7 Fun Things To Do In Columbia, MO

Trip Ideas May 13, 2024

Columbia, Missouri, is a vibrant city that offers an eclectic blend of culture, nature, and entertainment, making it a standout destination for both residents and visitors. This city is more than just a midpoint between Kansas City and St. Louis; it’s a hub of activities and experiences that cater to all tastes and interests.

For those seeking outdoor adventures, Columbia is a treasure trove of natural beauty. The Pinnacles Youth Park is a favorite among locals and visitors alike, offering stunning rock formations and scenic hiking trails. Activities in Columbia, MO, are not just limited to the parks; the city’s urban landscape is equally inviting.

For culture enthusiasts, the city’s rich arts scene is not to be missed. The local theaters and art galleries offer a range of performances and exhibits that showcase both local and national talents. These cultural experiences are some of the top Columbia, MO, attractions, drawing visitors from all over.  

Columbia MO
Source: Midwest Living

Columbia’s central location makes it an ideal stopover between major cities. Wondering how far it is from Columbia, MO, to St. Louis? It’s just a two-hour drive, making it easy to explore both cities in a single trip. Similarly, the journey from Columbia, Missouri, to Kansas City is equally convenient, allowing travelers to experience the best of Missouri’s urban and natural attractions. Here are a few things to do to make the most of your trip to Columbia, MO. 

1. Exploring the University of Missouri

Exploring the University of Missouri is a journey through history, culture, and vibrant campus life. Founded in 1839, Mizzou is the oldest public university west of the Mississippi River, making it a cornerstone of educational heritage in the United States.  

One of the campus's most iconic landmarks is Jesse Hall, a stunning example of classical architecture. As you walk up to this majestic building, you'll be struck by its impressive dome and grand columns, which have been the backdrop for countless graduation photos and university events. Jesse Hall isn’t just a pretty face; it houses administrative offices and an auditorium that hosts a variety of performances and lectures throughout the year, making it a hub of activities in Columbia, MO.

University Of Missouri
Source: Shiksha

A short stroll from Jesse Hall leads you to the heart of the university, the Francis Quadrangle, or simply "The Quad." This historic area is surrounded by beautiful red-brick buildings and is famous for its six iconic columns, the only remnants of the original Academic Hall. The  

The Mizzou Botanic Garden is another gem on campus that should not be missed. This living museum spans the entire university grounds, showcasing a diverse range of plants and landscapes. It's a perfect place for nature enthusiasts and anyone looking for relaxing Columbia MO activities.  

2. Discovering the Art and Culture Scene

When exploring the vibrant art and culture scene in Columbia, Missouri, you’re in for a treat. This lively town offers a lot of activities that cater to every taste, making it a hotspot for cultural enthusiasts and casual visitors alike. Start your journey in The District, the heart of downtown Columbia, Missouri. This area is a cultural hub, bursting with art galleries, live music venues, and eye-catching street art. Stroll through the streets and you’ll find a myriad of galleries showcasing local and regional artists. These galleries are perfect for those seeking unique pieces or simply wanting to soak in the creative atmosphere. The vibrant murals and street art add a splash of color to the urban landscape, making The District a perfect spot for a leisurely walk and some Instagram-worthy photos.

Live music is another highlight of The District. Venues like The Blue Note and Rose Music Hall offer a diverse lineup of performances, from local bands to big-name artists. These venues provide a fantastic atmosphere for music lovers, making them some of the best things to do in Columbia. Whether you’re a fan of rock, jazz, or country, you’re sure to find a show that gets your toes tapping.

Rose Music Hall
Source: Wedding Wire

Art and culture enthusiasts should not miss the Missouri Theatre, a historic gem that stands as a testament to Columbia’s rich cultural heritage. Built in the 1920s, this theater is a masterpiece of architecture, with its grand façade and opulent interior. It’s a prime example of the city’s commitment to preserving its historical landmarks.  

3. Outdoor Adventures and Parks

Columbia offers a diverse range of activities that showcase its beautiful landscapes and lively community spirit. The Rock Bridge Memorial State Park is a must-visit for anyone keen on exploring unique geological formations and lush trails. One of the park’s highlights is the Devil’s Icebox, a fascinating cave system that offers a refreshing escape from the summer heat. As you venture through the park, you’ll encounter a variety of trails that cater to different skill levels, making it an ideal spot for both casual hikers and seasoned trekkers. If you’re wondering about fun things to do in Columbia, MO, this park should definitely be on your list.

Shelter Gardens is another gem in Columbia that combines botanical beauty with historical charm. This unique garden is a serene oasis that features a wide array of plant species, artfully arranged to create a peaceful retreat within the city.  For anyone seeking free things to do in Columbia, MO, Shelter Gardens offers a perfect blend of relaxation and education, making it a great spot for a leisurely afternoon.

Shelter Gardens
Source: Trip

Stephens Lake Park stands out as a hub of recreational activities and community events. The park’s picturesque lake is perfect for fishing, paddle boating, or simply enjoying a scenic walk along the shore. With well-maintained walking trails that wind through the park, it’s a favorite spot for joggers, dog walkers, and families looking to enjoy the outdoors.  If you’re exploring things to do in Columbia, MO, today or planning a weekend outing, this park offers something for everyone.

