6 Must See Spots in Missouri’s Capital City

Katy Trail in North Jefferson City. Photo by Tyler Beck Photography.

Jefferson City celebrated its two-hundredth anniversary last year, making it a prime spot for exploring the history, arts and culture of the Midwest. From the Missouri State Museum to the lush greens of Carnahan Memorial Garden and an abundance of hiking trails along the Missouri River, there’s plenty to see and do in Jefferson City—here are our top six must see spots in Missouri’s capital city. 

Katy Trail in North Jefferson City. Photo by Tyler Beck Photography.

Katy Trail State Park

The Katy Trail is the longest recreational rail-trail in the country, running 240 miles, mostly along the Missouri River. Jefferson City is in the heart of the trail and has some of its best-loved miles. Joe Wilson’s Serenity Point is located in the North Jefferson City Recreation Area—this access point has a boat ramp, parking and is close to the pedestrian bridge which allows you to walk over the Missouri River. The bridge has an Insta-worthy photo op to capture the river and the Capitol building in the background. 

If you want to bike along the Katy Trail, you can book a shuttle with Red Wheel Bike Shuttle to a handful of towns along the trail. And there are a variety of distances to ride. 

  • Short rides: Hartsburg and Tebbetts
  • Moderate rides: McBaine, Columbia, Rocheport and Portland
  • Long rides: Clinton, Sedalia, Boonville, McKittrick, Hermann, Augusta and St. Charles
Public transportation in the frontier state showcased in the Missouri State Museum. Photo by Tyler Beck Photography.

Missouri State Capitol and Missouri State Museum

Missouri’s state Capitol rests on a limestone bluff at the south bank of the Missouri River. The Capitol building is the third to stand in Jefferson City, and it was officially dedicated in 1924. In 1935, KC native Thomas Hart Benton was commissioned to paint murals throughout the building. Free guided tours of the Capitol are offered year-round to highlight the history of the state through the artworks and architecture of the building. Reservations for Capitol tours are required.

The Missouri State Museum is where visitors go to immerse themselves in the history of the Show-Me State. The museum, located in the State Capitol, houses an impressive collection of exhibits portraying the state’s natural and cultural history.

Bicyclists after pedaling down the new Bicentennial Bridge to the riverfront at Deborah Cooper Park. Photo by JC Parks.

Bicentennial Bridge to Adrian’s Island

The Bicentennial Bridge is a 12-foot-wide pedestrian/bike bridge that connects the Missouri State Capitol Complex to the 32-acre Deborah Cooper Park on Adrian’s Island. While Deborah Cooper Park is currently underway, it is scheduled to be completed this summer. The park will include paved paths and nature trails, public art, hammocks, a life-size chess board, picnic tables and various viewing areas of the Missouri River and the Capitol. 

Corrections badges through the years of the Missouri State Penitentiary’s operation. Photo by Tyler Beck Photography.

Missouri State Penitentiary and Missouri State Penitentiary Museum

One of the greatest historic landmarks in downtown Jefferson City is the Missouri State Penitentiary, which was decommissioned in 2004. Visitors can take a history, ghost or photography tour and walk through historic housing units, the vast upper yard of the property and the gas chamber, where 40 men and women were executed.

In conjunction with the Missouri State Penitentiary tours, the museum residing in the lower level of the Col. Darwin W. Marmaduke House provides additional historical information about the famous prison that operated for one hundred sixty-eight years. 

The museum houses memorabilia as well as a replica cell that demonstrates the living conditions at the prison. Visitors can view displays that provide information on prison industries, contract labor and private industries, control/counter-control tactics and life inside the walls. There are also items on loan from former Deputy Warden Mark Schreiber on display.

Perfectly manicured lawn of the Missouri Governor’s Mansion. Photo by Tyler Beck Photography.

Governor’s Mansion and Carnahan Memorial Garden

The Governor’s Mansion is a stunning brick home that has been the official residence of Missouri’s Governors since 1872 and is one of the oldest governors’ homes in the U.S. It is also said to be one of few Governors Mansions to be open to the public. Free guided tours are provided throughout the year, and reservations are required for all tours.

The Carnahan Memorial Garden is a striking complement to the Capitol Complex, located next to the Governor’s Mansion. It was constructed in the late 1930s and encompasses a sunken pool, terraces, walkways, and a pergola.

Fish aquarium housed inside Runge Nature Center. Photo by Kile Brewer.

Runge Conservation Nature Center

Runge Nature Center provides educational and interpretive opportunities to view, learn about and appreciate the variety of habitats found in Missouri.

The nature center includes five hiking trails, including two wood-chipped and three hard-surface trails that total 2.4 miles and loop through woodlands, prairies, glades, next to ponds and a beautiful wet-weather stream. Runge Nature Center offers public programs, nature exhibits with live animals, a large fish aquarium, a wildlife viewing area and a gift shop.

Places to Fuel Up: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner 

Breakfast: High Rise Bakery 

High Rise Bakery offers a delectable variety of confections, made-to-order brunch options, and take away items in the cold case. Everything at the bakery is made fresh in-house with seasonal ingredients.

Lunch: JQ’s on High 

JQ’s on High is an upscale hole in the wall where food truck meets brick and mortar structure. All menu items are made from scratch. The delicious lineup of food includes their signature Fat Boys Burger, Wango Tango Phish Tacos and The Doggfather, along with other scrumptious entrees.

Dinner: Last Flight Brewing Company

Last Flight Brewing Company recently opened in March of 2021 and offers a cozy indoor space and spacious outdoor area to create a perfect gathering place for friends to share a craft beer. Throughout the year local food trucks will come out to offer dinner at the brewery. Frequent returning vendors are Hall’s Kitchen, Pizza Kwik, Mammoth Bites, 4’Deez Treatz and Eatz and 1905 Bistro Capital Catering. Guests are also welcome to bring their own food.

Plan your trip to the Capital City at VisitJeffersonCity.com

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