Discover the Charm of Rolla, Missouri: Your Ultimate Guide to Attractions, Culture, and Opportunities

Rolla, Missouri, a charming small town with a rich history, is located right in the heart of the state. Known for its beautiful surroundings, vibrant culture, and strong sense of community, Rolla is the perfect destination for those looking for a laid-back lifestyle with all the amenities of a larger city. In this article, we’ll dive into what makes Rolla, Missouri, so special and explore its history, attractions, and the reasons why you should consider paying a visit or even moving there.

History of Rolla

Rolla was founded in 1858 when the St. Louis & San Francisco Railroad was being constructed through the region. The town’s name, according to local legend, is derived from the name of the game “roulette,” which was played by railroad workers during their breaks. Other sources claim that Rolla is named after a North Carolinian city called Raleigh, with the name being shortened to sound more informal and welcoming.

Rolla during the Civil War

Rolla played a significant role in the Civil War, serving as a Union Army base and supply depot. The city’s strategic location made it a crucial transportation hub, and its proximity to the railroad helped supply Union forces throughout the region. ✌️

Attractions and Landmarks

Rolla, Missouri, has tons of unique attractions and landmarks that are just begging to be explored. From educational institutions and museums to picturesque outdoor settings, there’s no shortage of things to see and do in this charming town. Let’s dive into some of the must-visit attractions in Rolla.

Missouri University of Science and Technology

As we mentioned earlier, the Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) is a vital part of Rolla’s landscape. But did you know that the campus is also home to some remarkable attractions? For instance, the Solar Village, a collection of solar-powered homes built by students, showcases innovative sustainable living solutions. Another campus gem is the Millennium Arch, a stunning double helix structure made of granite, which serves as a symbol of Missouri S&T’s commitment to science and technology.

Mark Twain National Forest

You’ve already heard about the vastness of the Mark Twain National Forest, but let’s talk about some specific spots worth visiting within the forest. The picturesque Lane Spring Recreation Area offers picnic spots, a serene spring-fed creek, and excellent trout fishing opportunities. If you’re up for a hiking adventure, the nearby Kaintuck Hollow Trail offers a moderately challenging trek through diverse landscapes, including forests, glades, and rock formations.

St. James Winery

Can you imagine sipping on a delightful glass of wine while surrounded by lush vineyards and rolling hills? That’s precisely the experience you’ll have at the St. James Winery. Apart from wine tastings and tours, the winery also hosts seasonal events like the Grape Stomp Festival, where you can try your hand (or rather, foot) at stomping grapes the old-fashioned way. 🥂

Rolla’s Route 66 Attractions

Rolla is located along the famous Route 66, and there are a few nostalgic attractions that pay homage to this iconic highway. Don’t miss the Totem Pole Trading Post, a classic souvenir shop with a quirky totem pole right outside. And while you’re exploring Route 66, be sure to snap a photo with the giant rocking chair at the Fanning 66 Outpost.

Rolla Downtown

Strolling through Rolla’s downtown area is like taking a step back in time. The historic downtown district is dotted with beautifully preserved buildings, local shops, and cozy cafés. While you’re there, make sure to visit the Phelps County Courthouse, an elegant structure built in 1860 that still serves as the county’s judicial center.

The Kaleidoscope Factory

Here’s something you probably didn’t expect to find in Rolla: The Kaleidoscope Factory, a hidden gem where you can watch master craftsman, Leonard Olson, create one-of-a-kind kaleidoscopes. You can even try your hand at making your own kaleidoscope under Olson’s expert guidance. It’s a unique and unforgettable experience for kids and adults alike.

With so many attractions and landmarks to discover, it’s no wonder Rolla, Missouri, is a destination that keeps visitors coming back for more. So why not start planning your trip and see for yourself what makes this charming town so special?

Photo Credit – nikki

Outdoor Activities

Rolla, Missouri, offers a plethora of outdoor activities that cater to nature lovers, fitness enthusiasts, and thrill-seekers alike. With its beautiful parks, recreational facilities, and natural wonders, there’s always something to do outside in Rolla. Here are some more outdoor activities you can enjoy in this lovely town.

The Oak Meadow Country Club

Golf aficionados will feel right at home at the Oak Meadow Country Club. This beautiful 18-hole golf course is surrounded by picturesque rolling hills and mature oak trees, providing a challenging and enjoyable experience for golfers of all skill levels. After a round on the greens, you can kick back and relax at the club’s restaurant, which offers delicious meals and stunning views of the course.

