Inside Columbia


23 Things to do in Summer ’23

By Inside Columbia
coopers landing

Photos by L.G Patterson & Ava Kitzi

The summer sun is out and it’s time to enjoy all the perks that come with this beloved season. So, we’ve rounded up 23 essential summer activities to do before fall arrives.Whether you’re a lifelong Columbia resident or a new transplant to our community, we’re sure you’ll find at least a few items on our list that will speak to you and help you plan a day of true summer fun in mid-Missouri. So, sit back, relax and have fun planning your next summer adventure. Enjoy!

Cool off at Three Creeks Conservation Area

If you’re looking for a place to cool off while enjoying nature, head over to Three Creeks Conservation Area in Boone County, halfway between Columbia and Ashland. This spot, which gets its name from the three creeks that run through the area, is the perfect place to take a dip in a natural watering hole, bird watch, go fishing or hunting (during the appropriate and legal seasons) and enjoy trails. For more information visit,

Experience BoatHenge

Yes, you read that correctly, BoatHenge. This local attraction
is modeled after the famous Stonehenge and features six fiberglass boats that have been planted upright in a grassy field. But be warned: You can’t drive to this site at Plowboy Bend along the limestone bluffs of Missouri’s Katy Trail. It’s really only accessible by boat, bike or feet. For more information, visit

Try a Sweet Treat to Beat the Heat

When looking for an easy way to beat the heat on a summer day, there’s no better spot for a cold sweet treat than Sparky’s Homemade Ice Cream. When arriving, you’ll be greeted by the pink colors and collection of wall art along with all kinds of rotating unique flavors, including honey lavender, mandarin orange dark chocolate and banana Nutella. Don’t forget to stop and see the statue of Sparky himself out front! For more information, visit

Sparky's ice cream

Watch the Sunrise or Sunset

Whether you are an early riser or prefer an evening on the patio, there is a perfect spot in Columbia for the
best view of the sunset and sunrise. The Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area, Cooper’s Landing and the Hitt Street parking garage will put you in the perfect position to enjoy the sunset, while Capen Park offers a scenic view for watching the sunrise.

Spend Time at Stephens Lake Park

There are several summer activities to try with your family when visiting Stephens Lake Park. If you’re looking to cool off, Stephens Lake Beach and Spraygrounds are free to the public and open through Sept. 30. You can enjoy a sand beach with a designated area for swimming. Or, if you aren’t looking to get wet, grab a blanket and chair to enjoy free concerts at the Stephens Lake Amphitheater. For more information, visit stephens-lake-park.

Find Yourself at First Fridays

First Fridays is a free gallery crawl held on the first Friday of each month, with live music, art and entertainment going on throughout the North Village Arts District.Participating venues include the Sager Reeves Gallery, Fretboard Coffee, Curations 573, Artlandish Gallery, DogMaster Distillery, Serendipity, Orr Street Studios, Rose Music Hall, Coming Home and more. Each location will have a map/guide available for navigating the area. For more information, visit fridays.

First Fridays

Play on the Patio

Summer is the perfect time to enjoy a meal or a drink on a patio. Luckily in Columbia, there are several places for the perfect patio experience. Whether you’re grabbing a brew at Logboat Brewing Co.’s new and improved outdoor space, enjoying Flat Branch Pub’s shaded patio, experiencing the downtown scene at Shiloh Bar & Grill’s outdoor section, trying something new at Ozark Mountain Biscuit & Bar or having a glass of wine at The Bistro at Les Bourgeois Vineyards, there is a patio just for you.

Shiloh patio

Explore Shelter Gardens

Just past the iron gates at Shelter Insurance is the home
of more than 300 varieties of trees and shrubs and 15,000 annuals and perennials. Shelter Gardens is open to the public daily as a perfect spot for a picnic or just a place to take a walk with your family. The gardens contain 14 features, including a waterfall, rock garden, Vietnam War veterans’ memorial, replica 19th century one-room schoolhouse and garden for the blind. For more information, visit

Shelter Gardens-min (1)

Try Something New in the Arcade District

Are you in the mood to play games, listen to live music or try a new bite at a local restaurant? Then the Arcade District is for you. Located mostly along Fay Street is a new and developing area in Columbia, which includes the Witches and Wizards arcade, several local restaurants, retail spaces and even the addition of Six Mile Ordinary, a new distillery in town. For more information, visit

Head to a Historical Event Venue

Whether you want to listen to live music, have a cocktail with a good view, shop for all kinds of goods from farm fresh eggs to T-shirts, or eat brunch, lunch or dinner, Pierpont General Store has it all. This outdoor venue has regularly scheduled local musical acts, yoga classes, workshops and more, all perfect for a summer outing with the family, date night or even a night out with friends. For more information, visit

pierpont store

Watch the Fire in the Sky

One perk of summer is getting to view fireworks once again to celebrate the Fourth of July. This year, the 71st Fire in the Sky celebration is being held at Stephens Lake Park. So, get comfortable and prepare to view the firework display with the community. And don’t forget blankets and lawn chairs for the ultimate experience. For more information, visit parks-and-recreation/special-events/4th-july-fire-sky.

