Columbia  is a bustling college town halfway between St. Louis and Kansas City. It is home of the University of Missouri, Columbia (better known as 'Mizzou') as well as two other post-secondary institutions: Stephens College and Columbia College.
Columbia is in the Midwest.
The city is accessible from Interstate 70, exit numbers from 121 east to 130. From the north and south, use U.S. Highway 63.
If you choose to drive, it'll take about 1 hour and 45 minutes to 2 hours from/to St. Louis Lambert International Airport (STL)(112 miles), and about 2 hours and 15 minutes to 2 hours and 30 minutes to/from Kansas City International Airport (MCI)(150 miles). Long-term parking is around $8/day at St. Louis airport and around $5 at Kansas City airport.
The city has a small airport of its own, Columbia Regional Airport(COU), which offers a limited number of daily flights to/from Memphis International Airport in Memphis, Tennessee.
MO-X  (pronounced 'moe-ex') operates an airport shuttle service that does door-to-door pick-up/drop-off from town to airport (St. Louis and Kansas City airports) & vice versa for about $44 each way, $82 round trip. It takes approximately two hours to reach St. Louis airport (STL) and a little longer for Kansas City airport (MCI). It's rather slow, since it'll stop to pick up multiple passengers and so on.
There is a metro system (bus), but the downtown area is very small, so you can easily get around on foot.
The Columns on the Quad of the University of Missouri campus are the second-most photographed landmark in Missouri, right behind the St. Louis Arch.
While on the Quad, visit the the Museum of Art and Archeology,  which has a fascinating collection of everything between ancient Southeast Asian sculpture to paintings by famous Missourians.
Also on campus, close to the Quad, is the Ellis Library, which houses the State Historical Society of Missouri. 
The interesting and unique architecture of the Columbia Public Library, located just west of downtown at the corner of Broadway and Garth Avenue, is a sight to see. While you're there, enjoy a good book and a cup of coffee from the coffee bar located in the lobby.
The award winning Shelter Insurance Garden is located off of Ash Street, just before Stadium Boulevard. The gardens feature many different types of plants and flowers, along with beautiful sculptures, ponds, and a historic schoolhouse (circa 1800s).
Katy Trail State Park  is a great outdoor resource for bikers and joggers. The MKT Nature and Fitness Trail starts in downtown Columbia (accessible near Providence and Locust and at Providence and Stewart). It stretches about 9 miles from downtown Columbia to McBaine. There the MKT connects to Katy Trail State Park, which travels across Missouri from St. Charles to Clinton following old railway lines. Several of Columbia's parks also connect to the MKT, including Flat Branch Park, Forum Nature area, and Hinkson Woods Natural History Area. There are plans to use federal grant money to extend this trail system further.
Rock Bridge Memorial State Park, , 7 miles south of Columbia, offers outdoor activities including hiking, mountain biking, caving and so on. Devil's icebox in the park is a great getaway during the hot summer days. A short walk will take you to the mouth of the cave and the chilled air will cool you off.
Finger Lakes State Park, .
Ragtag Cinema  is an unusual fusion of a high-minded arthouse cinema with a playful, lively beer hall. Showing the best national, international, and locally created films.
Jewell Cemetery State Historic Site, .
Those interested in Rock Climbing will want to check out Capen Park. Capen park is well-visited by the local climbing community. Capen Park is located near the intersection of College and Stadium for those arriving by car, but may be accessed via Columbia's trails for those who choose to walk, jog, or bike.
The Blue Note historic theater , located on North 9th street in the downtown area. This is a small theater that accommodates around 800 people. This venue always features top new music acts. Regardless what type of music you like, it features acts from country, ska, rock, alternative, indie, metal, comedy, hip hop, blues, etc. Some top acts that have visited the Blue Note include 311, Megadeth, Snoop Dog, Blues Traveler, Public Enemy, Ice T, Red Hot Chili Peppers. It also showcases local favorites like Gravity Kills and The Urge. Enjoy the dance floor and drinks from the extensive bar. Minors are also welcome, however some shows have a small surcharge.
