Blake Walsh

25 Best Things to Do in Jefferson City, MO

  • Published 2022/10/13

Named after the third president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson, Jefferson City or Jeff City is the state capital of the American state of Missouri.

It is the 15th most populated city in the state, with nearly 45,000 residents.

The city is blessed with the Missouri River flowing through it.

The charming beauty of the natural landscape with its tree-lined bluffs of the city will take your breath away.

Jefferson City also boasts a rich heritage and vibrant culture.

It is filled to the brim with historical buildings and prestigious landmarks.

The city’s architecture is also noteworthy, with several gems located all over the city.

The city’s museums, art centers, boutiques, and downtown scene are not to be missed at any cost.

The delectable food and fantastic nightlife of Jefferson City are also cherries on top.

Interested to know more about the city?

Here are the 25 best things to do in Jefferson City, Missouri:

See the Stunning Architecture of the Missouri State Capitol

Front View of the Missouri State Capitol

Gino Santa Maria /

The Missouri State Capitol is the city’s capitol, and it houses the legislation and several executive branches of the government of Missouri.

The construction of the building was completed in 1917, and it has since been serving as an example of magnificent architecture in the city.

It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its architectural prowess.

Missouri State Capitol

Sean Pavone /

This stunning landmark is located on the limestone bluffs on the banks of the Missouri River, and it dominates the skyline of Jefferson City.

There is also a museum in the building where you can explore and see amazing public art, cultural, and natural history on display.

Missouri State Capitol

Joseph Sohm /

And if want to learn more about its history, you can also take guided tours of the capitol throughout the year.

Eat Delicious Food at Prison Brews

Prison Brews is a brewpub located only three blocks away from the Missouri State Penitentiary, and they brew their beer themselves.

The restaurant’s decor is prison-themed, with barbed wire and interiors of a prison cell.

They also offer souvenirs, such as t-shirts, that you can buy.

The food here is mouth-watering, but make sure to try the sandwiches, burgers, pizzas, and their very own beers.

Try the Delectable Pizzas at Arris’ Pizza

Arris’ Pizza is the best place to get pizza in Jefferson City.

This restaurant was opened in 1969 and has since become a culinary landmark of the city.

It serves Greek, American, and Italian cuisines.

The eatery also serves vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options to cater to its diverse customer.

The restaurant’s specialty is its greek pizza, topped with green onions, hummus, Roma tomatoes, and marinated chicken.

Take a Guided Tour of the Missouri Governor’s Mansion

Front View of Missouri Governor's Mansion

Paul Brady Photography /

Located only a short walk away from the Missouri State Capitol at 100 Madison Street, the Missouri Governor’s Mansion is one of the only few executive residences in the country open for the public.

The current mansion was built in the 19th century in 1871 in the Neo-Rennaisance architecture style.

It is also listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.

The estate covers an area of about 10 acres that overlooks the State Capitol and the Missouri River offering picturesque views.

The mansion’s interior is impressive, with pink granite columns, a grand walnut stairway, a mansard roof, and much more.

You can take free guided tours of the mansion by enthusiastic and knowledgeable volunteers.

Have a Fun Family Day at Binder Park

Binder Park is the city’s biggest park, with a total area of 644 acres.

The park pays tribute to Fred C., Fred H., and Frederick Binder.

Fred C. up a trust fund in 1918 to develop a park as a tribute to his father and son.

For a 155-acre fishing lake, 11 owners’ properties were bought between 1965 and 1966 by the Department of Conservation.

Thanks to the Department of Conservation’s hard work, there is a disability-accessible fishing pier and boat ramp at Binder Park and the lovely lake.

In addition to several places to stop for a picnic, the park also has many walking and bike routes.

Views of Binder Lake are provided by a playground and a covered deck/picnic area.

The terrace is available for hire as a shelter and can hold up to 75 people for a party.

Campers at Binder Park may use an 18-site full hookup RV campsite with laundry and shower facilities.

There’s an 18-hole disc golf course in the park’s northwest section.

It is next to Binder Park’s southeast corner and has sand volleyball courts, softball fields Scott and Byrd, a radio control flying field, and a disc golf course.

Witness History and Culture at the Missouri State Museum

Front View of Missouri State Capitol, inside which is the Missouri State Museum

eurobanks /

Founded in 1919, the Missouri State Museum is located on the first floor of the State Capitol.

