Missouri is a state in the Midwest region of the United States bordered by Iowa, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska. Missouri is the 18th most populous state. It comprises 114 counties and one independent city. Missouri's capital is Jefferson City. The four largest urban areas are, in descending order, St. Louis, Kansas City, Springfield, and Columbia. Missouri was originally acquired from France as part of the Louisiana Purchase and became defined as the Missouri Territory. Part of the Missouri Territory was admitted into the union as the 24th state in August 10, 1821.
Missouri mirrors the demographic, economic and political makeup of the nation with a mix of urban and rural culture. It has long been considered a political bellwether state. With the exception of the 1956 and 2008 presidential elections, Missouri's election results have accurately predicted the next President of the United States since United States presidential election, 1904. It has both Midwestern and Southern cultural influences, reflecting its history as a border state. It is also a transition between the eastern and western United States, as St. Louis is often called the "western-most eastern city" and Kansas City the "eastern-most western city." Missouri's geography is highly varied. The northern part of the state lies in dissected till plains while the southern part lies in the Ozark Mountains a (dissected plateau), with the Missouri River dividing the two. The confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers is located near St. Louis.
The seven largest cities in Missouri are Kansas City, St. Louis, Springfield, Independence, Columbia, Lee's Summit, and O'Fallon.
St. Louis is the principal city of the largest metropolitan area in Missouri, comprising seventeen counties and the independent city of St. Louis; eight of those counties lie in the state of Illinois. As of 2007, Greater St. Louis was the 18th largest metropolitan area in the nation with 2.81 million people. However, if ranked using Combined Statistical Area, it is 16th largest with 2.87 million people. Some of the major cities making up the St. Louis Metro area in Missouri include St. Charles, St. Peters, Florissant, Chesterfield, Creve Coeur, Maryland Heights, O'Fallon, Clayton, Ballwin, and University City.
Kansas City is Missouri's largest city and the principal city of the fifteen-county Kansas City Metropolitan Statistical Area, including six counties in the state of Kansas. As of 2008, it was the 29th largest metropolitan area in the nation, with 2.002 million people. Some of the other major cities comprising the Kansas City metro area in Missouri include Independence, Lee's Summit, Blue Springs, Raytown, Liberty, and Gladstone.
Branson is a major tourist attraction in the Ozarks of southwestern Missouri with many theaters and museums. Branson is also the home for two water places, two animal places, three lakes and twelve championship golf courses. Other local attractions include Silver Dollar City, White Water, Waltzing Waters, Mount Pleasant Winery, Stone Hill Winery, Ride The Ducks, The Haunted House and Monster Asylum, Butterfly Palace & Rainforest Adventure, Wings of the World (bird zoo), and the Branson Landing.