Columbia, Missouri, prides itself on three key offerings: convenience, choice and value. Home of the University of Missouri, the picturesque college town is in the heart of the state, just two hours from major access points in Kansas City and St. Louis, and with flights to airports in Denver, Chicago and Dallas. Meeting planners can choose from a wide variety of meeting venues, restaurants and other urban amenities when they bring their events to the area.
“We really have the full-service offerings of a much larger city, but we’re still really easy to navigate,” said Megan McConachie, strategic communications manager at the Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Columbia also offers great value in terms of competitive hotel and space rates. As the town’s only full-service property, the Holiday Inn Executive Center features 310 rooms and seats up to 2,700 guests in the adjoining Columbia Expo Center, the largest event venue in Columbia. Other hotels that accommodate meeting groups are the Hampton Inn and Suites, the Hilton Garden Inn and the Tiger Hotel.
There are many beautiful after-hours venues on campus, such as the Museum of Art and Archeology and the 1920s-era Missouri Theatre, which once operated as a vaudeville theater. Many attendees enjoy walking through some of the university’s most well-known sites, such as the columns in front of Jesse Hall, the second-most-photographed spot in the state next to the Gateway Arch in St. Louis.
Visitors can explore dozens of art galleries, boutiques and local restaurants in Columbia’s thriving downtown area. With so many dining options within walking distance, many groups opt to split up after hours and take their pick of cuisine, from casual eateries like Booches Billiard Hall and Shakespeare’s Pizza to more upscale venues such as Sycamore and Room 38 Restaurant and Lounge.
“Our restaurants are really used to working with groups,” said McConachie. “They can get very creative with the space that they have.”
Boone County History and Culture Center
Boone County History and Culture Center provides a variety of event spaces for groups and showcases Columbia’s rich local art and history. The property includes four main areas: the Walters Boone County Museum, the Montminy Art Gallery, the Village of Boone Junction and the historic Maplewood House. The 4,000-square-foot Montminy Art Gallery displays hundreds of original works from local artists, making it a beautiful venue for luncheons and cocktail parties. Built in 1877, the Italian-style Maplewood House provides a scenic reception venue for groups of 25 or fewer. Groups can also take advantage of a covered veranda and a large connecting gazebo outside that can accommodate up to 100 guests and that offers sweeping view of Nifong Park.
Les Bourgeois Vineyards
Just west of Columbia in the little town of Rocheport, the award-winning Les Bourgeois Vineyards is an excellent destination for corporate retreats, private dinners and more. Groups can enjoy a magnificent view of the Missouri River Valley from Blufftop Bistro, a wine garden and bistro that features handcrafted wines and locally sourced cuisine such as fresh bread and smoked meats. There is also a scenic picnic area outside. After a meeting or a reception, groups can enjoy a tour of the facility, followed by a tasting of eight wines of their choosing.
North Village Arts District
Sometimes known simply as the District, the North Village Arts District in downtown Columbia is a vibrant hub of art studios, cafes, theaters, dance studios and artisan markets. After their meetings, attendees can explore this bohemian neighborhood and pick up an artistic souvenir from colorful shops like the Artlandish Gallery, or they can paint their own pottery at the Mud Room. Groups can also stop by Breakout CoMo for a challenging team-building activity where teams have one hour to “break out” of a room by finding hidden clues and solving puzzles. Held on Sundays from April to October, the Orr Street Farmers and Artisans Market features handcrafted art, fresh farm produce, workshops and entertainment.
Columbia Culinary Tours
For a taste of Columbia’s famous food scene, groups can sign up for a behind-the-scenes restaurant tour with Columbia Culinary Tours. The company partners with more than a dozen local restaurants in town, including Como Smoke and Fire, Harold’s Donuts, Umbria Rustic Italian and the Craft Beer Cellar. During the Flavor Tour, participants discover some of the city’s hidden gems as they visit five or six local eateries. The Brunch Tour takes groups through the North Village Art District to sample sweet and savory products from coffee shops, cafes and bakeries. Groups can learn about Columbia’s craft breweries during the Craft Beer and Food Pairing tour; the Night on the Town Tour explores some of the top restaurants and bars in downtown.
Location: Central Missouri
Access: Columbia Regional Airport, St. Louis Lambert International Airport, Kansas City International Airport, Interstate 70, Highway 63
Major Meeting Spaces: Holiday Inn Executive Center, Hampton Inn and Suites, Hilton Garden Inn, Courtyard by Marriott, The Broadway, The Tiger Hotel
Hotel Rooms: 3,800
Off-Site Venues: Missouri Theatre, Les Bourgeois Vineyards, 44 Stone Public House, Alpine Parks and Gardens, Bleu, Blue Note, Bur Oak Brewing Company, Cherry Hill Event Center
Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau