Known as the birthplace of Route 66, Springfield is a must-see destination when traveling the Mother Road or visiting Missouri.
With all kinds of entertainment and activities available in this metropolitan atmosphere, I had a hard time deciding what to do first. Everywhere I explored was a homegrown reflection of this thriving city, from its much-loved baseball team to its diverse and socially conscious zoo.
Springfield Cardinals Baseball at Hammons Field
Visiting Hammons Field in downtown Springfield is a moment I’ll never forget. It’s the home of baseball’s Springfield Cardinals; 72 of the players (and counting) have gone on to play for Major League Baseball’s St. Louis Cardinals. It’s the type of field where the action seems within reach, and every one of more than 10,000 seats has a great view.
And then there’s the food and drink. From Homers Landing, you get a field-level view from behind the right-centerfield fence. If you arrive early, Homers Landing also serves an all-you-can-eat buffet and pregame picnic. You can also get great views from two inclusive-seating venues, the Expedia Redbird Roost and The Nest.
Springfield Cardinals mascot Louie at Hammons Field in Missouri
Animals of the World at the Dickerson Park Zoo
The Dickerson Park Zoo, which dates to 1922, is a beautifully curated center for learning and getting up-close to animals from every corner of our planet. The environment of this outdoor complex, with its winding paths between exhibits, make it ideal for leisurely exploration. I did everything from taking a selfie with the local river otters to capturing photos of the zoo’s majestic tigers.
The Outback Corral petting zoo provided much entertainment as the donkeys, goats and other domestic animals all vied for the feed I’d purchased. The nearby giraffe feeding deck – where I was able to meet and hand-feed resident longnecks Emma, Grady and Gidget – was something that I had never encountered.
Mexican wolves at the Dickerson Park Zoo in Springfield, Missouri
Education and Play at the Discovery Center
Another place where families can spend an entire day is the Discovery Center of Springfield, offering four levels to explore with more than 200 interactive exhibits, spanning all fields of education. I was surprised at the range of exhibits and the sophistication of their execution. Each floor features its own vibrant atmosphere to highlight the different themes. The Discovery Center’s west building is also the first LEED Gold-certified building – meaning it was built to strict "green" standards – in southwest Missouri.
Early learners start on the first floor, where the Bed of Nails, Dino Pit to dig for “dinosaur bones” and other exhibits are located. Upstairs, children can explore the Phenomena Gallery, watch science demonstrations at the Exploratory Lab, and even have a hair-raising experience at the Van De Graff Generator.
The HighWire Bicycle is probably the coolest thing a child can do in the museum. I had the chance to ride this bicycle along a guide wire about seven meters above the first floor. I pedaled up and down, but safely maintained my balance thanks to the counterweight. Just in case, the bike is fitted with a harness and a safety net is close by.
Atop the HighWire Bicycle ride at Springfield Discovery Center in Missouri
Skating at Mediacom Ice Park
Mediacom Ice Park’s friendly staff operates two rinks at this centrally located skating center. Open year-round, you can rent or bring your own skates for an ice skating session. You also can enjoy a hockey game from a vantage point in the seats: The Missouri State Ice Bears and the Springfield Express Junior-A Hockey Team both call Mediacom Ice Park home.
Springfield is the perfect place to bring the family. Offering small-town hospitality in a metropolitan environment, Springfield beckons with its variety of culture, education and sports for all tastes.