Living in Columbia

Columbia, Mo., is known as an ideal college town, combining small-town comforts, community spirit and low cost of living with big-city culture, activities and resources. Our city of about 100,000 people is located midway between Missouri’s largest cities, St. Louis and Kansas City. Money magazine, Fortune magazine, U.S. News & World ReportMen's Journal, and other news entities have named Columbia, Mo., one of the best places in the United States to live because of its high quality of life. The American Institute for Economic Research ranked Columbia among the nation's top 10 college towns.

Columbia is home to nationally renowned public schools, including two top-ranked high schools, and other colleges and educational centers. It's packed with restaurants and entertainment venues and hosts more than a dozen annual cultural festivals. The city boasts multiple city parks as well as Rock Bridge State Park and the MKT Trail for hiking and bicycling.

CoMo is where the heart is

Read more about our community in MIZZOU magazine

Columbia offers

  • 600 restaurants
  • 8 hospitals and health care centers
  • Places of worship for all major religions
  • Indoor and outdoor live theater and music
  • Movie theaters for popular, documentary and foreign films
  • 49 public parks and 6 recreation areas
  • Walking trails throughout the city
  • Bicycle-friendly campus and community
  • 32 museums and art galleries


Columbia proves to be less expensive than the national cost of living average, making it easy for students to find safe and comfortable accommodations in any price range. Beyond MU’s residential units, students can find more housing options downtown, in friendly neighborhoods or at apartment communities spread throughout the city. Transportation to campus is available through the public bus system and shuttle services.


Columbia attracts residents from all over the world, and Columbians value and celebrate our diverse population. The city is home to more than 100 places of worship, including a synagogue and an Islamic center, and counts many international grocery stores and restaurants among the local businesses.


Columbia’s historic downtown district is packed with shops and entertainment. For more than three decades, The Blue Note has attracted top musicians of all genres, from indie-rock to old-school blues, and venues such as Rose Music HallExternal Link keep live music thriving downtown. Ragtag Cinema shows independent and international films in a hipster-friendly setting. The 1938-constructed Missouri Theatre, managed by the University of Missouri, recently was restored to its original grandeur and now attracts major entertainers as well as community performers. Columbia’s local art scene thrives, with venues including Orr Street Studios, Sager Braudis GalleryArtlandish GalleryBluestem Missouri Crafts, the Columbia Art League and a burgeoning North Village Arts District.

Want to go shopping? You're in luck! The District is packed with designer boutiques, shoe stores, jewelers, florists, book shops, sweets shops and purveyors of eco-friendly products and novelty items. Whether you want to show your school spirit with some black and gold gear, show your sense of style with cool vintage duds or show someone special how much you care, Columbia's stores have you covered.

The great outdoors

Columbia boasts multiple city parks as well as Rock Bridge State ParkStephens Lake and the city’s Activity and Recreation Center. We have caves, lakes, streams and cliffs for outdoor adventurers.

Columbia is an increasingly bicycle-friendly community, with a city program to encourage cycling, walking and public transportation. The MKT Trail takes cyclists and hikers all through Columbia and links to the 225-mile Katy Trail, which stretches across the state. 

Festivals and events

Columbia hosts more than a dozen annual festivals, including the internationally acclaimed True/False Film Festival that attracts documentary filmmakers from throughout the world and the New York Times-touted Roots N Blues N BBQ Festival, which draws top-named acts and crowds of 100,000 people. We have art fairs, parades, pub crawls, sidewalk sales and outdoor concerts in the street. A quarterly ARTrageous Fridays gallery crawl unites artists, musicians, chefs and the community for a night of downtown revelry every season. And each spring we celebrate Earth Day with a party in Peace Park.


Columbia is home to nationally renowned public schools, including three top-ranked high schools. It also supports other institutes of higher education, including Columbia College, which is ranked among "America's Best Colleges" by U.S. News & World Report, and Stephens College, a women’s college known for its fashion, film and fine arts.

Life-long education is a shared community value in Columbia. From preschool through retirement, the campus and city offer diverse, high-quality educational options. Columbia offers a public school system that annually produces some of the largest numbers of national merit scholars in the state, 18 parochial and private schools, four special-needs training facilities, an adult education center and a lifelong learning institute.

City resources