Buehler Park

If you’re looking for a serene outdoor space for a leisurely walk, a picnic, or just some relaxation, Buehler Park is the perfect spot. This well-maintained park features a lovely pond, walking trails, and plenty of green space for you to unwind. It’s also home to Rolla’s very own Stonehenge replica – a fascinating tribute to the ancient monument in England.

Rolla Skate Park

Rolla Skate Park is a haven for skaters and bikers looking to practice their skills and have some fun. This well-designed park features ramps, rails, and obstacles that cater to various skill levels. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced skater, you’ll surely enjoy the adrenaline-pumping action at this skate park.

Meramec Springs Park

A short drive from Rolla, Meramec Springs Park is a must-visit destination for nature lovers and anglers. The park is home to the Meramec Spring, one of the largest springs in Missouri, which pumps out over 100 million gallons of crystal-clear water daily. The park also offers some of the best trout fishing in the state, as well as beautiful hiking trails, picnic areas, and a playground for the little ones.

Float Trips on the Gasconade River

For a fun-filled day on the water, look no further than a float trip on the Gasconade River. Rent a canoe, kayak, or raft, and embark on a leisurely journey down the river, soaking in the stunning scenery and wildlife along the way. There are several outfitters in the area that can help you plan your perfect float trip adventure.

Outdoor Rock Climbing

Did you know that Rolla is near some fantastic outdoor rock climbing opportunities? The nearby Kaintuck Hollow Trail, which we mentioned earlier, also features some excellent climbing spots for those looking to test their skills on natural rock formations. Make sure to follow local regulations and safety guidelines when venturing out for a climbing adventure.

With so many exciting outdoor activities available in and around Rolla, Missouri, there’s no shortage of ways to enjoy the great outdoors. So lace up your hiking boots, grab your sunscreen, and get ready to experience the beauty and adventure that this charming town has to offer.

Local Culture and Cuisine

Rolla, Missouri, boasts a rich local culture that reflects its friendly and welcoming community. From the thriving arts scene to the diverse and delectable food options, Rolla offers visitors an authentic taste of Midwestern charm. Let’s explore some of the must-experience cultural aspects and culinary delights of this delightful town.

Tater Patch

The Tater Patch was originally opened as “Moutrays Tater Patch” by Otho Moutray in 1965, which operated out of the old A-frame building on the property until the new building was built in 1966.  The bar has changed hands a few times, expanded in size to include a full service restaurant and evolved into the Beloved Tater Patch of today, which is owned and operated by the amazing Rob & Kricket Webster! 🥩

Rolla’s Farmers Market

What better way to experience local culture than by visiting Rolla’s Farmers Market? Open from May through October, this vibrant market offers a fantastic selection of locally-grown produce, artisanal goods, and homemade treats. You’ll not only find delicious, fresh ingredients for your next meal, but also have the opportunity to connect with the farmers and artisans who bring their goods to market.

Ozark Folk Music

Rolla’s rich musical heritage includes traditional Ozark folk music, which is still very much alive in the community. Local musicians often host jam sessions and performances in various venues around town, offering a unique opportunity to experience this authentic and soulful musical tradition.

International Cuisine Options

Rolla’s diverse food scene offers a world of flavors to satisfy any craving. From the zesty and flavorful dishes at Los Cazadores Mexican Restaurant to the savory Mediterranean fare at Alex’s Pizza Palace, you’ll find a culinary adventure around every corner. And for those who prefer a more familiar taste, Rolla also has a great selection of American classics like burgers, steaks, and BBQ.

Local Breweries and Distilleries

If you’re a fan of craft beer or spirits, Rolla has you covered. Public House Brewing Company offers a range of handcrafted beers, from crisp lagers to robust stouts, brewed with care and creativity. Meanwhile, the nearby St. James Winery, which we mentioned earlier, is also home to the St. James Distillery, where you can sample their locally crafted spirits, including whiskey, vodka, and gin.

Missouri S&T’s Leach Theatre

For a taste of the performing arts, don’t miss a show at Missouri S&T’s Leach Theatre. This state-of-the-art venue hosts a variety of events, from concerts and plays to dance performances and lectures. With its diverse program lineup, the Leach Theatre offers an enriching cultural experience for all who attend.