It showcases the history of Missouri from earlier days before Indian removal to present-day Missouri.

It is a showpiece museum and aims to educate the visitors about the culture and history of the state through various artifacts, displays, exhibitions, and other interactive programs.

The museum’s impressive collection contains more than 30,000 objects, including a vast selection of flags from World War I and the Civil War.

Visit the Missouri State Museum to learn about Missouri’s fascinating history and culture that you are totally unaware of.

Stay at the Capitol Plaza Hotel

The Capitol Plaza Hotel is located in the heart of the city, just a few minutes’ walk away from the State Capitol Building and many other attractions in the downtown area of the town.

The hotel provides several amenities, such as a pool, fitness center, bar, room service, and much more to make your stay as comfortable and hassle-free as possible.

It is also pet-friendly, so you can stay here and explore the city with your pet.

Stay at the Capitol Plaza Hotel for a perfect getaway filled with serenity and comfort.

Catch a Show at the Miller Performing Arts Center

Owned and operated by the Jefferson City Public School District, the Miller Performing Arts Center is a delightful performing arts center that organizes concerts, lectures, theatrical performances, and more throughout the year.

It has opulent theatre seating and state-of-the-art acoustics to provide the best experience possible to visitors.

The upper level of the building has an art gallery that you can check out.

The staff is amiable and helpful as well.

Do not forget to catch a show or two at the Miller Performing Arts Center when you visit this city.

Step Back in Time at Jefferson Landing State Historic Site

Lohman Building in Jefferson Landing State Historic Site

KOMUnews, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Jefferson Landing State Historic Site is a must-visit historic district in Jefferson City.

It is maintained by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, and it includes various state-owned landmark buildings such as Christopher Maus House, the Lohman Building, the Lohman’s Landing Building, the Union Hotel, and many more.

The district is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The place impressively showcases the splendid architecture of the 19th century.

There are various museums and art galleries with several displays and exhibits that you can explore.

This historic district is open for the public to explore from March to December.

Visit the Jefferson Landing State Historic Site to see what it was to live in Missouri in the 19th century.

See the Sunset from Missouri River Pedestrian Bike Bridge

Located over the Missouri River, the Missouri River Pedestrian Bike Bridge is an eight feet wide bridge for biking and walking.

The bridge has a paved pathway attached to it for walking.

It allows people to easily access the Katy Trail, the downtown, and the Noren river access park.

The bridge also has two vintage or lookout points from where you can see extraordinary views of the stunning Missouri River and the State Capitol Building.

There is usually no crowd here, so the bridge’s environment is very tranquil and peaceful, with the river flowing beneath you and splendid views all around you.

Make sure to see the sunset or sunrise from here.

You’ll thank us later.

Visit the Infamous Missouri State Penitentiary

Interior View of Missouri State Penitentiary

Nagel Photography /

Located along the banks of the lovely Missouri River, Missouri State Penitentiary is a former prison that is now open for the public to tour and explore.

It was opened in 1836 and served as a maximum-security prison until it was decommissioned in 2004.

This prison housed some of the most notorious American criminals, including James Earl Ray, Sonny Liston, and Charles “Pretty Boy” Floyd.

The Times Magazine once named the prison the “The bloodiest 47 acres in America,” as more than 40 inmates were executed in this prison.

In 2004, it was replaced with the Jefferson City Correctional Center.

Now the prison is a major tourist attraction in the city.

Missouri State Penitentiary

Logan Bush /

You can attend guided tours of the prison to learn about its fascinating history, infamous riots of 1954, intriguing escape attempts, and much more.

The informative tour guides will tell you all the inside stories of the prison, and you will also see the death row, gas chambers, and the general cells.

The prison is also pretty infamous for its paranormal activities; they even offer ghost tours for visitors.

Visit the Missouri State Penitentiary to know how the prison worked and how the inmates lived there, along with other interesting information.

Eat Onion Rings at ECCO Lounge

ECCO Lounge is an eatery that serves delectable American food and delicious drinks.

It is known for its pub-style menu.

The staff is friendly and attentive, and the service is also excellent.

Do not forget to try the handmade burgers, beer-battered chicken sandwiches, and especially the breaded onion rings (the best onion rings in the whole town).

