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Columbia is fortunate enough to be only 30 minutes away from Missouri’s state capital, opens in a new windowJefferson City. A distinct and historic town on the Missouri River, Jefferson City is an easy drive down Highway 63 and is ideal for a day’s side trip during your Columbia visit.

Tour the Capitol

Missouri’s beautiful state capitol building was completed in 1917 and sits on the picturesque Missouri River. The dome, topped by a bronze statue of Ceres, the goddess of vegetation, is the first view of Jefferson City for travelers arriving from every direction. Modeled after the nation’s capitol, the building came in under budget during construction, so the remainder of the funds was spent on art for the facility.

The 45-minute guided Capitol tour is the best way to experience the historic and decorative features of the building. It will provide you with an excellent education on the State of Missouri and the structure that represents its home. The capitol also features the Missouri State Museum, which is home to incredible art by Thomas Hart Benton depicting the history of Missouri. During general assembly sessions, step into the galleries to watch the Senate and House of Representatives in action.

Stop for Lunch

After you soak up the history of the capitol building, take a break for lunch at one of Jefferson City’s opens in a new windowrestaurants. Get saucy at the famous opens in a new window Lutz’s BBQ, enjoy a casual yet elegant meal at Madison’s Cafe, or get geared up for your next stop at Prison Brews.

Go Behind Bars

Decommissioned in 2004, the opens in a new windowMissouri State Penitentiary is now open to the public for hard hat tours. Before it closed, MSP was the oldest continually operating penitentiary west of the Mississippi. The prison was 100 years old when Alcatraz began taking inmates.

The tour showcases cells including those of famous inmates such as heavyweight champion Sonny Liston, who learned to box during his time in the big house, and James Earl Ray. Other stops on the tour are the gas chamber where 40 men and women were executed, the buried cells, several housing units and the upper yard. In 1967 the Missouri State Penitentiary was infamously named the “bloodiest 47 acres in America” by Time magazine because of the incredibly high number of serious assaults on the grounds between 1963-1964.

MSP is open for a variety of opens in a new windowtours ranging from historical to paranormal. Tours are conducted by former wardens, guards and others who had a role with MSP while it was open. Each tour is a unique experience that makes it one of the most visited attractions in the state.

Make an Ice Cream Stop

After your tour of the state penitentiary, step back in time at opens in a new windowCentral Dairy. Open seven days a week, Central Dairy offers up dozens of flavors ranging from traditional chocolate and vanilla to fun flavors like moose tracks and muddy river. If you’re really really hungry, order the banana split! It’s a massive creation that’s enough for two! Central Dairy is a Jefferson City tradition not to be missed.