20 Things to Do in Springfield, MO

By Janet Benoir – December 21, 2023

Tucked away in the heart of the Midwest, Springfield, Missouri, carries a legacy that intertwines the rustic charm of the Ozarks with the rich tapestry of American history. As the birthplace of icons like Chuck Berry and Maya Angelou, this city opens its arms to travelers seeking the quintessence of the American spirit, with attractions ranging from the historic origins of U.S. Highway 66 to the serene waters of Lake of the Ozarks State Park. 

With Springfield serving as your gateway, you’ll discover why Missouri is affectionately nicknamed the “Cave State,” boasting an array of subterranean wonders that are not only a feast for the eyes but also accessible to everyone.

Springfield Botanical Garden

At the Springfield Botanical Garden, you can envelop yourself in the tranquility of the Mizumoto Japanese Stroll Garden. Spanning 7.5 acres, this meticulously designed landscape features a vibrant koi pond, an inviting tea house, and the stylized beauty of Japanese garden design. Adults can enter for $4, and children for $2— a small price for the peaceful escape offered.

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This garden is a seasonal delight, welcoming visitors from April to October. Watch for children delighting in the aquatic life and the echoing croaks of bullfrogs at the lake’s edge. Find this serene getaway at 2400 S. Scenic Ave., Springfield, MO, and experience a touch of harmony and cultural beauty.

Nathanael Greene/Close Memorial Park

The sprawling 113 acres of Nathanael Greene/Close Memorial Park await your exploration. With the Springfield Botanical Gardens as a centerpiece, the peaceful Lake Drummond and the serene Mizumoto Japanese Stroll Garden offer a juxtaposition of natural beauty and well-crafted landscape design. This expanse earned its name to honor a key figure in Civil War history, Nathanael Greene, and was later augmented in size and scope thanks to the generosity of the Close family.

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Your visit might include a self-guided sojourn through numerous themed gardens which paint a panorama of botanic diversity, or perhaps a step back in time at the Grey/Campbell farmstead, replicating life in the 1860s. Not to mention, the Springfield-Greene County Botanical Center stands as a beacon of knowledge and nature’s splendor.

Ozarks State Park

Lake of the Ozarks State Park, Missouri’s largest, is a prime destination within a 90-mile journey northeast of downtown Springfield. Embrace the great outdoors alongside a vast lake featuring 89 miles of shoreline.

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Indulge in activities like swimming, fishing, boating, hiking, cycling, or set up camp to soak in the natural beauty. The park offers year-round lodging options, including cozy cabins and unique yurts.

Smallin Civil War Cave

Nestled in the rich speleological landscape of Missouri, the esteemed Smallin Civil War Cave holds the distinction of being a celebrated historic site. Your visit here doesn’t require navigating stairs, as the main path extends nearly half a mile and is wheelchair-friendly. These hour-long guided excursions are tailored for family enjoyment, offering an enlightening glimpse into the cave’s storied past.

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Should you seek a more invigorating experience, a headlamp-lit two-hour journey is available for the intrepid explorer over the age of twelve that includes trekking through waterways. Moreover, the cave transforms into an amphitheater of history during autumn with Civil War lantern tours. This seasonal event merges culinary tradition with storytelling, culminating in a lantern-lit exploration, reminiscent of times past.

Springfield National Cemetery

Springfield National Cemetery serves as the final resting place for Union troops from the Civil War, including a historic group of African American servicemen known as “buffalo soldiers.” This serene 18-acre sanctuary, once referred to as Kickapoo Prairie, now interlaces the headstones of veterans from numerous conflicts, immortalizing a stark timeline of American military history.

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Located at 1702 E. Seminole St. in Springfield, Missouri, you can visit and pay your respects from dawn until dusk daily. Monuments commemorate the soldiers of the American Revolution and those who fell during the attack on Pearl Harbor, offering a space for reflection on pivotal moments that have shaped the nation.

Pythian Castle

Located in Springfield, Pythian Castle emerges as a historical fortress, far from what one might expect in an American Midwestern town. Erected by the Knights of Pythias in 1913, this grand structure originally served dual purposes: providing shelter for orphans and offering respite for its elderly members. A notable turn of events came during WWII when the U.S. government repurposed the edifice for detaining prisoners of war and aiding in the recuperation of American soldiers.

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Today, if you’re a history enthusiast or someone intrigued by the supernatural, Pythian Castle is a magnet for diverse crowds. You might walk its halls for a ghost tour or stay the night hoping for a paranormal experience. For a dash of adventure, engage in the castle’s escape room challenges or immerse yourself in an interactive murder mystery dinner. Activities vary, together with their costs, and offer the potential for additional amusements such as brisk escape room encounters.

