travel guide to springfield mo
United States

Things to Do in Springfield, MO


Plan a visit to this distinctly Midwestern city.                                         

Springfield, MO is distinctly Midwestern. It has wide streets, long thoroughfares and big lots framed by the crossing of interstates. Outside of the condensed downtown strip, beyond the sight of the tallest building – a 22-story apartment complex – the city sprawls 80 square miles. As such, you’ll be driving 15 or 30 minutes to get from one place to the next. I want to make that drive worth your time with this travel guide of things to do in Springfield, MO.

Springfield Gay Bars and Night Life

A moment from Get Dusted, a monthly drag show in Springfield
TK Rousseau as “Piss Bear”

Get Dusted

This monthly drag show and dance party is the shining star of Springfield’s queer culture. While the city has always had a drag scene, Get Dusted brought it into the mainstream.

Cody Harness (stage name Crystal Methyd) started the show in 2015 – quickly roping together a crew of promoters, supporters, and queens.

In an interview with The Standard, she said,

“A few years ago, when we first started Get Dusted, I was getting a lot more gas station sodas thrown at me than I am now…now, I get, like, none.”

As a longtime resident of Missouri, I can attest to the effects of hyper-masculinity, homophobia, and racism. But this show is a stunning testament to what a few people can do for the advancement of LGBT+ culture. It stands toe to toe with Chicago in the quality of performances and easily beats out Kansas City. This show is why they call it, “Springvegas.”

I suggest building your trip to any Springfield, MO attraction around one of Get Dusted’s monthly shows. Be sure to buy tickets ahead of time and visit my Instagram for pictures of their extra spooky Halloween special.

Martha’s Vineyard

The area’s largest gay bar is in downtown Springfield, MO. If you have enough energy after Get Dusted or need a place to pregame, Martha’s Vineyard a well-known and welcoming establishment in the community. And like most night clubs, business picks up later in the night, usually after 9 PM.

As a bonus in the warmer months, you’ll find a large patio outback. And if you’re visiting on Thursday, you can go here for an erotic slate of drag queens, kings, and dancers.

I didn’t make it to Springfield’s other gay bar, but for reference MIX Ultralounge is a 20-minute walk or 5-minute Uber away from Martha’s.

Inside Fantastic Caverns, one of Springfield's most popular things to do
The author – back row, second from the right.

Entertainment in Springfield, MO

Fantastic Caverns

A Springfield itinerary would not be complete without a visit to the Fantastic Caverns. You need to do this. They’re fantastic.

At about $25 a ticket, this 55-minute ride is the single most expensive thing I did, but you can’t go to Springfield without visiting the cave. It’s the only drive-through cave in North America. THE ONLY ONE.

It’s at least as old as the Fantastic Caverns website. Which, along with the billboards along I-49, feature the same damn stock photo from the 1980s. In fact, these billboards are the biggest mystery of all. We lost count during the three-hour drive from Kansas City, but there were at least a hundred of them, sometimes three within a half-mile of one another, all on the same blue background with a caveman. The mob must be involved.

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But seriously, this a fun, cool thing unique to Springfield. Plus, it promotes science in a part of the country that too often lacks fact-based understanding. Go because the hole you’ve been trying to fill your entire life could be this fantastic cavern.

Wonders of Wildlife National Museum & Aquarium

I didn’t make it here, but wish I had. If you have time to see this museum head to it. It was voted “2017’s Best New Attraction” in the United States by readers of USA Today. It’s the namesake and philanthropic effort of Bass Pro Shops CEO Johnny Morris, who was born and lives in Springfield.

Plus, it’s right next to – would you believe it – a Bass Pro Shops! It’s the first BPS in the world and one of the largest with 14,000 items across 150,000 square feet. Sounds like a good time to me.

Do note a ticket to the museum and aquarium is a whopping $40. You can decide if it’s worth the price.

#HotelVandivortBathroomSelfie

It’s a thing. I didn’t get the honor of adding to this esteemed collection of selfies, but that’s just one more reason to visit Springfield again.

Home of the tossed rolls, Lambert's Cafe in Springfield, MO

Where to Eat in Springfield

Lambert’s Cafe

To be clear, this is the ONLY home of throwed rolls – which is exactly what it sounds like. It’s basically a big, old Cracker Barrel. If you don’t know what Cracker Barrel is, it’s what anyone who’s never visited the midwest thinks the midwest is like. And in this case, the menu is half-gallon jugs of soda, fried food, and saturated fat.

You don’t go here for mind-blowing cuisine. You go here to eat 10,000 calories.

This isn’t going to be satisfactory for everyone. The wait can be two-hours (it’s the ONLY place to get throwed rolls) and it’s jam-packed once your inside. But the mood is jovial, and the portions are massive. You’ll pay a little more than you should and eat more than you should, but that’s just how it goes.

For me, this was positive:

But it’s not for everyone – as these 1-star reviews for Lambert’s illustrate:

  • I got hit in the head with a hot, roll!
  • you are greeted by horrible music that will make your ears bleed
  • Seriously upset me, my husband got smacked in the face by roll tosser! His hand wasn’t up and he wasn’t looking. Hit him on the left side of his face, splattered butter down his cheek and on his glasses. If he threw to someone at another table, and someone missed then hit him, Ooops. This tosser was at the end of our table. I thought it was rude. The food was great.

Let the record show that I ALSO got hit in the face with a roll. But do you see me complaining?

Yes.

Early Bird Breakfast Pub

For breakfast in Springfield, drive to the Early Bird Breakfast Pub. The logo says, “biker bar” but the interior and feeling is that of a bistro. The hash browns were killer – and your boy loves a good hash brown. I also ordered a waffle, which came out in a long rectangular shape, drizzled in melted peanut butter. Totally unexpected and totally delicious. My traveling partner ordered the eggs Benedict and gave equally positive reviews.

There’s probably going to be a wait, so walk over to The Dancing Mule Coffee Company for something to drink. It’s good stuff. Plus, it’s right next to Just For Parrots. But don’t go inside – it’s just for parrots.

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Just for Parrots store in Springfield MO
A very high-quality photo of me by Just For Parrots. Wanted to keep my distance. It’s just for parrots.

One Last Thing

Springfield is best experienced with one or two other people — if only to cut down on wait times at local restaurants. It’s a good city and a real taste of the midwest. Because as I like to tell people abroad, most of America isn’t in the laid back West Coast or hyper-active East Coast. It’s somewhere between.