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Mizzou madnessMizzou madness

Columbia, MissouriColumbia, Missouri

Mizzou madness reigns supreme in this central Missouri college town. Visit and you’ll find an engaged community that values its cultural offerings right along with its sports teams.

  • Life in Columbia, Missouri (aka CoMo) has revolved around the University of Missouri since 1839, when it was founded as the first public institution of higher education west of the Mississippi River. But in 1892, a fire destroyed the university’s first academic building. Only the supporting columns remained. Supporters fought to keep the columns and the president of the Board of Curators said, “Let the columns stand. Let them stand for a thousand years.” Around those columns, Mizzou has grown into a lush 1,262-acre campus with over 350 buildings and more than 300 degree programs in 20 academic colleges. Photo courtesy University of Missouri.
  • COU has two intersecting runways and a control tower. Arrivals from the southwest should note the sprawling Truman A, B, and C MOAs that end about 20 nm southwest of COU and are used by the 509th Bomb Wing from Whiteman AFB (it’s not unusual to see one of their B-2s flying around). The MOAs are all active daily 6 a.m.–midnight; other times by NOTAM. A and B range from 8,000 feet MSL to FL180, while C ranges from 500 feet AGL to FL180, excluding airspace below 1,500 feet AGL within a 3 nm radius of the town of Warsaw, Mo.; contact Kansas City Center for advisories. Photo by Bill Manginelli, courtesy Columbia Regional Airport.
  • An F/A-18 Hornet performs a high-speed steep turn during the Salute to Veterans Airshow, held each Memorial Day weekend. Photo by Don Thun.
  • The fountain and statue in Tiger Plaza. The tiger is the Mizzou mascot. Jesse Hall, completed in 1895 and renamed in 1922 to honor retiring University President Richard Henry Jesse, rises in the background. Photo courtesy Mizzou Botanic Garden.
  • The Missouri Tigers (except in wrestling) compete in the Southeastern Conference (SEC). The official colors are black and gold. MU football games are played on Faurot Field at Memorial Stadium ("The Zou"). Built in 1926, this stadium has an official capacity of 71,168. Photo courtesy Columbia CVB.
  • Musicians perform in the North Village Arts District, home to over 150 artists who utilize art, film, and dance studios, interior design companies, live performance spaces, galleries, a music school, nightclubs, a theatre, cafes, a yoga studio, a distillery, a farmers and artisans market, and First Fridays art walk. Photo by Drew Piester.
  • The Missouri Theatre was designed after the Opéra Garnier by the Boller Brothers, built in 1928, and is on the National Register of Historic Places. It is Columbia's only surviving pre-Depression movie palace and vaudeville stage. The resident home of the Missouri Symphony Orchestra, it is also frequently used by University of Missouri and civic groups. Photo courtesy Missouri Theatre.
  • The Roots N Blues N BBQ Festival is held each September at Stephens Lake Park. First launched in 2007, the festival features over 30 artists representing the genres of roots, blues, gospel, country, folk, bluegrass, rock, and soul. The lineup includes international, national, regional, and local artists. Fans enjoy delicious BBQ from local and regional vendors. The festival includes a kick-off event Thursday night, a half-marathon and 10K on Saturday morning, and a Gospel Celebration on Sunday. Photo courtesy Roots N Blues N BBQ Festival.
  • Shakespeare’s Pizza is so popular with students that alumni who had moved away from Columbia began requesting pies by delivery. The company now sells pizzas through mail order, as well as engraved commemorative bricks from their original building in downtown CoMo, but there’s nothing like watching staff prepare the dough and then tasting your pizza straight out of Shakespeare’s oven. Photo courtesy Columbia CVB.
  • The gluten-free and vegan Kale Salad at Main Squeeze comes with apples, almonds, cranberries, cashew cheeze, and lemon chia vinaigrette. Photo courtesy Main Squeeze.
  • Downtown CoMo. On the left is the Tiger Hotel and the original rooftop sign. Built in 1928 and completely renovated in 2012, the original chandeliers also remain inside. Photo courtesy Columbia CVB.
  • Opened in 2014, The Broadway—A DoubleTree by Hilton, is the only LEED-certified hotel in mid-Missouri. Contemporary design is visible throughout, including the fine dining Eleven/Eleven restaurant and The Roof, an 8th-floor indoor/outdoor area serving handcrafted cocktails, small plates, and one of the best views of the city. Photo courtesy Hilton Hotels.
  • You can ride the Katy Trail out of Columbia headed west or south. Either way, you’ll eventually find yourself along the Missouri River. Photo by N via Flickr.
  • After a series of floods on the Missouri River in the mid-1990s, a row of boats mysteriously appeared near Cooper’s Landing, stuck into the ground like Stonehenge and now named “Boathenge.” Photo courtesy Cooper’s Landing.
  • 30 miles east of CoMo is Fulton, a town of 13,000 with two colleges. At Westminster College, where Sir Winston Churchill gave his famous Iron Curtain speech in 1946, you’ll find the National Churchill Museum. Exhibits dedicated to the speech and the life of Churchill are housed underneath the St. Mary the Virgin Aldermanbury Church. This church was moved from England stone-by-stone and rebuilt. Outside the museum, Churchill’s granddaughter created the “Breakthrough” sculpture out of eight sections from the Berlin Wall. Photo courtesy Missouri Division of Tourism.

