By Rachel Grant, Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau, Photo by Jennifer McGovney

Spring is the perfect time to get outside and explore, and Columbia has no shortage of open spaces to choose from. If you would like to branch out from your usual park or trail, here are a few suggestions based on who will be tagging along with you:

With Family:

Cosmo Park – Steinberg Playground at Cosmo Park was the best playground ever when I was a kid (in my mind, at least). Don’t worry: it’s been renovated since then, but it’s now even more awesome and has an inclusive area so that all children can play.

Three Creeks Conservation Area – If your family is adventurous and up for a little exploring, check out Three Creeks. Spring is the perfect time to see wildflowers, and you can also fish, hike, and watch for wildlife.

With your dog:

Twin Lakes Dog Park – If my dog could talk, he’d ask to go to the dog park several times a day. It’s his favorite place to meet up with old pals and make new friends, but the real reason he loves the park is the people. If you go, expect to hand out lots of attention and belly rubs.

Grindstone Nature Area – This is one of several leash-free areas in town and one of my dog’s favorite spots. He’s all about sand and swimming, so we usually stick to the creek, but there are quite a few small trails throughout the 200 acres that lead to scenic views and historic trail remnants.

With your friends:

Rocky Fork Lakes Conservation Area – Rocky Fork is 2,200 acres of fields, woodland, and over 90 lakes and ponds – 20 of which are fishable. There are also two gun ranges, but keep in mind they’ll be especially busy on nice days. There aren’t designated trails, so you may want to grab a map before heading out.

Strawn Park – I haven’t been here yet, but I hear the disc golf course is kind of a big deal. The course is the first in Missouri to be designed by renowned disc golf course designer John Houck. Luckily for me and anyone else who has never played disc golf, there are tees to accommodate both pros and beginners.

On your own:

Forum Nature Area – This is the place to go if you want to see wildlife. I almost always spot turtles, snakes, deer, or birds along the trail. In my experience, the nature area is less used and quieter than the MKT Trail, so it’s easy to wander and forget you’re in the middle of town.

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