Planning a trip to Columbia Missouri? Then you have to check out this list full of the best things to do in Columbia MO!
Missouri is a beautiful Midwest state that is full of beautiful places to visit and interesting things to see.
One of the most popular cities to visit in Missouri is Columbia!
Columbia Missouri is a city in central Missouri that is probably best known for being the home of the University of Missouri.
Since it’s a college town, Columbia Missouri has wonderful energy and spirit that visitors often find charming and welcoming.
In fact, many of the attractions in Columbia MO are either on the University’s campus or are affiliated with the University.
However, you don’t have to explore the University of Missouri to find fun things to do in Columbia MO.
There are plenty of other attractions in Columbia MO to explore during your visit.
From parks, unique museums, and beautiful gardens, I guarantee you’ll find a fun Columbia MO activity on this list.
So, let’s take a look at 16 of the best things to do in Columbia MO!
16 Best Things To Do In Columbia MO You Shouldn’t Miss
Explore Rock Bridge Memorial State Park
One of the best parks in Columbia MO is Rock Bridge Memorial State Park.
Rock Bridge Memorial State Park is over 2,000 acres of public recreation areas as well as a geological preserve.
It’s a unique free thing to do in Columbia MO if you’re interested in exploring the natural scenery in the area.
Inside the park you’ll find 12 caves, many of them are some of the best caves to explore in Missouri.
You’ll find the park just 5 miles south of Columbia MO.
It’s a beautiful park in Columbia MO that you simply need to see!
Walking The University Of Missouri Campus Is One Of The Best Things To Do In Columbia MO
Columbia Missouri is best known for being a college town.
The University of Missouri was established in Columbia in 1839 and was actually the first public university west of the Mississippi River.
Today, the university is one of the most popular Columbia Missouri attractions.
University of Missouri’s campus is full of history.
You can visit the Missouri School of Journalism, which was founded in 1908 and was the world’s first journalism program.
Or, if you’re a science lover, head to the University of Missouri Research Reactor Center.
At the Research Reactor Center, they make the sole source of isotopes used in nuclear medicine in the United States.
You can walk the campus on your own, but to see some of the more prominent areas, you’ll need to schedule a tour or gain a visitor’s pass.
While On Campus Check Out The Mizzou Botanical Gardens
The Mizzou Botanical Gardens are another area within the campus of the University of Missouri that is a very popular Columbia MO attraction.
If you’re looking for relatively cheap things to do in Columbia MO, then this is a great option.
To enter the Mizzou Botanical Gardens they request only that you make a small donation.
So, you pay what you can afford and the money goes towards the upkeep of the garden.
Within the garden, you’ll find thousands of different plant species.
There is a butterfly garden, the Jefferson Garden, the native Missouri tree collection, and more.
The garden also has a few notable sculptural pieces as well.
For example, in the garden, you’ll find Thomas Jefferson’s original grave marker and the original Columns of Academic Hall.
A walk around the Mizzou Botanical Gardens is easily one of the best things to do in Columbia MO.
Ride ATVs At Finger Lakes State Park
Finger Lakes State Park is actually a pretty unique park in Columbia MO.
It was originally stripped for its coal and then it was later reclaimed and turned into a public recreation area.
That’s one of the reasons it’s one of two parks in Columbia MO that allow the use of off-roading vehicles.
So, you can bring your ATVs and explore the park in a way you can’t explore in many other parks in Missouri.
Finger Lakes State Park is also a popular spot for camping in Missouri.
The park also has tons of trails you can hike and even a water trail.
A water trail is a trail where you canoe or kayak the entire way, which is a pretty fun activity in Columbia Missouri.
Have A Picnic At Bonnie View Nature Sanctuary
Located in Columbia Missouri, the Bonnie View Nature Sanctuary is 90 acres of beautiful meadows and walking trails.
The nature sanctuary also has several picnic shelters.
So it’s a great place to enjoy a picnic!
On the 90 acres, you’ll find an abundance of native flora and fauna.
If you walk the concrete Prairie Loop Trail, you’ll get to enjoy scenic views of wildflower fields in the spring and summer months.
There is also a longer concrete trail, the Scott’s Branch Trail, that takes you through some more wooded areas within the park.
Both trails are easily walkable and provide you with some beautiful scenery while you’re visiting Columbia MO.
Admire The Collection At The Museum Of Art And Archeology
The Museum of Art and Archeology is actually another attraction in Columbia Missouri that is associated with the University of Missouri.
Recently, the galleries moved to the Ellis Library in the center of campus.
