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15 Reasons to Visit Mid-Missouri

Although Missouri might sound like just another fly-over state to you, it is home to loads of hidden treasures. It turns out that the perfect place for your next vacation might just be waiting for you in mid-Missouri. With cities like Columbia (“Athens of Missouri”), Jefferson City (2013’s “Most Beautiful Small Town in America”) and Lake of the Ozarks (“The Missouri Dragon”), there’s never a shortage of things to do.


  1. Midwestern politeness

It’s real. The Midwest is one of the most well-mannered places in the US, and Time’s “Mood Map” even ranked Missouri as “Friendly & Conventional”. There’s always someone holding the door open or smiling and saying “hi” as you walk by.


  1. Lots of beer

Missouri should be nicknamed “Land of Beer”.  With Anheuser-Busch in St. Louis, Boulevard Brewery in Kansas City, and many local breweries in mid-Missouri, a beer lover would be in heaven.  If you’re looking for a local brew in Columbia, there’s Logboat Brewing Co., Broadway Brewery, or even local favorite restaurant/pub/brewery, Flatbranch.  If you’re in the mood for something a little more worldly, there’s the Craft Beer Cellar or the International Tap House. In Jefferson City, there’s Prison Brews, a local brewery and the only place to play a great game of bocce ball.

Beer glass

  1. Cornhole

Speaking of sports, here in the midwest, tailgating is practically a sport of its own. People surround themselves with friends, cheeseburgers, and the beloved game of cornhole.  The object isn’t just to make the mini bean bag into the hole, but also to have the most decorative cornhole set in the entire parking lot.

toss game

  1. Locally sourced food

If eating green is your thing, mid-Missouri is your place. Restaurants all over the area only use locally sourced food from farmers’ markets to make their scrumptious signature dishes. In Columbia, at places like Cafe Berlin, Main Squeeze, Sycamore and many, many others, you can eat a delicious meal and know exactly where your food is coming from.  Madison’s Cafe, Vitality Cafe and The Grand Cafe all get their goods from farmers in the Jefferson City area.  Down at the Lake, The Duck and Paint Box Cafe are just a couple of examples of locally sourced restaurants.


  1. True/False Film Fest

One of the biggest film festivals in the midwest happens right here in Columbia.  The True/False Film Fest draws in huge crowds, debuts new documentaries, and features live music before every show.  Who knows, you could even run into a few celebrities, as famous director Spike Lee made an appearance at last year’s event.


  1. The ultimate college town

The SEC’s newest addition, the nation’s top-ranked school of journalism, the home of the Tigers. The University of Missouri, one of the most beautiful campuses in the Midwest, is right in the middle of Columbia. Walk down the same sidewalks that celebrities like Brad Pitt, Jon Hamm, and Sheryl Crow once did. The University of Missouri even invented the annual tradition of Homecoming.  Each year, alumni and people that just like to celebrate come to Columbia during this time to see a huge parade, a decorated campus, and a fantastic game of football.

University of Missouri Columns and Jesse Hall

As the second all-women’s college in the nation, Stephens College prides itself on helping women get one step closer to achieving their dreams.  With one of the top rated theater and fashion programs, there is always a show to catch and art to see.  


With over 33 remote campuses nation-wide, Columbia College educates people from all over the world. A deep pride in academics and athletics and beautiful, historic buildings make the campus absolutely amazing to take a stroll through.


  1. Show-Me State Games

According to ESPN, the Show-Me State Games are one of the 101 Things All Sports Fans Must Experience Before They Die. All year long, this non-profit organization puts on sporting events that Missourians and non-Missourians alike can participate in.  With every sport represented, ranging from pickleball to judo to synchronized swimming, these events are a great time for people of all ages.


  1. The art scene

The downtown skyline, the gorgeous landscapes and diversity of people makes Columbia full of endless inspiration for artists galore. As you walk downtown, you’ll pass art gallery after art gallery. Bluestem, Artlandish, and Orr Street Gallery are just a few places where local artists get to show if their work.  And if you’re feeling crafty, stop by the Mud Room to put your own spin on some pottery.

Tourists looking at paintings

  1. Missouri Government

As the state’s capitol, Jefferson City is the perfect place for every history or government buff.  The Missouri Capitol Building is modeled after the Capitol in Washington D.C. and is filled to the brim with paintings, sculptures and other fantastic artworks. The Missouri Supreme Court Building and the Governor’s Mansion are both open for tours as well.

Missouri State Capital Building

  1. Missouri State Penitentiary

The original state prison that was first opened in 1836 and decommissioned in 2004 now gives tours, showcasing 168 years of history.  Walk the same halls as boxer Sonny Liston and James Earl Ray inside what used to be the largest prison in the US.  There are also multiple ghost tours that are offered from guides that will outline strange occurrences from within the penitentiary’s walls.


  1. Museums

Jefferson City is full of museums on a variety of different topics.  As the heart and capitol of Missouri, it only makes sense that it is home to the Missouri State Museum, which covers all the interesting history of the state. There’s also the Museum of Missouri Military History, the National Churchill Museum, the Museum of Art & Archaeology, and there’s even a Vacuum Cleaner Museum.


  1. The Lake of the Ozarks

This area would just be called the Ozarks without the giant lake that spans 92 miles from end to end.  The body of water twists and turns so that from up above, it looks like a huge serpent (which is how the area got its nickname). With over 1150 miles of shoreline, 57,000 acres of water and 150 marinas, the lake provides itself to endless opportunities to boat, tube, water ski, swim and much, much more water fun.

Dock on a lake

  1. Golf

No matter your experience level, the Lake of the Ozarks is every golfer’s dream.  With 12 unique golf courses for a more experienced golfer and 11 mini golf courses for a more laid back player, there’s over 180 holes to play.


  1. Shopping

It’s not unusual to run into people that came to the Ozarks just for the shopping and not necessarily for the lake.  The area has multiple outlet malls with big name brands, including the largest one in Missouri.  Small and unique boutiques are sprinkled all over for people looking for a more hometown flare.  The Lake of the Ozarks also has 57 antique stores, so it’s likely that you’ll find exactly what you’re looking for.


  1. Ha Ha Tonka State Park

The Lake of the Ozarks is home to Missouri’s newest state park, Ha Ha Tonka.  On the almost 2500 acres of land stands a mansion that was built in 1905 but partially burned down in 1942.  In 1978, the state of Missouri opened this area up for visitors, including what remains of the giant castle.  The historical area is visited by thousands of people each year, promising a gorgeous hike and an amazing view.

   Castle Ruins