The Best Things to do in Springfield, Missouri

The 15 Best Things to do in Springfield, Missouri

Springfield, Missouri, is fast becoming the gateway to the Ozarks. This medium-sized city is definitely worth a stop on your way to Branson or Lake of the Ozarks. Home to top-notch museums, an array of outdoor activities, lots of artsy galleries, and a minor-league baseball team, you’ll find plenty to do, no matter what the season!

Plus, if you are traveling on a budget, you’ll find that many Springfield attractions are low-cost or absolutely free. Here, you can see museums, historic sites, blooming gardens, and art shows without paying a dime. Explore the downtown area on the Sculpture Walk or see local artists showcase their pieces of art during the First Friday Art Walk. 

To escape the hustle and bustle of the city, see nature up close at the Springfield Conservation Nature Center, the Roston Native Butterfly House at the Springfield Botanical Gardens, or the Rutledge-Wilson Farm Park. All of these nature centers and parks are free to visit!

With so many things to see and do, you might not know where to begin. So we’ve compiled our list of the absolute best things to do in Springfield, Missouri, for you. Stick to these fun and unique Springfield bucket list recommendations, and there’s no doubt you’ll have an amazing time exploring this up-and-coming Ozark destination!

15 Fun and Unique Things to do in Springfield, MO

1. View What’s Beneath the Ozarks at Fantastic Caverns

Best Things to do in Springfield, Missouri: Fantastic Caverns
Image courtesy of Springfield CVB

Consistently voted as the No. 1 attraction on TripAdvisor, Fantastic Caverns has been one of the top family-favorite Springfield attractions since the 1950s. Plus, every member of the family, regardless of mobility, can join since it’s on a Jeep-drawn tram. Simply hop on for a completely ride-through experience where walking isn’t necessary on the hour-long tour. 

Discovered by a farmer’s dog in the 1860s, and then later explored by a group of women explorers, it was first turned into a ride-through attraction in the 1960s. From the mini-Jeep, you’ll be able to see all the cave formations, including giant columns, mineral straws, stalactites, stalagmites, and cave pearls. A seasoned guide will be able to explain the history and how the cave was formed over millions of years. 

It’s also available to visit year-round. In every season, the caves maintain a steady 60°F, so it’s comfortable to visit no matter when you are in town. If you are visiting as a small group, just show up and wait for the next available tram departure. No reservations are needed to see this impressive cave system, which is just a few miles from the city center. 


2. Connect with Nature at the Springfield Conservation Nature Center

Best Things to do in Springfield, Missouri: Springfield Conservation Nature Center
Images courtesy of Springfield CVB

For a quick escape to nature, head to the Springfield Conservation Nature Center. Not only is it free to enter, but it’s within the city limits. You won’t have to go far to get a slice of the Ozarks, as it’s in the southeastern part of Springfield. 

The Conservation Nature Center has over 80 acres of plants and animals native to the area, including prairies, forests and woodlands, and glades. It offers a space to get close to nature, and there are multiple indoor and outdoor viewing areas where you can get a look at the animals, like birds and other wildlife. There are actually more than 170 species that visit the center. 

Cool Things to do in Springfield, Missouri: Springfield Conservation Nature Center

If you want something more active, there are over 3 miles of trails. They vary in skill level, most are beginner and moderate levels, and some trails are paved. Our favorites include the wooden boardwalk area that goes over the marshlands and creeks. 

Be sure to take advantage of one of the many public programs, guided hikes, special events, and workshops that are offered at the nature center. If you are on a budget, bring a small lunch for a picnic and enjoy your meal at one of the covered picnic areas and tables. It’s open year-round and is a beautiful place to visit, no matter what season you visit!


3. See the World’s Animals at the Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium

Cool Things to do in Springfield, Missouri: Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium

A visit to the Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium, the self-proclaimed world’s largest wildlife attraction in the world, is one of the must-do things to Springfield, MO, if you want to learn about conservation and zoology. 

With 350,000 square feet of space, you’ll journey to habitats from around the world, from the lands to underwater escapes. On the way, you’ll see special exhibits to learn about significant conservationists throughout history, as well as photography and other exhibits rotated throughout the year. 

Start your worldwide journey at the Wildlife Galleries, which slowly transition into the Aquarium Exhibits. At the Wildlife Galleries, you’ll see engaging state-of-the-art 4D dioramas that will transport you to places like the African Savannah to the Arctic. You’ll actually feel the chill of the snow and hear the sounds of the jungle. 

When you arrive at the aquarium, you’ll be greeted with a 1.5-million-gallon aquarium showcasing more than 35,000 live fish, mammals, and reptiles. You’ll be whisked away to oceans, lakes, and streams found around the world, including Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, the swamps of the United States, and the Amazon rainforest!

