Best Summer Ever

School’s out, and Columbia is suddenly a different city. It’s less crowded. Parking isn’t such an issue. The lines are shorter at your favorite watering holes and eateries. People seem less rushed. It’s time to enjoy what you have right here in your own backyard.

A staycation — a mash-up word that combines stay-at-home and vacation — could be just what the doctor (or the budget) ordered. Never fear, there is plenty to see and do here in Columbia to keep you happy and busy. In fact, you just might have your Best. Summer. Ever. Right here in CoMo.

Need to be convinced? Here are ideas for four weekends of fun that make the most of living in this delightfully cosmopolitan, yet pleasantly small-town city. Get out and soak in the laid-back vibe that settles over Columbia during the lazy days of summer.

Don’t miss Fire In The Sky, a Fourth of July celebration sponsored by the city of Columbia. Located in The District, Columbia’s Downtown area, this family-friendly event begins at 6:30 p.m. July 4 with children’s activities at Flat Branch Park and live entertainment at stages at both Flat Branch Park and Lucky’s Market parking lot. Food trucks will provide great eats.

The highlight is the fireworks show, which begins at 9:15 p.m. and is choreographed to music. This is the 67th year for this community celebration, which falls on a Thursday this year, so we’re stretching the weekend a bit.

Music lovers are in luck this weekend. The final two performances of this season’s Hot Summer Nights Music Festival at the historic Missouri Theatre will be Saturday and Sunday. The Missouri Symphony Orchestra and the Texas Tenors will perform at 8 p.m. July 6, and Orchestral Fireworks with pianist Angie Zhang will be the theme at 4:30 p.m. July 7.

What’s a holiday weekend without a trip to your favorite drive-in, in this case, Mugs Up, at 603 Orange Street. It’s been 64 years since Mugs Up opened in Columbia on July 2, 1955, but the home-brewed root beer and other signature menu items still taste the way they always have. Mugs Up closes for the winter, so each summer it is a treat to sip a frosty mug of root beer and maybe indulge in a “zip” burger or some signature chili. Add a scoop of ice cream to the root beer and you’ll have a classic float. Cheers to the Fourth of July!

Facebook: Mugs Up Drive In

The 43rd season of the Shelter Insurance Gardens Concert Series continues on Sunday evenings in July. Bring a chair or blanket and enjoy the free concerts, which begin at 7 p.m. Coming up are Ironweed and Swampweed on July 14; Banana Oil Pan Band, July 21; and Lisa Rose and Margaret Bianchetta, July 28.

The colorful, well-groomed gardens provide the setting for the concerts, with musicians performing in the cedar gazebo. It evokes days gone by, when summer band concerts in the town square gazebo attracted young and old.

Head to the Tasting Room at Les Bourgeois Vineyards in Rocheport for the Collector’s Series Wine Release Party and Art Show from 2 to 4 p.m. July 13. Tastings of the new vintages in the 2019 Collector’s Series will be paired with appetizers prepared by the winery’s chef. The winning artists whose artwork is featured on the new wine labels will have their artwork on display for show and sale. Live music rounds out the event, which is free and open to the public. (We know, Rocheport isn’t CoMo, but it is home to Columbia’s nearest winery and worth the 14-mile drive.)

Looking ahead to the upcoming week and weekend, check out the Boone County Fair, July 16-20 at the Sturgeon Fair Grounds. Although Sturgeon is about 23 miles north of Columbia, it is home to the county fair for Columbians.

The Boone County Fair has been pleasing crowds since 1835. With its traditional livestock competitions, carnival rides, arts and crafts contests, and kids’ events, the fair will put you in a down-home, country state of mind. Who knows — it might inspire you to head to the Missouri State Fair in Sedalia in August.

As the temperature soars as August approaches, it’s time to take it easy and keep things simple. Shopping at farmers markets can turn a chore into a pleasure.

By the time this magazine reaches you, the Columbia Farmers Market should be open in its new home at CoMo Ag Park, 1769 West Ash Street. Until the agriculture park opens, the market will remain at the northeast parking lot of Parkade Center, 601 Business Loop 70 West. Hours are 8 a.m. to noon Saturdays. You’ll get an authentic taste of Mid-Missouri at the various booths of this producer-only market, plus live music. Goods include fresh vegetables, fruits, eggs, cheese, honey, cut flowers, plants, artisanal items and more.

The Orr Street Farmers and Artisans Market is located in and around the historic Wabash Station, 126 N. Tenth Street in downtown Columbia, and is open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sundays. Farm-fresh produce and plants share space with handcrafted artwork and jewelry. The market offers informational workshops, entertainment and food trucks. Its goal is to be a gathering place for local food and art supporters.

Facebook: Orr Street Farmers and Artisans Market

The Boone County Farmers Market is open from 8 a.m. to noon Saturdays in the parking lot of Columbia Mall, near Wendy’s. Farmers and artisans from Boone and surrounding counties produce all the food and other items at the market, including fresh fruits, vegetables, meats and baked goods.

After shopping at your favorite farmers market, escape from the city at a nearby state park. Rock Bridge Memorial State Park, just minutes south of Columbia, is the ideal place to cool off on a hot afternoon. One of the park’s main features is Devil’s Icebox, and it gets that name for a reason.

The park’s namesake, the rock bridge, was separated from the rest of the cave system when part of the cave roof collapsed. Follow the Devil’s Icebox Boardwalk past a natural tunnel, a sinkhole, a spring and Devil’s Icebox itself. Devil’s Icebox is a double sinkhole with a view of an underground stream. Cool, refreshing air flows from the sinkhole, giving the formation its name.

The 35th Annual Show-Me State Games kick off this weekend, July 19-21, and continue next weekend, July 26-28. These are the largest state games in the nation, with thousands of athletes from across Missouri participating in more than 30 sport categories.

The mission of the Show-Me State Games is to provide all Missourians the opportunity to participate in activities of health, fitness, family and fun. Even if you’re not competing, you can enjoy the games as an onlooker or a volunteer. The University of Missouri is the host of the Show-Me State Games and events will be held in several venues.

Sometime during the weekend enjoy a pint — or two — at Logboat’s outdoor area, known by some as Logboat Park. Play games such as Bocce or cornhole as you sip on a site-brewed Shiphead or Snapper and enjoy the summer sunshine. Too hot outside? Head inside and enjoy the air conditioning in the brewery’s industrial-themed taproom. A tip: The Ozark Mountain Biscuit Co. food truck is often parked outside of Logboat on weekends.

Looking for a more kid-friendly summer treat? Go no further than Kona Ice. With flavors ranging from Blue Raspberry to Island Rush, shaved ice is sure to help cool you off — and satisfy your sweet tooth. Owners Chris and Cathy Cook own and operate several Kona Ice trucks that travel throughout the mid-Missouri area all summer long.

Twitter: @COMOKonaIce

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