Expect Columbia to be a small town with big-city style

Thursday, July 29, 2010 | 12:01 a.m. CDT
Spectators of the Ninth Street Summerfest are gathered May 26 in front of the Blue Note to enjoy a night of music and dance. Of Montreal was the headlining performer of the night as the first concert in the Summerfest series.

This may come as a surprise, but MU comprises less than 4 percent of Columbia's geographic area.

Beth Mead, marketing manager of the Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau, believes what is so appealing about the city is that it is essentially indefinable.


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“Columbia means so many things to so many people,” she said.

For some, it is a cultural hub for art, music and cinema.

For others, the golf courses, bike trails and athletic events make Columbia an appealing destination for sports fans.

“If there's something you are passionate about, you'll be able to find it,” said Donald Laird, president of the Columbia Chamber of Commerce.

It's Columbia: "The smart, innovative, artsy, eclectic, clever, savvy, vibrant, too-dynamic-to-fit-into-a-short-tagline" city.

Here is a list of not-to-miss places to see around town:

  • The Blue Note, 17 N. Ninth St.

The Blue Note is a restored vaudeville theater, which this year celebrates its 30th anniversary as a live music venue.

The club provides a variety of music, spanning multiple decades and genres. Since 1980, it has hosted internationally renowned headline acts, including R.E.M., Johnny Cash and Snoop Dogg.

The highlight of The Blue Note's upcoming calendar is The Flaming Lips on Saturday, Sept. 18.

This concert is part of the venue's Ninth Street Summerfest series, a monthly event over the summer where The Blue Note takes over Ninth Street (between Broadway and Walnut Street) and turns it into a vibrant concert venue.

See for event details and tickets.

  • The Pinnacles, 15 miles north on U.S. 63.

Three hundred million years ago, when Silver Fork Creek and Kelly Creek slowly carved through the Burlington limestone, a stunning 70-foot-tall, 1,000-foot-long ridge was formed.

This geographical beauty can be found in the 70-acre, privately owned Pinnacles Youth Park on U.S. 63.

The park is open year round from 8 a.m. until sunset, and features numerous walking trails designed for all levels of hiking ability.

Grills, picnic tables and restrooms are also available.

  • MKT Trail, from Flatbranch Park, Fourth and Cherry streets

Built on the bed of the old Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad, the Columbia portion of the MKT Trail runs 4.7 miles from Flat Branch Park (at Fourth and Cherry streets) to Scott Boulevard on the city's southwest side.

The flat, 10-foot-wide limestone surface is accessible in all weather to people of all fitness levels.

Another 4.2 miles of trail through Boone County links up with the Katy Trail, which extends over 200 miles from St. Charles to Sedalia.

The trail is open daily from 6 a.m. until 11 p.m.

  • True/False Film Festival, March 3-6

Each year, downtown Columbia transforms into a hub of cinema featuring an array of documentary films.

True/False starts with a bizarre and colorful parade of costumes and music through downtown Columbia followed by four days of films, discussions with filmmakers, debates and parties.

The festival showcases a variety of films fresh from international festivals such as Sundance and Toronto, as well as a selection of world-premieres.

Films are screened at multiple venues throughout Columbia, including the Missouri Theatre for the Arts, the Blue Note, Ragtag Cinema, Tiger Ballroom and Stephens College.

During the 2010 True/False Film Festival an estimated 25,500 tickets were sold.

  • Booche's, 110 S. Ninth St.

The burgers at Booche's Billiard Hall are famous.

Consistently voted the city's favorite in the Best of Columbia awards, the Booche's cheeseburger was also praised twice in USA Today.

In 2000, it was recognized as one of the nation's top 10 burgers; in 2005, it was included among Jerry Shriver's top 25 dishes from the Down-Home Dining Project.

  • Sparky's Homemade Ice Cream, 21 S. Ninth St.

Walk down Ninth Street toward your destination, or look for a white bulldog sitting motionless on the sidewalk.

This is a statue of Sparky, owner Scott Southwick's dog, and the shop's namesake.

After locating Sparky's, the next challenge is choosing from a range of ice cream flavors. Staples include vanilla, mango and upside-down pineapple cake.

Sparky's is renowned for innovation. The shop has previously offered bacon and maple syrup, olive oil and fig and Bloody Mary flavors.

  • Shakespeare's Pizza, 225 S. Ninth St.

The pizza from this 37-year-old restaurant is a Columbia institution. The popular restaurant was voted by residents as Columbia's Best Pizza Place and Favorite Locally Owned Business in 2009.

Around lunch and dinner each day there will inevitably be a line outside Shakespeare's at the corner of Ninth and Elm streets.

In fact, it's estimated that approximately 15,000 students eat there each year.

The pizza is made with fresh, hand-made dough and is available by the slice or in 3 sizes: 8, 12 or 16 inch.

Shakespeare's Pizza is so popular, it now offers mail-order pizza. This service will ship three pizzas anywhere in the United States, particularly before a big MU football game.

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