Missouri's capital is laid back, leafy, elegant, and full of class. Whether you want to learn about the history of the Show-Me State, wander miles of inner-city trails, or just spend a week shopping at upscale malls, Jefferson City is the place to be.
In the place where Lewis and Clark set out on their famous expedition across the American West, start your own exploration at great museums like the Museum of Missouri Military History, see the penitentiary that held famous names like Sonny Liston and "Pretty Boy" Floyd, and stroll in the idyllic gardens of the Missouri Governor's Mansion.
Evenings in Jefferson City see the locals dining on fine cuisine from all over the world, sampling the vintages of the Missouri wine region, and just relaxing in an unhurried, tranquil destination. There's no finer place to recharge your batteries and unwind than Jefferson City.
Historical attractions abound in Jefferson City. From the Lewis and Clark Trail to the eerie Missouri State Penitentiary, the stately Governor's Mansion, and the 19th-century streets in the Broadway-Dunklin Historic District, history lovers will always find something engaging to see or do in the city.
Quality of life means a lot to Jefferson City's locals, which is why the city has worked hard to keep its Downtown walkable and attractive, with al fresco dining, leafy squares, and plenty of independent businesses. The city is also dotted with parks, the best of which is Binder Park, with miles of trails, disc golf, and even fishing spots.
If you love museums, Jefferson City won't disappoint. From the helicopters and armaments at the Museum of Missouri Military History to the beautiful inaugural gowns at the Cole County Historical Society Museum, and the musical performances and cutting-edge work at the Museum of Modern Art, all visitors will find something to enjoy.
Jefferson City is a well-heeled, prosperous place, and the locals have a penchant for upmarket retail and dining, which is great news for visitors. Tour the many independent boutiques like Fine Mess or vintage stores like The Xchange, before sampling superb restaurants like Lutz's BBQ for a satisfying end to your day.
Jefferson City is a city of festivals. Dance fans won't want to miss the SensationBlu Dance Music Festival (August), music lovers flock to the So Long Summer Music Fest (late September), while Columbia's raucous Roots N Blues N BBQ Festival is a short drive away (September-October).
Grisly but fascinating, tours of this State Penitentiary are an enthralling attraction in Missouri's capitol city. The 19th-century prison is as imposing as you could expect, and conditions inside are not much better. These cells once housed some of the most notorious criminals in American history - from 1930s gangsters to Martin Luther King's assassin, the inmates here often deserved their fate. Today, tours embellish a ghastly history and even offer immersive ghost hunts on the premises.
The Missouri Capitol is strategically placed at the heart of the city and state. Emulating the design of every other traditional American Capitol, the heavy stone base is offset by an elegant dome that can be seen from across the river and the surrounding streets. Great bronze doors rival examples from the Roman era, and inside murals by Thomas Hart Benton steal the show. Gardens outside also feature historical sculptures, making the whole premises a cultural relic.
Standing in the shadow of the grand Capitol Building, this Governor's Mansion has been the stately yet cozy home to the head of state since 1871. The interior remains largely unchanged so that touring the premises feels like stepping back into the pages of a history book. Missouri's most renowned statesmen and significant events are immortalized through portraits and documents hanging on the walls, meaning there is no better place to take in the local history.
One hundred acres of conserved land is available for visitors to explore until their hearts' content on the outskirts of Jefferson City. Hike well-maintained trails to discover the local flora and fauna for yourself, or stop at the visitor center to enjoy in-depth exhibitions about the surrounding parklands. The Nature Center also puts on seasonal workshops and events - from hunting and trapping to maple sugaring; there is something for everyone here!
Cannons, helicopters and army garb galore - this museum offers a close look at Missouri's military history through the ages. From pieces of artillery dating back hundreds of years to state-of-the-art aircraft, these vast hangars at the National Guard Headquarters are filled with a fascinating collection of machinery. Artifacts donated by veterans are accompanied by thrilling stories of heroism, making sure you walk away with a greater appreciation for the United States' armed forces.
