The third largest city in Missouri, Springfield is a gorgeous and exhilarating destination in the southern United States with an abundance of fun activities for people of all ages.
In addition to countless cultural attractions such as the Springfield Art Museum and the Route 66 Visitor Center, the plethora of parks, trails and rivers throughout the city have earned Springfield the well-deserved title of “the Gateway to the Great Outdoors.” With a total of almost 100 unique parks in Springfield-Greene County alone, it’s a perfect place to inhale fresh air, stretch your limbs and take in the majesty of God’s creation. Here’s a look at some of the most awe-inspiring and stimulating natural destinations in Springfield, MO.
A vast system of underground caves carved out by an ancient river, the Fantastic Caverns are arguably one of the most spectacular examples of natural magnificence in Springfield. Discovered by John Knox in 1862, the cavern has been a destination for exploration ever since, and it was even infamous for housing a hidden speakeasy during the days of the Prohibition. Additionally, it was a popular venue for music events throughout the 1950s. Today, you can seat yourself in a Jeep-drawn tram for a 55-minute guided tour through the subterranean splendor of these caves, which hover at a temperature around 60 degrees F year round.
The botanical beauty of Nathaniel Greene/Close Memorial Park is truly a sight to behold. Renowned for its gloriously tranquil atmosphere, the area captures the beauty of God’s creation, and puts the world of the native Ozarks on full display.
Close Memorial Park is a 114-acre area located just across from Horton Smith Golf Course, and the arboretum claims over a square mile of this space and serves as an outdoor plant laboratory for local gardeners and University of Missouri students. No reason to be timid, though—the arboretum is open to the public and was made for anyone who loves colorful, open spaces lush with trees, bushes and flowers.
You can visit the Dr. Bill Roston Butterfly House, take a stroll through the stunningly romantic Mizumoto Japanese Garden, and, if you’re up for a hike, you can explore the 2.8 miles of trails centralized around Lake Drummond.
A well-maintained facility that houses over 500 animals of 160 different species, Dickerson Park Zoo was constructed for the purpose of educating the citizens of Springfield about wildlife and nature conservation. After a rough start with some financial trouble, the zoo’s doors almost closed for good in 1975, but local residents who had seen and appreciated the zoo’s community outreach helped provide sufficient funds to keep the conservatory open, and it remains one of Springfield’s most proud attractions.
It’s been a favorite destination of grandparents, parents and children and has been actively involved in several conservation projects. One of its more recent in-house endeavors, called the Species Survival Plan, benefits many endangered species worldwide such as cheetahs, maned wolves and Asian elephants.
Located in the southeast part of the city, the Springfield Conservation Nature Center is a great source of weekend fun for explorers and nature lovers alike. This 79-acre stretch of land is home to woodlands, glades, forests, prairies and the incomparable Lake Springfield.
There are over three miles of trails, self-guided displays and exhibits scattered throughout the park for personal education. Guided tours are offered free of charge (although they must be booked in advance). Special events are hosted in the park year-round, including Eagle Days during winter, native plant seminars during spring, Insect-O-Rama during summer and a Halloween event in the fall.
A non-profit educational facility that opened its doors in 2017, the Johnny Morris Wonders of Wildlife museum and aquarium is known globally as the largest fish and wildlife attraction in the world. This massive attraction spans over 350,000 square feet and is host to numerous wildlife galleries and exhibits of taxidermied animals from every corner of the planet.
Besides wildlife, the museum features historic artifacts, artwork and films, and the 1.5-million-gallon aquarium is home to no less than 35,000 fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals showcased in habitats ranging from Ozark woodland to Louisianan swamp to Amazonian rainforest.
As you can see, there are plenty of educational and stimulating activities throughout the city of Springfield, MO, for people of all ages, budgets and interests. With such lush, gorgeous natural resplendence, it’s the perfect place to revel in the sublimity of God’s handiwork.
Even outside of natural wonders and wildlife conservatories, however, the culture of the city has so much to offer, and you'll never run out of things to do. Countless museums, hands-on attractions, delectable home-style cuisine, an abundance of vintage antique shops — these are all things Springfield offers to delight, excite and lift your spirits.
The Gardens assisted living community is certainly proud to call Springfield home. Residents of our community can enjoy all these activities, and we even schedule transportation and group outings to local cultural events to help make it happen!