Katy Trail State Park
Why We Love It: The Katy Trail is the longest recreational rail trail in the United States. It runs for 240 miles, and if you’re in Jefferson City, you can hop on the trail and enjoy an afternoon bike ride to a nearby town. Just book a bike and a shuttle with Red Wheel Bike Shop and get dropped off at your destination of choice before you bike back to Jeff City. For short rides, head to Hartsburg or Tebbetts. For longer rides, take a shuttle to Clinton, Sedalia, Boonville, Hermann, Augusta or St. Charles.
Insider Knowledge: One of the best photo ops along the section of trail that runs through Jeff City is right before the pedestrian bridge. This is a great spot to get a photo where you can capture both the river and the capitol building in the background.
Missouri State Capitol and Missouri State Museum
Why We Love It: This historic building is actually the third state capitol to call Jeff City home. The first capitol building burned down in 1837, and the second structure burned down in 1911. Today, you can tour all four floors of the Missouri Capitol with a 45-minute guided tour. Reservations are required and can be made online. While at the Capitol, be sure to stop by the Missouri State Museum to check out the collection of natural and cultural history.
Insider Knowledge: There are 16 large paintings on the second floor of the Capitol. Several of them have optical illusions in them, so as you walk by you’ll notice the image either changes or eyes in the painting will start to follow you. One in the History Hall on the east side of the building has a character whose eyes follow you as you move along. Staffers of the museum call this character “Chucky” for obvious reasons. In the painting called “The Reclamation of the South,” the rows of crops straighten out as you walk past.
Missouri State Penitentiary and Missouri State Penitentiary Museum
Why We Love It: A trip to the local penitentiary isn’t exactly typical for a weekend getaway, but we highly recommend visiting this historic site. The massive Missouri State Penitentiary was decommissioned in 2004, and now its vacant cells are open for public tours. You can choose between a history, ghost or photography tour, but really you can’t go wrong. After operating for 168 years, this was one of the longest-running prisons in the United States, so the ghost stories and bits of history are practically endless. For instance, did you know this penitentiary is 100 years older than Alcatraz? Pro tip: if you want to visit, book your reservation online in advance. Especially on the weekends, tours here fill up.
Insider Knowledge: If you really want an insider perspective of what it was like to live inside one of these cells, take the 3-hour mystery tour where you’ll be joined by a previous inmate.
Governor’s Mansion and Carnahan Memorial Garden
Why We Love It: Tours here are free, but reservations are required at least 24 hours in advance. This is the home of our state’s governor, afterall. The three-story home has been the official abode of Missouri’s governors ever since 1872. There were originally 13 bedrooms, but the home lacked bathrooms and closets when it was first built. Obviously, that has changed, but many of the historic home’s other beautiful features have been left untouched, including the freestanding winding staircase and marble fireplace. While here, visit the Carnahan Memorial Garden and enjoy a walk along the terraces as you take in the view of the pool and flowers.
Insider Knowledge: This 100-plus year-old home has been carefully preserved. You’re not even allowed to bring chewing gum into the building. With that much dedication to historical preservation, it’s not surprising that even the cuisine served in the mansion has been preserved in the form of a cookbook. You can order a Spoonful of History online, and proceeds go toward the preservation of the historical home.