For those interested in exploring more of what Columbia has to offer, consider taking a short drive to Rocheport, MO, where you can enjoy the picturesque Katy Trail or visit the charming local wineries.  

4. Culinary Delights and Local Eateries

When exploring Columbia, Missouri, the culinary scene is a treasure trove of delights, ranging from sophisticated fine dining establishments to charming food trucks that deliver a burst of local flavor. Whether you're seeking a memorable meal as part of your activities in Columbia MO, or just looking to savor the best things to do in Columbia through its cuisine, this city has something to tantalize every palate.

For those who love a good pizza, Shakespeare’s Pizza is a must-visit spot. Known for its vibrant atmosphere and mouthwatering pies, it's a staple in the downtown Columbia Missouri dining scene. Whether you’re a fan of classic pepperoni or adventurous toppings, this place never disappoints. It’s the perfect stop if you’re exploring things to do in Columbia MO today or planning a casual night out.

Shakespeare’s Pizza
Source: University of Missouri

If you're in the mood for a more extensive menu, Flat Branch Pub & Brewing offers a delightful variety of options. This popular eatery is not just about great food; it’s also a part of the fun things to do in Columbia, MO for adults, especially with its selection of craft beers brewed on-site. From hearty burgers to innovative salads, Flat Branch provides a cozy spot to unwind after a day filled with Columbia MO activities.

5. Shopping and Boutique Experiences

Exploring the vibrant shopping scene in Columbia, MO, is a must-do for any visitor looking to blend retail therapy with local charm.  

When considering activities in Columbia, MO, one of the top spots to check out is The District. This lively area, nestled in the heart of downtown Columbia, Missouri, is a hotspot for shoppers seeking a mix of old and new. Walking through The District, you’ll find an array of shops that cater to diverse tastes. From quaint vintage stores offering a trip down memory lane to chic modern boutiques with the latest trends, The District encapsulates the essence of Columbia’s eclectic shopping culture. 

For those who enjoy a more traditional shopping experience, Columbia Mall is a prime destination. Located conveniently for both locals and visitors exploring columbia missouri things to do, the mall features major retail stores that cover everything from fashion to electronics. It’s not just about shopping here – the mall also boasts a variety of dining options, making it a great spot to refuel after a shopping spree. Whether you’re looking for fun things to do in Columbia, MO, this weekend or simply want to enjoy a day out, Columbia Mall has you covered.

Columbia Mall
Source: Columbia Convention

For couples looking for things to do in Columbia, MO, this weekend, a shopping date in The District followed by a cozy dinner at one of the local eateries could be just the ticket. Meanwhile, the more adventurous might enjoy combining their shopping trip with a visit to some of the fun things to do in Columbia, MO for adults, such as a pub crawl through the lively downtown area.

6. Family-Friendly Activities

For families seeking adventure and exploration, Columbia, MO, is a treasure trove of engaging activities that cater to all ages. From lush parks to educational museums, there’s something for everyone. Whether you’re a local or planning a visit, here’s a rundown of the top family-friendly activities in Columbia, MO, guaranteed to make your trip memorable.

One of the premier destinations for family fun is the Columbia Cosmopolitan Recreation Area, commonly known as Cosmo Park. This expansive park is a haven for sports enthusiasts and families alike. It boasts numerous sports fields where you can catch a lively soccer game or even join a local league. The park’s golf course is perfect for those looking to practice their swing, and the various playgrounds scattered throughout are a hit with the younger crowd.  

If you’re interested in a more educational outing, the Museum of Art and Archaeology is a fantastic choice. Located near downtown Columbia, Missouri, this museum offers a rich collection of exhibits that are both fascinating and educational. It’s one of those Columbia, MO attractions that effortlessly combines learning with fun. The museum features a variety of artifacts and art pieces that span different cultures and historical periods. Families can explore ancient artifacts, classical paintings, and contemporary art, providing a diverse cultural experience. The museum also hosts family programs designed to engage children and adults alike, making it a standout among Columbia, MO things to do.

Museum of Art and Archaeology
Source: AFAR

7. Annual Events and Festivals

When you’re exploring the vibrant landscape of Columbia, Missouri, the annual events and festivals add a special flair to your visit, making it one of the best things to do in Columbia.  

The True/False Film Fest is an absolute gem among Columbia MO attractions. Held annually, this documentary film festival transforms downtown Columbia, Missouri, into a bustling hub of creativity and storytelling. As you stroll through the city, you’ll find a mix of film enthusiasts, creators, and curious visitors, all eager to immerse themselves in thought-provoking documentaries.  

True/False Film Fest 
Source: True/False Film Fest 

If you’re looking for fun things to do in Columbia, Missouri, for adults, the Roots N Blues N BBQ Festival is another highlight you won’t want to miss. This lively music and food festival celebrates the best of blues music and mouth-watering BBQ, creating a festive atmosphere that resonates through the city. Held in Stephens Lake Park, this event is perfect for those who love good music, great food, and a fantastic time outdoors. It’s one of the quintessential Columbia MO activities that capture the city’s vibrant spirit.

