Mamo, whom I love dearly. We usually didn't stop. On the five hour drive from Chicago, my dad would get restless and wanted to push forward. We would cross the bridge over the Mississippi and cheer at the state line. Getting to Missouri meant we were all on vacation. I would stare out the window at the almost movie like set that is Hannibal and wonder what it would be like to visit it. We would visit on occasion, making the one hour trip back from Grandma's house to see the Mark Twain Caves or visit the old cemetery on the hill but I never got a chance to explore the town on my own terms until recently. 

Hannibal is the kind of mom and pop midwestern town that would be easily dismissed if it weren't for it's history. You know it's name because it is the birthplace of Mark Twain. This is where Mark Twain grew up, played on the river, got ideas for his stories in the caves and infused his life into his writing. The people who live here have taken pride in both preserving that memory and making it into spectacle. It seems like playing Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn are rights of passage for young kids. During peak season, you will see them walking about town. The businesses are all run by locals, who like the speed of the river, seem to march slower in time than life in the city. The oddities and curiosities of the historic parts of town are charming and cartoonish. Perfect for those with imagination, a playful spirit and a love of Mark Twain. 

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Below you will find a collection of my favorite things to see and do in Hannibal. 



Start with a one hour riverboat tour on the Mississippi. The trip starts with a tune played on the large organ that can be heard about town. This signals a mini parade of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn characters that make their way down to the river and greet you as you enter. The views from the boat will give you a great view of Hannibal, a quick history and a few locations from Huckleberry Finn. Sit on the deck and imagine being Samuel Clement, who was a steamboat pilot on the river. 

Next, head into town and stroll the main strip. Get lost in Lydia's Cabinet of Curiosities. Make sure you take a look at the Dinosaur Fossils, ask the host about them. Missouri sits on a rich bed of limestone. The cave systems here are abundant. That also means that excavating fossils is a local hobby. Ask about them, they have quite the story to tell you. 

Next wander into Mrs. Clemens Antique Mall and oogle at all the deliciously creepy treasures. Those who are easily creeped out by dolls, need not apply.  


If you are from a rural area, take this next recommendation with a grain of salt. While Hannibal certainly has restaurants that are themed to suit the history of the place, a good cup of coffee and a healthy lunch isn't on the menu for most of them. You'll find a smattering of calories and grease at the diners, pizza places and ice cream parlors. By all means, if that is your thing dive in and enjoy! I do however highly recommend a cafe not far from all the curiosity shops, Java Jive. 


If you are looking for that garden to table salad for lunch, this is the place. Not only are the people who run this place wonderful to chat with but they know their coffee and fresh food. All items are locally sourced from farmers. This place is a breath of fresh air on the strip. Bring your copy of your favorite Mark Twain book and cozy up on the couch with a cup for a few hours. The pastries and salads were amazing. Certainly a departure among the greasy midwestern comfort food.  

Before you leave Java Jive, stop at the front and take a moment to see all the brochures for things to do in town. There is much to see and you'll need to make some decisions about what your priorities are. From here, I am taking you to the caves. But that means you would skip the museums, boyhood home, trolley tours and hilariously bad, kind of need to see, haunted house and wax museum. If you are doing a day two, by all means check those out. They are fun for people who want to know more about the places and people that influenced Mark Twains writing. I however have a love of the underground and found the caves be more interesting. 

If you love camping like me, you'll want to camp here for your stay to get the full experience. These are the caves and the grounds that inspired Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. You'll want to explore, set up a big fire and enjoy the landscape. I have a hotel recommendation further down for those that want a bed. 

Explore Cameron Cave during the day and book a lantern and flashlight tour of the Mark Twain caves at night. You'll see hiding places of Jesse James, spots that historians claim are directly related to Huck Finn and learn about the Missouri Cave systems. These tours are easily walkable. Bring a light jacket, the caves are always between 55-60 degrees. Which on a hot summer day is the perfect way to cool off. 


If camping isn't your thing, I highly recommend a stay at Rockcliffe Mansion. The mansion was recently restored and opened to the public as a bed and breakfast. It is a rare opportunity to sleep in a restored house from the 1800's. The views of the river are worth the trip up the hill. If staying overnight isn't on the menu come take a tour during the day. I will be booking a night for myself next time I come through. I was so excited to learn you should sleep in these rooms and have a mansion to roam around in at night. Mark Twain gave many speeches and lectures from the stairs in the main parlor. They can be all yours for a night. 


Take in the views from the porch before you leave, from here you can look down over the whole town. As a kid, I always longed for travel. My family was bound to the midwest growing up. I used to roll my eyes at places like this, thinking how silly they were when I longed for travel to exotic and more far away places. As I've grown I have come to understand the nostalgic charm of climbing back in time, however cheesy it seems, and enjoying a different perspective. I don't think you'll need more than two days here but it would make a great stop on your road trip onward south to the beautiful state parks in southern illinois or missouri. 