Check Out the Museum of Missouri Military History

Located in the National Guard’s training center, the Museum Of Missouri Military History showcases Missouri’s military history through various displays and exhibitions.

The artifacts and demonstrations include objects from as early as the Revolutionary war of the 1700s to the present day.

The exhibits include items such as Sheridan Tank, an F-15 Eagle fighter, Sherman tank, C-130 Hercules, F-4 Phantom II fighter, and more.

The exhibitions and displays are constantly changing to keep the museum up to date.

You can take guided tours of the museum to learn more about the museum and the displays.

Visit the Museum of Missouri Military History to learn about the state’s military history, with various exciting artifacts and displays.

Explore the Downtown Jefferson City

View of Jefferson City's Downtown

Nagel Photography /

The downtown area of Jefferson is trendy for its historic buildings and splendid architecture.

You will see some impressive architecture in the downtown of the Romanesque and other Victorian-era styles.

The area also has the oldest synagogue west of the Mississippi River.

Some of the buildings have stained glass, unique window styles, old towers, antique clocks, and much more.

Significant buildings in this area include Lohman’s Opera House, Exchange, and Trust Bank Building, Cole County Courthouse, and Temple Beth El.

Aside from all these historic buildings, there are eateries, shops, bars, and much more in the area as well.

Make sure to explore downtown Jefferson City when you visit this delightful town.

Explore the Local Art Scene at Capital Arts Gallery

Capital Arts Gallery is a charming public art gallery that displays the work of local artists from Jefferson City and Missouri.

The gallery also offers interactive educational programs for both adults and children.

The exhibits contain thousands of art pieces from various local artists at every given time.

You can even buy the artwork at the gallery.

The exhibitions and displays change every few weeks according to different themes.

The art gallery also organizes several events and festivals to promote the awareness of art in the communities, such as the Capital Chalk Art Festival, Porchfest, Salvation Army’s Empty Bowls, Gallery Crawls, and much more.

Check out the Capital Arts Gallery to see the impressive local art scene.

Have a Picnic at North Jefferson City Recreation Area

North Jefferson Recreation Area, originally known as Cedar City, was rebuilt after the devastating floods of 1993 and 1995.

FEMA and CDBG funds were used to purchase businesses and homes in areas devastated by the 1993 floods, financed by the city.

A total of 198 North Jefferson City lots were bought for future park and open space development.

To protect the site and manage its future, the City Council allocated 165 acres of park space.

This new park’s initial construction phase included an outdoor bathroom and food preparation area for picnics.

The pavilion can hold 250 people, and the parking lot can accommodate 180 cars.

A dog park, an RC racetrack, a boat launching with access to the Missouri, basic camping, and many paths, including the Missouri Katy Trail, are all included in the North Jefferson City Recreation Area.

It also has a playground and sports fields.

Visit the Lewis and Clark Monument

Lewis and Clark Monument

Paul Brady Photography /

One may see the Lewis and Clark Monument from Capitol Avenue and Jefferson Street in front of the Jefferson Landing Historic Site, a national historic site.

The plaza gives tribute to Meriwether Lewis and William Clark and other key aspects of their lives.

Besides the major protagonists, the monument depicts artifacts like a notebook, telescope, firearms, and hats.

On June 4, 1804, the Corps of Discovery set up camp in the region that would become the state capital, and this sculpture honors that occasion.

Birdwatching at Runge Conservation Nature Centre

Runge Conservation Nature Centre consists of 3,000 square feet that include an aquarium, indoor exhibits, birdwatching spots, nature trails, and more.

This natural habitat has a myriad of wildlife, including live reptiles, amphibians, and a 3,580-gallon fish aquarium with several different kinds of fish.

There is a great museum/library here as well, where visitors can see various themed exhibits explaining different types of natural habitats.

The hiking trails are amazing as well.

The trails provide beautiful views of the greenery and vegetation surrounding you.

Along with trails, there is a bird shelter where you can feed the birds and enjoy birdwatching.

You can also climb the 60-foot fire tower to see the stunning panoramic views of the entire city.

After enjoying and exploring all these things, you can visit the charming gift shop to buy souvenirs and gifts to remember our trip to Jefferson City.

Runge Conservation Nature Centre is a must-visit to witness the natural beauty of Jeff City in its full glory.