History Museum on the Square

At 154 Park Central Square in Springfield, you’ll find a museum dedicated to the rich tapestry of local lore, situated on the iconic Route 66. This establishment presents a series of engaging displays spread across various levels, each delving into specific historical periods and themes. Notably, it features a section dedicated to the legendary Route 66, evoking a sense of nostalgia through interactive exhibits.

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The museum’s collection extends beyond the famous highway, offering insights into the lives of the indigenous peoples in the region and exploring Springfield’s atmosphere during the tumultuous times of the Civil War. A separate exhibit shines a light on the significant role agriculture plays in the Missouri community. Admission stands at $16 for adults, with reduced prices available for children, military members, and senior citizens. Note that the museum does not operate on Mondays and Tuesdays.

Route 66 Springfield Visitor Center

Located at 815 E. St. Louis St., the Route 66 Springfield Visitor Center stands out as more than just a stop for pamphlets. Here, you’ll find a wealth of resources Monday through Friday that will help you explore the city and learn about the iconic Route 66. The friendly staff is ready to share fascinating tales and details about this historic roadway.

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Aside from gathering information, you can also find a collection of unique Springfield-related items to take home as mementos. For your convenience, complimentary parking is accessible to the west of the facility’s entrance, ensuring your visit is as worry-free as possible.

Route 66 Car Museum

In Springfield, Missouri, a treasure trove dedicated to America’s love affair with automobiles awaits you. As you journey through Springfield, you are at the heart of the iconic U.S. Highway 66’s rich history. The celebrated roadway, often referred to as the Mother Road, has sparked imaginations with thoughts of the grand American road trip. While the actual road no longer holds its highway status, it continues to be honored as a National Scenic Byway, a testament to its cultural significance.


The Route 66 Car Museum invites you on a nostalgic ride through time, showcasing an array of vehicles that span nearly a century, from 1907 to 2005. This remarkable exhibit is sourced from a private collection that includes cars that have graced the silver screen in beloved movies such as “Ghostbusters” and “Transformers.”

Fantastic Caverns

Discovered in 1862 by a local Ozarks farmer, these exceptional caves remained a secret throughout the Civil War. The earliest recorded exploration occurred approximately five years post-discovery, carried out by twelve intrepid women. Evidence of their journey remains etched on the cavern walls to this day. Enthralling visitors with its Jeep-drawn tram tours since 1962, your journey through the Fantastic Caverns showcases a spectacle of natural wonders.

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While touring, your guide ensures a seamless experience with narratives illuminating the cavern’s history. Open for discovery from morning till dusk, you’re invited to partake daily. Admission is priced at $30 for adults, $17 for children, and complimentary for those under five accompanied by an adult. Situated at 4872 N. Farm Road in Springfield, MO, these caverns offer a unique glimpse into the Earth’s subterranean beauty.

Dickerson Park Zoo

At Dickerson Park Zoo, you will encounter an extensive range of over 450 animal species from across the globe. With its establishment dating back to 1923, the zoo showcases a wealth of natural diversity and is deeply involved in wildlife conservation initiatives. As a recognized member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums since 1986, your visit supports vital conservation efforts.

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An array of attractions accompanies the wildlife experience, including the chance to hand-feed giraffes for a small additional fee. Children can enjoy the on-site playground and, from March to October, take a ride on the miniature train (free for kids under 2). The zoo welcomes visitors year-round with daily operating hours from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Discovery Center of Springfield

Your quest for knowledge and interactive fun in Springfield, Missouri, leads you to the Exploration Hub on 438 E. St. Louis St. This non-profit institution is dedicated to enhancing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) learning with a range of hands-on displays that inspire and educate.

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As you traverse across three expansive floors, engage with diverse exhibits from a scientifically accurate exploration of vaccines, titled “Myth or Fact: Vaccine,” to a creative space where you can design a solar system in “Discover Exoplanets.” Notably, the “Minecraft Adventure” exhibit draws from the well-loved video game, providing a vibrant, youth-centered experience.

Springfield Art Museum

Founded in 1928, the Springfield Art Museum stands as the oldest cultural institution in the city. In its extensive collection, it boasts close to 10,000 works encompassing a rich array of art forms. Your visit may coincide with any of the four dynamic exhibitions that frequently rotate, ensuring fresh visual experiences with each return.

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When visiting during the warmer months, take the opportunity to explore the museum’s exterior spaces which are ornamented with imposing sculptures. Entry is complimentary, though donations are graciously accepted. Dive into global creative expressions from ceramics to graphic arts. For a more interactive experience, the Family Art Lab offers tactile, creative activities, and for moments of quiet contemplation, the Book Nook provides a serene retreat.

1984 Arcade

Step into the 1984 Arcade, a vibrant homage to the golden age of video games, nestled on Jefferson Avenue in Springfield. This establishment resurrects the quintessential ’80s arcade experience with an impressive selection of over 70 arcade classics and over 15 pinball tables. The allure of pixelated graphics and the charm of flippers and bumpers await.

