Touring the Missouri State Capitol Building in Jefferson City

Whenever our family passes through a state’s capital city, we like to stop and tour the capitol building. Free and open to the general public, most state capitol buildings offer guided tours (if you have a larger group, call ahead and/or consult the building’s website to see if you need an advance reservation).

IMG_0395Because everyone in our family has a relatively short attention span, we’ve opted for self-guided tours and have learned to ask for special activities and programs designed with kids in mind. And while we loved sitting on the “mile high” step in Denver and participating in a scavenger hunt in Helena, Jefferson City has become our new favorite state capitol building.

While we visited on Christmas Eve day, downtown Jefferson City may perhaps have been less “busy” than a typical work day. Regardless, the Missouri State Capitol Building is only a few blocks off the highway and parking both free and plentiful. We found a spot next to a geocache and near a fountain featuring naked people (this both confused and amused our  kids; consider yourself warned). IMG_0404

Where to Stay

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The building itself sits high on the bluffs of the Missouri river and (as one would expect) features grand columns, bronze statues, and a dome that rises 283 feet above ground level. In addition to the state government, the building also houses the Missouri State Museum—where visitors go to immerse themselves in the history of the Show-Me State. The museum houses an impressive collection of exhibits portraying the state’s natural and cultural history. (Admission to the museum is also free.)

IMG_0408We enjoyed learning about various natural resources used to generate electricity, including coal, wind, and sunlight in a more “hands on” exhibit geared towards elementary-age kids. IMG_0409But our favorite activity of the entire visit was locating and identifying fossils embedded in the walls, floors and stairways both inside and outside the building itself. Missouri’s official state fossil is crinoid, a mineralization of a plant-like animal that predates the starfish and the sand dollar. We found a crinoid near the press room on the first floor. IMG_0406Once we realized how and why fossils were in the limestone and marble, we started seeing them everywhere! If you go, make sure you ask for a copy of the Capitol Fossils pamphlet available at the information desk.

Also located near the Missouri State Capitol Building (and with an easy walk in nice weather) is the Jefferson Landing State Historic Site.

About the Author

Julie Henning
Julie Henning is a freelance writer and journalist based out of Eugene, Oregon. She is a member of the Society of American Travel Writers and owner of the family-travel website She is a recent past member of the Midwest Travel Writers Association and the Association for Great Lakes Outdoor Writers. Julie is the Oregon Coast destination specialist for Bindu Media, an itinerary-focused website launching in Spring 2016 and featuring the work of 200+ professional, indie travel writers. Julie has been published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Wisconsin State Journal, The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Illinois), the Rochester Post Bulletin, Wisconsin Natural Resources (DNR) Magazine, Sustainable Chicago Magazine, Group Tour Magazine, Student Group Tour Magazine, Silent Sports Magazine, Intercom Magazine,, and FTF Geocacher Magazine. Julie has appeared on Wisconsin Public Radio, Ohio Public Radio, and KCBX FM Central Coast Radio and is an affiliate producer with the Journeys of Discovery with Tom Wilmer, a National Public Radio travel podcast. She has blogged for, Travel Oregon, and VISIT Milwaukee. Julie travels with her three kids and black lab as much as possible and lives by the motto, "Not all who wander are lost." Check out some of her best work at