Columbia, MO University of Missouri campus

2021 Top 100 Best Places to Live In America Sponsored by: See homes for sale on Movoto by OJO

liv score
How We Calculate Our Data
Civics 52
Demographics 35
Economy 49
Education 63
Health 71
Housing 62
Infrastructure 54

#40. Columbia, MO

Home to the University of Missouri, Columbia, MO is a bustling Midwest city located halfway between Kansas City and St. Louis in central Missouri. Its 120,000 active and engaged residents enjoy the city’s many forward-thinking restaurants, fun annual festivals and events, parks and open spaces, and relatively low cost of living (median home prices here are still under $200K!). There’s also a robust arts and culture scene, a growing local tech scene and a thriving downtown.

Top Colleges/Universities: University of Missouri & Columbia College

Top Industries & Employers: Higher education, insurance and finance, health care

Weekend Plans: Saturday calls for tailgating and doing the M-I-Z-Z-O-U chant at Memorial Stadium in the fall. In the spring, summer and fall, head to one of the region’s many farmers markets, including the Columbia Farmers Market and Boone County Farmers Market, then spend the day riding bikes along MKT Trail.

Favorite Place to Feast: Booches, a historic downtown pool and billiards hall known for its hit-the-spot, no-frills hamburgers served on wax paper.

Beloved Beverage: Anything and everything on tap at Logboat Brewing, an award-winning craft brewery with a lively taproom complete with rotating food trucks. 

Outdoorsy Activity: Camp under the stars at Rock Bridge Memorial State Park, then get in some much-needed nature time while hiking, cycling, exploring a large cave system (complete with an underground stream!), horseback riding, birding or finding your way through the park’s orienteering course. In the winter, it’s also a serene place to go cross-country skiing.

Rooftop Bar: The Roof, an aptly named restaurant and bar located right downtown on top of The Broadway hotel. Flatbreads, sandwiches and small plates make great munchies while sipping on a cocktail like Breakfast in Bed, made with gin, lemon, raspberry and club soda.

Why Your Pet Will Love It, Too: Lots of college students mean lots of eager dog-sitters who are homesick for their pets back home. Mizzou students are guaranteed to love your dog extra hard if you need to go out of town or to hire a regular dog-walker. Mizzou also has a veterinary school, so bonus points for hiring a vet student!

Remote Work Perk: You can spend more time socializing and doing the things you love after you shut your laptop for the day in Columbia, where getting around is super easy. The average commute time here is just 16 minutes. 

One More Thing … Mizzou’s journalism school is one of the best in the nation. J-school students here put out the “Columbia Missourian” seven days a week, along with a weekly city magazine called “Vox.”

– Sarah Kuta

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