Springfield, Missouri, might not be your typical must-visit destination, but this city has plenty of amazing things to offer that are definitely worth your time and money. Known as the “Birthplace of Route 66,” Springfield is situated in the southwestern part of Missouri. It is the perfect destination for families, adventure seekers, and anyone else who wants to experience historic Route 66. Here is what to do in Springfield, MO, that I always enjoy – including where to play, eat, and stay.
Excellent Springfield Restaurants
Springfield, Missouri, has some tremendous locally-owned restaurants and higher-end chains. You’ll find a bit of everything, from chef-inspired creations to gourmet burgers, upscale brunch items, and classic favorites. Here are my faves, in alphabetical order.
The Aviary offers a delectable selection of creative crepes and classic favorites. The decor perfectly balances homey and chic, with an inviting vibe. Don’t miss the mashed sweet potatoes or the refreshing Italian cream sodas in peach and raspberry flavors.
Indulge in the unforgettable savory Crepe Lorraine, featuring Applewood smoked bacon, spinach, and mornay sauce. For a sweet treat, savor the bananas foster, reminiscent of a slice of New Orleans. Happy hour runs from 4 to 6 PM.
Bambino’s Cafe on Delmar
A blog reader recommended I visit Bambino’s on Delmar, and I’m so glad I took her advice. This charming little eatery was cute as can be, and I had a friendly waitress taking care of me. I chose the Momma pasta dish, which came with a great salad and fresh bread in a perfect little lunch portion.
The food was delicious and I enjoyed the restaurant’s atmosphere.
Black Sheep Burgers & Shakes
With three locations, Black Sheep Burgers & Shakes has been voted as “Best Burgers and Fries” in Missouri, so I had to see if it lived up to the hype. I was disappointed that I was dining alone, as all of the appetizers sounded heavenly, but I could only eat so much. I had to remember why I came here…to try this award-winning burger.
Let me tell you, picking one out of the long list of tantalizing burger creations is hard. I had to enlist the help of my server, who helped me narrow down to the Bleus Brothers with avocado, candied bacon, lettuce, onion, bleu cheese, and truffle mayo.
I love that they use double 4 oz patties rather than a huge single patty. Burgers come cooked medium-well unless you specify otherwise. This was one really good, juicy, and tasty burger.
Burgers come a la carte, but you can add a variety of sides (a variety of fries and sweet potato fries) or habanero cheese curds. Shake creations, both alcoholic and non, range from Purple Haze and The Boss to Strawberry Fields Forever and Sugar Daddy.
Bruno’s Italian Restaurant
Welcome to Bruno’s Italian Restaurant, where you can indulge in authentic cuisine amidst a historical ambiance. Start with our delightful Beef Carpaccio and sheer perfection Tomato Bruschetta. Chef Bruno and his team will craft a lovely dinner for you, featuring cannelloni with béchamel sauce, spinach & ricotta gnocchi with sage cream, and linguine with clams in white wine.
The popular pizzas won’t disappoint either. Bruno’s is closed on Sundays and Mondays.
Try Casper’s Diner, a classic diner on Springfield’s Route 66, serving burgers, chili, and fries for over 110 years. I sampled it all and will say that the Big Weener (a foot-long dog covered in Casper’s chili and cheese) is exceptional.
The cozy, 30-seat hut boasts nostalgic decor and is worth a visit even if you’re not hungry. Closed on Sundays, Casper’s offers the finest fast food classics…and Kool-Aid.
Gailey’s Breakfast Cafe
Gailey’s Breakfast Cafe offers a delectable breakfast or early lunch. The menu features healthy options like the Hippy Omelet (avocado, walnuts, hummus) or Gailey’s Stuffed Oatmeal. Indulge in the Freedom Waffle (berries, eggs, pork), the Breakfast Bomb (bacon, sausage, hash browns, biscuit crumbles, cheese) with hollandaise or sausage gravy, and the unique Breakfast Mac & Cheese.
