Taking a road trip for a day can be a great way to learn more about the communities surrounding your home, and my first suggestion for a day trip outside of Columbia is to our state capitol, Jefferson City. My dad and his brothers grew up in Jefferson City and many of my family members still live in the area so I’m excited to talk about a place I have fond memories of.
Distance: 30 miles south of Columbia
How to get there: Take Highway 63 South and exit to merge onto Highway 54 West
Photo from the Jefferson City Convention and Visitors Bureau
Jefferson City was commissioned to be the capitol of Missouri in 1821, and members of the general assembly officially moved in 1826. The city holds quite a bit of history within its roots and continues to grow. Built along the Missouri River, and a stop along the Pacific Railroad line, it has been a hub for transportation and progress.
Columbia and Jefferson City are so close that many families commute to work in the other city depending on industry and family structure. Only a 30 minute drive apart, Columbia and Jefferson City share a love for coffee shops, local foods, and Missouri history.
Must-Try and Must-See:
I’m told from the locals that the best place to find a coffee in Jefferson City is Three Story Coffee in Millbottom, though they have two locations in Jefferson City so you can be the judge of that. Less than a 5 minute walk from the Missouri State Capitol building, it is a small shop with a huge passion for change in the coffee industry. Not only is the best quality beverage something they strive for but they also want to connect the consumer with the stories and faces behind the bean, the farmer. They feature their farmers and stories to go beyond fair trade to showcase a community of love put into the process.
Left, Three Story Coffee Instagram; Right, Benjamin Bommel at Three Story Coffee – Millbottom
History to Explore
With a fresh drink in your hand, take that quick walk over to the Missouri State Capitol and Missouri State Museum. The capitol grounds are beautiful to explore and feature a great deal of statues, fountains, and memorials. Some favorites are the Lewis and Clark monument, the Missouri Law Enforcement memorial, the Missouri Veterans Memorial, and the Fountain of Centaurs. For a tour of the inside of the capitol building, visit the tour desk on the first floor between 9am-11am and 1pm-4pm at the top of the hour.
Photo from Missouri State Capitol Commission Facebook
Another short walk and you can find the Governor’s Mansion and Garden. Home of Missouri’s first family and a beautiful piece of architecture, the site is a must see when visiting. Guided tours can range from 15-45 minutes depending on the time of year and require a 24-hour advance reservation that can be made online.
Photos from the Friends of the Missouri Governor’s Mansion Facebook
Now you’re in the heart of Downtown Jefferson City so if you have the time to keep exploring, I’d highly recommend it. Don’t forget that some of the best treasures are the ones you find while wandering aimlessly.
Photo from Will Haenni – IG @willkrcg13
If you’re not tired of walking just yet, take time to visit Clark’s Hill/Norton State Historic Site. The area features the short, half-mile Osage trail that leads to an overlook and features several items William Clark wrote about in his journal during the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
When it comes to a good dessert, my favorites are the frozen kind. From ice cream to frozen yogurt, there is no way to go wrong with these two classics. Central Dairy is a historic business in Jefferson City and the setting for many a story from my childhood and my father’s. Originally from Columbia in the 1920s, the Jefferson City location was opened in 1934 where it remains today. Caramel Caribou is a personal favorite of mine, and I would strongly suggest bringing cash to pay.
For frozen yogurt, check out Yo Yums. They are located downtown near the Governor’s Mansion and the State Capitol Building. Family-owned with a variety of flavor and topping options, this is a sweet treat you won’t want to miss.
Bites to Eat
The older brother of a downtown favorite in Columbia is West Main Pizza. Hand-tossed pizzas and a local Italian restaurant feel makes patrons feel welcome when they arrive and satisfied when they leave.
Photo from Prison Brews Facebook
If burgers are what you’re craving then head to Prison Brews, a microbrewery sporting what I’m told are the best burgers in town.
Your first option for evening entertainment is a stop by Capitol City CORK & Provisions. Open Tuesday through Saturday from 5:00 to 9:00 pm, CORK features a seasonal menu to pair with its wines.
Photos from Capitol City CORK and Provisions Facebook
For the lovers of the theater, stop by Capital City Productions to catch a show with the Capital City Players. This summer and fall they will be putting on two different productions: Beauty & the Beast (August) and Sweeny Todd – The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (October). Check out their website for updated showtimes.
My final suggestion for a late night thrill is a stop at the Missouri State Penitentiary for a ghost tour. The penitentiary was built in the 1830s to ensure that Jefferson City remained the best option for the state capitol and remained in operation until 2004, the Missouri State Penitentiary was home to several infamous convicts. History tours are held in the afternoons and early evenings, and ghost tours are held in evenings and late into the night. You can choose the tour that is just right for you or reserve a time for a private tour for your group.
It’s a lot to take in but a day (or two) in Jefferson City can be full of good eats and a variety of entertainment to brush up on your history or even give you a good scare. For more information on where to stay or what to do in Jefferson City during your visit check out our friends at Visit Jefferson City.
Blog written by Convention and Visitors Bureau intern, Grace Bommel