Growing up only a short drive from Columbia, I’ve had the opportunity to enjoy all that mid-Missouri has to offer. For Stephens’ students moving to Columbia, it is easy to get caught in the “Stephens bubble.” Columbia and its surrounding area has plenty more to offer beyond what is on campus and downtown. It’s time for students to take advantage of living in this unique college town.
Double Bowlin’ – When one bowl just isn’t enough
For good eats, HuHot Mongolian Grill is a must. Located on Buttonwood, HuHot is a short 10 minute drive from campus. This sit-down restaurant offers a build-your-own Asian stir fry buffet that includes a variety of noodles, meats, vegetables, fruits, and over 12 sauces to top off your dish.
After making your unique concoction, you hand your bowl over to a cook and watch him throw your dish onto a huge flat circular grill. Friday and Saturday are the best nights to go because the restaurant is lively and the chefs not only cook, but entertain.
Don’t like your dish? Just have the waiter take it away and try again. HuHot is an all-you-can restaurant for just $8.49 at lunch and $12.49 at dinner, according to their website. All meals are served with steamed rice and dinners come with soup or salad.
My favorite combination: Traditional noodles, beef, carrots, pineapple, Samurai Teriyaki sauce, Not-So-Sweet and Sour sauce, and lemon juice topped off with coconut.
Just in time for fall
If you haven’t checked out the 15-acre corn maze located 12 miles east of Columbia toward St. Louis off of I-70, you’re missing out. According to their website, Shryock’s Callaway farms has been making elaborate corn mazes since 2002. Each year, Shryock’s corn maze designs are inspired by a large event of the year. This fall, Truman the MU tiger, showcases Mizzou’s inaugural season as part of the SEC.
The corn maze is open Friday evenings from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sundays from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Tickets are $8.00 a person, on par with a movie ticket, however with Shryock’s tickets maze-goers are welcome to stay until close. Ticket sales end one hour before closing time.
My favorite time to go has always been right at sunset. Get there before the season ends November 4th and don’t forget to bring a flashlight!
Columbia’s Hidden Treasure
Rock Bridge Memorial State Park, located six miles from campus and 20 minutes by car, is named after the natural “rock bridge” that was created when a section of the cave separated due to a collapse in the cave roof many years ago. In addition to the rock bridge, the park is home to a number of sinkholes, tunnels, caves, streams and natural springs.
According to the Missouri State Parks website, Devil’s Icebox, the most well-known cave in Rock Bridge State Park, is only open for guided tours during certain seasons. However, the rest of the park is open to the public from sunrise until sunset, year-round. For first-timers, there are many signs and trails to guide your hike. For the more eager, experienced hiker, I recommend exploring the streams and open fields.
Fire on Ice
If you’re willing to drive a little farther, the Washington Park Ice Arena in Jefferson City is a fun place to spend a couple hours with a group of friends. Located 30 minutes south of Columbia, Jefferson City is home to the only ice arena in mid-Missouri.
Public session times vary from week to week, but the Jefferson City Parks and Recreation website provides monthly schedules to plan your visit. According to their website, adult admission for a public session is only four dollars. Figure skates and hockey skates are available to rent for two dollars.
Occassionaly the ice arena will host a “Fire on Ice” during the Friday night public session. The regular lights are replaced with colored bulbs, and there are games and prizes for guests to win. To celebrate Halloween, the Washington Park Ice Arena will have a “Fire on Ice” Friday, October 26 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
A Bit of Missouri History
Growing up in Jefferson City, I never thought much of the Missouri State Capitol, it was just a building I saw every day on my way to school. But when you take the time to walk up the massive steps and through the incredible hallways, you realize how spectacular the building is.
Inside the Capitol is a museum of Missouri state history and wide array of historical artifacts. The museum is open every day, except major holidays, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. according to its website.
While you’re in Jefferson City, check out the new pedestrian walkway attached to the Missouri River Bridge. Take the airport exit off highway 54 and follow the signs to the river access. From there you can walk under the Missouri River Bridge and access the walkway. You’ll see a breathtaking view of the river and capitol that you don’t want to miss.
Stephens may have brought you to mid-Missouri, but to make your college experience worthwhile and make the most of your time here, I recommend getting off campus. Grab a couple friends and take a weekend off, then drive around and get lost — with a cell phone of course. You never know what you’ll come across. In the midwest, a good time is hiding around every corner.