Wear a comfortable pair of walking shoes. This attraction is pretty massive, and it covers more than 1.5 miles of expansive exhibits! You can easily spend 4 to 5 hours here exploring everything this educational facility has to offer. 


4. Be Spooked at the Pythian Castle

Cool Things to do in Springfield, Missouri: Pythian Castle
Image courtesy of Springfield CVB

Built in 1913 by a secret society and fraternity, the Pythian Castle is a gothic-style castle that’s located in the north of Springfield. It was turned into an orphanage and then used as a retirement home before opening up to the public. Now, it’s on the National Register of Historic Places and has been featured on many shows, like Ghost Adventures, since it’s reportedly haunted by ghosts. If you’re looking for unique things to do in Springfield, MO, a visit to Pythian Castle won’t disappoint!

To see it up close, you have to attend one of the scheduled events listed on their website. They offer a variety of tours, including a history tour, escape room, murder mystery dinners, ghost tours, and even a private ghost investigation. 

To see it during the day, book a history tour where you’ll hear about the unique past of the castle. Spoiler alert: It was once used as an entertainment venue by the military to boost the spirits of soldiers that were recovering from injury or sickness. It even has a working movie theater and a bowling alley. 

If you’re brave, book the ghost tour that is held at night. The ghost tour is led by a paranormal group, so you’ll have experts that use the latest technology to communicate with the ghostly residents. It’s an 8-hour paranormal training, where you’ll learn about the group’s investigative techniques and all about the paranormal. 


5. Find Your Inner Artist at the Springfield Art Museum

Fun Things to do in Springfield, Missouri: Springfield Art Museum
Images courtesy of Springfield CVB

Created by a small group of women in the 1920s, these art aficionados can now be thanked for the start of the Springfield Art Museum. The self-proclaimed “oldest cultural institution” in the city is home to over 10,000 works of art in its permanent collection and is one of the must-do Springfield activities for anyone even remotely interested in the arts. 

At first, the museum’s collection focused on American works from the 18th century. The collection quickly grew to textiles, pottery, paintings, and other works from Europe and Asia over a span of time periods. 

Unique Things to do in Springfield, Missouri: Springfield Art Museum

They also offer temporary exhibits with rotating collections after collaborations with schools and artists from all around the world. Plus, head outside to see the large-scale sculptures exhibited throughout the grounds!

If you have kids, they will love the Family Art Lab and Book Nook, which features lots of art supplies, books, and games. Plus, ask the reception desk for your free take-home project bags that come with some free art supplies and instructions for projects inspired by works in their collection. 

If you are on a budget, you are in luck! Admission to the museum is always free and donations are also accepted.


6. Discover a Working Farm at the Rutledge-Wilson Park

Unique Things to do in Springfield, Missouri: Rutledge Wilson Park

To get a taste of the farm life, a stop at the 200-acre Rutledge-Wilson Park is one of the must-do things in Springfield, MO. This community park shows you what a working farm is like, and it features animals, gardens, a prairie reserve, and a milking bar. 

The real highlight here is the animal barn. Tour the 4,000-square-foot barn and the pastures to see typical farm animals like miniature donkeys and horses, sheep, goats, and turkeys. The best news is that it’s always free to visit!

Fun Things to do in Springfield, Missouri: Rutledge Wilson Park

There’s a farm-themed playground, a fishing pond, and trails. The Wilson’s Creek Greenway Trail goes right through the farm and connects to other sites like the Springfield Botanical Center and Roston Native Butterfly House if you want to make an adventure out of it.


7. Get Nostalgic at the 1984 Arcade

Springfield, Missouri Bucket List: 1984 Arcade

For one of the coolest Springfield activities, check out the 1984 Arcade, which features over a dozen old-school pinball machines and over 80 classic video games. A $10.00 admission fee gets you in the door, which is an all-night pass and gives you access to all the retro machines. This entry fee excludes the pinball games, which charge you quarters to play.

Located in downtown Springfield, the arcade is something that the entire family will love, especially if you are looking for an indoor activity if the weather isn’t agreeing with you. You might as well make a night of it because the all-night pass means you are free to come and go as you please. Just tell a staff member that you’ll be headed to dinner, and they will let you back in after your meal.

If you are a gamer, you’ll love the ‘80s atmosphere. Beat a high score, and you’ll get your initials on the board and a free play pass for free admission on your next visit. Plus, year-round events and kids-play-free nights add to the charm.


