Columbia, MO - Spend some time exploring Columbia inside and out this winter. From fantastic shopping to extravagant holiday decorations, visitors to this college town will find more than they expect in Central Missouri.
SHOPPING IN THE DISTRICT
With roughly 65 shops in 43 city blocks, Columbia's historic downtown, better known as "The Disctrict," is the place to be when shopping for the holidays.The District, which places an emphasis on shopping "small," is home to many independent, locally owned boutiques, most of which dress up for the holidays with festive decorations and window displays. Shoppers will find the latest in fashion trends as well as time-tested vintage pieces from decades gone by. They can create unique fragrances at the local perfumery or browse the titles at intimate book shops. For more worldly gifters, international shops carry goods from around the globe. A craft beer cellar stocks an impressive selection of micro-brews from all points near and wide and even encourages you to sip while you shop. There are shops specializing in locally crafted fine art, handmade chocolates and confections, contemporary kitchen wares, antiques, hard-to-find vinyl records and video games, musical instruments and much more. The shops in The District surely have something for everyone on anyone's gift list.
As visitors stroll from shop to shop, they will also find many warm, welcoming restaurants, bistros and coffee shops interspersed throughout downtown, making it easy to take a break from their shopping and sample some local fare. The dining options are nearly as diverse as the shopping. For more information on shopping and dining, as well as special wintertime events in The District, visit www.DiscoverTheDistrict.com.
And, in the unlikely event that a shopper can't find what they're looking for in The District, chances are they'll find it at the Columbia Mall or the department stores nearby. The mall features over 120 stores including H&M, Express, Joseph Banks, Eddie Bauer, Victoria's Secret, Dillard's and more. In the Shoppes at Stadium plaza, located adjacent to the mall, visitors will find Macy's Department Store, Gap Factory Outlet, Old Navy, Bed, Bath and Beyond and others. Columbia also has several massive antique malls - including the 60,000-square foot Midway Antique Store and Flea Market, which was featured on the Travel Channel show, "Truck Stop: Missouri" - with large selections of treasurers from yesteryear. For more information on the different shopping options in Columbia, check out the "Where to Shop" page on www.VisitColumbiaMO.com
STUFF YOUR STOCKINGS WITH FESTIVALS
Looking for more unique gifts that can only be found in Columbia? How about stuffing your stockings with passes to two of the city's most popular annual festivals - True/False Film Fest and Roots N Blues N BBQ?
The internationally renowned True/False Film Fest - which has been hailed as one of the top cultural events to experience by TIME magazine, called the "most vital" film festival in America and was once again named one of the "coolest film festivals in the world" by FilmMaker Magazine - celebrates groundbreaking films and filmmakers that push and stretch the boundaries of documentary cinema. This four-day fest takes place March 3-6, 2016 in downtown Columbia and combines artful films with thoughtful Q and As with filmmakers, panel discussions, live concerts, busking musicians, dance parties, a hilarious game show, a ragtag parade and a lot more. Passes for the 13th installment of True/False are on sale now at www.TrueFalse.org.
The 10th annual Roots N Blues N BBQ Festival takes place September 30 through October 2, 2016 in picturesque Stephens Lake Park, just a few miles east of downtown Columbia. Roots N Blues features over 30 performers from around the globe playing all shades of "roots" music: blues, gospel, soul, country, bluegrass, folk and rock and roll. Recent headliners include Buddy Guy, Dwight Yoakam, Al Green, Lucinda Williams, Brandi Carlisle, Charles Bradley, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Fitz and the Tantrums, and the Wood Brothers, to name just a few. To celebrate the tenth anniversary, festival organizers are looking to make it even bigger and better with the first round of headlining acts for the 2016 fest to be announced in April. The festival also features interactive art installations throughout the park, delicious barbecue, a 5k and half-marathon and more. Tickets for the 2016 festival go on pre-sale December 7. For more information, or to order passes, visit www.RootsNBluesNBBQ.com.
A MAGICAL TOUR
The Magic Tree at the quaint Village of Cherry Hill.
What started in 1995 as one Columbia resident's personal project, involving many strings of lights and a small crab apple tree in his front yard, has morphed into one of Columbia's most gorgeous and popular holiday attractions. Now, locals and visitors alike make a tradition of bundling up, piling family and friends into the car and heading out to visit the Magic Tree at the Village of Cherry Hill, located on the southwest part of town at 4200 Merchant Street.
Each year, Randy Fletcher, or "Will Treelighter" as he's better known, spends hours upon hours wrapping tens of thousands of lights around every branch of the Magic Tree. While the original Magic Tree was located in Will's front yard, the growing popularity of his work and resulting increase in traffic in the residential neighborhood necessitated finding a new tree in a new area. The Magic Tree display moved to the Village of Cherry Hill in 2010, making it easier for more people to enjoy Will's art. The popularity of the Magic Tree continues to grow exponentially each year and now, there are six different Treelighter projects located throughout the city. Visitors to Columbia during the holiday season can take a driving tour to bask in the glow of each extravagantly lighted trees. The "magical loop," as we'll call it, covers just under 16 miles and meanders through some historic neighborhoods with views of other elegant lighting displays and can be completed in less than an hour. "Magical" tourists should feel free to linger to take in the lighted trees in all their splendor. We suggest starting in the downtown district at the tree located on the corner of Broadway and Ninth streets, that way visitors can pop in and out of shops and grab a bite to eat before embarking on their tour. The trees are alight from 5-11 p.m. every night, now until January 6, 2016. For detailed turn-by-turn driving directions, visit TinyURL.com/MagicTreeTour.
WINTER AMONG THE WOODS
Visitors looking to unwind in solitude during or after the holiday season can experience the quieter side of Columbia by exploring one of the area's most beautiful state parks.Rock Bridge Memorial State Park, located just 5 miles south of the glow of Columbia's downtown lights, offers wintertime wanderers the chance to trek along some of the most popular hiking trails in the state without the usual crowds. The 2,272-acre park is home to impressive karst geological formations, a namesake rock bridge, a natural spring and underground stream in the imposing seven-mile long cave system that makes up the "Devil's Icebox." During the warmer months, thousands of visitors take advantage of the Devil's Icebox Trail, a half-mile walk along a wooden boardwalk, to peek around inside the cave. But, during the winter, the park takes on a state of stillness unlike any other time of the year.
All in all, Rock Bridge features eight designated trails covering over 22 miles, encompassing large sinkholes, brooks and streams, grasslands, hardwood forests, high ridges and panoramic overlooks. The solitude and scenic views afforded by the park's natural setting will have visitors forgetting about the hustle and bustle of the holidays and even the city just a few miles away. For more information on Rock Bridge Memorial State Park, as well as the other two state parks in the area and Columbia's different city parks, view the Parks and Trails page atwww.VisitColumbiaMO.com.
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Columbia features a mix of small town charm and friendliness with the amenities and cultural offerings of a big city. There is always something exciting to see and do in Columbia, so for more information on these and other ways to have fun in Columbia, please contact Megan McConachie at the Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau at 800-652-0987 or at VisitColumbiaMO.com.