Downtown Columbia is a major area for shopping and restaurants. Downtown Columbia, sometimes referred to as "The District"  is centered on the corner of Broadway and Ninth Street, and extends for several blocks in each direction. Locally owned stores, a variety of restaurants, theaters, parks, and the nicely landscaped campuses of the area colleges are all within walking distance from the downtown area.
Columbia Mall , located on Stadium Boulevard at Interstate 70, is the largest mall in the mid-Missouri area, and contains many of the typical mall stores available around the country.
There are also new shopping developments available south of the mall on Stadium Boulevard.
Don't forget to stop by Shakespeare's Pizza  on 9th and Elm. Some seriously good pizza and a goofy collegetown-like atmosphere.
Booches on 9th Street has great burgers, supposedly the best burger in the nation. No known link to prove the claim, but they have a piece of newspaper framed on the wall that says so. One thing is sure, they really have great burgers. They go to church on Sundays.
9th Street Deli  has good sandwiches. It also features an interesting outdoor patio if you go through the door by the restroom.
Addison's - An American Grill,  a locally owned restaurant located at 709 Cherry St. is an affordable restaurant featuring "Americana" type food: unique sandwiches, burgers, pastas and a few slightly more expensive entrees. Has a good bar and beer selection and very comfortable atmosphere. One of the local favorites is the "crab rangoo dip" appetizer.
Bangkok Gardens, is a local favorite for Thai food. Located on the corner of Ninth St. and Cherry, is located close to campus. Atmosphere is refreshing and the cooks let you order your food on a "hotness scale of 1 (low) to 10 (very hot). It is also known for serving water out of their signature tin cups.
Cafe Berlin International,  focuses on organic options. Everything from coffee to salads is offered in organic options along with fresh squeezed juices. The breakfast menu contains tried and true favorites along with a variety of international options. Lunch is served as well.
Chim's Thai Kitchen, located at Cooper's Landing in nearby Easley, Missouri, and another option for Thai food. The food is served out of a trailer parked by the Missouri River, and there is often a band playing on summer nights which makes for a very fun filled evening.
Ernie's is a great 50's themed diner located at 10th and Walnut, open for breakfast and lunch. Very crowded on weekends so be prepared to wait.
Murry's located close to the corner of Green Meadows and Providence, is a locally owned restaurant with a flair for Jazz. During most evenings, there is a live Jazz piano and occasionally has a live Jazz band play (participates in the "we always swing" Jazz series) The atmosphere is kind of dark, crowded (due to it's popularity). The food is usually excellent with a menu that ranges from the inexpensive (sandwiches and burgers) to more higher end entree's.
Sophia's,  is a locally own restaurant (by the same group that owns Addisons) located on South Providence Rd. The higher mid-range restaurant offers an excellent atmosphere, and a menu that features many diverse pastas, some unique to the area. Sophia's also has decent wine options and an excellent dessert menu.
For the vegetarian traveler, there are several options: Main Squeeze,  on 9th Street, is the only vegetarian restaurant in central Missouri, and it's quite popular with the lunch crowds. The cafe also recently started serving breakfast. The Root Cellar,  on Broadway, serves up local foods and produce, but is not entirely vegetarian.
Flat Branch is Columbia's original micro-brewery, serving a plethora of house made brews and a few home-made sodas. It offers a wide variety of tasty food items for reasonable prices. Can be crowded.
The Heidelberg (a.k.a. the 'Berg),  is a bar/hangout close to campus that is enjoyed by many young students. Has a nice outdoor patio on the second floor. Go toward the restroom, and you'll find the stairs going up. Has good happy hour deals (e.g., buy one appetizer, get one free). It was burned down in October 2003 but has opened again.
Quinton's, Ninth Street. Good happy hour deals with some exceptional sandwiches, and there is never a cover. Best jukebox in the state.
Nearly every national hotel chain has a location in Columbia, with more being added seemingly all the time. It is quite common for hotels in Columbia to be booked full on University of Missouri football weekends.
Columbia is generally a safe, quiet, low-crime city. However, in recent years, there has been a slight rise in crime due to the city's rapid growth. Violent crime is rare. Petty crime (i.e., theft) is the most-common crime in Columbia. Simple common sense should keep you out of trouble. Petty theft, including from automobiles, is a slight problem on the MU campus. The best advice is to not leave anything of value in plain sight in a parked vehicle.