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Note: Springfield Missouri CVB kindly hosted me for a long weekend in exchange for coverage. As always, all opinions are my own and it’s my main priority to write honestly about my experiences.
Located in southwestern Missouri, Springfield is a small and thriving city that’s also a very popular destination due to its proximity to the Ozarks and iconic Route 66. A lot of people stop here along the way to the Ozarks or to popular Branson.
However, Springfield Missouri is an enjoyable destination in its own right that shouldn’t be overlooked either. As a traveler, I deeply enjoy smaller cities where I can bond with the locals and learn about the history of the United States more intimately. Springfield checked all the boxes.
Believe it or not, Springfield is also a very youthful and artistic city. Missouri State University has an accomplished and competitive theater arts program that draws students from all over the country. The students’ talent is incredible (more on that later!).
Unique Things to Do in Springfield MO
So are you going to Springfield MO in the near future and aren’t entirely sure what you want to do yet? Awesome choice! I have no doubt that you’ll have a wonderful time on your trip.
Depending on your interests, here are 11 unique things to do in Springfield MO on your travels to this small city.
As a side note, I think most of these activities are versatile, so you can enjoy them any time of the year! I visited Springfield in December, but I also think these activities are great for spring and summer.
Authentic Dutch Cuisine
The locally owned restaurant has a bright and light bar that’s perfect for enjoying a Dutch meal. This restaurant is located right in the Commercial Street Historic District — which I will talk more about later on!
Van Gogh’s Eeterie is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I personally had a Forest Gnome pancake, which was healthy and refreshing, and made me feel as if I were on the canals of Amsterdam!
You can find Van Gogh’s Eeterie on 334 E. Commercial Street.
Bass Pro Shop
Yes, I’m not kidding. The Bass Pro Shop is one of the most unique things to do in Springfield MO. Hear me out!
If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, then you’re definitely going to want to explore the Bass Pro Shop in Springfield. This Bass Pro Shop is the largest location in the world, and you legit feel like you’re inside an outdoor lovers’ dream mall.
I would make visiting the Bass Pro Shop a priority if you’re extending your trip to the gorgeous outdoor wonders of the nearby Ozarks, You’ll be able to stock up on camping gear, fishing pools, hiking boots and clothing, and whatever else you need for spending quality time in nature.
Not to mention, you’ll be able to visit a very, very special museum right next door — which I’ll talk about later in this post, but trust me, you’ll want to see it.
Last but not least, this Bass Pro Shop has a onsite restaurant called Hemingway’s Blue Water Café. I personally recommend the bison chili. It was quite tasty and filling!
As an English teacher, I’m always excited to check out cool independent bookshops, and admittedly, I spend waaaay too much money in them. I’m happy to report that Springfield has its own unique bookstore for you to check out: BookMarx.
Bookmarx sells both new and used books, and has a wide variety of genres available. Book lovers will find some unique gems here!
But the best part about Bookmarx? Cats. Of course.
Bookmarx’s full time resident cat, Googey, steals all the attention. You can also buy plenty of adorable cat and book merchandise if you stop by – which you should!
Bookmarx is located on 325 E. Walnut Street.
Historic Commercial Street is not only one of the most unique things to do in Springfield MO, but it’s also a place where you can easily support local artists and small businesses, which is a priority for me whenever I travel somewhere new and exciting.
The streets are lined with historic buildings that showcase a variety of architectural styles, and many of them have been beautifully restored and are now commercial spaces for vintage stores, art galleries, and specialty shops, bakeries, and so much more!
The arts scene here is very close knit, and many events take place throughout the year to bring the community closer together. Check in advance to see if any events are happening on Historic Commercial Street during your visit to Springfield MO.
Creative Escape Glass
If you want to try something completely new, then Creative Escape Glass is one of the most unique things to do in Springfield MO.
This is a fused glass studio. You will make your own glass pieces that will be precious souvenirs reminding you of your time in Springfield. For example, I made the most adorable snowman ornament just in time for Christmas! It was perfect. There is also a gallery where you can shop or feel inspired.
As a side note, make sure to watch the safety demonstration videos in advance. Please.
You’re still working with glass. If you’re not careful, you can cut yourself pretty badly, especially on the large sheets of glass. Furthermore, if you’re uncomfortable breaking the glass, don’t worry! There are plenty of pre-broken pieces that you can use to create a beautiful design. Beginners are absolutely welcome here.
You can find Creative Escape Glass on 1700 South Campbell Ave.
Do you want a super memorable dining experience? Then take a very short drive outside downtown Springfield to nearby Ozark Missouri, and go to Lambert’s Cafe for dinner.
Lambert’s Cafe is famous for the tradition of “throwed rolls.” Instead of simply serving rolls to customers, the staff tosses hot, fresh rolls to diners throughout the restaurant. Watching the rolls fly across the room is really, really, really entertaining. And don’t feel bad if you drop them either! I almost screamed when the first roll was thrown at me, totally missed catching it, and it rolled slooooowly under the booth next to me. Oh well. I did catch the next one, though.
The rolls are absolutely delicious too. I could’ve had an entire dinner consisting entirely of those rolls, especially with butter and honey.
Furthermore, do yourself a BIG favor and come to Lambert’s on an empty stomach. The portion sizes here are very, very, very generous. One meal could honestly feed three people, so if you have a fridge in your hotel, definitely take some leftovers with you!
In addition to the rolls and main meals, Lambert’s is also known for free “pass arounds” or side dishes to add even more deliciousness to your meal. The fried okra is awesome!
