A Hannibal pilgrimage can be just the balm for a plain old regular guy
with excess vacation time. There are a wide variety of motels and B&Bs to
choose from, many situated right downtown in or near the historic district.
Probably the best time of all to visit is the weekend of October 19 and 20.
That is the Folk Life Festival. Main Street is closed off and filled with
food and craft booths. Musicians and dancers perform at the intersection of
Bird and Main. You might have some trouble getting a reservation this late,
but it is a great time.
As far as restaurants go, there are quite a few. LuluBelles is in an
old house of ill repute (no kidding) and is probably the best restaurant in
town. Old Planters serves very good solid fare at fair prices. We have a
great Mexican restaurant and three good Chinese restaurants. If you really
want to eat like Sam did, you have to eat one heart-clogging giant pork
tenderloin sandwich and you really have to have fried catfish though more
likely than not the fish will have been raised in a lake in Arkansas or
Mississippi than in the river. The best place for catfish is Huck's
Homestead south of town on Highway 61. It is a buffet and you can eat three
or four catfish assuming you are single or have a tolerant wife.
You have to go through the house where Sam Clemens lived. The cave is
also more interesting than you might think. I walked through it again two
weeks ago with an out of town guest. It is a true warren and has always
been at the heart of Hannibal life. The walls are covered with graffiti
going back to the 1850s -- but believe it or not, that adds to the
experience. I also find the riverboat ride rather authentic and though you
will just have a business relationship with them, the people who own and
operate the boat are two of the nicest people in Hannibal. They are always
doing nice things for people so it is a good place to spend money.
If you have time, make an hour or two to go to the Missouri Room of the
Hannibal Public Library. Ask one of the librarians to show you the
microfilms of the Hannibal Journal. Sit down at a reader and go through a
few issues from July 1852 forward. Try to figure out which articles Sam
wrote. It is a fascinating experience.
I am going to be out of town from October 18 through the 31st, but if
you come some other time, I will gladly show you or any other forum member
the Clemens's graves at Mt. Olivette and/or the Old Baptist Cemetery with
the grave of Sophia Hawkins's pet slave. If you come in October be sure to
see the Molly Brown Birthplace www.mollybrownmuseum.com . (Okay, that is a
shameless plug since Vicki and I own it and did the exhibits.) You can reach
me at home at 573-248-3812 or work at 221-2150. Try the website
www.visithannibal.com for help on places to stay. If you want specific
advice, call me or e-mail me.
If you get a traffic ticket, I also give special rates for members of
the Mark Twain Forum. Another shameless plug... have I no shame?