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Best Of The Midwest: Getting To Know Columbia, Missouri

Columbia, Missouri

A Midwestern oasis in the center of Missouri, Columbia (“CoMo” to locals) is a destination full of rich history, arts and culture — and plenty of surprises. Home to the University of Missouri, CoMo’s college town roots ensure that there’s a dynamic energy ready to be tapped into 365 days a year. As Columbia’s new agency of record, TURNER will have plenty to tell you about the city in the upcoming months. Here’s what you need to know right now.

Park Land

70 city parks, 50 miles of trails, one awe-inspiring rock bridge. It all adds up to endless adventure in Columbia’s great outdoors. While other destinations may boast plenty of fresh air fun, CoMo seamlessly blends its urban environs with natural beauty. No matter where you are in the city, you’re never far away from a refreshing green space, whether it’s the serene Shelter Gardens (home to over 300 varieties of trees and shrubs and more than 15,000 annuals and perennials) or the spectacular 116 acres of Stephens Lake Park.

The area is also home to three Missouri Department of Conservation Areas that offer outdoor adventurers a playground on water and land. And just five miles from downtown, the wonderland of Rock Bridge Memorial State Park awaits, with some of Missouri’s most popular trails — including the Devil’s Icebox, with its underground streams, natural tunnels and subterranean caves.

A Culinary Hot Spot

Thanks to prime location between Kansas City and St. Louis, the art of BBQ is alive and well in Columbia, with down-home joints and food trucks serving up slow-smoked ribs, mouth-watering brisket and more. But BBQ is just the beginning of the culinary adventures in CoMo, encompassing comfort food, fine dining and beyond. The craft beverage options are just as enticing, including imaginative mixology innovations and local brews at Barred Owl and tours and tastings at Les Bourgeois Vineyards, one of Missouri’s premier wineries.

As an urban area surrounded by rural farmland, local ingredients play an integral role in the cuisine scene. Experience the taste of mid-Missouri year-round at the Columbia Farmers Market (voted the #1 People’s Choice farmers market in the U.S. for 2021-2022) or get your hands dirty at Columbia’s Agriculture Park, a 10-acre public garden that showcases a variety of food-farming techniques and urban ecosystems.

Year-Round Celebrations

No matter when you visit, there’s always something happening in CoMo. During the monthly First Fridays in the North Village Arts District, you can watch local artists at and enjoy interactive programming that sparks the imagination. Each spring, the True/False Film Fest, offers four days of compelling nonfiction films, while the Unbound Books Festival brings nationally and internationally recognized authors of world-class renown talk about their books, their work, and their lives.

In the summer, Art in the Park transforms Stephens Lake Park into an open-air art gallery, with more than 100 visual artists from across the country displaying their goods. The Roots N Blues Festival kicks off fall each year in fine fashion with more than 30 diverse musicians, not to mention art installations from local artists. And on first Fridays in December, the Living Windows Festival sees shopkeepers moving merchandise out of their windows to stage live holiday performances for onlookers.

CoMo Family

The perfect family vacation doesn’t exist — but CoMo comes close. Whether you’re checking out more than 35 masterpieces on a Public Art Tour or seeing what’s blooming at the Mizzou Botanical Garden, whether you’re getting a not-so-traditional slice at Pizza Tree or indulging your sweet tooth at Sparky’s Ice Cream, CoMo has something for all ages.

Active families will find plenty to love here. Throughout the city, there are locations for everything from picnicking and fishing at Stephens Lake Park to horseshoes and tennis at Cosmo-Bethel Park to walking and biking on dozens of groomed or paved trails. When you’re visiting the Columbia Farmers Market, don’t forget to grab your free kids’ activity kit with interactive fun centered on plant and food education.

Want to learn more about Columbia? Drop us a line at columbia@turnerpr.com.