Columbia, located at the center of Missouri's rolling hills, is a trendy college town and home to the University of Missouri, Columbia. Cultural activities flourish in the town, with professional ballet companies, live local theater, a symphony, an orchestra, and a score of well-curated museums are ready to satisfy any cultural cravings. Here are the best things to do in Columbia, MO on your weekend getaway or day trip.
1. Rock Bridge Memorial State Park
© Rock Bridge Memorial State Park
Rock Bridge Memorial State Park is a state park with more than 2,200 acres of recreational land featuring a wide variety of activities and amenities. Some of Missouri's most beautiful and most trafficked hiking trails can be found here along with some of the more isolated trails in the Gabs Creek Wild Area. The park contains a large cave system with an interesting rock bridge, several sinkholes, and more, and visitors can go inside and explore Connor's Cave. Besides hiking, other popular activities at Rock Bridge Memorial State Park include biking, horseback riding, fishing, orienteering, picnicking, and more. Guests who wish to stay overnight can reserve a primitive or modern campsite.
5901 South Highway 163, Columbia, MO 65203, Phone: 573-449-7402
2. Shelter Gardens
© Shelter Gardens
Shelter Gardens is an award-winning garden located on 5 acres of land behind the corporate headquarters of the Shelter Insurance company. The gardens include several unique aspects, such as a sensory garden that is designed for blind and visually impaired guests. Additionally, the garden is home to a Vietnam War Veterans memorial, a waterfall and reflecting pool, a large sundial, a replica one-room school, and much more. The garden has many varieties of trees, shrubs, and flowers and this beautiful space is a popular location for weddings and photography sessions. During the summer, Shelter Gardens hosts free concerts for the community.
1817 W. Broadway, Columbia, MO 65203, Phone: 800-743-5837
3. Ragtag Cinema
© Ragtag Cinema
Ragtag Cinema is a local, non-profit, and independent movie theater that the non-profit Ragtag Film Society calls home. The society promotes film and media arts by supporting local works, film festivals, and more. The film society examines films from all around the country and world to determine what to show each month. The theater puts on an average of 12 movies or events each month and the films represent a wide range of cultures, backgrounds, and viewpoints. Uprise Bakery is housed in the same building and offers sandwiches, soups, and homemade baked goods. Guests are welcome to enjoy food from Uprise or something from the bar while they are watching their film.
10 Hitt Street, Columbia, MO 65201, Phone: 573-441-8504
4. Mizzou Botanic Garden
© Mizzou Botanic Garden
The Mizzou Botanical Garden is a garden on the campus of the University of Missouri that is often visited by students, faculty, and staff who wish to relax or have a quiet place to study or read. The garden changes seasonally and has more plants added each year. The Botanic Garden features many different gardens, such as the Siberian Iris Garden, the Asiatic & Oriental Lily Garden, the Native Missouri Tree Collection, and the Butterfly Garden, among many others. The gardens are spread across a wide section of the campus and also include access to the Columbia Recreation Trail. The trail crosses the southern end of the campus and is open to hikers, bikers, and nature lovers.
General Services Building, Columbia, MO 65211, Phone: 573-882-4240
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5. Missouri Symphony Society
© Missouri Symphony Society
The Missouri Symphony Society is a non-profit organization that promotes the awareness of classical music by sponsoring and presenting high-quality professional musical performances and by working to educate Missouri's young people. The Missouri Symphony Orchestra is made up of more than 50 musicians. During the summer, they host the Hot Summer Nights Festival, which is the largest classical and pop music festival in the region. The symphony's performances typically occur in the historic Missouri Theatre. The society presents a variety of concerts and events throughout the year, and current calendar and ticketing information can be found on their website.
203 S. 9th Street, Columbia, MO 65201, Phone: 573-875-0600
6. Columbia Civic Orchestra
© Columbia Civic Orchestra
The Columbia Civic Orchestra is a volunteer orchestra group that is devoted to promoting and preserving symphony music. The symphony doesn't have its own venue but performs at a variety of facilities around the city. Some of the locations they perform at include churches, schools, and theaters. For a special treat at a nice venue, catch a performance when the orchestra is at the historic Missouri Theatre. Many of the performers are local residents of Columbia and the orchestra group often participates in activities that promote the growth of local talent. Guests can purchase tickets to current shows on the orchestra's website.
