Best of Columbia: Celebrating CoMo's Best Local Businesses


It’s the time of the year when we get to celebrate local accomplishments and recognize the people who are responsible for the amazing life we enjoy right here in mid-Missouri!

Columbia is home to a long list of local businesses who are absolutely killing it with the quality of their products and services. There are a ton of people — from bartenders and waiters to hairdressers and dog groomers — who get up and go to work every day in jobs they love and are passionate about. Because they are REALLY good at what they do, they make life better for everyone in their community. Best of Columbia, powered by Inside Columbia Magazine and Zimmer Communications, is our way of saluting the hard work and passion of these individuals and businesses in our community.

Best of Columbia Nominations

In March, nominations begin. It’s the public’s chance to make sure their favorite people and businesses make the list. In 2021, an astounding 44,286 people clicked online to enter the names of people and businesses they believe deserve the chance to compete for one of the top 3 coveted spots in Best of Columbia. That’s one of the aspects of Best of Columbia that makes it so successful year after year - the tremendous show of community support. We expect this year to be even more! Knowing how tough it’s been for businesses over the last 2 years, jumping in to let business owners and their employees know how much Columbia cares is what fuels this annual event and makes it so successful. 

In all, there are five main categories with over 80 subcategories:

  • Food & Drink
  • People
  • Services
  • Wellness
  • Local Favorites

Subcategories include things like best barbecue, best breakfast, best coffee, tacos, and more under Food & Drink. Columbia’s Best People contains listings for occupations like best chefs, bartenders, realtors, financial advisors, florists, and even tattoo artists. Best Services is a place for showing appreciation for businesses like your favorite lawn care service, auto repair shop, car wash, caterer, and even the overall best customer service experience. The Best Wellness Category includes chiropractors, dentists…even spas and CBD dispensaries. Lastly and probably the most popular category of all tips the hat to Local Favorites: live music venues, places to work, local sports teams, and even the local favorite nonprofit. Since there are SO MANY OPTIONS…you can’t miss a chance to nominate and then vote for the ones you like the best!

Best of Columbia Voting

In early spring, voting begins. Around April, nominations are cast and the public gets to work voting for their favorite nominees to land in one of the top three positions. In 2021, there were 23,639 people voting with 232,941 total votes cast! People can vote once a day, and competing businesses reach out to customers in their stores, via email, and on their social media channels to encourage supporters to return to the site each day and vote. At the end of the day, it’s all about relationships. Relationships and the sense of community that people have in showing support for their favorites. 

Best of Columbia Winner Announcements

The entire event culminates in early summer with the official announcements of the winners! The top 3 in each category receive Bronze, Silver, and Gold-level status for their business. The level won is determined exclusively by the number of votes…those with the most votes in their favor win Gold, 2nd most gets Silver, and 3rd most receives Bronze. Winners are celebrated in the next issue of Inside Columbia Magazine as well as through social media.

Why Best of Columbia?

It’s been a hard few years for everybody. Small businesses have had to fight extra hard to stay afloat. Many employees were not able to work during most of the last few years, and that’s what makes the tradition of Best of Columbia extra sweet this year. 


“It’s a chance to celebrate the people and businesses who work every day in our great community. You have to understand, to even being nominated is a huge deal! To have your name listed among the best in your industry…industries that typically don’t get much recognition at all. And the fact that it’s decided by public vote - that customers and friends we’ve made over the years are the ones who decide who wins…it’s such an incredible honor. I’m so glad we get to celebrate our community in this way.”  

~ Carla Leible, Market Manager, Zimmer Communications


The-first-cover-for-Best-of-CollumbiaWith the inaugural issue in 2007, Best of Columbia has become a timeless Columbia tradition.

Don't miss your opportunity to participate! Here's how:

  • Nominate - Nominate yourself/your business or someone else now through April 1st. To nominate someone, simply visit the Best of Columbia page on the Inside Columbia website. 
  • Vote - Vote for your favorites between April 25th and May 12th. You can vote once a day…and the more votes a nominee receives…the greater their chance of landing in the top 3.  The voting platform will also be found at
  • Watch for Winner Announcements - Watch for the special Best of Columbia winner announcements in a special section of the July/August issue of Inside Columbia Magazine - the most-read issue of the year.  Make a point of patronizing these businesses, congratulating them, and continuing to support all they do for Columbia.
  • Advertise - Leverage advertising options throughout the entire process! Your business can promote itself to a large audience of engaged readers who support local businesses. By advertising, you'll show community support and also capitalize on the massive publicity push and local excitement around Best of Columbia - one of the most historically popular campaigns in Boone County. Let us know you’d like to explore advertising options for your business. Plus, if you are nominated, it will definitely help increase your visibility…which could result in more votes for you. Contact us today for details on all the different ways your business can participate.

NOTE: Keep in mind, advertisers do not get preferential consideration above non-advertisers for voting results. Best of Columbia winners are determined purely on the number of public votes they receive. 


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