Tucked away in the midwestern region of the nation lies a family-friendly haven that offers popular city amenities with small-town hospitality: Springfield, Missouri.
With activities rooted in both outdoor recreation and urban exploration, Springfield is the ideal destination for a ‘fusion trip’—a getaway that merges a vibrant city break with an outdoor getaway. Families can spend time hiking and biking the Ozark Mountains one day, then dine at amazing local eateries and visit the aquarium (voted America’s Best Aquarium by USA Today!) the next.
Read on to discover which experiences await nature lovers and city dwellers alike in the Queen City of the Ozarks.
Voted by USA Today as America’s Best Aquarium, Wonders of Wildlife National Museum & Aquarium is one of the largest immersive wildlife attractions in the nation that provides hours’ worth of entertainment. Get ready to be WOW-ed by the on-site 1.5-million-gallon aquarium that showcases over 35,000 live fish, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and birds.
For more immersive exhibits, families can interact with penguins, sting rays and sharks or learn about ongoing wildlife conservation efforts in a fun way.
Known as the Cave State, Missouri has approximately 7,500 recorded caves, with one of the most renowned located right in Springfield. Fantastic Caverns provides a complete drive-through tour where guests can hop in a bright red, Jeep-drawn tram for a relaxing ride. The 55-minute guided tour will take you and your family through an ancient underground riverbed for breathtaking views of massive formations and deep dive of the history of the cave.
Thanks to the constant temperature of 60°F within the cavern, you’ll feel comfortable no matter what time of year you visit.
Adjacent to the Wonders of Wildlife National Museum & Aquarium stands the original and largest Bass Pro Shops. The 500,000-square-foot facility, which is rooted in its outdoor recreational gear and gifts, is more than just a store. The immersive experience brings to life the beauty of the great outdoors, with an in-store swamp filled with alligators and fish and surrounded by 100-foot-tall cypress trees.
Dads can check out the firing range and boat showroom while kiddos can visit the many indoor museums for history on the first Bass Pro store, archery and more. Don’t miss the store’s daily fish feeding shows at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.!
Baseball fanatics and families looking for a local experience should head to Hammons Field for an exhilarating Springfield Cardinals game. As the town’s Minor League Baseball team, which served as the starting point for countless St. Louis Cardinals players today, residents and visitors alike flock to Hammons Field for an affordable evening of tasty stadium bites, on-field contests and unique giveaways.
The season runs from April through September, so be sure to check out their schedule here in advance. Pro Tip: Bring a glove–you just might catch a ball from a player who’s destined to make it big someday soon!
Dickerson Park Zoo seamlessly combines entertainment, education and brisk exercise for visitors of all ages. Stroll along the zoo’s 1.2 miles of paved trails to learn about more than 450 animals from five different continents, including South America’s red kangaroo, North America’s mountain lion and Asia’s Malayan tiger, to name a few.
Spend the day greeting the zoo’s roaming peacocks face-to-face, feeding the giraffes and attending an on-site educational workshop for young learners, like identifying animal footprints and learning about kookaburras. You can also take a train ride and play at the children’s playground for more hours of fun.
For Springfield residents, Andy’s Frozen Custard and summer are practically synonymous with one another. Families flock to the family-owned shop for their impressive, slow-churned custard that’s made fresh every hour with toppings that are baked daily in-house. As a drive-through and walk-up service restaurant, Andy’s exclusively sells frozen custard creations, from traditional vanilla and chocolate cones to floats, malts and seasonal favorites like Pumpkin Pie Concretes and Strawberry Shortcake Sundaes.
The secret behind their rich, thick and decadent dessert? Keep the recipe short and sweet with simple ingredients that are free of gimmicks, such as cream, sugar and vanilla extract.
Want to learn more about Springfield? Click here to order the official Springfield Guide. Once you arrive, don’t forget to “Ask a Local,” Springfilend’s ongoing initiative that strives for visitors to capture the welcoming, energetic, fun and creative personality of the city. By asking a local, you can discover the best things to see, do and eat in the Ozarks—they’ll be more than willing to show off Springfield to your family!