Their collection includes a wide variety of items.
From antique gemstones, Greek pottery, and Renaissance paintings.
Along with their permanent collection, they also host a variety of temporary exhibits.
In the past, they have held exhibits focusing on women in art, printmaking throughout history, and even an Andy Warhol exhibit.
If you want to spend an afternoon learning something new, then this is the Columbia Missouri activity for you.
BoatHenge Is A Fun Hidden Gem And One Of The Best Things To Do In Columbia MO
If you love finding fun hidden gems in the Midwest, then you’ll want to check out BoatHenge.
BoatHenge is essentially Stonehenge but made entirely of boats. Hence the fun name.
You’ll find BoatHenge near the Katy Trail on a lawn along the Missouri River.
No one knows who or when exactly the sculpture was created.
However, it was first seen in 1993 after a massive flood hit the area.
The sculpture features a bunch of old boats painted in a variety of colors arranged to resemble Stonehenge.
After several other floods in the area, the unique sculptural piece still stands.
A visit to BoatHenge is easily one of the most fun free things to do in Columbia MO.
Have Some Family Fun At Shryocks Callaway Farm
Shryocks Callaway Farm is a great place to bring the whole family.
There are tons of things to do on the farm, especially during the fall months in the Midwest.
You’ll find a huge corn maze, hayrides, and a pumpkin patch.
The most iconic part of the farm is the Big Red Barn.
Inside the Big Red Barn, there is a gumball coaster that is three stories high.
The gumball coaster is a super popular activity in Columbia Missouri with the kids.
You put your gumball in the bottom of the coaster and watch as it sails through the rafters of the barn and all along the front wall.
Shyrocks Callaway Farm is a great way to spend a day with your family when you’re exploring fun activities in Columbia Missouri.
Take A Culinary Tour Of Columbia MO
Believe it or not, Columbia Missouri has a thriving culinary scene.
That’s why I suggest taking a cuinary tour of Columbia.
You can choose to just sampling desserts, make a day out of finding the best brunch spots, or enjoy the different flavors found within the downtown area.
It’s a great way to explore the city and learn more about Missouri’s food history.
Taking a culinary tour is easily one of the coolest activities in Columbia MO.
Explore The Missouri River At Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area
You’ll find Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area at the southwest edge of Columbia Missouri.
The area makes up over 4,400 acres and includes 10 miles of the Missouri River and Perche Creek.
It is part of Missouri’s historical wetlands, so the state has done its best to preserve as much of it as possible.
The marshes and wetlands provide year-round habitats for many bird species, including Bald Eagles.
It’s also a popular spot for birds migrating for the winter to stop.
For those reasons, it’s a popular park in Columbia MO for birdwatching.
While you visit, please remember to be respectful of the land to help the city continue to preserve this historical wetland as much as possible.
The David R. Francis Quadrangle Is A Popular Columbia Missouri Attraction
Often referred to as just The Quad, the David R. Francis Quadrangle is the historical center of the University of Missouri.
In fact, The Quad is the oldest part of the Red Campus area of the University of Missouri.
It contains the only original piece of the first Academic Hall, which are 6 Ionic Columns.
You’ll find it is also adjacent to Downtown Columbia and the Avenue of the Columns.
Its proximity to the popular district of the city makes it one of the most popular free things to do in Columbia MO.
You can explore the grounds around the columns, which also are part of the Mizzou Botanical Gardens, for free.
It’s a unique piece of Columbia Missouri history that is worth a visit.
Hiking The Devil’s Icebox Trail Is One Of The Coolest Things To Do In Columbia MO
In the Rock Bridge State Park, you’ll find one of the best trails to hike in Missouri.
The Devil’s Icebox Trail is an extremely popular hiking trail in Columbia MO.
If you hike the trail, you’ll be led to the Devil’s Icebox Cave, one of the coolest caves to explore in Missouri.
You’ll need to plan your visit ahead of time though.
The cave is a natural habitat for bats and during outbreaks of white-nose syndrome, the park will close access to the cave to protect the bats from contagion.
However, if you have the chance to explore the cave, it’s really cool.
The trail is categorized as an easy trail and much of it features boardwalks for easy access.
So it’s a great hike for hikers of all skill levels.
Chocolate Lovers Must Visit The Candy Factory
The Candy Factory is a chocolatier and candy shop that has been serving Columbia Missouri for over 40 years.
It has become a staple in the downtown community and a must-visit spot for out-of-town visitors.
