Outside Columbia

5 fun Columbia places to visit during the summer

Sure, you can go to the movies or to the mall on a summer afternoon. But instead of chilling in the air conditioning, why not soak up some sun? Make some time this summer to enjoy the warm weather while exploring some of Columbia's best outdoor spots.

Missouri-Kansas-Texas Nature/Fitness Trail

Price: Free

Hours: Sunrise to sunset everyday

What to do there: The main draw of this recreation area is the 8.9 miles of trail for running, walking, bicycling and hiking, along with cross country skiing in the winter. The trails are scenic and shaded by a canopy of trees. There are playing fields, a fitness course and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Gardens for visitors to enjoy.

Location: Access the trailhead via Flat Branch Park, located at 101 S. Fourth Street.

Capen Park/Grindstone Nature Area

Price: Free

Hours: Sunrise to sunset everyday

What to do there: Capen Park features both nature trails and a number of bluffs perfect for rock climbing. The tops of these same bluffs also offer scenic views of the surrounding area. A bridge connects Capen Park to the Grindstone Nature Area, which features even more nature trails, bluffs and picnic areas. There are also open field areas and creeks to explore.

Location: 1600 Capen Park Drive (Capen Park), 2011 Old Highway 63 South (Grindstone Nature Area)

Finger Lakes State Park

Price: Free

Hours: 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. everyday

What to do there: Visitors to Finger Lakes State Park can enjoy swimming, fishing and canoeing in the man-made lake. The most popular feature of the park, however, is the off-roading trails for four-wheelers, all-terrain vehicles and motorcycles. The park also boasts a motocross track where several events are held throughout the year. Plus, there is an area specifically set up for camping that includes bathrooms and showers.

Location: 1505 E. Peabody Road

Rock Bridge Memorial State Park

Price: Free

Hours: Sunrise to sunset everyday

What to do there: The park is named after the literal rock bridge formation hikers can walk both under and over. Rock Bridge Memorial State Park has 15 miles of trails for hiking and biking. In addition to the interesting rock formations, the park is also home to Devil's Icebox Cave and Connor's Cave - a nice place for a picnic. It's possible to arrange guided tours of both Connor's Cave and the area around the rock bridge. The park also has equestrian trails and an orienteering course.

Location: 5901 South Hwy. 163

Shelter Insurance Gardens

Price: Free

Hours: Sunrise to sunset everyday

What to do there: These gardens, which are owned by the Shelter Insurance company, feature many varieties of plants to enjoy. Highlights include a rose garden containing over 50 varieties of roses, a stream with a waterfall, a rock garden and a conifer garden. The gardens feature the "Garden for the Blind," in which plants are chosen so that those who cannot see can still enjoy it with their other senses. A garden where plants are specifically chosen to attract butterflies and hummingbirds is another attraction.

Location: 1817 West Broadway

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