By Photographer: A.F. Bradley in his studio. - This image is available from the United States Library of Congress's Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID cph.3a08820.This tag does not indicate the copyright status of the attached work. A normal copyright tag is still required. See Commons:Licensing for more information.العربية | čeština | Deutsch | English | español | فارسی | suomi | français | magyar | italiano | македонски | മലയാളം | Nederlands | polski | português | русский | slovenčina | slovenščina | Türkçe | українська | 中文 | 中文(简体)‎ | 中文(繁體)‎ | +/−, Public Domain,

Twain was born shortly after an appearance of Halley's Comet, and he predicted that he would "go out with it" as well; he died the day after the comet returned. He was lauded as the "greatest American humorist of his age",[5] and William Faulkner called him "the father of American literature".[6]

Each time of year offers a different beauty to this town. The height of the seasons are Memorial Day - Labor Day. There is a festival in the fall and around Christmas time. After that, most of the museums are closed. Be sure to check the websites to see what time of year is best for what you want to see. 

Hannibal is also home to the Unsinkable Molly Brown. One of the more famous survivors of the Titanic. There is a muesum dedicated to her story. 


On Location: New Mexico Landscapes


On Location: New Mexico Landscapes


Bandelier National Monument is a 33,677-acre (13,629 ha) United States National Monument in New Mexicopreserving the homes and territory of the Ancestral Puebloans of a later era in the Southwest. Most of the pueblo structures date to two eras, in total from 1150 to 1600 AD.

The Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, locally known as the "Gorge Bridge" and the "High Bridge",[2] is a steel deck arch bridgeacross the Rio Grande Gorge 10 miles (16 km) northwest of Taos, New MexicoUnited States. At 565 feet (172 m) above the Rio Grande,[3] it is the seventh highest bridge in the United States and 82nd highest bridge in the world.[4]


I didn't expect New Mexico to seep into my soul the way it did. One of my favorite things about travel is seeing what the color looks like in different landscapes. New Mexico is strikingly colorful. I felt like I had never seen the color orange until I saw a sunset here. I now understood why artists were drawn to this landscape. With exception to the black and white image, none of these have been color treated. It's like New Mexico has a beautiful color filter all it's own. 


On Location | Thailand


On Location | Thailand


This boutique hotel is family owned and operated. Nestled on the banks of the river in old Bangkok, far from the tourist crowd, this place is a hidden gem. An old warehouse converted into a hotel, this place is an instagram dream. Suite 4 O'Clock has a giant wooden tub that overlooks Wat Arun, perfect for soaking away the day. Design is fabulous, service is wonderful, Thai Iced Tea amazing. Don't skip lunch. The place is small but it is like having your favorite Thai Chef cook you a private dinner. Walking distance to Wat Pho and The Royal Palace. Easy Access to river cruises. 




Save some money on accommodations by taking an overnight train to Chiang Mai.  We booked our sleeper cabin via ticket service a month before our arrival. The train was so comfortable and cozy. We had no trouble sleeping. When we woke, we were arriving in the mountains at sunrise! Dinner is surprisingly yummy and affordable. For breakfast, stick to the rice soup. The other options were strange. Meals are not included. If you order, they will collect cash just before arrival. For those adventurous souls, the bathrooms have a shower on board. It's a balancing act, but it gets the job done. I just washed my hair to freshen up. 


An avid traveler and co-worker friend of mine, Megan Taylor, recommended this place. I saw the video of her experience and knew it was something I had to do. My husband and I credit this place as being literally one of the "best days," of our lives. A spiritual experience that is not to be missed. Thailand is plagued by terrible "animal tourism." From the Tiger petting zoo's to the Elephant camps. These animals are often mistreated for the sake of turning a profit. Patera Elephant Farm seeks to rescue and rehabilitate elephants. What you pay for is helping them care for the animals. You will be put to work, feeding, cleaning and walking them. Groups are small and each human get's one elephant and a care-taker for the day. They space out the experience so the elephants are not overwhelmed and each animal is paired with a human that fits it's personality.  You ride bare-back. No saddles or whips are allowed. When an elephant first comes in, it is assigned a mahoout. This person dedicates their life to caring for this animal 24/7. This is the relationship you experience. This place takes no donations. They want you to help them care for these majestic creatures. It is difficult to articulate the magic that happens when you look an elephant in the eye. It's like seeing eons of wisdom and kindness in one moment. I cried when I hugged my elephant goodbye. We had two women in our group who were back for the third time. I now understand why. If you go to Thailand, do this! 


