Best Places to Live

Columbia, MO

Population: 123,610
Courtesy of Stephens College

A strong entrepreneurial scene coupled with an artistic vibe and a politically progressive undercurrent makes living in Columbia, MO highly appealing to both college students and recent graduates. Columbia’s high percentage of college grads, strong economy, affordable housing and deep ties to education make it one of the Top 10 Best College Towns in the country. Older, long-time residents find that Columbia’s college set adds many benefits to the city, from providing a steady stream of customers to local shops and restaurants to exciting sports events and musical performances. The more than 37,300 students who attend the three colleges that surround downtown Columbia give the town a youthful energy that keeps things interesting.

See what makes Columbia, MO one of the Best Places to Live

Many graduates of the University of Missouri say they’d stay in the city if for nothing else than to continue eating at Shakespeare’s Pizza, a hip joint in downtown which also offers tasty drinks. Lakota Coffee, breakfast at Cafe Berlin and Sparky’s Homemade Ice Cream also keep students coming back for more. Columbia’s restaurants match the city’s mix of Midwestern hospitality and innovative interpretations of classic comforts. Students at Stephens College, the second oldest women's college in the country, frequently explore the blocks between Walnut and Locust Street, which hold a variety or restaurants, shops and entertainment venues. Many residents enjoy the wide variety of music in Columbia, which often includes street performers. 

While the 21-and-up crowd can enjoy plenty of tap rooms and bars, Columbia offers an assortment of entertainment options from watching independent movies at Ragtag Cinema to catching great acts at The Blue Note. Both college students and children enjoy playing arcade classics at Gunther’s Games or strolling through art galleries and gardens. Summer Street Fairs in downtown Columbia help bring the community together and showcase the many talents of local artists and performers.

Columbia is surrounded by natural areas with hiking and biking trails, lakes for swimming and fishing and camp sites to enjoy an evening under the stars. The city features an expanding network of sidewalks, bike lanes and pathways that make getting around easy. Residents take advantage of the many athletic fields and recreation centers to stay in shape and play sports.

Fun Fact: It’s considered good luck to rub the nose of a statue of former Missouri Governor David Francis on the UM campus. The nose has been replaced three times.