Welcome to central Missouri teeming with excitement at Jefferson City capitol tours, historic Columbia campuses, incredible cuisine and more
Straddling an area where Ozark highlands meet the western plains, the central Missouri region combines heartland hospitality and cosmopolitan variety. Outdoor-lovers and city types will both find attractions to love in small riverside hamlets and growing cities. Also on the itinerary, foodies will enjoy some of the best eats in the Midwest. Here is a small sampling of what central Missouri has to offer your group.
Home to the University of Central Missouri and a thriving arts community, Columbia is the cultural hub of central Missouri. Your group will want to spend time touring the university campus, whose highlight is the historic Francis Quadrangle. Based on a Thomas Jefferson design and the site of his original tombstone, the “Quad” encompasses the university’s most famous academic building. This includes the towering Jesse Hall and Switzler Hall, the school’s oldest surviving structure at 144 years old.
Pause to admire the famous Columns, once the supports for the original Academic Hall before it was destroyed in a fire. Subsequently, it is now one of the most photographed landmarks in Missouri. A few blocks away is The District, where your group can sample dozens of restaurants and boutiques for an afternoon on the town. Local favorites include Shakespeare’s Pizza and Booches Billiard Hall, where you can taste burgers consistently ranked among the best in the U.S (it’s cash only, so plan accordingly).
Nearby on historic 9th Street is the Missouri Theatre, designed after the Paris Opera House and completely restored in 2008 to its former glory. Bands, speakers and travelling Broadway shows take the stage nearly every night.
Jefferson City History
About 30 minutes south of Columbia is Jefferson City, Missouri’s state capital and a city with many historic sights. The Missouri State Penitentiary was decommissioned in 2004 Today, it allows tours in what was once called “the bloodiest 47 acres in America” for its many riots and executions. Your group can pass by the cells of famous heavyweight Sonny Liston, who learned to box while behind bars. Or James Earl Ray’s cell, the gunman in Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination.
With views of the Missouri River and priceless artwork inside, the Missouri State Capitol is worth a tour. Once inside, you can study the murals of famed artist Thomas Hart Benton, see bronze statues of Lewis and Clark and even watch state government representatives in session. Your group will also want to explore the Capitol grounds and nearby downtown, home to High Street’s welcoming diners and specialty shops.
Fulton, Central Missouri
North of the Missouri River is Fulton, an ideal destination for a day trip. The National Churchill Museum is where the British prime minister delivered his famous “Iron Curtain” speech in 1946. The museum houses exhibits about his military and political career on the Westminster College campus. Rooms include a simulation of the London Blitz and interactive displays of the European theater during World War II. While touring the building, admire the 17th century church the museum is housed in.
Moved stone-by-stone from London, the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Aldermanbury features many preserved walls and the original cupola. Also worth exploring is the nearby Auto World Museum, which displays vintage cars, Route 66 memorabilia and exhibits depicting automobile history.
Small Town Charm of Hermann
The quaint town of Hermann is nestled among the rolling hills along the Missouri River in countryside reminiscent of Germany’s Rhine Valley. Your group can wander through the charming downtown and enjoy lunch or wine tastings at Stone Hill Winery.
Housed in the beautifully restored carriage house and horse barn, Vintage Restaurant is an excellent culinary complement to Stone Hill’s selection of wines, serving hearty German cuisine alongside traditional American Fare.
If your group has additional time, there are many more towns, attractions and historic sites in central Missouri to experience and treasure. Download the current issue of Leisure Group Travel and stay up-to-date on group tour destinations.