A Summer Trip to Springfield
Springfield, MO, is under three hours from Tulsa and is home to many kid friendly activities!
The list of places and cities to explore around Tulsa is impressive. Truly each city has a story that makes it unique. Being curious is something that is top-of-the-charts right now with my 5-year-old twins. The series of questions they ask in a given day exceed what I had ever imagined I would be asked. When I found out we would get to go to Springfield, Missouri, for a few days, I decided to not tell them until the day before. I have learned the hard way that when I tell them something too far in advance, it can seem like a billion years until the adventure they are looking forward to begins.
Getting ready to travel to Springfield, I realized our family has been there on two occasions, both on our way to St. Louis to visit my in-laws. Neither time did we have the opportunity to explore the city, yet I quickly discovered Springfield offers more than I could have imagined.
The first place I went to in order to start planning our trip was www.springfieldmo.org/visitors-guide. You can fill out a form to request a mailed Visitors Guide, which I did. I love the internet but am a huge fan still of mail, magazines and being able to carry things in my purse. Also, since I knew I would not tell the girls until the day before, it was a bonus that they could view the guide before our trip.
The girls’ friend Kinley and her Mom joined us on this adventure! The road to Springfield was filled with singing, snacks, coloring and lots of talk about what we were about to experience.
The trip from Tulsa to Springfield is just 2.5 hours. As soon as we arrived, our crew headed to the Wonders of Wildlife National Museum & Aquarium. Pulling up, I noticed how enormous this place is. There are three different places in one space: the National Headquarters for Bass Pro Shops, Aquarium Adventure and Wildlife Galleries. A one-day ticket will get you into everything. Our group decided to explore both the Aquarium Adventure and the Wildlife Galleries.
We began in the Wildlife Galleries. I have never seen anything like this space in my life.
Each room you enter here is filled with state-of-the-art 4D dioramas. The backdrops look like the most marvelous pieces of art. The rooms are designed to be as authentic as possible to the wildlife habitats. You travel through each one just being in awe. Reese asked non-stop: How did this place gets made? I responded that it took a team of fantastic artists and wildlife experts. I of course know there were many more team members who created this space. But for a 5-year-old, that seemed to be the best answer.
The photos I took in these different spaces do not do it any justice. Every detail is as authentic as possible. The air temp is even set to a certain degree to be as accurate as possible. The Great African Hall was my personal favorite. Since I have never been to Africa, it was neat to see how they recreated every detail. The girls’ favorite, hands-down, was the Polar Expedition and Penguin Cove, which, to our surprise, housed real penguins. They did not want to leave this space.
We took little breaks to read plaques and descriptions as often as possible. The amount of space is in this place is impressive. The girls loved taking photos by bears, and Reese’s favorite animal since birth has been the giraffe.
The Native American portion was also a favorite. The artwork was stunning, and the amount of artifacts on display could have kept you occupied for hours. There was an area where you could touch and feel animal fur. Great spot for kids. There was even one for a skunk– I’m hoping this is the only time my kids will know how skunk fur feels.
Once you complete the Wildlife Galleries, you walk into a path that leads you to the front of the aquarium. The walkway filled with lights had the girls dancing and spinning with excitement. We often visit our aquarium in Tulsa, so the pure joy of getting to discover another one was over-the-top amazing for my girls.
None of us have ever seen an aquarium so magical. There are over 35,000 live fish, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds and wildlife. This is a 1.5 million-gallon aquarium.
Since we had just spent over 2 hours in the Wildlife Galleries, we explored the entry but then took a break. The snack area is located next to a movie screen, making it the perfect time to refuel before we continued exploring. The first tip is: “Don’t rush.” Every inch of this place is packed with details and areas to explore. Last year the girls’ class was named the “Otters,” so getting to view these animals while they ate and performed prompted lots of squeals.
Throughout the aquarium are these neat areas the kids can put their heads inside and feel like they are inside the water with the fish. All of our favorite aquarium friends were there, like the jellyfish, sharks, and then look, there is a BEAR! Well, of course this amazing place had a bear. The bear was kind and amused the girls by walking in front of them for 15 minutes.
This entire place is family friendly. Truly all ages would love a visit to this Aquarium. Towards the end there is an area where you can touch stingrays. Then next to that is the coolest coloring station. There are a series of aquatic animals to color. Then you take the color page to an aquarium staff member, who scans it and puts it on the screen where you can chase your drawing.
These two amazing places took up a large portion of the day. Note that you can leave and come back. So if you are hungry or want to do something else, your pass is valid all day. I highly recommend both of these places and know we want to go back and bring more friends and family!
When you ask my kids where do they want to live, they both always scream: A HOTEL! The next stop for us was the Oasis Hotel & Convention Center.
This hotel will be our go-to hotel for each return visit to Springfield. This modern hotel has a tropical vibe. There is an indoor pool surrounded by beautiful plants. Our room was located right outside of the pool. The girls named this the secret path. From room to pool it took less than a minute. For families, there is an area with tables right beside the indoor pool. We utilized this area every evening to bring in dinner in between the girls swimming. There is also an outdoor pool. Since they often swim at home, they thought the indoor pool was all-the-rage.
Upon arrival, we received a scavenger hunt created just for the girls. It was so cool. My kids love to do scavenger hunts. There is a free hot breakfast every morning, free wi-fi and a kid friendly staff. To end our evenings we would let the girls go and see their names on the huge sign for the Oasis. This Mom really appreciated how special they made her kids feel. And I loved all the family friendly features too!
The next day I got to stop by one of the local coffee shops. Mudhouse is located in downtown Springfield. I hope to spend more time exploring that entire area in the future.
Once I was fueled on java, it was time to go to the Discovery Center. We arrived first thing and beat the crowds. This place is filled with fun while you learn. When I asked the girls to name a favorite part, they both said, “Everything!”
The water exhibit created endless fun. Creating “flood areas” and redirecting the water held their attention the longest. The store allowed each of the kids to shop, become a store clerk and predict how much each item costs. The highlight for me was watching the girls create a science experiment. They got decked out in full science gear and learned about DNA.
The only thing that we missed out on was miniature golf. We did not realize you had to reserve a certain amount of time to play. So if you are going to make sure you get a ticket downstairs and know what time you are allowed to start miniature golf!
Before going to the Wild Animal Safari we stopped at a cute local kids store called JellyBeans. It was filled with kids clothes and toys. We scooped up a safe and some shoes. Yep, Reese chose a safe for all of her high-dollar items.
This was our first trip to a Wild Animal Safari, located right outside of Springfield. One tip I learned is to get your tickets online 24 hours in advance to save the most money.
We chose the option to ride in a bus instead of driving a car through the sanctuary. Thank goodness we chose this because the guide taught us, for example, that the ostriches will do all they can to get food. So make sure to just give them what is in your hand. Also, the guide warned us about the camels. They are smart and if they see a bag of food on your seat, they will take it. We learned first-hand when Clyde the Camel stole a whole bag of food from Kinley! It was crazy to be so close to zebras, deer, camels, pigs and a handful of other animals.
Our trip concluded with a trip to Fantastic Caverns.
Mother Nature is one impressive lady. The cave was filled with endless beauty. I did not know if the girls would last for this 55-minute drive in a cave, but they actually loved it and learned so much. This is a must-see for everyone. I would love to go back again.
When our last day in Springfield arrived, all of us agreed we should have planned for one more day. I have a list of 10 places we want to explore next time. Before you plan your trip make sure to visit this link for coupons: https://www.springfieldmo.org/coupons
Thanks for the memories, Springfield.