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While this summer seems to be flying by, there is still plenty of time to get outdoors and enjoy all Missouri has to offer. From hiking trails, to the Lake of the Ozarks, to the famous Gateway Arch, our state is home to some incredible places to explore. July is National Park and Recreation Month and the perfect time to take advantage of all the wonderful outdoor activities and sights that are right here in our backyard.

Many summer plans like travel, camps, and some sports tournaments may have had to change due to COVID-19, but there are countless ways we can soak up the summer right here in our state. And as the former director of the Missouri Division of Tourism, I am always a strong proponent of enjoying all things Missouri, especially during the summer months. This summer is the perfect time to plan a family camping trip, a lake getaway, or that certain hike we haven't seemed to have found the time for.

The Katy Trail is a great place for Missourians of all ages to get outside for some fresh air, take in the beautiful views and explore history. This state park was built along the former Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad and is the longest "rail-trail" in America. There are 240 miles of trail for those who are looking for some exercise, and due to its mostly flat terrain, it's a great place for walking, running and biking. And for the history-lover, the Katy Trail is the perfect place to stroll along the Missouri River and learn about the railroad and towns it once ran through.

Lake of the Ozarks is one of Missouri's most well-known attractions and one of my personal favorites. With more than 1,100 miles of shoreline — more than the entire state of California — there is no shortage of room for activities for water lovers. Whether it's fishing, boating, swimming, shopping or camping, there is something for just about everybody at the lake. And now that Missouri is back open for business, this is a great place to come and support our local economy and enjoy the wonderful restaurants and attractions the lake has to offer.

One of the most famous destinations that is quintessentially "Missouri" is of course, the Gateway Arch. At 630 feet tall, it is the tallest manmade monument in the nation, towering over both the Statue of Liberty and Washington Monument. This summer could be a great time to plan a family road trip to revisit — or perhaps see for the first time — the iconic, "Gateway to the West."

Summer in Missouri is one of my favorite times of year. After many of us stayed home to slow the spread of coronavirus this past spring, it is an especially great summer to take in our state's natural beauty and visit all the wonderful destinations and attractions that are right here. I hope you continue to have a safe summer, and if my office can do anything to help make your summer safer, please don't hesitate to give us a call.

U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-Mo., shares his perspective each week on national issues, including ones that affect Missouri. He represents the state's 3rd District, which includes Jefferson City. His local office can be reached at 635-7232.

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