For those of us that grew up in Jefferson City, the Missouri State Capitol is a familiar sight, a place that you toured with your classmates in elementary school, or one where you had your senior pictures taken. I, for one, remember sitting on the lawn of the Capitol to watch the fireworks on 4th of July with family and friends.
Attending Missouri Girls State in high school provided me with a unique leadership opportunity to sit in the Senate Chambers and bang the gavel that so many legislators held before me. Because we are accustomed to her majestic presence, many of us in Jefferson City may take the beauty, history and charm of our State Capitol for granted. But the truth is the Capitol is an incredible destination and certainly one worth exploring when visiting Jefferson City.
As the communications manager for the Jefferson City Convention & Visitors Bureau, I have had many opportunities to
view our Capitol through the eyes of visitors. I find myself falling in love with the stately structure more and more, especially when I learn something new or catch a glimpse of the facade in a different light. Time and time again, travel writers who come to tour Jefferson City’s attractions marvel at the embellished interior décor and gorgeous finishes that adorn the dome as they step into the atrium.
The Missouri State Capitol has a little something for everyone. Free tours are offered year-round and are approximately 45 minutes long. The guided tours are available Monday–Saturday; they begin at 9 a.m. and the last tour is offered at 4 p.m. (excluding the noon hour). On Sundays, tours are given at 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 2 p.m. and 3 p.m.
For those wanting to spend a bit more time inside the Capitol, the Missouri State Museum, located on the first floor, can literally provide hours of educational entertainment. “Civil War Missouri: A House Dividing” is an extraordinary exhibit commemorating the sesquicentennial of the Civil War and will be on location through 2015. The displays are updated every six months with new artifacts and stories of individual Missourians who experienced the war. The Missouri State Museum is free and open daily, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
Another spot worth exploring in the Capitol is the House Lounge on the third floor of the west wing. In 1935, the Missouri House of Representatives commissioned Missouri native Thomas Hart Benton to paint a mural which adorns the four walls and depicts the “Social History of Missouri.”
No matter how many times I sit in this room and take in the bold, vivid scenes of everyday Missouri life, I see something I didn’t see before, or I hear a new story from the tour guide. Anyone interested in the history of Missouri is sure to enjoy these vibrant murals, which give you a unique visual of our state and how Missouri evolved.
If you are planning a trip to Jefferson City, consider spending the day at the Missouri State Capitol and taking in the many features of the property.
The Capitol is a sight to behold no matter what time of year you come. In the fall, the trees surrounding the exterior turn a beautiful orange and red and the temperatures are ideal to take a ride on the Katy Trail and enjoy a picnic on the lawn. In the winter, the Capitol comes alive with the sounds of Christmas. On the second Tuesday of December, enjoy high school performers at “Capitol Caroling,” as marvelous, symphonic music and choral voices echo through the hallways. This year marks the 75th anniversary of the tradition.
Springtime is a joy at the Capitol. The dogwoods come into full bloom and tulips adorn the lawn. You could easily pass an afternoon eating ice cream while exploring the numerous fountains and watching the trains pass by. And summer brings numerous family friendly events where the Capitol serves as a headquarters for outdoor movie showings, festivals and fireworks.
Whether you are an out-of-town guest, a Missourian yet to see the Capitol with your own eyes, or a Jefferson City native overdue on a visit to one of the city’s most popular attractions, you are sure to fall in love with the Missouri State Capitol if you open yourself to exploring all it has to offer. Come see for yourself!
Written by Ryan Winkler, communications manager for the Jefferson City Convention and Visitors Bureau.