The A-B-Cs of Columbia, Missouri

Why Columbia? Simply put, our newest grandson (we now have four) lives there. And, as a travel writer, I’m always on the lookout for new places to explore. Here’s an inventory of some of my favorite things to do in and around town.

A is for Activities and the Arts
Columbians are serious about their outdoor recreation. America’s longest “rails-to-trail” reclamation project, the Missouri-Kansas-Texas (MKT) Railroad’s bed and track, has been transformed into a 227-mile path running east to west. The Missouri portion, known as the Katy Trail (from the last two letters of MKT), runs smack through Columbia. It is a favorite of walkers, runners, bikers and equestrians; over half of the trail follows Lewis & Clark’s passageway along the Missouri River. In town, the Parks and Recreation Department operates and maintains over 2,000 acres of land spread over 51 sites. They offer a handy list of trails located in neighborhoods, community parks, along greenbelts, in nature areas and adjacent to wetlands. The campus of the University of Missouri (Mizzou) offers a myriad of choices for walking. Pick up a copy of their Tree Trails, a guide featuring the gardens and horticultural diversity found on campus.


University of Missouri Campus

The Missouri Theater and the YouZeum span the spectrum of the arts. The former, completely renovated and reopened in May of 2008, is an example of the ornate baroque and rococo style of Louis XIV and XV. Originally built in 1928, it was designed to resemble the Paris Opera House; it now anchors the arts in Columbia.


The Historic Missouri Theater

The YouZeum, also opened in May of 2008, is a successful example of the private sector and government working together. It is an interactive science center focusing on fitness and health and wellness that was the vision of the Boone (think Daniel) County Medical Society Alliance. It’s high tech, informative and great fun for kids of all ages.


Phun Physiology at the YouZeum


The District is the name given to Columbia’s exciting downtown core. It features historic buildings, restaurants and bars, live music and theater. The District is made livelier by its location, nestled between the three hometown colleges; Mizzou, Columbia College and Stephens College. More than 100 shops and galleries make the area a shopper’s delight. One of my favorite places is Poppy, which offers one-of-a-kind crafts and folk art in clay, glass, fiber, metal, and wood. Another suggested stop is Bluestem Missouri Crafts. They exhibit and sell the work of over 250 craftspeople from Missouri.

B is for Barbecue, Butter Burgers and Buck’s

Show-Me Bar-B-Q is a smoky, sweet-sour barbecue sauce produced by a local character with a passion for his craft. Harry H. Berrier, DVM, manufactures it in his basement in Columbia (talk about home made!). It can be found in most supermarkets around town and is also available via mail order. Buckingham Smokehouse Bar-B-Que features oversized servings of smoked ribs, brisket, pulled pork, pit ham, chicken and turkey. My favorite is their Sloppy Buck sandwich, a mixture of pork, beef, ham and turkey burnt ends blended together in a heavenly concoction fit for the BBQ gods. The smoked pit beans and horseradish coleslaw are my two favorite sides. While we’re on the subject of food, my favorite all-around place to eat is Culver’s. Their butter burgers are terrific, the custard outstanding, the service friendly and fast, the menu is interesting (look for their daily specials) and the prices are cheap. Buck’s Ice Cream Place on the Mizzou Campus also deserves mention. It is part of the Food Science and Engineering Unit in the College of Agriculture. They have an ice cream production facility which allows students to experiment with flavors that they manufacture and sell to the public.

C is for Columbia Contacts
Here’s a guide to sources to help you learn more about Columbia.

The Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau is a great resource and eager to help. Call them at 1-800-652-0987 or visit online at Request their Visitors & Area Guide and plan your getaway around one of the many sporting events, festivals and/or art fairs in the area.

The Missouri portion of the Katy Trail can be found online at or call 1-800-334-6946. Biking enthusiasts search Columbia Park and Trail Guides can be found at

University of Missouri campus information can be found at or by calling 1-800-372-6822. There is a wide range on activities year ‘round. Historical Note: During the Civil War, armed home guards, known as the Tigers, protected the small towns in Missouri from plundering gangs, thus the sports team’s nickname.

The Missouri Theatre Center for the Arts (the official name) is the artistic home to 13 local groups from Belly Dance United to the Missouri Symphony Orchestra. The website is or they can be reached at 1-573-875-0600 for information.

YouZeum hours and special events can be found at or call 1-573-886-2006. There’s always something going on.

Special Note: The True/False Film Festival, held in February, is one of the most influential documentary film showcases in the country. They feature interesting and quirky films. Contact them at 1-573-442-TRUE or online at

Finally, my suggestion for a place to stay is the Marriott Courtyard. Enjoy their comfortable, well appointed rooms, great made-to-order breakfasts, friendly staff, reasonable rates and convenient location. Their local number is 1-573-443-8000 or call 1-888-236-2427. Don’t forget to ask if they are featuring any specials. The website is

Thanks to the aforementioned websites for background information and photos.

Safe travels…..

Howard Hian

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