Experience the delight of this decadent creation at Gailey’s.
At Hotel Vandivort, The Order is a modern restaurant that serves breakfast, dinner, and weekend brunch. Try the perfectly cooked Shakshuka for brunch. The Vandivort-style Cashew Chicken and Wagyu Smash Burger with tomato jam and white cheddar are excellent choices for dinner.
Don’t miss out on their signature cocktails, which are both Instagram-worthy and delicious.
Fantastic Caverns: A Top Springfield Attraction
Be sure to check out Fantastic Caverns, Missouri’s unique caving system. Hop on a jeep-drawn tram for a 55-minute tour through America’s only drive-through cave. Marvel at the stunning stalactites, stalagmites, soda straws, and draperies as you leisurely glide through the cozy 60-degree Fahrenheit temperature cavern.
Located north of Springfield, Fantastic Caverns is a must-see natural wonder.
Route 66 Car Museum
Experience the Route 66 Car Museum, featuring over 65 unique cars from various decades, including film and movie, classics, brass era, and sports cars. Discover the iconic 1991 Ghostbusters Cadillac wagon, the 1926 Hudson Speedster from the “Grapes of Wrath” movie, and Batman’s Gotham Cruiser.
There’s a car for everyone to adore with Rolls Royce, Packard, Horch, Delorean, Ford Model T, Studebaker, and more. Adult tickets are $15 each; parking is free. Tour buses are welcome. Route 66 Car Museum is open seven days a week, from 9 to 5.
Dickerson Park Zoo
This was my first time visiting the year-round Dickerson Park Zoo, and what a nice treat it was. This walkable zoo, an accredited member institution of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, has a good variety of animals and exciting exhibits.
Animals you’ll encounter at this Springfield attraction are wolves, monkeys, kangaroos, bears, elephants, tigers, and giraffes, among others. Giraffe feedings are 10 AM to 4 PM daily from March through October. Guests can rent strollers, ECVs, and manual wheelchairs. Admission is $17 for adults and $12 for children ages 3 to 12.
The Dickerson Park Zoo also has special events and exhibits yearly to educate visitors and highlight specific animals.
Need more Missouri travels? How about exploring the fantastic museums and world-class attractions of St. Louis? Read more in this post.
Bass Pro Shop
Discover the outdoors like never before at the Grandaddy Bass Pro Shop, offering 500,000 sq-ft. With the largest selection of gear, apparel, and gifts all in one place, they have everything you need to embrace the beauty of the outdoors. Dive into a world of waterfalls, aquariums, and even a firing range.
Explore the Tracker boat showroom and satisfy your hunger at Hemingway’s Blue Water Café. Don’t miss the chance to browse the extensive collection of outdoor gear and visit the NRA Museum and Archery Hall of Fame.
Bass Pro Shops has everything from men’s, women’s, and kids’ clothing departments to areas dedicated to hunting, fishing, camping, boating, shooting, and outdoor rec. Need a hunting or fishing license? They’ve got you covered. You can also have a fantastic meal at Hemingway’s Blue Water Cafe. Or, you can grab a slice of fudge and a tasty coffee drink from a quick-serve spot.
But that’s not all! Adjacent to the main store, you’ll find the Bass Pro Shops Catalog Outlet, where you can score deep discounts on various items. Other things that make this store unique are the rifle and pistol range, gunsmith, gun library, boat center and service, off-road vehicles, and archery range.
Take in the life-like wildlife mounts around the picturesque cascading waterfalls.
If you need mobility assistance, Bass Pro Shops offer motorized and standard wheelchairs for customer use.
History on the Square
While in the area, drop by the History Museum on the Square for a stroll down memory lane back to the Birthplace of Route 66 heyday and how things appeared during that time. Favorite exhibits were fast food dining options, gas station attendant uniforms and way of life, and everybody’s favorite Wild Bill Hickok and the Wild West stories and lore.
