Welcome to Columbia, Missouri, a city of culture, booming nightlife, and wilderness adventures. This big city with a big charm resides about 2 hours from St. Louis.
Known by locals as CoMo, and immortalized as the Athens of Missouri, this college town offers all the activities of a vibrant city with the charm and friendliness of a small town. Visitors will soon discover a million things to do in Columbia, MO.
Ready to learn more? Here are 17 things to do in Columbia MO that you’re going to love.
COOLEST PLACES TO STAY IN COLUMBIA MO
- Best for Cocktail Lovers: Modern comfort meets historic charm at voco The Tiger Hotel, a beloved Columbia landmark that captures the magic of the Roaring Twenties. Look for the famous neon Tiger sign in the heart of downtown Columbia. The Vault is open nightly and offers cocktails and small plates in a swanky atmosphere.
- Best Tried and True Hotel: Only a short distance from some of Columbia, Missouri’s main points of interest, including the University of Missouri, the Hampton Inn Columbia features friendly service and contemporary accommodations in a convenient location. You’ll find an indoor pool and a free hot breakfast.
- Best Pub: Stoney Creek Hotel Columbia is infused with eye-catching details on the walls to well-appointed furnishings in the rooms to local beers and wines in the pub. Here you’ll find a complimentary breakfast, an indoor pool, fitness center, large spaces to gather, and the popular Antler’s Bar, featuring local beers, wines, and spirits.
ROCK BRIDGE MEMORIAL STATE PARK
Columbia has some of the most unique landscapes in the state of Missouri. A mere 5 miles south of downtown Columbia you’ll find challenging hiking trails, scenic walking paths, hidden caves, and other natural wonders at Rock Bridge Memorial State Park.
Rock Bridge has eight mapped trail areas, each with gorgeous native scenery. For example, at Deer Run Trail, you can meander through peaceful forested areas, catching sight of Missouri’s native deer and birds as you take in nature. For a more adventurous hike, check out Devils Icebox Trail, where you’ll discover a 63-foot high rock tunnel that leads you into the 166-ft long Connor’s Cave.
Rock Bridge Memorial State Park has more than just hiking available to visitors. In the spring and early fall, you can horseback ride through the Gans Creek Wild Area Trail. In winter, the park opens up for cross-country skiing. There are also picnic, camping, and play areas in the park.
FINGER LAKES STATE PARK
Motocross, fishing, hiking, and other outdoor activities await you at Finger Lakes State Park. The park claims an unusual history, having been strip-mined for coal. Since its coal mining days, the park has become an oasis of water and land activities.
Perhaps the favorite activities of park-goers are the ATV and motocross trails. The reclaimed park has more than 70 miles of trails for motorized vehicle activities, including ravines and hills that pose a challenge for even the most skilled rider.
Of course, more relaxed activities exist in the park as well. In the finger-shaped lakes that give the park its name, you’ll find scuba diving and swimming as the activities of choice. This unique park also abounds in picnic areas, canoeing, boating, and camping options.
MUSEUM OF ART AND ARCHAEOLOGY
The University of Missouri is home to more than just students and teachers. The campus also hosts the Museum of Art and Archeology.
The museum’s collection began in 1892 when founders Walter Miller and John Pickard began their so-called “Study Collection.” Since then, the museum’s collection has grown to include over 14,000 pieces of art, antiques, and archeological finds.
Visits to the museum are free and open to the public. Many of its artifacts remain on display as permanent exhibits, but the museum also hosts revolving exhibits on changing subjects. For example, you may find a collection of ancient jewelry one day and an exhibition on satirical literature the next.
A visit here is one of the best things to do in Columbia MO!
NATIONAL CHURCHILL MUSEUM
When you hear the name “Sir Winston Churchill,” likely you think of England. He is the man who helped Britain overcome WWII and gave the “The Iron Curtain Speech.” However, Sir Churchill was also a fond visitor of the U.S. – his mother was from the United States. Thus, it should come as no surprise that former President Truman called for a memorial to him in the U.S after Churchill passed.
The church in which Churchill gave his speech has become the centerpiece of the National Churchill Museum. St. Mary Aldermanbury rises above a tailored lawn, a 17th century London building moved piece by piece to Missouri two decades after Churchill gave his speech. The architecture alone makes this church worth a visit; famed Baroque and Tudor architect Christopher Wren who rebuilt much of London after The Great Fire in 1666, designed the church.
