Perk up your summer in Columbia

By DANA KIMPTON
neighborhoods@ColumbiaMissourian.com

In the summertime, when the weather is high, you can stretch right up and touch the sky.

Mungo Jerry may not have been singing about Columbia when he wrote “In the Summertime,” but he couldn’t have said it better. The sky is the limit when in comes to summertime activities and entertainment in CoMo.

As there is so much to offer during these upcoming summer months, there’s hardly an excuse for summertime boredom. However, if you find yourself sucked into the summer doldrums, try some of these ideas to spice up your summer.Step up your culinary efforts

Visit the Columbia Farmers Market and buy some fresh, locally grown produce from the vendors who know it best. Fire up the grill and try something new — grill fish on cedar planks or grill bread slices and top with garlic, olive oil, fresh tomatoes and Parmesan cheese for an exciting bruschetta.

Invite friends over for the meal or plan a “progressive” dinner party with your neighbors, each household hosting a course.

Check out Columbia’s history

Have you ever taken the time to investigate some of Columbia’s historic places? Summer is a great time to experience some of mid-Missouri’s history. The National Register of Historic Places has dubbed 40 locations in Columbia historical landmarks. Some of these sights offer tours that will inspire the history buff in you.

The Maplewood Home, built in 1877, was home to one of Missouri’s prominent pioneer families. The home, named for the large sugar maples on the property, is open for public tours. Just call ahead to schedule a time to take the tour.

The Gordon-Collins Cabin, built in 1821, was built by David Gordon Sr. to serve as temporary living quarters while a large plantation-style was built for the family. The small cabin later served as slave quarters. In 2005, the city of Columbia moved the cabin from the Gordon’s farm to Nifong Park, which is also home to the Maplewood house.

If you’re in the mood for something a little less structured and closer to home, the Columbia Cemetery is an inexpensive trip into the past. Walking among the gravestones, you’ll see the names of some of mid-Missouri’s founders and local celebrities.

Go to a festival

Another great way to beat the heat is with one of Columbia’s many free summer festivals, which take place all over the city.

Family Fun Fests take place on the third Wednesday of the month through September at Flat Branch Park. These evening events each feature activities and demonstrations that relate to a larger theme of the night. Multiple local businesses sponsor the small festivals, adding to the variety of programming.

Art in the Park takes place all day on June 5 and 6 at Stephens Lake Park. This festival boasts more than 120 artists, as well as multiple stages for music and other performances. There are children’s craft areas, so feel free to bring the kids while you browse through the art.

Juneteenth Days will take place during the afternoon and early evenings of June 19 and 20 at Douglass Park. A celebration of African-American heritage, this festival offers live music, speakers, games and food.

Catch up on summer reading

Summer offers a good opportunity to read books that have been sitting on the shelf all year. Warm Missouri evenings are ideal for diving into a novel on the back porch. For ideas of what to read, access library lists online or make up your own list. Delve into classics or relax with a story of travel or romance.

Columbia Public Library is ready to assist with summer reading programs for all ages. The youth-oriented programs reward reading with free books and library water bottles. Grown-ups are rewarded for reading efforts by being entered into raffles for bookstore gift certificates.

Get outdoors

Take advantage of the nice weather and reconnect with friends who have been kept inside by colder temperatures. Invite them over for tea – hot or iced in the kitchen or on the back patio. Sit on your front porch and engage passersby in a chat.

If you’re feeling really outdoorsy, there’s always the old mainstay: backyard camping. Pitch the tent in the backyard and you’ll experience the benefits of camping with the kids, but without having to go to the bathroom outside.

Walk or cycle the MKT Trail or many of the other trails that crisscross Columbia. Or perhaps you’re a swimmer? Check out one of Columbia’s many outdoor pools.

If you want to get some exercise with a furry companion, consider taking part in the Central Missouri Humane Society’s “Walk a Hound, Lose a Pound” program. For $10, participants can choose one of the pound’s adoptable dogs to walk along the Bear Creek Trail. The program is offered most Saturdays throughout the summer. And if the cute dogs and the fresh air don’t do it for you, there’s a free T-shirt in it for you, too.

This summer, forget the dark movie theaters that smell like years of popcorn that has fallen between the seats. Instead, go to U.S. Cellular’s Movies in the Park, held in Flat Branch Park the second Friday of the month all summer long. For $1, bring a blanket, some snacks and your family and friends.

Public gardens also offer fun, peaceful summer escapes. Visit one of Columbia’s gardens for a serene afternoon. The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Garden and Shelter Gardens are fairly close to central Columbia; Alpine Gardens is slightly farther away, but worth the trip.

Start a project

Knock a house project off your “to do” list or plan and plant a new garden — maybe herbs, a flower garden for cutting, or colorful favorites.

Make an art project or learn a new skill.

Take an art class, a kickboxing or tai chi class, or finally tackle learning computer basics.

Take in some live music

Along with their regular lineup of eclectic shows, the Blue Note returns with “9th Street Summer Fest” this year. This free, outdoor concert series takes place on Ninth Street and features the indie-pop group Of Montreal on May 26, Tex-Mex-inspired Los Lonely Boys on June 30, alt-country/rock group Old 97’s on July 28, and the country band The Carolina Chocolate Drops on August 25.

Daytrip to a nearby town

Rocheport offers antiquing and wine. Hermann offers beer, wine and authentic German sausage. Afton offers an enormous menagerie, Grant’s Farm and Anheuser-Busch hospitality.

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