Conclusion

Exploring Columbia, Missouri, is like opening a treasure chest of diverse experiences. From the moment you set foot in this vibrant city, you’ll find an array of activities in Columbia, MO, that cater to every interest and curiosity. Whether you’re drawn to the arts, outdoor adventures, or culinary delights, Columbia has something to captivate your senses.

For those wondering about the best things to do in Columbia, a stroll through downtown Columbia, Missouri, is a must. The area buzzes with energy, offering a mix of eclectic shops, cozy cafes, and lively pubs perfect for a memorable pub crawl in Columbia, MO. As you explore, the charm of this city becomes evident, each corner inviting you to uncover its unique stories and hidden gems.

Outdoor enthusiasts will find a haven in Columbia. The Pinnacles, Columbia, MO, offers breathtaking views and trails that challenge and inspire. For a more leisurely experience, consider renting scooters in Columbia, MO, to glide through scenic routes and parks, adding a dash of fun to your day. And if you’re seeking free things to do in Columbia, MO, the city’s parks and trails provide plenty of opportunities to enjoy nature without spending a dime.

Couples looking for things to do in Columbia, MO, for couples will discover romantic spots and activities perfect for creating lasting memories. From intimate dinners at charming local restaurants to scenic walks along the Katy Trail, the city provides a beautiful backdrop for any romantic outing. And for those curious about things to do in Columbia, MO, this weekend, the city’s event calendar is packed with festivals, concerts, and community gatherings that promise excitement and entertainment.

In conclusion, Columbia’s diverse offerings make it a destination worth exploring and revisiting. With its rich cultural scene, outdoor adventures, and vibrant community, there’s always something new to discover. So pack your bags, plan your itinerary, and get ready to experience the endless fun things to do in Columbia, Missouri.  

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FAQ

What are some unique and uncommon activities to do in Columbia, MO?

Columbia offers a range of unique activities! You can visit the Shelter Gardens, a stunning botanical garden, or head to the Finger Lakes State Park for off-road biking. There's also the Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area, perfect for birdwatching and peaceful walks. For something truly different, check out the Museum of Anthropology at Mizzou, where you can explore artifacts from around the world.

Are there any hidden gem restaurants in Columbia worth checking out?

Absolutely! Try Sycamore, a cozy spot with fantastic seasonal dishes. Another gem is Café Berlin, known for its delicious breakfast and brunch offerings. If you're into sushi, Kampai Sushi Bar offers a great selection. For a taste of local flavors, try the International Café for dishes from around the globe.

Can you recommend any off-the-beaten-path hiking trails near Columbia?

Venture off the beaten path at Rock Bridge Memorial State Park, where you can explore the Devil's Icebox Trail, leading to a fascinating natural rock bridge. Another option is the Three Creeks Conservation Area, offering serene trails through forests and along creeks.

What are some lesser-known historical sites to visit in Columbia?

Explore the Nifong Park Historic District, home to the Maplewood Barn Theatre and the Boone County Historical Society. For a unique experience, visit the Douglass Park Neighborhood, rich in African American history. You can also explore the Walters-Boone County Historical Museum for insights into local history.

Are there any local artisans or craft shops in Columbia that are worth a visit?

Absolutely! Pop into the Artlandish Gallery for a variety of local art and crafts. The Mud Room offers pottery classes and unique handmade ceramics for sale. Check out Makes Scents for locally made candles and soaps, perfect for gifts or souvenirs.

How far is it from Columbia, MO to St. Louis?

The drive from Columbia to St. Louis is about 120 miles, which typically takes around 2 hours by car. If you prefer public transportation, you can take a bus, which usually takes around 2.5 to 3 hours.

What are some fun outdoor activities to do in Columbia during the summer?

Summer in Columbia is perfect for outdoor fun! Cool off at the Stephens Lake Park beach, go paddle boating at Twin Lakes Recreation Area, or take a leisurely stroll along the MKT Nature and Fitness Trail. You can also enjoy picnics and concerts at Cosmo Park.

Are there any local festivals or events that shouldn't be missed in Columbia?

Definitely! Don't miss the True/False Film Fest, a renowned documentary film festival that takes place annually. Another highlight is the Roots N Blues N BBQ Festival, featuring fantastic music and delicious barbecue. Keep an eye out for the annual Art in the Park event too!

Can you recommend any unique shopping experiences in Columbia?

Sure thing! Explore the Columbia Farmers Market for fresh produce, artisanal foods, and handmade crafts. The District offers a variety of boutiques and specialty shops. Don't miss the Mustard Seed Fair Trade for ethically sourced gifts and goods from around the world.

What are some insider tips for making the most out of a visit to Columbia, MO?

Be sure to explore the North Village Arts District for its vibrant arts scene and eclectic shops. Take advantage of the bike-friendly nature of Columbia and explore the city on two wheels. And don't forget to sample some local brews at one of Columbia's craft breweries, like Logboat Brewing Co. or Bur Oak Brewing Company.

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Emily Carter

With over 10 years of experience, Emily has extensive experience planning bespoke tours across the United States and Canada, specializing in eco-tourism and adventure travel.