The Missouri River Runner runs daily and stops in 10 communities. Jefferson City is in the middle of the rail path and is near downtown eateries, shopping and attractions.
Visitors arriving will immediately be greeted by the Jefferson Landing State Historic Site, comprised of the city’s oldest buildings – the Lohman Building, the Maus House, and the Union Hotel. Depicting an 1850s general store and warehouse, the Lohman Building is open to the public March-December.
The capital trifecta consists of Jefferson City’s most notable attractions: the Missouri State Capitol, Missouri Governor’s Mansion, and the decommissioned Missouri State Penitentiary. Walking up Jefferson Street and taking a right will make for a beautiful sight of the Capitol in all her glory. Visitors will come across the Lewis and Clark Trailhead Plaza before circling the seat of state government. On the north side of the Capitol are memorials to commemorate Missouri’s veterans and law enforcement in addition to the new Bicentennial Bridge to Adrian’s Island. Pedestrians and bicyclists can use the bridge to access the 32-acre riverfront Deborah Cooper Park. For cyclists headed for the Katy Trail, get off the loop halfway onto West Main Street until reaching the Clay Street Trailhead Plaza, where it leads you safely across the Missouri River Pedestrian/Bike Bridge.
The three-quarters point of the loop around the Capitol can either take visitors to the main southside entrance of the building or lead to High Street, lined with the Missouri Supreme Court Building, tasty restaurants, and quaint shopping boutiques. Guided tours of the Capitol are offered year-round; however, the public can also walk around to admire the stunning murals and intriguing Missouri State Museum located on the first floor.
Heading east on Capitol Avenue, visitors will come across the Carnahan Memorial Garden and the Missouri Governor’s Mansion. What was once considered a public eyesore below the Mansion, First Lady Donnelly took the horticultural initiative to supervise the transformation of the space into a beautiful garden encompassing a sunken pool, terraces, walkways, and a pergola. The Mansion, occupied since 1872, is one of the oldest governors’ homes in the United States and one of few executive residences open to the public. Located on 10 acres overlooking the Missouri River and the Missouri State Capitol, the Mansion is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Reservations to tour the residence need to be made in advance.
Walking further east on Capitol Avenue and taking a left on Lafayette Street will lead visitors to the main entrance of the decommissioned Missouri State Penitentiary. Built in 1836 to secure Jefferson City as the state capital, it was the oldest continually operating prison west of the Mississippi River before closing its doors in 2004. History tours began in 2009 and have grown in popularity over the years. History tours are offered by day, and ghost tours/paranormal investigations are offered by night. The former prison has been featured on many television shows and independent film projects, putting Jefferson City in the national spotlight.
Before or after a tour, visitors are encouraged to explore the Missouri State Penitentiary Museum located beneath the Convention and Visitors Bureau at 700 E Capitol Ave. The museum and visitor’s bureau are housed inside the Col. Darwin Marmaduke House, the former warden’s home built in 1888. Here you’ll learn additional historical information about the famous prison that operated for 168 years. The museum houses MSP memorabilia and a replica cell that demonstrates the living conditions at the prison.
Additional Noteworthy Attractions
Jefferson City is geographically wide and has more attractions that require further transportation:
- Museum of Missouri Military History – Located at Ike Skelton Training Site, the museum houses many artifacts and weapons of war from the Revolutionary War to the present era.
- Col. Alvin R. Lubker Memorial Safety & Education Center (MO State Highway Patrol Museum) – Exhibits relating to the history of the Missouri State Highway Patrol. Items on display include patrol cars, uniforms, and weapons dating to the department’s inception.
- Missouri Veterinary Medical Foundation Museum – The first museum in the country devoted solely to veterinary medicine. It houses more than 1,000 artifacts dating from the 16th century to the present.
- Runge Conservation Nature Center – Five hiking trails looping through woodlands, prairies, glades, and a wet-weather stream.