P.O. Box 7119, Columbia, MO 65205, Phone: 573-825-4552
7. Finger Lakes State Park
© Finger Lakes State Park
Finger Lakes State Park is a 1,100-acre state park located on reclaimed land that was previously exploited for the strip mining of coal. The park has one of only two ATV parks in the Missouri state park system. The trails and motocross track are popular amongst ATV and dirt bike riders. In addition to motorized fun, the park has a somewhat challenging 2.75-mile mountain bike trail and a 4.5-mile water trail that can be explored by kayak or canoe. For guests who are hoping to spend the night, there is a spacious and relaxing campground where visitors can pitch a tent or park a camper.
1505 E. Peabody Road, Columbia, MO 65202, Phone: 573-443-5315
8. Shryocks Callaway Farms
© Shryocks Callaway Farms
Shryocks Callaway Farms is a working farm where visitors can come to work, learn, and play. The farm grows corn, soybeans, and wheat as their main cash crops and has activities all year round but is very popular in the fall when they have a huge life-sized corn maze as well as group hayrides, pumpkin patches, and more. Groups can reserve private campfires where they can roast marshmallows or hotdogs. The property's large red barn is an area landmark and serves as the farm's headquarters. The barn serves a variety of refreshments, offers merchandise for sale, and houses one of the farm's most popular attractions – a three-story gumball rollercoaster.
2927 County Road 253, Columbia, MO 65202, Phone: 573-592-0191
9. Columbia Culinary Tours
© Columbia Culinary Tours
Columbia Culinary Tours is a food-based tour company with tours that are perfect for foodies or anyone who is interested in learning about the history and culture of Columbia while enjoying some of the town's best food. The tour stops at five to seven restaurants and specialty food stores and guests have the opportunity to meet the owners, managers, and chefs of the establishments as well as sample some of their food. There are several tour options, including the Brunch Tour and the Craft Beer and Food Pairing tour. Guests can arrange private group tours, which are a popular choice for special events such as bridal showers and bachelorette parties as well as small groups looking for a more intimate experience.
10. Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area
© Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area
The Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area is an area of preserved nature bordering the Katy Trail State Park. The park contains a variety of ecosystems, such as cropland, forest, and wetlands as well as two streams – the Missouri River and Perche Creek. The area features restored wetlands that have been rehabilitated and preserved and now provide a habitat for birds and wildlife. The area offers fantastic opportunities for viewing wildlife and hunting. The park is bordered by limestone bluffs that are especially beautiful when dressed in fall foliage. Some of the park's most popular activities include fishing, hiking, camping, hunting, and bird watching.
6700 W. Route K, Columbia, MO 65203, Phone: 573-445-3882
11. Columbia Art League
© Columbia Art League
The Columbia Art League is a non-profit art gallery that is very involved in art education in the area. The gallery exhibits a selection of art pieces created by local living artists. Visitors can tour the gallery on their own or arrange for guided tours. The Art League offers classes for children, teens, and adults in a variety of style and media options and popular classes include drawing, painting, sculpture, and more. They also host summer art camps, community exhibits, and a popular annual festival known as Art in the Park. The free festival combines fine art with music, art activities, and other entertainment and is fun for all ages.
207 S. 9th Street, Columbia, MO 65201, Phone: 573-443-8838
12. Stephens Lake Park
Stephens Lake Park is a treasured outdoor recreational facility for the community. The massive 116-acre park has something to offer everyone, from walking trails to beautiful gardens where you can relax and get back to nature. These include a very special children’s grove of trees where youngsters can play and explore. The park includes 11 acres of lakes where you can enjoy a bathing beach or try your hand at fishing and boating. You will also find a soccer practice field and several picnic shelters which can be reserved in advance. In winter residents come out in their numbers to enjoy ice skating, a sledding hill and even ice fishing.
