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Springfield offers ideal weekend getaway options

by Jordan Thornsberry | July 14, 2022 at 3:50 a.m.
Springfield Conservation Nature Center (submitted photo)

Living almost smack dab in the middle of the state has its perks, one being there are a handful of destinations in the surrounding area for a quick and lively weekend getaway.

Springfield, Missouri, is less than a tank of gas away -- about 140 miles southwest of Jefferson City -- and is known for many facets, such as being the birthplace of Route 66, the origin of cashew chicken and the hometown of Academy Award- winning actor Brad Pitt.

But the city has much more to offer.

If you're looking for a short escape from Mid-Missouri, Springfield may be calling your name.

During your weekend getaway, start the morning with a flight. A coffee flight, that is. Springfield is home to more than a dozen coffee shops, a favorite being Black Lab Coffee Co Downtown. You shouldn't visit without choosing four dog-themed lattes from their menu for a coffee flight, offered hot or iced.

"Our number one draw is our coffee flight, plus we're within walking distance to all the shops and everything downtown," owner Case Howard said. "That's a fun thing to do for a coffee date."

For first-timers in Springfield, there are a handful of must-do items to put on the itinerary, and catching a Springfield Cardinals game at Hammons Field downtown should be at the top.

Since you're already downtown, stop by The Order, located inside Hotel Vandivort, for a cocktail or an appetizer. You can't go wrong with their sweet corn fonduta or the Vandivort-style cashew chicken. Plus, one of Hotel V's quirks is that it's known for having the best selfie mirrors in town.

"Our culinary point-of-view is hyperlocal, and most ingredients are sourced within an hour of the hotel," said Kyle Little, director of food and beverage. "For this reason, we are proud to showcase the flavors of the Ozarks in innovative and exciting ways."

Just a couple of minutes down the street, you'll find Springy Jeans, a place to buy vintage and upcycled clothing. They are known for their timeless Nike apparel and Levi jeans.

About 10 minutes north of downtown is Historic Commercial Street, which boasts remarkable architecture, unique shops and quirky restaurants, one of those being Van Gogh's Eaterie -- a piece of the Netherlands in Southwest Missouri. The menu includes uncommon entrees, like pannenkoeken (Dutch pancakes) and kroketten (croquette).

If you're an outdoor enthusiast, the 417 has plenty of places for you. The Springfield Conservation Nature Center is a pocket of peace right off the James River Freeway with three miles of walking trails and relaxing picnic spots.

"The trails are two-fold. Number one, they give you exposure to nature, but number two, there's also a therapeutic value," said Francis Skalicky, media specialist for the Missouri Department of Conservation. "The nature center is definitely something that's worth stopping at."

The Mizumoto Japanese Stroll Garden located in Nathanael Greene Park is another tranquil spot in one of Missouri's busiest cities, complete with traditional Japanese landscaping, a koi pond, tea house and meditation garden.

While locals may say it's cliché, Bass Pro Shops is a must-visit for nature lovers. Containing almost 500,000 square feet, the original Bass Pro has waterfalls, aquariums, a TRACKER boat showroom, Hemingway's Blue Water Café and more. Attached to the massive building is the Wonders Of Wildlife National Museum & Aquarium, which just opened in 2017 and is now the largest fish and wildlife attraction in the world.

Looking for family-friendly activities? Check out Andy B's bowling alley. Besides bowling, they have an arcade, virtual reality, underground laser tag and a stocked menu (highlights include unwrapped crab rangoon dip, hot honey chicken mac and cheese and funnel cake fries).

The 1984 Arcade is another popular spot for families. The '80s-themed arcade has all your favorite classic games, including Pacman, Asteroids, Donkey Kong, Tetris and more; $10 will get you in the door and access to all the fun.

Haruno Sushi Bar & Grill is a favored date night spot and has arguably the best sushi in town.

A lesser-known spot for romantic fine dining is Gilardi's on East Walnut Street. They put an emphasis on high-quality, local ingredients, and their pasta and braised dishes are superior to most other Italian courses in town.

"The atmosphere -- it's a very intimate, quaint Italian restaurant that's set behind a beautiful Victorian home that is an Airbnb," chef and owner James Martin said. "This spring, we also built a gazebo in the middle of the garden, so people can dine out in the gazebo which is a unique offering in this city."

It is important to get away from all the hustle and bustle from time to time.

While Springfield may not be top of mind when brainstorming vacation spots, the city has much to offer. So pack your weekender bag, adventure awaits.

  photo  Springfield Conservation Nature Center (submitted photo)

  photo  The Gilardi's Pasta at Gilardi's in Springfield is a homemade ricotta pasta dish with Italian sausage and a spicy tomato cream sauce. Other menu highlights include the tortellini, polpette al vino marinara and tiramisu. (Jordan Thornsberry/News Tribune photo)
  photo  Black Lab Coffee Co. Downtown in Springfield offers a coffee flight on their menu. Customers can pick up to four of their dog-themed lattes, hot or iced, to sample in a flight. The coffee shop is dog friendly and encourages customers to bring their fur babies. (Jordan Thornsberry/News Tribune photo)

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