8. Catch a Game at Hammons Field

What to do in Springfield, Missouri: Hammons Field
Images courtesy of Springfield CVB

If you’re a sports fan, you’ll love the thrilling atmosphere of watching a Springfield Cardinals game at Hammons Field. The stadium is really unique due to its family-friendly features, which include a photo booth, a playground, and even a basketball court. 

For some of the best seats, consider buying a ticket to the Redbird Roost, an open-air seating area. To top it off, there’s an all-you-can-eat buffet of game favorites like hot dogs, bratwursts, nachos, and more. 

If you want to splurge, buy a ticket to the SpringNet Champions Club. You’ll get access to a private buffet, a full-service bar, and access to reserved seats that overlook the field, providing some of the best views in the ballpark. 

For an even more immersive experience, book a tour. You’ll get a more behind-the-scenes look at Hammons Field and Cardinals baseball. Even if you aren’t a baseball fan, this a great way to meet friendly locals and spend an afternoon (weather permitting!).


9. Wander around the Springfield Botanical Gardens

What to do in Springfield, Missouri: Springfield Botanical Gardens
Images courtesy of Springfield CVB

Located in the Nathanael Greene Close Memorial Park in the southwestern part of the city, the Springfield Botanic Gardens is one of the most relaxing things to do in Springfield, MO. Start at the Springfield Greene County Botanical Center, where they will give you a map and show you a few gardens that are in bloom.

The garden is over 100 acres and features dozens of themed gardens, like succulent and wildflower gardens. There’s also a Butterfly House, with tons of different species and fun events held throughout the year. They also have tag and release events where you can help the experts tag a butterfly, release it, and track their migration routes when they are found. 

Springfield, Missouri Things to do: Springfield Botanical Gardens

The Mizumoto Japanese Stroll Garden is one of the coolest Springfield attractions. As the oldest site in the garden, it’s definitely worth a stroll. It boasts a lake with koi fish, a wooden moon bridge, a meditation garden, and a tea house. Plus, it’s all decked out in traditional Japanese garden landscaping.

There are also a variety of trails, including entertaining play trails for kids. You’ll also find five nature-themed play pods along the main trail, with caterpillars, mushrooms, and other flora and fauna.


10. Get a Science Lesson at the Discovery Center of Springfield

It’s no wonder why the Discovery Center of Springfield is consistently rated as one of the top Springfield, MO attractions. The museum is divided into two different buildings, which means you’ll have over 50,000 square feet of exhibits spread over seven different floors. The entire museum is dedicated to the exploration of sciences, and they provide entertaining interactive exhibits that focus on science, technology, engineering, and math. 

Kids of all ages will enjoy riding the High Wire Bike, which will teach them about the law of the center of gravity. You can also walk through a giant eyeball to see its inner workings, dig for dinosaur fossils, and take home your very own DNA. 

On the 2nd floor, you can make your hair stand up on the Van de Graaff electrostatic generator. Head to the 3rd floor to see most of the exhibits, including Discovery Town, for younger kids, and BodyWorks, which focuses on anatomy and the body. 

Plus, they offer nighttime events at the museum, which are for patrons over 21 years of age. With specialty cocktails in hand, you can explore kids-free exhibits that adults will love. 


11. Examine the Past at the History Museum on the Square

Springfield, Missouri Bucket List: History Museum on the Square
 Images courtesy of Springfield CVB

Located on the historic Route 66, the History Museum on the Square is another Springfield surprise. Upon entering, you’ll immediately see why it was voted as America’s best new attraction by USA Today. It holds around eight galleries and exhibits that tell the stories of significant events that took place in the city.

It’s full of high-quality interactive exhibits where you’ll be able to hop into the turquoise blue 1957 Chevy Bel Air convertible or take a ride on the Trolley Time Machine. To see what Route 66 was like back in the day, go down the hands-on neon sign exhibit to see the historic signs. This is easily one of the coolest things to do in Springfield, MO!

Must do things in Springfield, Missouri: History Museum on the Square

You can also sign up to take a tour. On the Downtown Tour, you can watch the history of Springfield unfold right before your eyes. You’ll learn about the “Wild Bill” Hickok shootout and all about Route 66 and the development of the city. Take the Commercial Street Tour to learn about the city’s first historic district and how it grew into the business hub it is today. 


12. Watch a Show at Springfield’s Best Theaters

Best Things to do in Springfield, Missouri: Springfield Best Theaters

Located on the campus of Missouri State University, Juanita K. Hammons Hall is a state-of-the-art performing arts center. With over 2,000 seats, this multi-purpose facility shows a variety of shows. They offer a Broadway Season where they feature Broadway musical productions. They also show single performance shows, with everything from classical music to contemporary music of today.

They also show local performances from the university as well as the community. The Springfield Symphony Orchestra has had its concerts here since the venue first opened in 1992. 

