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Springfield, Missouri, United States: The Queen City of the Ozarks
Springfield is the third largest city in Missouri and a great example of Ozark charm and natural beauty. Centrally located in the US, Springfield is easily accessible from many Midwest locations and serves as a welcome to the western corridor of the US. The famous Route 66 was originally named here and parts of the highway can still be seen in the city today. Springfield is family-friendly with a focus on fun and community and has an array of attractions that can rival larger cities with more than 800 restaurants and 60 hotels.
Bringing the Outdoors Indoors
Those interested in the great outdoors will want to begin with a visit to Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World, one of the most popular attractions in the state. This megastore has indoor and outdoor activities, in addition to the retail space. Here, guests can try their luck at the indoor firing range, gander at wildlife in the giant aquarium and indoor streams, and then have lunch at the full-service onsite restaurant. Another popular “inside” activity will be touring Fantastic Caverns, America’s only ride-through cave tour. Here, guests can see the interior of this historic cave while sitting in the comfort of Jeep-drawn trams. Springfield also boasts an indoor natatorium, tennis complexes, and even an indoor glow mini golf course. For other treats of viewing outdoor activities in an indoor way, stop by the Missouri Institute of Natural Science, Wonders of Wildlife Museum & Aquarium, and the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame.
Keeping the Outdoors Outdoors
While there are many indoor activities, the real beauty of the Ozarks is to be found while surrounded by outdoor natural beauty. The area around Springfield is a mecca for fishing and hunting enthusiasts and tour guide services will lead visitors to all the best spots at one of the numerous parks, nature preserves, and conservation areas. Campgrounds and RV parks will provide accommodation choices. Dr. Bill Roston Native Butterfly House is located at the Springfield Botanical Gardens and will give a treat for nature enthusiasts as it is the only native butterfly house in the state. The centre also has interpretive guides and a greenhouse, as well as educational events and gardens for viewing. Fellows Lake, near Springfield, has rental fishing boats at the marina along with kayaks and canoes. There are hiking and biking trails at Sac River Trail, a looped trail with river and wildlife viewing.
“Get Your Kicks on Route 66”
Locals consider Springfield to be the birthplace of Route 66, known as the Main Street of America, as it was officially named here in 1926. It soon became one of the most famous roads in America inspiring TV shows, movies, and even a song “(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66”. The road was a major thoroughfare for those going west, especially during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, but then transitioned to become a National Scenic Byway with restaurants, hotels, and attractions springing up along its almost 4000-kilometre length. While much of Route 66 has been removed from the highway system, that slice of unique Americana is alive and well. Those interested should start the tour at the Route 66 Springfield Visitor Center, then transition to the Route 66 Car Museum where you can view almost 70 models of vintage cars from all over the globe. True fans will want to continue with dinner at Joes Route 66 Diner and a themed hotel stay at one of several local choices.
Americana at Its Best
Springfield will show visitors glimpses of history that explain how America came to be. Another time capsule moment would be a visit to Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield in Republic, Missouri. The Battle of Wilson’s Creek was the second major battle of the Civil War and the first battle fought west of the Mississippi River. Today, the battlefield is a National Park and has a visitor’s centre with exhibits about the battle. There is a museum nearby for more information and Civil War enthusiasts regularly host battle re-enactments. Another slice of Americana will be visiting the site of America’s first recorded Wild West quick draw duel. In 1865, on Springfield’s town square, “Wild Bill” Hickock duelled with a gambling opponent over debts owed. Hickock won the duel and was later acquitted of manslaughter charges and, today, visitors can listen to an audio tour reliving the event through the words of surviving eyewitness accounts recovered from history.