Jefferson City is at its most beautiful in late spring and early summer, so scheduling a trip between late April and early June makes sense. You'll also avoid some of the summer crowds. However, early fall and late summer see a cluster of great events, so if you love music or dance, that might be the time to go.
Columbia Regional Airport (COU) connects Jefferson City with Chicago and Dallas, so might be the best airport to fly into. There aren't any buses from there, but shuttles run to major Jefferson City hotels, and car rental companies like Enterprise and Hertz are present. Taxis are another option, but expect to pay at least $60 for the trip.
Jefferson City's Amtrak station is on the Missouri River Runner route, connecting the city with St Louis and Kansas City, so if you fly into those airports, it's a good way to complete your journey. The station itself is located at 101 Jefferson Street, next to the Missouri River.
If you are driving to Jefferson City from the east, take I-70 or I-64 to St Louis, then change to I-44, before taking Route 50 at Union. From the west, the road to take is I-70, before switching to Route 63 in Columbia. Anyone coming from the south can take I-55 to St Louis, before taking I-44, then Route 50.
Nearby Columbia is served by Greyhound, who provide connections to every part of the United States. From there, you can take another local Greyhound to Jefferson City's Greyhound stop at 701 Eastland Dr, in the southeastern suburbs.
Excellent city center accommodation options include the Hampton Inn Jefferson City, the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel, and the Capitol Plaza Hotel (which is very handy for the Conference Center). Slightly further out, the 19th-century Cliff Manor Inn offers more atmospheric surroundings, while there are plenty of motels on the outskirts like the Fairfield Inn & Suites for travelers with rental cars.
Missouri State Capitol Historic District - the Missouri State Capitol Historic District is a federally protected area that stretches across the whole of central Jefferson City. It includes 122 buildings of national importance, including the State Capitol, the State Historical Society of Missouri, and a huge array of downtown businesses.
Apache Flats - located just to the west of the Historic District, Apache Flats includes the huge green space of Binder Park, the largest park in Jefferson City. Aside from that, it's a relaxed neighborhood with plenty of eateries, and all the stores you could need at the Capital Mall.
Bonnots Mill - situated in eastern Jefferson City, Bonnots Mill is an elegant suburb with a few striking historical buildings, such as the Dauphine Hotel, which opened its doors in 1875. Founded by French Canadians in 1852, it's one of the oldest communities in the area.
The city center is extremely compact, so walking is the most popular way for visitors to get around. However, if you do need to use the local bus system, JEFFTRAN offers a city-wide service. Fares are $1 per ride and require exact change, so it's pretty affordable.
Taxi rates in Jefferson City will be around $2.50 for the meter drop, then $2.10 per mile, with a waiting charge of about $0.40 per minute. Uber offers an economical alternative for smartphone users.
Renting a car at the airport or when you get to Jefferson City is an excellent option, putting suburban malls, the Missouri Valley, and cities like Columbia or St Louis within reach. Downtown rental outlets include Avis and Enterprise. Expect rates as low as $10 per day as well - making car rental one of the most affordable ways to get around.
If you want to explore small, independent stores, Downtown Jefferson City is the best place to go. You'll find an attractive mix of chains like Barnes and Noble and small boutiques like Fine Mess or Saffees. Slightly out of town, the Capital Mall is the largest shopping center in town.
If you need to shop for groceries, city center supermarkets in Jefferson City include Schnucks and Schultes Fresh Foods, and there's a huge Walmart Supercenter just to the west of the center. Prices should be reasonable, with a gallon of milk coming to about $3.40.
Jefferson City may be a small town, but its political importance means that it has a discerning dining community - and no shortage of fine restaurants. Some of the best include Madison's Cafe, with its comfortable dining room and blend of European and traditional American fare, the pub-style Ecco Lounge, and Arris Pizza, which skillfully fuses Greek and Italian cuisine. Meals should cost no more than $25 per head with a starter and main included.