Quirky Coffee Shops
Springfield has a vibrant coffee scene. And, if you know anything about me, you already know that I love a good cup of barista made coffee. Unsurprisingly, Springfield has its very own Coffee Trail that you can follow on your visit to this city.
By following the trail, you’re able to earn points and win a tee-shirt! Plus you’ll be supporting local businesses with your money, which is important for supporting the community.
As for specific coffee shop suggestions, I personally loved Big Momma’s. Their creative signature coffees change with the seasons. Fresh food is also made daily. I recommend the breakfast burrito!
As previously mentioned, Springfield is located along the historic Route 66 and plenty of travelers feel a strong sense of nostalgia visiting here. There are plenty of Route 66 attractions for you to visit if you’re interested in the highway and the time period.
For example, the Route 66 Car Museum showcases a diverse collection of classic cars and memorabilia, and is well worth a visit.
Furthermore, Springfield is home to plenty of gorgeous and vibrant murals that beautifully depict Route 66’s history.
Speaking of which …
Self-Guided Street Art Tour
Springfield has tons of street art and I highly recommend checking some murals out during your visit here. Both Historic Commercial Street and Park Central Square have a lot of great work done by artists, making for some unique and interesting photography to document your trip.
Be sure to participate in the Downtown Springfield Art Walk if it aligns nicely with your visit (aka the first Friday of each month). This walk is free and showcases all the local art and galleries.
The Thriving Theater Scene
Springfield has an incredible performing arts scene.
Now I’m spoiled. I live close to New York City and go to Broadway at least once a year. I also get Broadway casts performing in my own small city on a regular basis.
And I have to say that Springfield has an abundance of talent. So, if you love and appreciate theater, I promise that you won’t be disappointed! Book yourself a show (or two) on your trip to Springfield.
Theaters to Visit in Springfield MO
- Coger Theatre — Craig Hall MSU: Coger Theatre is a performance venue within Craig Hall, hosting various theatrical productions and events. It is part of the Missouri State University campus. This program is very competitive, so the students put on top-notch shows. Their performance of 9 to 5 was one of the best shows that I’ve seen this year! Well worth it!
- Springfield Contemporary Theatre: This theatre focuses on contemporary and innovative theatrical productions. They often showcase new and thought-provoking works, providing a platform for artistic expression. For performances that err away from the mainstream, such as Treasure Island, you will want to check out this theatre.
- Springfield Little Theatre: Springfield Little Theatre is a community-based theatre organization that produces a variety of plays and musicals. For example, they put on Elf during the holiday season and the lead actor was absolutely adorable and SUPER talented. The venue is beautiful and historic too, making you feel as if you’ve been transported back to the 1920s. They are known for engaging the local community in theatrical arts and providing entertainment for all ages.
Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium
Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium is, without a doubt, one of the most amazing natural wildlife museums that I’ve ever visited in my life. I would seriously go to Springfield again just to explore this museum. You can easily spend an entire day here. Easily.
First and foremost, yes, this majestic place combines both a natural museum and a state-of-the-art aquarium, which allows visitors to explore both land and aquatic ecosystems with ease. The aquarium has repeatedly been honored as the best of its kind in the United States.
For example, the Great Oceans Hall was one of my favorite areas inside the entire museum. It’s gorgeous. In the Great Oceans Hall, visitors will have a chance to dive into the world of the oceans (obviously) with exhibits highlighting marine life, coral reefs, and the challenges facing ocean ecosystems. You’ll actually feel as if you’re beneath the sea! The blue decor needs to be seen in-person to fully appreciate it.
There are plenty of other fantastic immersive exhibits for you to explore, too. Another favorite of mine was the living rainforest. This vibrant and lush rainforest environment features a variety of plant and animal species native to rainforest ecosystems, creating an immersive experience for visitors.
And the wildlife galleries? Be sure to stop and admire the artwork. It’s unreal how much attention to detail the artists put into each and every work.
Lastly, Wonders of Wildlife is dedicated to promoting wildlife conservation. It’s very obvious that the staff cares deeply about the outdoors, and the museum does support many conservation initiatives, which I loved to hear about.
Travel Tips for Springfield MO
I hope you loved reading about all the unique things to do in Springfield MO and are now eagerly planning your trip! Before concluding this post, I wanted to share a couple of simple travel tips about how to get around Springfield and ideas for where to stay.
How to Get Around Springfield
Springfield is a fairly small city that’s easy to navigate. However, you ought to have your own rental car to truly enjoy Springfield, as well as the surrounding attractions. Additionally, having a rental car is even more important for travelers doing a longer trip out to Branson and the Ozarks.
Don’t feel intimidated by driving around Springfield. There is a lot of parking downtown, so you shouldn’t have to worry about where to leave your car.
Of course, you can always do rideshares, but honestly, having your own four wheels is just a million times easier.
Where to Stay in Springfield MO
On my trip in Springfield MO, I stayed in University Plaza Hotel, which has an excellent location. This hotel is also perfect for people who like the charm and nostalgia of old conference hotels.
It might not be the Ritz Carlton, but University Plaza Hotel was very central to all the sites, and was very clean and comfortable. I slept soooo well during my stay here, which is always a big plus for me.
Lastly, the Springfield-Branson National Airport is only about 9.5 mile away from the hotel. Free shuttles are available between the airport and hotel, and you can even arrange them as early as four in the morning to catch your flight.