Under the church is the exhibition section of the Churchill Museum. Exhibits detail the life of Churchill and his role as a great politician and world leader during WWII and the Cold War. Outside the church stands a testament to democracy, the “Breakthrough” statue made up of pieces from the Berlin Wall. Edwina Sandys, the granddaughter of Winston Churchill, made the statue.
WARM SPRINGS RANCH
Chances are, if you’ve ever watched an NFL football game, you’ve caught a commercial for the majestic Budweiser Clydesdales. The massive horses prance and gallop, delivering beer to the waiting customers in their commercials. But did you know you can visit them in real life?
At Warm Springs Ranch, you can get up close and personal with these gorgeous horses. A visit to the ranch lets you pet a Clydesdale, visit their barns, see the foals and mares, and enjoy acres of rolling green grass views!
The ranch offers several experiences for visitors to try. Adults enjoy the “Happy Hour with a Clydesdale” tour that provides drinks during your trip. Or, take the kids on a “Wheels and Reins” excursion, where they can help groom a Clydesdale before taking a horse-drawn carriage tour.
STEPHENS LAKE PARK
The city of Columbia considers Stephens Lake Park the crown jewel in its treasure trove of parks. It’s not hard to see why; between its fountains, lake, and mature trees, the park offers activities and scenery to entice every visitor.
Throughout the year, Stephens Lake Park offers a variety of activities for the young and old. Its 11-acre lake provides swimming in the summer and ice fishing in the winter, and an excellent backdrop for walking trails in the park.
The park also has several beautiful gardens, including a functioning demonstration of a rain garden and The Children’s Grove. Festivals like the Roots n Blues and the Art Walk carry on in the park throughout the year. It’s a lively spot to hit up and see local wildlife while picnicking or playing a game of frisbee!
MUSEUM OF ANTHROPOLOGY
Hosted by the University of Columbia, the Museum of Anthropology offers a unique look at human nature and history. Much of its collection studies anthropological history in the Missouri area.
The museum offers guided tours that you’ll want to schedule in advance to ensure they have a time slot available. You’ll explore artifacts from Missouri’s pre-history, Native American culture, and even pioneer-era materials during your tour.
THE BLUE NOTE
Experience the best Columbia’s nightlife has to offer at one of the top music venues in the state, Blue Note. This legendary club offers live music, comedy, and dance entertainment that will leave you breathless!
You’ll find a genre of music for everyone playing at the Blue Note. The Blue Note keeps its marquee full of intriguing sets, from K-Pop dance parties to Alt Rock to musicals. Nearby, its “little sister” club, Rose Music Hall, offers additional music and comedy show options for your night out. Just remember to get to the ticket office early – they are known to sell out fast!
EAGLE BLUFFS CONSERVATION AREA
Catch the best sunset view in the region at the secluded escape of the Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area. Once part of the Missouri River, the Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area was born out of a need to protect the disappearing wetlands as the river changed its course.
Today, the conservation area consists of 17 shallow pools that preserve the area’s natural wetlands. Migratory birds and other wetland critters make their seasonal home inside the pools. At sunset, the sound of their singing fills the air, mixing with the rustling grass into a beautiful symphony. It’s the perfect place to enjoy a quiet evening or a morning walk in nature.
Shelter Insurance Company offers more than insurance; their corporate office also has fantastic gardens open and available to the public. The gardens span 5-acres, evoking the beauty of a European garden with its wrought-iron gate, tinkling fountains, and walking paths.
Inside the Shelter Gardens, you’ll find a peaceful oasis that takes you away from the bustle of the city. Serene walking paths lined by over 300 varieties of trees and shrubs take you through a dazzling array of flowers.
The gardens also house a Vietnam War memorial, a rock garden, and a garden for the blind. You’ll often find local bands playing at the “Concerts in the Garden” series in the summer months, an event open to the public.
THREE CREEKS CONSERVATION AREA
The Three Creeks Conservation Area came into being as a place for visitors to experience nature as the state began urbanizing into larger cities. Open to the public year-round, the conservation area offers outdoor activities centered around the three creeks that give it its name, Turkey Creek, Bass Creek, and Bonne Femme Creek.
The scenery at Three Creeks Conservation Area leaves many a visitor impressed; the park-like escape has rugged bluffs, towering cedar pines, and the chuckling creeks that create a fairytale-like escape.