Steven’s Lake Park, 2001 East Broadway, Columbia, MO 65201, 573 874 7460
13. The Blue Note
© The Blue Note
The Blue Note is a music venue in Columbia's Ninth Street Historic District, situated at the center of city and college nightlife. The small, intimate venue features a main floor with standing room and an upstairs balcony with theater-style seating. The acoustics and sound system are state of the art and the small size provides a great concert experience no matter where you sit. Both the upstairs and downstairs have a bar with moderately priced drinks. The Blue Note hosts a variety of concerts throughout the year from many different genres of music. Local musicians and start-up bands often play at the venue, however there are several well-known artists that play throughout the year as well.
17 N. 9th Street, Columbia, MO 65201, Phone: 573-874-1944
14. Three Creeks Conservation Area
Located in Boone County, the Three Creeks Conservation Area is open to the public daily. The 1500-acre area is named for the Turkey Creek, Bonne Femme Creek and Bass Creek, which run through the conservatory. Visitors will find a beautiful forested area featuring many attractive geological features and stately red cedar trees. The area is home to a network of trails suitable for walking, hiking, horseback riding and biking and back-country camping is allowed. Many visitors come to enjoy bird watching, while others come to try their hand at fishing and/or seasonal hunting. Visitors are encourages to bring a picnic and enjoy getting back to nature in a beautiful location.
Three Creeks Conservation Area, Columbia, MO 65201, 573 815 7900
15. The Candy Factory
© The Candy Factory
The Candy Factory is a locally owned candy store and production facility that manufactures a large variety of candy but specializes in chocolate. Visitors can see the candy being made and shop for hours in the endless selection of confectionaries. They sell nice gift sets and will even ship them for you if you like. They have beautiful decorations and specially crafted treats for each holiday season, so it is a great place to stop by during any holiday. The employees know basically everything there is to know about candy and especially chocolate. They will be glad to help you shop for yourself or for gifts.
701 Cherry Street, Columbia, MO 65201, Phone: 573-443-8222
16. Grindstone Nature Area
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Grindstone Nature Area is a 199-acre recreational park with several amenities located at the crossroads of two hiking trails – the Hinkson Creek Trail and the Grindstone Creek Trail. Additionally, the nature area has a bridge that connects it to nearby Capen Park. The park's trails follow the beautiful creeks and feature scenic overlooks of the surrounding area, while the nature area includes several acres of open fields. The park is very dog friendly and includes an off-leash dog park. There is a shelter with picnic tables and a grill available on a first-come, first-serve basis.
2011 Old 63 S, Columbia, MO 65201, Phone: 573-874-7460
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17. Bonnie View Nature Sanctuary
Covering 93 scenic acres, Bonnie View Nature Sanctuary is where you will find the trailhead of the Scott’s Branch hiking trail. Park amenities include a picnic shelter (which can be reserved), restrooms (open from April to October) and three popular walking and hiking trails. Bonnie View offers excellent opportunities for wildlife observation and, in particular, bird watching. You are allowed to bring along your skateboard to use on the paved 5.3 km Scott’s Branch trail, which runs from Bonnie View Nature Sanctuary to Dublin Park. This trail is open all year round and is suitable for strollers, but regrettably not for dogs.
Bonnie View Nature Sanctuary, 3300 W. Rollins Road, Columbia, MO 65203,
573 874 7460
18. Missouri Contemporary Ballet
© Missouri Contemporary Ballet
The Missouri Contemporary Ballet is the only professional ballet company in the central region of Missouri. The group produces impressive dance performances and provides educational opportunities for the community to learn about professional dance. The Missouri Contemporary Ballet is very dedicated to the community and they have a ballet school and offer community lessons. The classes are professional level but in a welcoming environment and they also have classes available for people who just want to have fun or exercise as well as for those who wish to take ballet seriously. Information about the school as well as upcoming performances can be found on their website.
110 Orr Street #102, Columbia, MO 65201, Phone: 573-219-7134
Located at the mouth of the little Bonne Femme Creek on the Missouri River, BoatHenge is a quirky art installation. The installation comprises a unique display of 6 fiberglass boats which have been carefully planted, nose down, in the center of a grassy field. Intended to remind viewers of England’s Stonehenge, Boat Henge has been very precisely placed in a semi-circle. In fact, on closer observation, it was found that the dimensions of the boats – height, width and depth, exactly match the original stone structures in England’s ancient and mysterious stone circle.