Over the years, the shop has expanded and now even offers nationwide shipping on many of its classic chocolates and candies.
You can try their classic chocolate-covered strawberries, grab a huge sample box, or take home chocolate-covered cookies.
It’s the perfect fun thing to do in Columbia MO if you love chocolate!
One Of The Best Things To Do In Columbia MO Is To Stroll Through The Shelter Gardens
The Shelter Gardens is a botanical garden that was built and sponsored by the Shelter Insurance Company.
The gardens are actually located on the grounds of the corporate office for Shelter Insurance.
The botanical garden is over 5 acres and has over 300 different tree and shrub species scattered throughout the grounds.
If you love flowers, the garden also has over 15,000 annuals and perennials on display throughout the year.
Touring the gardens is one of the best free things to do in Columbia MO.
The gardens are open to the public daily from 8 am until dusk, every day of the year except Christmas Day.
Visit The State Historical Society Columbia Research Center
History lovers will love getting a tour of the State Historical Society Columbia Research Center.
The Research Center serves as a spot for patrons, genealogists, students, and researchers to study the collections of the Missouri State Historical Society.
Its Columbia Missouri branch focuses on a few different things.
In the collection of the Columbia Research Center, you’ll find newspapers dating back from 1808, rare books, oral histories, an art collection, and tons more.
There are tons of things to dive into and learn about when you visit the Columbia Research Center.
If you want to visit, you’ll need to schedule a tour.
Stephen’s Lake Park Is One Of The Best Parks In Columbia MO
Stephen’s Lake Park is over 115 acres and includes an arboretum and public park.
It is often called the ‘Crown Jewel of Columbia’s Park System’, and for a good reason.
This park in Columbia Missouri features an 11-acre swimming lake, mature trees, and grassy lawns to relax and play on.
The park also is a significant historical spot within the city of Columbia MO.
It is the original site of the Gordon Manor, a home built using slave labor the second year Missouri was founded as a state.
In 1998, the Gordon Manor was burned to the ground. It was the oldest brick structure in Boone County.
Shortly after the manor was destroyed, the property was bought by the city of Columbia and turned into a public park.
Since then, it has been an iconic and beautiful park in Columbia MO to visit.
Packing List When Visiting Columbia Missouri
If you are searching, here are some tips on how to pack lightly when packing to visit attractions in Columbia MO.
A concealed travel pouch may be one of the most important items you bring along when exploring the parks in Columbia Missouri. It is always important to protect your personal information. Identity thieves are everywhere.
This unisex RFID blocking concealed travel pouch is lightweight and comes in several colors. It has lots of organization to give you peace of mind. You can place it under your clothes next to your body to carry your ID safely.
If you have a pouch already that does not come with the RFID protection, as I do, these RFID sleeves are the perfect solution.
If you are planning on taking a lot of pictures with your phone you will definitely want to consider an external charging battery. This Anker high-speed phone charging battery is the exact one I carry with me on all of my trips.
I like that it holds its charging capabilities for several uses so I do not have to worry about it while out and about, and if I forget to recharge it at night, it will still be good to go the next day.
My daughter gifted me with this FugeTek selfie stick and tripod setup for my birthday. I absolutely love it! It is made of lightweight aluminum and is so easy to use.
It has Bluetooth connectivity and is a breeze to use for taking Insta-worthy selfies while experiencing the best things to do in Columbia MO.
I never much believed in using packing cubes when traveling. That is until I tried them. Now I am hooked. These are the exact cubes I use to stay organized when I pack for a trip!
You will want to bring your own refillable water bottle with you.
I never leave home on a trip without my Bobble filtration bottle. The 18.5-ounce size is perfect for your adventures and it fits nicely in the pocket of a backpack.
Perhaps you are traveling a long distance and packing space is a premium in your suitcase, or in your car. Then this set of collapsible silicone foldable water bottles would work well for you. Would not take up much space at all.
You will want a backpack or daypack with you to store snacks, your water bottle, phone, extra clothes, etc.. when doing activities in Columbia MO. No matter the time of day or evening.
This foldable water-resistant backpack would be great. And it comes in many different colors.
Whether you want to walk the campus of the University of Missouri, sample the downtown food scene, or simply enjoy the great outdoors, there are some great things to do in Columbia MO.
It’s a vibrant college town that is full of energy and unique and fun Columbia Missouri attractions that appeal to people of all ages!
I hope you’ve found a Columbia MO activity on this list that has piqued your interest!
If you visit any of these things to do in Columbia Missouri, I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments!