When we want a day trip or even a short weekend, our go-to is Columbia, Missouri. Now I will admit my husband and I are a little nostalgic towards this college town as our undergrad was a half hour from Columbia and we lived in the city for two years while my husband was earning his masters at Mizzou. Even so, if you want a short road trip Columbia has a lot to offer, since it is under two hours away and it has lots of unique shops, restaurants, and of course Mizzou itself!
If you get there early enough that you still want coffee I suggest Coffee Zone as your first stop. This Mediterranean family-owned business has been part of Columbia since 1994. I remember vividly the first time I walked into the beautiful exotic interior and ordered my Iced White Chocolate Chai over fifteen years ago. Chai and baklava became a special treat to me when we lived there and Coffee Zone became a must-visit for every return trip after we moved. I felt very well loved when my husband brought me back baklava from Coffee Zone on a trip, driving through Columbia on his way back to Saint Louis. If neither Chocolate Chai nor baklava sound good to you however, do not worry, they have a plethora of coffee and flavoring choices, gyros, falafels, and many other Mediterranean style dishes.
Once you are properly caffeinated, you can walk around Columbia’s downtown and check out the shops. My most recent favorite is Yellow Dog Bookshop . They sell used books and utilize every inch of their small store space. There’s a small alcove in the back for the children’s area that works for a perfect hideaway. There’s a hilarious shirt store, Mizzou stores aplenty, and art shops featuring local artists.
We also love to walk across the Mizzou campus and check out some of the highlights. The most picturesque spot is The Columns. The original Academic Hall burned down in 1892 and the columns are the only thing left of the building. Standing alone in the midst of a large field, they are Mizzou’s ancient ruins.
Not far from the columns are insteresting statues. Near the on campus art museum you’ll find Thomas Jefferson chilling on a bench and at the nearby Journalism building you’ll find ancient Chinese lions gifted to the university.
As you get towards the middle of the campus there is a circle with an amazing echo that highly entertains the kiddos. They have to sing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star every time!
A little further on, looking across at the math building and intramural fields, you will find the Mizzou Tiger fountain. This is usually the turn around spot for our campus hike.
CATCH A GAME
If you plan your visit at the right time you can catch a big-time college sports game. While the football games could be long for little ones, the basketball games are quite reasonable and have enough going on to catch even the least sports enthused person entertained. My kids enjoyed the Dip N Dots, while I was thrilled to hear a college pep band and the indoor fireworks.
LUNCH OR DINNER
For either lunch or dinner, Shakespeare’s is a Columbia staple. It recently went through an extensive remodel. Years ago, when I lived in Columbia, Shakespeare’s was a one story building with an attached parking lot. Now it is on the ground floor of a large apartment complex with chain restaurants surrounding it. They have kept the old charm as seen in their lovingly saved and restored brickwork. The pizza is one of my top three pizzas ever. The ingredients are fresh with a good helping of tangy tomato sauce (I like a saucy pizza), gooey cheese and a large variety of toppings. The drinks all come in souvenir plastic cups that used to fill my cabinets.
Let’s say you already had pizza for lunch and are looking for dinner, or just don’t feel like pizza again. Then I suggest Love Sushi. Love Sushi is in a shopping complex and may not look like much from the outside, but inside is some of the best sushi I’ve ever had. I particularly enjoy the Sexy Lady which comes surrounded by fire.
On a day trip, this is about when you would head home. If you are spending the night or even just want to stretch your legs before the trip I suggest a hike through the Forum Nature Reserve. The graveled path to the left is only for walkers so there’s no worries of bikes rushing by. We’ve seen everything from butterflies to deer, to frogs. Wild flowers are tall along the path, making the walk seem like a private garden.
Columbia is one of our favorite day trip spots from St. Louis and I hope it becomes one of your favorites too!