Columbia Regional Airport sits about halfway between the Class B airports of Kansas City International and St. Louis International. The wide, wandering Missouri River connects the two great cities, and skirts Columbia in its southwest suburbs. Each Memorial weekend, Columbia Regional hosts the Salute to Veterans Airshow. It’s a big airshow (and free!) with over 40 aircraft from World War I-era airplanes to classic warbirds, modern fighter jets, and military demonstration teams.

Columbia (aka CoMo) revolves around the University of Missouri, the first public university west of the Mississippi River. The campus boasts more than 42,000 plants and trees, with 11 themed gardens and seven special collection gardens. Pick up self-guided tour maps and guides in the lobby of the Reynolds Alumni Center. Look for the big columns on the quad and the 105-foot dome at Jesse Hall. In fall, catch the spirit during fall football games at the 71,000-seat Memorial Stadium.

Mizzou’s north side borders a 50-block area of downtown known as The District, also bordered by two other colleges. With some 40,000 students plus 13,000 faculty and staff within walking distance, The District is jammed with diverse and predominantly local restaurants, coffee shops, bars, performing arts venues, galleries, and retailers. Among the more interesting are the Poppy gift shop, Bluestem Missouri Crafts, and Sparky’s Homemade Ice Cream (love that banana Nutella and mandarin orange dark chocolate!). The Artlandish Gallery is in the North Village Art District, home to over 150 artists. The historic Missouri Theatre hosts ballet, symphony, and theater performances, while Ragtag Cinema shows art house films. Live music venues abound, and special events like the Roots N Blues N BBQ Festival fill the calendar.

Five miles south of CoMo, Rock Bridge Memorial State Park is a geological preserve and public recreation area encompassing 2,273 acres. The state park is noted for its excellent examples of karst landforms including the rock bridge, sinkholes, and an underground stream at the cave known as Devil's Icebox. The rock bridge was created by the collapse of a section of a cave which resulted in a small arch of rock being left to form a natural bridge over the creek. Photo courtesy Wikipedia.

Favorite culinary delights include the pepperoni at Shakespeare’s Pizza, artichokes and cheese at Flat Branch Pub and Brewing, vegetarian and organic dishes at Main Squeeze, and “The Stretch” breakfast at Broadway Diner. Try the gourmet Paleo breakfast at the adults-only East Campus Bed and Breakfast; sleep soundly at the contemporary, LEED-certified The Broadway Columbia—A DoubleTree by Hilton; or choose the Tiger Hotel, a luxury boutique property constructed in 1928 and renovated in 2012 with attached café, bar, gourmet candy shop, and outdoor patio/live music venue.

A mile east of downtown, Stephens Lake Park offers an 11-acre stocked fishing lake, a 1.7-mile paved trail, three playgrounds, and a swimming beach with summertime “spraygrounds.” Five miles south of CoMo, Rock Bridge Memorial State Park has 20 miles of hiking and biking trails, including the half-mile Devils Icebox Trail to Rock Bridge.

Visit Les Bourgeois Winery in Rocheport, about 15 miles west of CoMo on the bluffs overlooking the Missouri River. Do a little wine tasting and then enjoy a bottle outside at the A-Frame or choose fine dining in the Bluffside Bistro. Photo courtesy Missouri Division of Tourism.

Farther afield, you might head down south to the Missouri for a little riverside recreation and dining. You could drive, but why not bike? The 240-mile Katy Trail is the nation’s longest developed rail-trail, stretching across Missouri via the old Missouri-Kansas-Texas railbed. In downtown CoMo, rent bikes at Cycleextreme, near the trailhead of the MKT Nature and Fitness Trail at Flat Branch Park. The MKT Trail runs 8.9 miles through wetlands and wooded areas before connecting to Katy Trail at mile 169.9. At mile 163.5 you’ll come to the Cooper’s Landing Riverport Marina, south of Columbia. Choose smoked meats at the Cooper’s Landing Kitchen or try Chim’s Thai Kitchen. Check out Boathenge, a group of boats mysteriously sunk into the ground along the trail in an imitation of Stonehenge.

You could drive (or bike the Katy Trail) 15 miles west to Rocheport, where Les Bourgeois Vineyards perches on a cliff above the river. Hit the tasting room and giftshop, enjoy fine dining at the Blufftop Bistro, or picnic above the river at the rustic A-Frame, popular with students. Rent bikes in Rocheport (the bike shop is also a café) or choose guided fishing, kayaking, or bike trips. Twelve miles west of Rocheport is Boonville, and if you love Budweiser’s Clydesdale commercials even half as much as me, you’ll want to visit the Warm Springs Ranch, where most of Budweiser’s giant equines are born and raised. Tour the ranch and meet these magnificent big boys in person.

Drive 30 miles east (or fly 10 nm east) of CoMo to Fulton. If flying, schedule the day before with ServeTran for a $2.50 round trip ride to the National Churchill Museum at Westminster College, where Sir Winston Churchill gave his famous Iron Curtain speech in 1946. The museum and portions of the Berlin Wall are just the icing on the cake to all the great memories you’ll take home from your visit to Columbia.

Which of these curious young Clydesdales will grow up to pull the famous red Budweiser wagons? I’m betting on those two big boys without halters. Photo courtesy Anheuser-Busch Companies, LLC.

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Crista Worthy

Crista V. Worthy

Crista V. Worthy has been flying around the United States with her pilot-husband Fred and their children since 1995, and writing about fun places to fly since 2006. She has single-engine land and sea ratings. Her favorite places to explore are the backcountry strips of Idaho and Utah's red rock country. She currently lives in Idaho and serves as editor of The Flyline, the monthly publication of the Idaho Aviation Association. To suggest future destination articles, send an email to [email protected]
Topics: US Travel

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