BoatHenge, 11305 Smith Hatchery Rd, MO 65203
20. Garth Nature Area
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Garth Nature Area is a 52-acre park that contains a 1.6-mile wetland trail and also connects to the much longer Bear Creek Trail. Many birds and other wildlife can be spotted along the trail. The park is very dog friendly and boasts a fenced, off-leash dog park and dog-friendly trails, while the dog park even has a dog wash station and the drinking fountains have pet bowls. For cyclists, the park offers the Bike Fix-It Station complete with air pumps and tools. Riders can stop by the convenient station and repair minor issues on their bicycles so they can quickly get back on the trail.
2799 N. Garth Avenue, Columbia, MO 65202,Phone: 573-874-7460
21. Boone County Farmers Market
© Boone County Farmers Market
Boone County Farmers Market is a market selling garden-fresh, locally grown produce as well as bedding, potted plants, meats, eggs, handmade soaps, and baked goods. Some handicrafts are available for purchase as well. The market sells items that come from farmers in Boone County and the seven counties that surround it. The products vary depending on the season and all of the items at the farmers market are required to be produced by the vendor. Shop like a local and support the community by strolling through the Boone County Farmers Market and picking up some fresh, tasty treats.
2300 Bernadette Drive, Columbia, MO 65203, Phone: 573-817-1367
22. The State Historical Society of Missouri
© The State Historical Society of Missouri
The State Historical Society of Missouri is a private organization dedicated to preserving and studying the history and cultural heritage of the state. The society is located on the University of Missouri's campus in the Ellis Library. They have a large collection of documents, letters, newspapers, journals, and books as well as the largest Missouri state newspaper collection in the country, including the first newspaper, published in 1808. Additionally, they have a significant art collection with more than 4,000 paintings, sketches, lithographs, and editorial cartoons. One of the most well-known artists in the museum is George Caleb Bingham, who created many pieces of art based on Missouri life.
1020 Lowry Street, Columbia, MO 65201, Phone: 800-747-6366
23. Walters-Boone County Museum and Galleries
© Walters-Boone County Museum and Galleries
The Walters-Boone County Museum is a local history museum that features two major exhibit halls and other smaller display areas where they exhibit artifacts on a rotating schedule. The museum is operated by the Boone County Historical Society, which also operates the Montminy Art Gallery, the Village at Boone Junction, and a historic home museum – the Maplewood House. Both the Boone Junction Village and the Maplewood Home are located on the same grounds as the museum. The museum is located in the historic Frank G. Nifong Park, which consists of 58 acres of recreational space and has a volleyball court, fishing lake, creek and nature area, grills, and more.
3801 Ponderosa Street, Columbia, MO 65201, Phone: 573-443-8936
24. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial at Battle Garden
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The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial at Battle Garden is a community park designed for relaxation, leisure activities, and special events. The centerpiece of the 4.5-acre park is the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. The site has a sculpture that looks like a small amphitheater featuring eight triangular columns with excerpts from Dr. King's writings. In addition to the memorial, the park has walking paths and access to the MKT Trail. There is a drinking fountain and shelter that can be reserved for parties, picnics, and events. The Battle Garden provides a handicapped-accessible outdoor space where the community can enjoy cultural and entertainment events or simply relax.
800 Stadium Blvd., Columbia, MO 65203, Phone: 573-874-7465
25. Logboat Brewing Company
© Logboat Brewing Company
The Logboat Brewing Company is a brewery that serves house-brewed draft beers in a unique industrial space. The taproom features a bar and table tops made from reclaimed wood that was salvaged from a 19th-century Horace Mann schoolhouse in Kansas City. The walls are covered in unique and interesting pieces of art. The Logboat features a large outdoor area that is perfect for events and other gatherings. The brewery doesn't serve any food but local food trucks often park on site and guests are welcome to bring in outside food. Some favorites among the brews include the Shiphead Ginger Wheat and the Bear Hair.
504 Fay Street, Columbia, MO 65201, Phone: 573-397-6786