Wonders of Wildlife National Museum & Aquarium
Experience one of Springfield’s standout features, Johnny Morris’s Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium. Adjacent to Bass Pro Shop, this extraordinary attraction focuses on conservation education and showcases crystal-clear aquariums with a diverse array of taxidermied animals from around the globe.
The displays feature state-of-the-art 4D dioramas that seem to transport you to the native lands these animals originally came from, through sight, smell, and sound.
The aquarium houses 1.5 million gallons of water and over 35,000 live fish, mammals, reptiles, and birds. Visitors can walk through underwater tunnels where sharks and rays swim overhead.
Spend a full day immersing yourself in the offerings of both attractions. Tickets are around $35-$50 for adults (much more expensive on weekends), and half that for kids. Expect to spend at least four hours exploring this amazing museum and aquarium.
Pro Tip: The museum recommends that you start your visit at the Wildlife Galleries (from inside Bass Pro Shops), and then take the natural flow into the aquarium for the best experience.
Golden Girl Rum Club
In Springfield, the Golden Girl Rum Club opened in 2016, is a vibrant spot in Park Central Square. This tropical-inspired bar offers a wide selection of premium rum drinks and cocktails. Alongside the appealing tikis and classic libations, the venue also sports adorable cups and mugs with vibrant bendy straws.
The Golden Girl Rum Club delivers a tropical party vibe that truly captivates.
Other Route 66 Attractions
Springfield is a stop along the historic Route 66, an iconic road trip every traveler needs to experience at least once. Here, you’ll find several Route 66 attractions worth checking out, such as the Route 66 Car Museum, the Birthplace of Route 66 Roadside Park, and the Route 66 Steak ‘n Shake.
You can stroll down memory lane and learn about the history of the iconic highway.
Grab a delicious lunch at the very first Steak ‘n Shake. Indulge in fresh-to-order burgers, fries, and milkshakes at this popular hamburger chain. The location is adorned with Route 66 pictures and memorabilia, creating the perfect opportunity for epic nighttime photos.
Established in 2011, Mother’s Brewing Company has a cool taproom with a fabulous outdoor patio. I was a fan of the Imperial Grind Coffee stout and the Strawberry Ginger Gose. It is one cool place to hang out, and all beer fans should visit!
Odds & Ends
Springfield will surprise you with its big offerings. A few that I’ve yet to do are the World’s Largest Fork, the Springfield Botanical Garden at Nathanael Green/Close Memorial Park, Van Gogh’s Eeterie, Rockwood Motor Court, and St. George’s Donuts.
I did, however, get to feast on some tasty Hurt’s Donuts (and score a pup cup for my pooch) and Askinosie Chocolates.
Where to Stay in Springfield
During my Springfield visit, the Holiday Inn Express & Suites Springfield-Medical District was a great home away from home. The lobby is welcoming and warm, and the rooms are spacious with triple-sheeted bedding, comfy beds, and stylish furnishings. The complimentary hot breakfast was top-notch and a big money saver. Wifi and parking are also included.
Other perks of staying here are the laundry facilities, 24/7 coffee and tea, a gift shop, and a heated indoor pool.
Once a Masonic temple, Hotel Vandivort is a boutique luxury hotel with a stunning rooftop bar. This Silver Weed-certified property is committed to environmental protection and emphasizes local buying and usage. It draws people from all over.
Even if you’re not a hotel guest, drop by and experience its undeniable beauty. With a public bar and restaurant, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.
For a delightful historical and cultural experience, choose the Best Western Route 66 Rail Haven Motel. Located on the iconic Route 66, this charming and nostalgic motel (established in 1938) is perfect for capturing stunning Route 66 photos. It offers comfortable accommodations with modern conveniences.
Thanks to Visit Springfield for arranging and hosting some my travel. As always, opinions and reviews are 100% mine and unbiased.
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