Learn about the Interesting History of Clark’s Hill/Norton State Historic Site

Visitors to Clark’s Hill/Norton State Historic Site, located high above the Missouri and Osage rivers, may learn about the interesting history of the hill, which dates back to the epic trip of captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark.

On June 1 to 3, 1804, they camped near the foot of Clark’s Hill, and on June 2, 1804, Capt. Clark climbed the hill.

Writing the experience as a “delightful perspective” in his diary, he enjoyed the summit of two Indian mounds and the confluence of the Missouri and Osage rivers.

He stood on a mountaintop and observed and measured the rivers.

In the present day, the two Indian mounds and three more may be seen along a half-mile woodland route that leads to an overlook of both rivers.

There is, however, a river junction many miles downstream at Bonnots Mill.

The rock on which Clark stood and the campground below are visible from the viewpoint.

The trail’s history is explained in detail through wayfinding signage.

William and Carol Norton gave the 13-acre property to the state in 2004, just in time for the anniversary of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, enabling tourists to experience what Captain Clark experienced.

Stroll around Carnahan Memorial Garden

Pond at Carnahan Memorial Garden

Paul Brady Photography /

The Carnahan Memorial Garden, which lies close to the Governor’s Mansion, is a lovely place to visit.

The garden is a stunning addition to the Capitol Complex, with gorgeous landscaping.

Flowerbeds, swimming ponds, and pathways also abound at this location.

Architecture at Carnahan Memorial Garden

Tandy Allen /

When Governor Carnahan passed away, the city named the garden after him as a tribute.

Carnahan Memorial Garden also hosts weddings and other special events in the Missouri State Capitol.

Scenic view of Carnahan Memorial Garden

Paul Brady Photography /

Explore the City’s Agricultural History at Missouri Farm Bureau Log Home

The Missouri Farm Bureau Log Structure, or Wallendorf Home as it is more often known, was in the middle of the 1800s and is a two-story, dogtrot-style log home.

The U.S. Department of the Interior added the house to the National Register of Historic Places in 2008.

Since then, it has served as a source of inspiration and a portal to the past for its visitors.

The Missouri Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture saved the building from imminent collapse by bringing it to its offices in 2004.

The log home lies near the intersection of Missouri Boulevard and South Country Club Drive, just beyond the Missouri Farm Bureau Center.

Learn about the layout and decor of rooms typical in the 1800s.

More than that, though, the tour will let you see relics, displays, and instructive movies about the agricultural history of the state during that period.

Entrance is free, and the tour comes with a guide.

Visit Colonel Alvin R. Lubker Memorial Safety & Education Center

See the exhibits relating to the Missouri State Highway Patrol in the Colonel Alvin R. Lubker Memorial Safety & Education Center.

Since 1982, visitors have been welcome at the facility.

Among the numerous topics it covers are drug misuse, crime statistics, and traffic safety.

There are displays of the department’s early vehicles, weaponry, uniforms, and other gear.

Here you may see how law enforcement has changed from its 1931 inception to the present day.

The highlight of the museum is “Otto, The Talking Car.”

Cool down at Central Dairy

Exterior view of Central Dairy

Logan Bush /

Since its opening in 1934, Central Dairy has provided Jefferson City with delicious ice cream.

Historic as it may be, the ice cream shop offers flavors that appeal to today’s customers.

The establishment is available for cones, soda, shakes, sundaes, malts, banana splits, polish sausages, and hot dogs.

You can have the best ice cream ever for a pittance.

There are ice creams here that are free of gluten and eggs.

The famed parlor offers an array of tastes, including salted caramel toffee crunch, burgundy cherry, and many more.

Groove the Music at The Mission

Are you looking for a Jefferson City bar with great cocktails and fantastic live music?

It’s all happening at The Mission.

The Mission, a prominent club in the city’s heart, regularly hosts excellent live performances.

Catch entertaining live music performances spanning rock, bluegrass, and other genres.

Pinewood flooring, old brick walls, and a stamped ceiling will transport you to the 1800s as soon as you step into the club.

You may experience contemporary nightlife with a touch of old-world charm thanks to the venue’s nostalgic decor and plush furniture.

Final Thoughts

Jefferson is a treasure trove of history and culture.

As the capital of Missouri, Jefferson City’s natural beauty shows through the numerous historic structures and notable sites that dot the city’s terrain.

Come see with your own eyes why Jefferson City has been named “America’s Most Beautiful Small Town!”

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