Run Around at the Boone County Fair

Have more fun than ever before at the Boone County Fair from July 18-22 at 5212 Oakland Gravel Road. Enjoy live music, the Demolition Derby, the annual Ham Breakfast, a motorcycle stunt show, face painting, a bounce house, petting zoo and more. For more information, visit

Pay a Visit to the Big Tree

If you’re looking to see a historical landmark while out in nature, experiencing the beauty of mid-Missouri, The Big Tree is the spot to visit. The Big Tree is nearly 400 years old and the largest bur oak tree in Missouri. It sits alone near the Missouri River along Burr Oak Road. This beautiful tree is an inspiration for artists, photographers and nature lovers and is the perfect landmark for a summer picnic or a day out with the family.

big tree

Attend a Family Fun Fest

Enjoy free entertainment for the entire family through September. Listen to music, try local food trucks, experience live performances and art activities, get hands-on learning, try face painting, make balloon art and just have fun! This event takes place the third Wednesday of the month through September at multiple locations, including Cosmo Park and Albert-Oakland Park. For more information, visit parks-and-recreation/special-events/family-fun-fest.

Get Adventurous in the Water

For those seeking a water-based thrill, check out all the nearby spots for kayaking and canoeing. In Columbia, get on the water at Finger Lakes State Park; to the east, paddle out to Devil’s Back Floats in Leslie or float to Lucky Clover Resort and Brown Canoe Rental in Steelville; head west toward Boiling Spring Campground in Dixon or swim to Rich’s Last Resort in Duke; or paddle south to One Eyed Willy’s Campground and Canoe Rental in Lebanon. For more information visit columbia-mo/kayak-and-canoe.

Find the Perfect Place to Camp

Are you in the mood to spend time outdoors? There is a plethora of local camp sites to choose from to have a night away from home. From Cedar Creek Resort & RV Park, which offers 167 acres of nature and a 25-acre lake, to Cooper’s Landing, which includes a dining option, boat fuel station, boat dock and store, there’s plenty of options. Cottonwoods RV Park has 97 sites, 63 pull-throughs and three tent sites, while there’s also the 1,128-acre Finger Lakes State Park, Rock Bridge Memorial State Park or even the scenic bluffs at Three Creeks Conservation Area. For more information, visit


Make Memories with Music

For music fans, specifically in the classical genre, The Missouri Symphony has the perfect opportunities for you. Plus, the first two weeks of July will have the conclusion of the symphony’s summer Firefly Music Festival, promising some spectacular performances perfect for the season. For more information, visit


Shop Local in The District

Support local businesses in The District this summer and
shop! The District, located in downtown Columbia, is home to hundreds of local businesses, including restaurants, shops, art galleries and more. You can easily plan to spend a day in the area, whether it’s lunch at Tellers Gallery & Bar, shopping at My Sister’s Circus or Skylark Bookshop or Boone Olive Oil Co., or enjoying the exhibitions at Sager Reeves Gallery. For more information, visit

Experience a Culinary Tour

Go on a culinary tour to experience the diverse flavors and local restaurants in Columbia. The Columbia Culinary Tours offer a unique way to experience downtown Columbia’s food scene. During each tour, you’ll visit four to five restaurants, meet the owner, manager or chef, and taste their favorite dish. To schedule a tour, visit Of course, you can always create your own culinary tour by picking a few new places to try with friends or your significant other over the course of a day or weekend.

Take a Dip in a Public Pool

On a hot summer day, you might be craving a dip in the pool. If you don’t have your own, don’t fret! There are several public pools in Columbia to enjoy in the summer, including the Albert- Oakland Family Aquatic Center, the ARC Water Zone, the Douglass Family Aquatic Center, the Hickman Pool, the Lake of the Woods Pool and more. For more information, visit

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Snag Something Fresh at the Farmers Market

Get to know the community more and try out all kinds of local products at both the Columbia Farmers Market and the Boone County Farmers Market. Meet groups of farmers and artisans who work to supply the community with fresh, local, nutritious food and other items. The Boone County Farmers Market meets on Saturdays in the Columbia Mall Parking lot, while the Columbia Farmer’s Market gathers on Wednesdays and Saturdays. For more information, visit and

Farmer's market

Jam Out at The Blue Note & Rose Music Hall

Enjoy the music scene at Columbia’s well known music venues all summer long. From cover bands, popular artists and local musicians to comedians and festivals, The Blue Note and Rose Music Hall have events scheduled for any occasion. For more information on scheduled shows visit

Watch A Movie Outdoors

If you love watching movies but want to switch up the atmosphere, mid-Missouri has several outdoor movie options. At Lakeside Ashland, you can watch old classics, family favorites and even new films on a 70-foot LED video wall. A little closer to home, the city of Columbia hosts Movies in the Park, a free family-friendly option. For more information, visit or events/movies-in-the-park.

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