Rolla, Missouri, is a town with a rich and diverse local culture, where visitors can explore its artistic and culinary offerings in a warm and welcoming atmosphere. So why not immerse yourself in the sights, sounds, and flavors of this charming community and experience the best of what Rolla has to offer?

Annual Events and Festivals

Rolla, Missouri, is not only rich in culture and outdoor activities, but also hosts an array of exciting annual events and festivals that bring the community together and attract visitors from near and far. From lively street fairs to music festivals, there’s always something happening in Rolla. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular annual events and festivals in town.

St. Pat’s

Rolla, Missouri, is home to one of the most unique and celebrated St. Patrick’s Day traditions in the United States. 😃 Thanks to the Missouri University of Science and Technology, the annual St. Pat’s celebration has become a legendary event that attracts visitors from all over and showcases the spirit and creativity of the local community. Let’s dive into the history and highlights of this extraordinary festival.

A Storied Tradition

  • The St. Pat’s tradition in Rolla dates back over a century, with the first celebration taking place in 1908. The students of the Missouri School of Mines, the predecessor of Missouri S&T, declared St. Patrick the patron saint of engineers and began celebrating his day with great enthusiasm. Over the years, the festivities have evolved into a week-long extravaganza that showcases the engineering prowess and sense of humor of the students and faculty.☘️

The Best Ever

  • The St. Pat’s celebration at Missouri S&T is often called the “Best Ever,” and it’s not hard to see why. The festivities kick off with a series of student-led events, including competitions, talent shows, and the famous Snake Invasion, where rubber snakes are “captured” and displayed throughout the campus. The week is filled with traditions, camaraderie, and plenty of green attire.

The St. Pat’s Parade

  • The pinnacle of the St. Pat’s celebration is the grand parade, held on the Saturday closest to St. Patrick’s Day. Featuring colorful floats designed by students, local organizations, and businesses, the parade winds through the streets of Rolla, drawing crowds of spectators. The parade culminates with the ceremonial arrival of St. Patrick, portrayed by a student dressed in regal attire, who is then “knighted” by the university’s chancellor.

St. Pat’s Follies

  • Another popular event during the St. Pat’s celebration is the Follies, a talent show that showcases the creativity, humor, and musical abilities of Missouri S&T’s students. Performances range from original skits and songs to dance routines and stand-up comedy, all with a nod to the engineering spirit and the St. Patrick’s Day theme.

Shamrockin’ in Rolla

  • For those looking to enjoy some live music during the St. Pat’s celebration, the annual Shamrockin’ in Rolla concert offers a fantastic lineup of local and regional bands. With a mix of genres and styles, there’s something for everyone to enjoy as they dance the night away.

The St. Pat’s celebration in Rolla, Missouri, is a one-of-a-kind event that brings together the town’s residents, students, and visitors in a week-long tribute to St. Patrick and the spirit of engineering. With its rich history, unique traditions, and lively atmosphere, it’s no wonder that St. Pat’s in Rolla is hailed as the “Best Ever.”

Celebration of Nations

Celebrating the rich cultural diversity of Rolla and the Missouri University of Science and Technology, the Celebration of Nations is an annual event that brings people together from around the world. This colorful festival features a parade of nations, traditional performances, delicious international cuisine, and interactive cultural displays. It’s a fantastic opportunity to learn about and appreciate the diverse backgrounds of Rolla’s residents and students.

Route 66 Summerfest Car Show

Kicking off the summer season, Rolla Summerfest is a family-friendly event that showcases local talent, artisans, and businesses. The festival features live music, arts and crafts vendors, food trucks, and plenty of fun activities for the kids. With its warm and welcoming atmosphere, Summerfest is a celebration of Rolla’s vibrant community spirit. Rolla is also proudly located along the historic Route 66, and the Route 66 Summerfest Car Show is an annual event that pays tribute to this iconic American highway. Classic car enthusiasts will delight in the display of beautifully restored vintage vehicles, while live music, food vendors, and activities for the whole family make it a fun day out for everyone. 💖

Oktoberfest at Public House Brewing Company

Embracing the spirit of the famous German festival, Public House Brewing Company hosts its annual Oktoberfest celebration. The event features plenty of their handcrafted beers, traditional German food, live music, and even a stein-holding contest. So don your lederhosen or dirndl and join in the fun at this authentic Oktoberfest celebration right here in Rolla.

