Springfield Offers Fun Indoors, Outdoors and Underground

Smallin Cave was the first documented cave in the Ozarks.
Smallin Cave was the first documented cave in the Ozarks.

As Missouri’s third-largest city, Springfield offers guests a variety of reasons to visit.

You can catch a class AA Springfield Cardinals baseball game at Hammons Field, shop the “Granddaddy of all outdoors stores” at Bass Pro and experience unique Missouri flavors at places such as Askinosie Chocolate and Mother’s Brewing Company.

But that’s just the beginning of a Springfield adventure.

Those traveling with children enjoy the Discovery Center, a multi-level educational experience where kids interact with exhibits and learn more about themselves, and the world around them, while they’re having fun.

Located in downtown Springfield, Discovery Center provides opportunities for kids of all ages; there’s a specially designated play area for the youngest of your traveling party and places that will hold older kids’ attention for hours.

Among the more popular hands-on displays are a “hamster wheel,” where users run while learning about energy, and a high-wire bicycle where the educational message focuses on gravity. These areas were so popular, I didn’t get to take a turn, so I took a drink from the toilet instead. Oh, relax. It’s clean water from a fountain that just happens to be connected to a toilet. It’s totally safe and more of a “can you overcome your fears” kind of challenge.

Anyway, Discovery Center helps kids learn about money and playing the stock market, how their bodies work, foreign cultures and all kinds of other cool scientific stuff that goes over the heads of those of us who just skated by in ninth-grade physical science.

If you visit Springfield with the kids in tow, Discovery Center is a must-see.

For the cultural travelers in your party, Springfield Art Museum is a beautiful destination with an amazing collection of world-class works and exhibits. During my visit, the museum’s popular “Watercolor USA” exhibition was ongoing.

These pieces by some of the country’s best water colorists are jaw dropping. Of particular interest to me were works by an artist whose focus is on the unique signs found along Route 66, and another that depicted – in painstaking detail – a Mason-style jar. After I offered my initial impression of that work, Museum Director Nick Nelson – who obviously has a very keen eye – pointed out a beautiful detail, an interpretation of how the jar would reflect on a nearby surface, I had missed. I wasn’t able to take a photo of the piece, so you’ll have to go see this one for yourselves.

Askinosie A on Sign
Askinose Chocolate is a Springfield favorite.

I can sum it up like this, though: the skills of some truly amazing people are on display at Springfield Art Museum.

Another fantastic Springfield-area attraction is the must-see-it-to-believe-it Smallin Civil War Cave. Located south of Springfield, in the hills outside the city of Ozark, Small Civil War Cave offers a one-of-a-kind look at Show-Me State History.

Our guide was the cave’s owner, Kevin Bright. A more entertaining leader you won’t find anywhere – his knowledge of the material, combined with his laid-back personality, sense of humor and Ozarks-born-and-proud-of-it nature make him a wonderful ambassador for this venue.

On the sidewalk approaching the cave, Kevin offers stories about the region’s Civil War history and how the cave has been used – from its role in American Indian culture and in more modern times, as a community gathering place – over the centuries.

Then, you round the corner and see the cave’s opening. It’s simply remarkable. The picture contained within this post do this natural wonder no justice.

A fun and interesting tour follows, and as a guide, Kevin elicits both laughs and wide-eyed reactions to the amazing stories he tells.

Smallin Civil War Cave is a great place for you to enjoy the discovery of Missouri’s underground wonders.

For more on Springfield, check out their website, or explore VisitMO.com.

Watercolor USA at Springfield Art Museum

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