Hannibal might well have been just another medium-sized river settlement, had not Samuel Langhorne Clemens spent his boyhood here. (Clemens renamed himself Mark Twain, after the depth-marking cry of pilots on the Mississippi.) Although Hannibal does have other industries, downtown is little more than a Twain theme park of museums, period buildings, and wax displays.
Hannibal's riverside location and historical buildings make it almost disturbingly picturesque. Squeezed between two steep bluffs the once-busy community is now quiet except for the occasional creaking of a crane loading cement. You can get an intimate look at the Mississippi aboard the slow– moving Mark Twain riverboat (1hr tours 11am, 1.30pm & 4pm, $12; 2hr dinner cruise by reservation 6.30pm, $33; Tel:573/221-3222). Twain's youthful stomping-ground was the short, cobbled incline of Hill Street, at the north end of town. Adjoining the restored Mark Twain Boyhood Home, a simple white-clapboard house where Twain lived between 1844 and 1853, the Mark Twain Museum (summer daily 8am–6pm; rest of year times vary; $8; Tel:573/221-9010) includes such memorabilia as first editions, letters, photos, original artwork, and one of the author's trademark white coats. Main Street holds the New Mark Twain Museum (summer daily 9am–6pm; rest of year times vary; same phone as above). Included in the admission price to the original museum and home, the exhibits here re-create scenes from Twain's books, the cave and Huck Finn's raft among them.