Downtown Columbia itself is a stunning sight to see, where four massive columns stand in front of the stately Boone
Historic Rocheport, just 12 miles west of the city, began as an early trading post on the Missouri River in 1825 and prospered due to the building of the railroad. Now on the National Register of Historic Places, this charming town offers top-rate antique and craft shops, excellent restaurants, a local winery, and an annual RiverFest in early June.
Arts and Culture
The Missouri Theatre is central Missouri's only pre-Depression-era movie palace and vaudeville stage. It presents a variety of programs throughout the year. The Rhynsberger Theater, on the University of Missouri's campus, is the site for dramatic performances by visiting actors as well as faculty and students. The Repertory Theatre performs there in the summertime. Both professional and student productions can be enjoyed at Stephens College's Macklanburg Playhouse and Warehouse Theatre. Columbia's primary community theater group is the Maplewood Barn Theater, part of the historic Maplewood Home in Rocheport, which performs outdoors in summer months. The Columbia Entertainment Company is a dynamic theatrical troupe that gives rousing musical and dramatic performances throughout the year, as well as offering a drama school for adults and children. Columbia can also boast of Arrow Rock Lyceum Theater and two acting groups that focus on children, PACE or Performing Arts in Children's Education, and TRYPS, acronym for Theater Reaching Yong People and Schools.
The Missouri Symphony makes its home in the historic Missouri Theatre and holds its summer festival every June and July. The University Concert Series brings opera, ballet, orchestra, chamber music, jazz, dance, and theatrical performances. Other musical groups in the city are the Columbia Community Choir and the Columbia Chorale Ensemble.
Columbia's museums offer a variety of lectures, classes, and exhibits. More than 13,000 artifacts and works of art from prehistoric times to the present are housed at the University of Missouri-Columbia's Museum of Art and Archeology. Also on campus, the Museum of Anthropology displays Native American materials and archeology from the Midwest, and the Rogers Gallery highlights exhibits on architecture and interior design, as well as student art works. Rotating exhibits of professional and amateur artists are showcased at the Columbia Art League Gallery, while the work of students and faculty is shown at the Columbia College Art Gallery.
African American intellectual culture is the focus of the Black Culture Center, which offers various programs and conducts research. The story of Boone County over the decades is the subject of the Walters-Boone County Historical Museum and Visitor's Center, set in a wood-hewn family farmhouse with weathered boards and wide porches. This 16,000-square-foot house features exhibits on westward expansion along the Booneslick Trail, and portrays the pioneers who settled in the region.
Festivals and Holidays
Columbia ushers in spring in April with the annual Earth Day celebration. With May comes the Salute to Veterans Air Show and Parade, the largest free air show in the United States. June is the time for the annual Art in the Park Fair and the weekly Twilight Festivals. June also features the J.W. Boone Ragtime Festival, where folks can enjoy the sounds of early jazz and ragtime of the Roaring '20s. The Fourth of July celebration, called Fire in the Sky, kicks off the month, and the Boone County Fair and Horse Show keeps the excitement going. The International Buckskin Horse World Championship and the Lion's Antique show are held in August. In September the Twilight Festivals restart, but the highlight of the month must be the Heritage Festival. October sees the annual Missouri Fall Festival, in which the courthouse Square is transformed into a showcase of regional arts and crafts. November events include the Annual Fall Craft Show and the Downtown Holiday Parade. The downtown Holiday Festival and the Christmas Past 1865 at the Maplewood Home celebrate the December holiday season, which is capped by the First Night Celebration and Midway Invitational Rodeo and Dance on December 31st and January 1st.
Sports for the Spectator
Big 12 conference basketball, football, NCI Division baseball, wrestling, volleyball, softball, gymnastics, and track and field are all available for sports fan to watch. The city is close enough to both St. Louis and Kansas City to enjoy their major league baseball, football, and basketball teams.
Sports for the Participant
Columbia enjoys 58 parks stretching over 2,400 acres of land, with such facilities as swimming pools, tennis courts, softball fields, volleyball courts, fishing lakes, hiking and wheelchair accessible trails, golf courses, and even horseshoe pits. The Show-Me State Games, an annual Olympic style athletic competition, welcomes amateur competitors. Bikers and runners enjoy the MKT Nature & Fitness Trail, an 8.9 mile path that connects with the 225 mile Katy Trail, the nation's longest rails-to-trails conversion.
Shopping and Dining
Columbia provides a variety of shopping experiences with 16 shopping centers in addition to its major downtown shopping district. The largest mall is the 140 store Columbia Mall, which features major national chain stores. Forum Shopping Center has a big indoor entertainment center for children. The city's downtown, bordered on three sides by college campuses, features specialty shops and retail stores, and especially an abundance of antique shops, such as the 6,000 square foot Grandma's Treasures, which features antique jewelry, glass collectibles, and furniture.
Dining establishments come in all forms in the city; more than 300 restaurants, from American bistros, haute cuisine, ethnic eateries, and one of central Missouri's only brewpubs, the Flat Branch Pub & Brewery, located near the courthouse. Les Bourgeois Vineyard in Rocheport offers an elegant menu and variety of award-winning wines.
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