Stay near the Old City if you want to visit more Wat's and eat street food. We found a delightful Air BNB just outside the old city. Ratchiangsaen Flora House, Ribbin, was a wonderful host. We were never far from a Tuk-Tuk to anywhere in the city and walking distance from an outdoor market that was open all night. Eat the street food, it will blow your mind. BBQ on a stick, soups, seafood, smoothies and ROTI. Meals are just a few Bhat each. Go to the Night Bazaar and see a Thai Boxing fight. Anthony Boirdain says, "Find the Cowboy Hat Lady at the gate and eat her food." Her stand is called, "Khao Kha Moo Chang Phueak." We agree. Don't miss it. 

travel like the monks

Hike the ancient path to Doi Suthep and stop at the best kept secret spot on the mountain:  Wat Pha Lat. When we dreamed of Thailand, this was the place we saw in our dreams. A jungle temple at the top of a waterfall. We packed a lunch and ate it with locals on the rocks with a pack of temple stray dogs. The hike starts just behind the Zoo and winds up the mountain. You follow ties on trees left by the monks.  It is magical. We snagged a Red Truck from Wat Pha Lat to the more famous Wat at Doi Suthep. The best part, no one here had "selfie sticks," and the place was quiet. I was the most connected to my meditation at this temple. "No Ego," etched into a step next to the waterfall. It is the perfect place to recharge outside the city. We got our hiking tips and instructions from Globo Treks. It was easy to follow their directions. 

Hello jungle temple of my dreams. #thailand #passionpassport #lifeisbeautiful #travelgram #livinwithfox

A photo posted by Melissa Fox (@melissafoxmedia) on



Bring long skirts or pants to wear into temples. Some places, like the Royal Palace, require a collar on your shirt. I kept one in my bag and wore long skirts for most of our trip and I was never denied entry into a temple. 

When inside a temple, women are not allowed to touch a monk. If you wish to get a blessing, you must place your donation or item in front of the monk and he will pick it up. 

Schedule a "Monk Chat" in Chiang Mai. 

The friendlier the stranger, the more suspect they are. Thai people are quiet and private. Those that were super friendly were trying to scam us. We were told many times that something was closed when it wasn't. If a Tuk-Tuk driver needs to "make a stop," on the way to your destination they will stop at a shop and ask you to go in while they run an errand. They get a commission from the shop owner if you buy something.  We had it happen once. You'll learn fast. 

Most signs are in English. Use Google Translator App if you are confused.  

Price is negotiable on souvenirs. Don't be afraid to haggle for items or Tuk-Tuk rides. 

The whole city will shut down for the King. If it happens, just go with it. There is literally nothing you can do. 

Get a massage. Every Damn Day. Seriously. 





On Location | Charleston; South Carolina


I never expected to end up in Charleston as many times as I have over the last few years for work. It was not on my list of "must have," places to visit but I am glad the opportunity presented itself. The air literally smells like barbecue. Every corner is dripping with historical significance. I fell in love with it's cocktails, horse drawn carriages and charm. It is easy to romanticize the big beautiful homes, huge bridges and local art scene. 








On this trip I was filming a wedding for a good friend and coworker. He filmed my wedding day and I was delighted to return the favor. It took some convincing to get the newlyweds up at sunrise. It meant an early morning after little sleep for all of us. But I am so glad I pushed for it. This was by far my favorite part of the weekend. Our relaxed couple enjoyed their first sunrise as husband and wife while we documented the glowing occasion. Can not wait to share the teaser!



No visit is complete without making a stop to the unspoken undercurrent of the city: The slave markets. If this were civil war era then I am a Yankee from the land of Lincoln. So I felt a little out of place reading placards for the mansions of Confederate generals who have been known to enslave many. On top of the old slave market, sits a confederate museum. On my first trip to SC, the confederate flag was everywhere. Thankfully on this trip, it was no where to be found. I was surprised to see how much of the history of slavery for this area, one of the largest slave ports, refused to honor the upsetting history of its former residence. The one slave museum I could find was small and contained no more than a few relics and oral histories. This museum was next to the historical museum row, whose houses were home to the daughters of the confederacy and plantation owners. That is when I realized I was standing in a city that was built on the backs of its slave population. Letting that reality sink in, hurt my soul. Any history of slavery, began in Charleston. This is where the ships unloaded their cargo. The romance and charm disappeared into the chasm of an expunged horror that had been reduced to no more than a whisper. It would be nice to see more dedication devoted to this history but the sad reality is that after the civil war ended, many documents and history was destroyed to release the owners from the stigma and persecution of owning slaves. Therein lies the unspoken undercurrent current of the city. A historical tension that once felt, can not be unfelt. 


Noted: I have not had time to enjoy the beaches. The Citadel sounds cool but is just a military school. There is such a thing as He crab soup too. Cobblestone is hard to walk on. The south has more humidity than I can handle. My northern accent sticks out like a sore thumb. There are more churches then Starbucks. Uber will not pick you up at the airport. The bed and breakfasts downtown looked amazing. The light becomes harsh earlier and longer then in the north, so ideal filming conditions are sparse. Fort Sumpter looked small. Many sailors walk the streets in uniform, as a Navy Base is nearby.