Springfield may be the third largest city in the state of Missouri but I can’t be the only one that was surprised to learn how much this place has to offer – both for residents and for visitors like me. There are so many things to do Springfield that a weekend visit will be loaded with fun!
Where Is Springfield, Missouri?
Springfield is located near the popular vacation getaway of Branson in southern Missouri. It’s about three and a half hours away from St. Louis and a notable stop along historic Route 66. (Route 66 actually got its name here. Brad Pitt and Wild Bill are from here. A little fishing equipment store called Bass Pro is based here. You’ll also find some cool natural attractions, Civil War history, and one of the most interesting tourist attractions in the country – Wonders of Wildlife.
Where To Stay In Springfield
I was in Springfield to visit the beautiful Hotel Vandivort in downtown. It’s a very cool boutique hotel that will specifically interest younger travelers who like hip furniture, gadgets and fun cocktails. (I played with the electronic window shades for ten minutes.) The owners, John & Karen McQueary are Springfield natives and first time hotel operators. While that could have been a potential pitfall, turns out it worked in their favor.
Inside you’ll find a lot of outside the box designs and decor. The main lobby is designed to give guests an option of where to mingle without feeling totally separate from the other guests.
While I’m not an expert on hotels or design or – well, anything. I couldn’t stop raving about the chairs that were designed for Hotel Vandivort. You could almost find a seat that fits any mood or situation you could think of. The property also welcomes pets. The rooms were comfortable and spacious. Although as a guy – I never know what I’m supposed to do with all of those pillows?
Things To Do in Springfield
1. Bass Pro’s Original Store
Springfield has a lot of great attractions that are only a short drive (or walk) from the hotel. I hinted at Bass Pro Shop which continues to be a huge draw in the region. It’s massive as you might imagine but not overwhelming. There’s something to pique the interest of everyone – including those that don’t do “the outdoors”. It’s also kind of cool to visit the chain’s very first store.
2. Wonders of Wildlife
Located right next door to Bass Pro in Springfield, Wonders of Wildlife is an incredible attraction that is unlike anything you’ve ever seen. Half massive aquarium, half wildlife museum – you can spend an entire day here if you wanted. Wonders of Wildlife was named “best aquarium in America” in 2022 and routinely wins awards for its unique layout. If you’re coming to visit for a weekend in Springfield, you definitely do not want to miss this one.
3. Fantastic Caverns & Smallin Civil War Cave
While Bass Pro may be the top attraction in the area, there are so many other things to do in Springfield. Be sure to check out Fantastic Caverns – a drive through cave that takes you on an hour long trip under the Earth for awesome views of rock formations – and cool temperatures. (A bonus in the Summer heat and humidity you’re likely to find in Springfield.)
If caves are your thing – also check out the Smallin Civil War Cave. It’s a walking tour of the cave but an interesting history lesson as well – as you’ll hear stories about Missouri’s role in the Civil War and how torn apart many of the area families were at the time. And again – it’s a cool place to be on a hot Summer day in southern Missouri.
Both caves are doable during a weekend in Springfield!
4. Springfield Botanical Gardens
During our visit we checked out the Springfield Botanical Gardens and enjoyed a peaceful walk around the grounds enjoying views of the 114 acre complex – largely maintained by area volunteers. After a stroll through the Japanese Garden, consider a visit to the Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield – another Civil War experience with a well done film at the visitors center and a tour of the first major battle to take place west of the Mississippi.
5. Grab A Treat At Hurts Donut!
A weekend in Springfield wouldn’t be complete without a sweet treat at Hurts Donuts. It’s a donut shop that specializes in fun, and delicious themed pastries – including the Oreo Cheese Cake option that started off my morning. You can even order a donut shake. Just be ready to run a few miles to work off the calories.
6. Minor League Baseball in Springfield
Springfield has an excellent minor league baseball stadium in Hammons Field. An affiliate of the Saint Louis Cardinals, there’s not a bad seat in the stadium and there are plenty of fun games that keep the visitors amused in between innings. Food is always cheap at minor league games and tickets are next to nothing. If you’re lucky you’ll see a rain delay and get to watch interns try and put the tarp on the field – that was almost as entertaining as the game itself.
Hammon’s Field was named “Best In Show” in the Texas League for ballpark entertainment. It’s also been named “Field Of The Year” in 2014. You never know if you’ll be watching a future Saint Louis Cardinal – Kolten Wong, Matt Carpenter, Lance Lynn and Michael Wacha are among the players that came through Springfield before hitting the big time.
7. World’s Largest Fork
It’s a little tough to find but Springfield is home to the world’s largest fork! It’s a quick stop, but a cool photo for your Instagram feed. You can find the world’s largest fork during your weekend in Springfield by using this map.
8. Get Your Kicks on Route 66!
Springfield claims to be the birthplace of Route 66. (Apparently it was the first town to begin building the road once the plan was unveiled.) You should definitely stop inside the Springfield Visitors Center which has a Route 66 theme to learn about the area’s history and ties to the mother road!
Springfield Is Also A Great Place To Live!
Springfield is not just a great place to visit but a great place to call home. During the baseball game, I caught up with Anne Diven who recently moved back to Springfield where she graduated from college just a couple of years ago. Anne and other locals remarked that they enjoy the small town vibe with many of the benefits you’ll find in a big city.
A proud Kansas City Royals fan in the suite next door to us told me he loved Springfield because he finds the people here to be “real” unlike his previous upper class neighborhood in KC. “I don’t see a lot of soccer Mom’s in BMW’s trying to out-do each other on the social scene – people in Springfield are generally just regular people and proud of it.”
It’s one of the reasons John & Karen opened Hotel Vandivort in their home town. It’s one of the reasons Springfield’s Mayor Bob Stephens loves this place, too. When I jokingly asked him “Why on Earth would anyone want to be a Mayor?” Mr. Stephens said “It’s a pleasure to be Mayor of a place like Springfield. The people are just fantastic. The community is wonderful with so much to offer.”
For all of these reasons and more, you’ll love spending a weekend in Springfield!