Rolla Christmas Parade

To wrap up the year in festive style, the Rolla Christmas Parade is a beloved community tradition that brings holiday cheer to the streets of downtown Rolla. Featuring beautifully decorated floats, marching bands, and an appearance by Santa Claus himself, the parade is a magical event that ushers in the holiday season and delights both young and old.

These annual events and festivals are just a glimpse of the lively and dynamic community spirit that makes Rolla, Missouri, such a special place to visit and live. So be sure to mark your calendar and join in the celebrations, as you experience the very best that Rolla has to offer.

Economy and Job Opportunities

Rolla, Missouri, is a town with a thriving economy and an array of job opportunities that cater to a diverse range of skill sets and industries. From the strong presence of higher education institutions to the growing manufacturing sector, Rolla offers a stable economic environment for residents and businesses alike. Let’s take a closer look at the key drivers of Rolla’s economy and the job opportunities available in this dynamic town.

Higher Education and Research

One of the most significant contributors to Rolla’s economy is the Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T). As a premier institution focused on engineering, science, and technology, Missouri S&T attracts students, faculty, and researchers from around the world. The university not only provides job opportunities in education and research but also stimulates local businesses by drawing visitors and generating demand for goods and services.

Manufacturing and Engineering

Rolla has a strong manufacturing and engineering sector, with numerous companies operating in the area. Companies like Royal Canin, Brewer Science, and Hartmann US provide employment opportunities in areas such as production, research and development, and management. These industries contribute to the local economy by creating jobs, supporting related businesses, and attracting skilled workers to the region.


The healthcare industry is another key player in Rolla’s economy, with Phelps Health being one of the largest employers in the area. Phelps Health offers a range of job opportunities, from medical professionals like doctors and nurses to administrative and support roles. The healthcare sector not only provides essential services to the community but also contributes to the overall economic stability of the town.

Retail and Hospitality

As a growing town with an increasing number of visitors, Rolla has a thriving retail and hospitality industry. Local businesses, such as restaurants, hotels, and shops, provide numerous job opportunities for residents. Additionally, these businesses contribute to the town’s economic development by catering to the needs of both locals and visitors.

Small Business and Entrepreneurship

Rolla is also home to a vibrant small business community, with many local entrepreneurs operating successful businesses in various sectors. From niche retail stores to innovative tech startups, small businesses in Rolla create job opportunities and contribute to the town’s economic growth.

Future Growth and Development

With its diverse economy and a strong foundation in education, manufacturing, and healthcare, Rolla is well-positioned for continued growth and development. The town’s strategic location along the I-44 corridor and its proximity to other economic hubs in Missouri further enhance its appeal as a destination for businesses and skilled workers.

Rolla, Missouri, offers a robust economy and a wide range of job opportunities that cater to various industries and skill sets. With its strong emphasis on education, research, and manufacturing, coupled with the thriving healthcare, retail, and hospitality sectors, Rolla is a town with a bright economic future and a promising job market for both current residents and newcomers.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the population of Rolla, Missouri?

  • As of 2021, the population of Rolla is estimated to be around 20,000 residents.

2. How far is Rolla from St. Louis and Kansas City?

  • Rolla is approximately 100 miles southwest of St. Louis and around 215 miles southeast of Kansas City.

3. What is the climate like in Rolla?

  • Rolla experiences a humid subtropical climate with hot summers and cold winters. The area also receives moderate rainfall throughout the year.

4. Are there any parks or natural areas in Rolla?

  • Yes, Rolla has numerous parks, including Ber Juan Park, Green Acres Park, and Schuman Park. Additionally, the Mark Twain National Forest is just a short drive away.

5. What is the cost of living in Rolla?

  • The cost of living in Rolla is lower than the national average, making it an affordable option for those considering a move to the area.

6. What is the main industry in Rolla?

  • Education, healthcare, and manufacturing are the primary industries in Rolla, with the Missouri University of Science and Technology, Phelps Health Medical Center, and various manufacturing companies providing significant employment opportunities.

7. Is Rolla a safe place to live?

  • Rolla has a lower crime rate than the national average, making it a safe and welcoming community for residents and visitors.

8. What types of housing options are available in Rolla?

  • Rolla offers a range of housing options, from single-family homes and apartments to condos and townhomes. With a variety of neighborhoods and price points, there’s a home to suit every budget and lifestyle.

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