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Your trip to this gaming haven is complemented by remarkably affordable entrance fees. A flat $10 grants you unlimited access to all video games, ensuring hours of entertainment without any quarters needed. Although pinball machines range from 25 cents to 50 cents per play, the value is exceptional. Make the most of your visit during the operating hours, from Wednesday to Saturday, 4 to 11 p.m., and embrace the lively atmosphere of community gatherings where the love for gaming thrives.

Missouri Sports Hall of Fame

In Springfield, the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame is a must-visit destination. This venue celebrates remarkable athletes through its extensive collection of over 4,000 Missouri sports artifacts. Interactive displays invite you to immerse yourself in sports action. Imagine facing a major league pitcher or competing with friends on a simulated NASCAR track—these experiences bring the thrill of the game to life.

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The hall is a hub for various annual events, including celebrity golf tournaments at the Highland Springs Country Club and gatherings designed for the sports-minded community. Open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with shorter hours on Sundays, entry fees are a modest $5, with reduced rates for children, seniors, and family packages. Your visit to the Hall at 3861 E. Stan Musial Drive, Springfield, MO, is an engaging dive into the state’s sporting legacy.

Hammons Field

At Hammons Field, you’re stepping into a dynamic setting where the Springfield Cardinals, the city’s admired Minor League Baseball team, play their hearts out from April to October. Opened in 2004, this ballpark is not just a sports arena with 8,000 seats but also a summer hub for baseball enthusiasts. Celebrating baseball at its finest, the stadium hosts 70 home games each year as a member of the prestigious Texas League.

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To fully engage in the local baseball fever, be sure to secure your tickets online before they sell out. Take advantage of the Cardinals Kids Club for young fans aged 12 and under, which offers special treats like a certificate for their first game, along with free admission to select games throughout the season. Hammons Field is conveniently located at 955 E. Trafficway St., making it an accessible slice of Springfield’s sports culture.

Hotel Vandivort

In the heart of Springfield, the edifice that began as a Masonic Temple in 1906 now stands as Hotel Vandivort, a distinctive lodging choice that seamlessly merges historical allure with boutique elegance. Each corner of the hotel is suffused with thoughtful nods to its origins, featuring a mix of vintage flair and industrial design that showcases local artwork, artisan-crafted metal, and woodworking.

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Perched atop Hotel Vandivort, the Vantage rooftop lounge beckons with its panoramic city views, offering you a perfect spot to unwind with a cocktail in hand. For culinary delights, The Order proposes a refined dining experience, serving dinner and weekend brunch in an upscale ambiance. Set at 305 East Walnut St., the property’s ideal position in downtown Springfield places you at the center of urban exploration, with its restaurants open to both staying and non-staying guests.

Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World 

Nestled at 1 Bass Pro Drive in Springfield, Missouri, the pioneering Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World beckons both outdoor enthusiasts and casual visitors alike with an expansive selection of gear and attractions. Within its 500,000 square feet, not only will you discover an impressive array of equipment for hunting and fishing but also engaging exhibits including The National Archery Hall of Fame and the NRA National Sporting Arms Museum.

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Adjacent to Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World, you’ll find the Wonders of the Ozarks Learning Facility School, dedicated to educating visitors on conservation. Annually, this location captivates around 4 million guests with its dedication to outdoor stewardship, manifested through exhibits and educational programs.

Johnny Morris’ Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium

At the heart of Springfield, you’ll discover a celebration of natural wonders and a nod to American conservation history. Johnny Morris’ Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium isn’t just expansive—it’s an immersive experience into the wild, boasting the lone sea turtle care facility in the Midwest.

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Venture through an authentic reproduction of Theodore Roosevelt’s cabin situated in North Dakota, or embark on an underwater adventure with sharks and groupers, equipped with a helmet specially designed for up-close encounters during their feeding times. Stretching beyond simple categories, this complex showcases its myriad of creatures and habitats across aquarium, wildlife showcases, and special exhibitions.


In the heart of the Ozarks, about a 45-mile drive south from Springfield, you’ll find Branson, a hub of entertainment and adventure. Immerse yourself in the nostalgia of the 1880s with a visit to Silver Dollar City, celebrated for its vintage charm and thrills. Have a unique experience at WonderWorks, an unusual building that’s designed to appear as though it’s flipped upside down, offering hands-on activities that challenge the mind.

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Dig into the rich tapestry of history at the Titanic Museum, where you encounter a “real” iceberg and uncover the stories of the ship’s passengers. Continue your journey of excitement with Dolly Parton’s Stampede—a feast for the senses with its dynamic rodeo performance paired with a savory meal. Satisfy your gastronomic curiosity with a taste of Ozarks barbecue at Gettin’ Basted, boasting a distinctive local flavor.