Visitors to the park enjoy fishing for bass, and during hunting season, the area becomes popular for deer and turkey hunting. Birdwatching, biking, and horseback riding are other popular pursuits in the area.
LOGBOAT BREWING COMPANY
Enjoy a pint of locally brewed beer at the Logboat Brewing Company taproom. The taproom offers libations made in the Logboat Brewing Company brewery, also located in Columbia. Their variety of lagers, ales, and IPAs will keep your taste buds dancing during your visit.
You’ll find more than just tasty drinks here; there’s history literally built into the tables! Logboat Brewing Company chose to make much of its furniture from local reclaimed wood from an old Kansas City schoolhouse.
The taproom also has “The Logboat Park,” a grassy area for playing cornhole, enjoying a freshly made pizza, and relaxing in the Missouri sunshine.
COLUMBIA ART LEAGUE
Art enthusiasts won’t want to miss the Columbia Art League. Known to locals as the CAL, the Columbia Art League provides a location centered on community enrichment and education in the arts through locally-made exhibitions.
The CAL exhibits are constantly changing, so you’ll want to check their calendar before visiting. One day they’ll have a show full of oil paintings, the next, you’ll find displays of graffitied furniture. In addition to their exhibits, the CAL also offers classes and summer camps for adults, children, and teens. Classes range from DIY pottery to drawing.
DAVID R FRANCIS QUADRANGLE
The University of Missouri is the beating heart of Columbia’s education and arts world. At the historic center of the university is the David R. Francis Quadrangle, a local hotspot adjacent to Downtown Columbia and fondly known as “The Quad.”
The Quad holds a great significance to the city and the university. The oldest historic buildings of the original university surround it. Around The Quad, you’ll see architectural features from the Ancient World, including six Ionic Columns from the original building Academic Hall. Though Academic Hall no longer stands after a fire brought it down, the columns still stand.
But perhaps the most important feature of The Quad is the lone Egyptian-styled obelisk standing in front of the Chancellor’s Residence. The obelisk has a remarkable history; it once was the marker for President Thomas Jefferson’s tomb. His family donated it to the university after his new tomb was built in 1882, in recognition of the University of Missouri being the first university to open within the borders of Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase.
Experience the art of cinema at its finest at the Ragtag Cinema. This not-for-profit movie theater provides an experience like nothing else, thanks to its dedication to introducing and promoting the immersive experience of film to the community.
Ragtag Cinema isn’t your run-of-the-mill theater. Instead, they offer art films and cult classics that thrill the mind, pose philosophical questions, and leave you thinking. The Ragtag Cinema also hosts the True/False Film Festival, a documentary-based festival, annually every March.
AUTO WORLD MUSEUM
About thirty minutes away from Columbia, a unique museum runs on horsepower. The Auto World Museum of Fulton is one of the most diverse collections of automobiles in the country.
In 1996, potato-chip innovator William E. Backer opened the museum to the world. It is built on his personal collection of automobiles, with exhibits ranging from a 1924 Dodge Touring to a 1982 Delorean. (Yes, the Back to the Future car!)
Keep in mind that the museum only opens its doors to the public May-December, so check your travel dates before planning a visit.
MERIWETHER CAFE AND BIKE SHOP
If you love cycling and coffee, take a trip twenty minutes West of Columbia to see the Meriwether Cafe and Bike Shop. It’s no coincidence that this bike shop bears the name of Meriweather Lewis; it sits on the Katy Trail, which happens to be part of the Lewis and Clark Trail!
At the cafe, you can rent bikes to explore the scenery of the Katy Trail. There’s plenty of foliage, flitting birds, and scenic stops along the bike-friendly trail. Then, on your way back, get a bite to eat at the Meriwether Cafe. The cafe serves up locally produced meals with a breakfast, lunch, and dinner menu.
MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO MISSOURI
- YOUR MISSOURI VACATION
- ST. LOUIS: 27 Fun Things To Do In St. Louis You Can’t Miss
- JOPLIN: 17 Best Things To Do In Joplin MO You Can’t Miss
- KANSAS CITY: 12 Phenomenal Things To Do In Kansas City
- BRANSON: 28 Best Things To Do In Branson, MO
WHERE TO STAY IN COLUMBIA MO
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