There are many points of interest and attractions that come up in a search for things to do in Columbia, Missouri. The city is full of entertainment, culture, and activity. One of the great things about the city is the constant opportunity for learning. Columbia is rich in educational resources. And if you’re looking to enrich not just your mental state, but physical state as well, the city is immersed in nature. We’ve compiled a list of the best parks and museums in Columbia that you can visit as a treat for both the mind and the body!
The university provides many cultural sites, including a handful of museums dedicated to providing education to students and the community of Columbia. Here are the best museums and historical sites in Columbia, both on and off the the University of Missouri campus.
Museum of Anthropology at UM
Mizzou North, Suite 2002, 115 Business Loop 70 W., Columbia, MO 65211
The Museum of Anthropology contains awesome collections displaying the character of humanity in all parts of the world. The museum is known for holding the world’s most comprehensive archery collection and the largest collection of prehistoric Missourian artifacts. There’s also a library of anthropology and a gift shop within the museum. Guided tours of museum exhibits and other public programs are available; visit the museum’s website for more information.
Museum of Art and Archaeology at UM
Mizzou North, 115 Business Loop 70 W.
The Museum of Art and Archaeology is open to the public, and admission is free. The museum provides visitors with an authentic, firsthand experience of art and artifacts. In addition to its permanent exhibition galleries, the museum shows a series of changing exhibitions throughout the year. Information on current and future exhibitions can be found here. There are also many events that take place at the museum, and the event calendar can be viewed here. The museum is open Tuesday–Friday from 9 a.m.–4 p.m., and on the weekends from noon–4 p.m.
Boone County History & Culture Center at Nifong Park
3801 Ponderosa St., Columbia, MO 65201
The Boone County History & Culture Center is a popular free activity in Columbia. Admission is free all year and includes multiple historic sites. There’s so much combined in this one historical site: the Walters Boone County Museum, the Montminy Art Gallery, the Village at Boone Junction, and the historic Maplewood House — Columbia’s famous 19th-century home. Visiting hours are Wednesday–Saturday from 11 a.m.–4:30 p.m., and Sunday from noon–4:30 p.m. They host events periodically, which are listed on their event calendar.
Western Historical Manuscripts Collection at UM
2 Ellis Library, Columbia, MO 65201
Students and researchers with a passion for history and literature, or anyone who just loves antiques and memorabilia of the past, will be amazed by the holdings of the Western Historical Manuscripts Collection. The collection contains personal papers, photos, letters, diaries and journals, and audio recordings that document and give insight into the lives of Missourians from the beginning of its settlement. The collection was formed in 1943 and is one of the most fundamental institutions in preserving Missouri’s history. The State Historical Society of Missouri maintains the collections and puts on events for the community; learn more at the SHSM website.
George Caleb Bingham Gallery at UM
A126 Fine Arts Center, Columbia, MO 65211 (at the corner of Hitt Street and University Avenue)
The George Caleb Bingham Gallery is the University of Missouri Art Department’s display space for student, faculty, and visiting artists’ exhibitions. The museum was named after George Caleb Bingham, Missouri’s first renowned painter. He is known for painting scenes of Missouri pioneer life and has been referred to as one of the best painters of the 19th century. The gallery is open Monday–Thursday from 8 a.m.–5 p.m, and on Friday from 8 a.m.–4 p.m. Students and non-students can tour the gallery.
The beauty of nature is evident all across Columbia. Anyone who loves to hike, camp, or generally enjoy the outdoors should spend some time exploring the parks of Columbia. There are parks all over the city, from the forested outskirts to the populated downtown. Here are some of the best parks to visit in Columbia.
Flat Branch Park
300 S. Providence Road, Columbia, MO 65203
Flat Branch Park is a beautiful park in an area you wouldn’t expect to find nature untouched — the center of downtown Columbia. This green space is a great place to take a brisk walk, exercise your dog, have lunch, or study. The park is fully equipped with a gazebo, benches, a picnic area, bike racks, paved walkways, a playground, a rain garden, an amphitheater, a sprayground, an art sculpture, and Wi-Fi. A creek runs through the park, adding the tranquil sound of moving water to this already peaceful place.
Finger Lakes State Park
1505 E. Peabody Road, Columbia, MO 65202
Finger Lakes State Park is a Missouri state park located in Columbia. This is a park for the adventurous types. If a scenic hike doesn’t suite your desire for an adrenaline rush, the motocross and ATV open riding area might have what you’re looking for instead. At Finger Lakes State Park, there’s no shortage of adventure possibilities. There are trails, motocross tracks, a spacious campground, the 2.75-mile Kelley Branch Mountain Bike Trail, and a 4.5-mile water trail for kayaks.
1615 Business Loop 70 W., Columbia, MO 65202
Columbia Cosmopolitan Recreation Area, also known as Cosmo Park, is the largest park in Columbia, spanning over 533 acres. They host an impressive list of amenities: six lighted fields, two T-ball fields, four football fields, two lacrosse fields, horseshoe pits, soccer fields, tennis courts, volleyball courts, a golf course, a playground, and a roller hockey rink. In addition to sports facilities, the park is also filled with nature areas, hiking trails, and fishing lakes. They host the annual Show-Me tate Games, and is also a great location to pick up a casual ball game, hang out with friends, and enjoy nature.
Stephens Lake Park
2001 E. Broadway, Columbia, MO 65201
Stephens Lake Park is a lakefront park that CoMo residents frequent throughout the year. Every season offers something great at Stephens Lake Park. In the summer, the beach area is open for swimming and water sports. During the fall, visitors will witness the beautiful change of colors in the trees and foliage. During the winter, it becomes a snowy wonderland. The lake freezes and opens for ice skating when the ice conditions are right. Cosmo-Bethel Lake also opens for ice fishing, and there’s a hill for sledding during snowy conditions. The spring is a beautiful time of year to visit the park, as well, especially when flowers begin to bloom at the Hindman Discovery Garden. Other unique attractions of the park are two waterfalls and the Look Out Point Art Sculpture.
1817 W. Broadway, Columbia, MO 65218
Step through the fairytale-esque stone-and-wrought-iron gates into Shelter Gardens, and you’ll be greeted by the most beautiful landscape filled with over 300 varieties of trees and shrubs, and more than 15,000 annuals and perennials. The garden sprawls more thanfive acres with a waterfall, a rock garden, Vietnam veterans’ memorial, a garden for the blind, and other attractions. The garden is open every day from 8 a.m. to dusk, with the exception of Christmas. Visit to enjoy the beautiful sights, sounds, and scents, or come for the music concerts every Sunday during the summer.