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Meet Missouri’s Capital, Jefferson City

Originally named “City of Jefferson,” honoring Thomas Jefferson, Jefferson City commands Missouri’s geographical and political center. In 2013, Rand McNally’s team voted the city America’s “Most Beautiful Small Town” in recognition of its downtown, historic attractions, friendly community and picturesque location on the Missouri River.

“We’re the only state capital that combines a river, capitol complex and the state penitentiary in the same city,” said communications manager Katherine Reed at the Jefferson City Convention and Visitors Bureau.

From its humble frontier beginnings, the city’s leaders made sure that art and architecture were incorporated into the fabric of political life. Jefferson City’s top three visitor attractions remain its Capitol tours, the decommissioned Missouri State Penitentiary and nostalgic Central Dairy ice cream shop, which sports a red-and-white-striped awning.

“The biggest draw is our history and how those events shaped the community and our state,” said Reed. “When groups come, we create tour itineraries based on their interests, as well as plan events, entertainment and meals.”

The Capitol and government buildings endure as the city’s hub. Nearby, the Governor’s Mansion, one of the nation’s oldest, offers tours led by docents dressed in period clothing. Across the street, the 1906 French Renaissance-style Supreme Court Building was the site of the Dred-Scott case. When in session, visitors can watch an appellate case tried before Missouri’s seven judges. The State Archives offers programming and displays Missouri’s original hand-sewn flag from 1909.

The decommissioned Missouri State Penitentiary is an extremely popular site, and most groups opt to take either the history tour or the ghost tour — both last two hours. Directly across the street, the Missouri State Penitentiary Museum is housed in the basement of the Marmaduke House, which was the warden’s house and was built in 1888 by inmate labor. On display are hundreds of items on loan from the prison’s deputy warden. They range from contraband items to artwork by talented inmates and a replica prison cell.


Three primary hotels offer 1,000 to 25,000 square feet of flexible meeting space.

Two blocks from the Capitol, the recently renovated Capitol Plaza Hotel and Convention Center puts downtown attractions, shopping and businesses within easy reach. With 255 rooms and 25,000 square feet of meeting space, it’s central Missouri’s largest convention center accommodation. The DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Jefferson City offers more than 8,000 square feet of meeting space and 151 rooms. Guests can walk to the riverfront and enjoy panoramic views from the penthouse level at Sapphires Restaurant and Lounge. Located two miles from the Capitol, the Tuscan-themed, all-suite Best Western Plus Capital Inn offers 1,000 square feet of meeting space, 75 guest rooms and outstanding customer service. 

Top-Notch Service

From start to finish, the Jefferson City Convention and Visitors Bureau specializes in streamlining the event process. Planning services include bid proposals, site visits, customized itineraries that feature the city’s history, spouse programs and entertainment resources. A city or bureau official can welcome the group. And the bureau will deliver two dozen freshly baked cookies to the registration desk during the conference, meeting or event. City ambassadors can also assist with registration, and a hospitality and information table can be staffed to give attendees information about the city.

Capitol Beauty 

When the Capitol was rebuilt in 1917, a $1 million construction bond surplus funded commissioned artwork by the era’s best artisans. Tours start at the state seal below the ornate, three-story dome. When the House of Representatives is not in session, visitors can step inside the chamber with its stained-glass windows and view one of the largest single-canvas paintings in existence, a tribute to the World War I veterans of Missouri’s 35th Division. In the House Lounge, Thomas Hart Benton’s 14-foot-tall mural fills all four walls and took nine months to paint. Benton chronicled Missouri’s social history from the 1730s French settlers through the 1930s Industrial Revolution.

Out and About 

Downtown, the Millbottom event center touts a commanding view of the Capitol, especially at night; it accommodates 300 people inside and up to 1,200 for indoor/outdoor events. Located in the Old Lohman Opera House, Revel Catering and Events hosts cocktail receptions for 50 to 200 or sit-down dinners for up to 200 guests. The chef’s former clients have included Aerosmith and Bruce Willis. Its food truck can also be scheduled for an event. Decorated in artwork and photos from the decommissioned Missouri State Penitentiary, Prison Brews microbrewery makes a fitting last stop after a penitentiary tour, with bocce ball on the patio and a private room for 70 guests.

Jefferson City, Missouri

Location: Central Missouri

Access: Columbia Regional Airport (30 minutes north); Jefferson City Amtrak Station;
U.S. highways 50, 54 and 63

Major Meeting Spaces: Best Western Plus Capital Inn, Capitol Plaza Hotel and Convention Center, DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Jefferson City

Hotel Rooms: 1,130 hotel rooms and nine bed-and-breakfast rooms

Off-site Venues: The Millbottom Event Center, Revel Catering and Events

Contact Info:

Jefferson City Convention and Visitors Bureau