Springfield, Missouri Things to do: Springfield Best Theaters

If you want to catch a show somewhere more glamorous, book tickets at the historic Gillioz Theatre. Built in 1926, this Spanish Colonial Revival-style theater has lavish details throughout, including stained glass arched windows, terra cotta tile, and opulent chandeliers. 

Most of the shows are concerts from well-known acts, but you can also see movies, live Broadway-style shows, film festivals, and other events. They also offer guided tours where you can learn more about the building’s history and architecture. 


13. Mingle with Local Artists on the First Friday Art Walk

Cool Things to do in Springfield, Missouri: Mingle with Local Artists on the First Friday Art Walk

If you are in town for a weekend getaway, be sure to come on Friday night so you can attend the First Friday Art Walk. Held on the first Friday of each month, this downtown arts event features local artists, discussions, demonstrations, live music, and food and drink vendors.

Springfield surprisingly has a vibrant art scene, so this is a great way to check out all the galleries and businesses that support the local artists. Starting in the early evening, you can take a self-guided tour of businesses throughout the downtown area for an insider’s look at all the participating arts-related businesses.

Best Things to do in Springfield, Missouri: Mingle with Local Artists on the First Friday Art Walk

One hometown favorite is the Best of Luck Beer Hall. Here, you can enjoy local art while sipping on cocktails, wine, or your choice of over 40 craft beers on tap. At the venue, you can also play games that are available inside, including bocce ball and a handful of arcade games. 

Not only will the First Friday Art Walk introduce you and get you acclimated to the downtown area, but you’ll meet lots of friendly locals that will recommend their favorite Springfield attractions to visit on your trip!


14. Grab Brunch at the Farmers Market of the Ozarks

Unique Things to do in Springfield, Missouri: Farmers Market of the Ozarks

The Farmers Market of the Ozarks offers farm-fresh food from growers that are within a 150-mile radius of Springfield, MO. Open year-round, head here every Saturday from 8 am to 1 pm for locally grown food and unique products that are handmade by local artisans. 

You can enjoy breakfast or lunch from the food vendors and food trucks, with music from local artists as your backdrop. At the market, you’ll find over 100 vendors that sell crafts, art, and food items that they themselves have grown, produced, or processed.

This is also the place to find one-of-a-kind souvenirs. You’ll find everything from wine from Ozark’s vineyards, moonshine from a Taney County distillery, and other rare products like locally-made hot sauce. 

While you are there, make a stop at the nearby Farmer’s Park. It’s home to a community garden, boutique shops, and a few cute cafes. The kids will love to play and splash in the Jumping Fountains exhibit, which is a great way to cool off in the summer months. Be sure to play on the interactive sound sculptures at Harmony Park. 


15. Take a Self-Guided Tour to See the Springfield Sculpture Walk

The Springfield Sculpture Walk’s unofficial slogan is “Not every city has a museum without walls,” and understandably so! In 2013, two Springfield citizens traveled to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and Mexico City, Mexico, and saw the impact that art made in the local community. When they returned to Missouri, they wanted to create a similar art scene and wanted to bring public sculptures to enrich the city of Springfield. 

Their vision came to life in 2016 when 13 sculptures were installed in the downtown area. Today, it has grown to more than 30 sculptures in downtown and the surrounding communities. 

Just stop by area art-related organizations or tourism boards to get your free map. Participating businesses included the Springfield Regional Arts Council, the Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau, the Community Foundation of the Ozarks, the Springfield Art Museum, and other downtown businesses where you can get the information needed. Map in hand, head to the downtown district for a self-guided tour of the sculptures. 

A town favorite is one of the largest forks in the world. Be sure to take a selfie! Just head to West Chesterfield Street to see the 35-foot-tall fork. For an audio tour, go to their website to download an app to listen to the artists talk about the sculptures and their inspiration behind the art!

There you have it! The 15 best things to do in Springfield, MO. What’s your favorite thing to do in Springfield?


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Author

  • Carrie Back

    Carrie Ann Back is part-time travel writer and full-time globetrotter based in Southeast Asia. Recent bylines include Travel + Leisure, Parents Magazine, Postcards Magazine, Culture Trip, Matador Network, & more!

    Leaving her home in 2015, she has embarked on an around-the-world journey and has been traveling continuously ever since. Her most recent adventures include working in the Bolivian Amazon jungle, surfing in Sri Lanka, and exploring Laos via a slow boat up the Mekong River.

    She’s a proud member of the Cherokee Nation and is passionate about sustainable travel. She now lives in Siem Reap, Cambodia, with her cat Lil’ Mama. Most nights, you can find her munching down at the street food vendors.

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