The “Queen City of the Ozarks,” Springfield, Missouri, straddles the nation’s midsection with big-city attractions and a small-town heart. With a lively history that includes Wild West shootouts and America’s first telegraph line, Springfield is a four-season beauty nestled in rolling Ozark hills. It was in this quintessential Midwest town that the idea for Route 66—the “Mother Road” that opened up the West—was conceived. Visit Springfield and swing your partner to country classics, stroll the campus of four universities, or dine in the revitalized downtown.

Things to Do

Experience turn-of-the-century America on historic Walnut Street, especially in the sumptuous interiors of the 1909 Landers Theater or the 1929 vaudeville Gillioz Theatre, now a performance hall and home to a resident ghost. Answer the call of the wild in the Dickerson Park Zoo, where mountain lions and river otters roam reconstructed Missouri habitats. A rich assortment of arts events fills Springfield’s cultural calendar, including the celebrated Missouri Literary Festival in September.

Nightlife and entertainment

The nightlife simmers in Springfield’s revitalized downtown, packed with restaurants, bars, and nightclubs. Start your evening with a handcrafted beer on the outdoor rooftop at the Springfield Brewing Company. It may take a shot or two of liquid courage to warble to karaoke tunes at nearby Bugsy Malone’s. Catch rocking local bands at the Outland Ballroom. Or sip a smooth martini in the hot-pink light of Kai and count the disco balls twirling above the bar.

Restaurants and dining

The Springfield culinary scene offers a world of global cuisines, but this is the land of homegrown Midwest barbecue. Tuck in to the spicy smoked-meat sandwiches at Crosstown Barbecue or the finger-licking ribs at Buckingham’s. Gleaming wood floors and homemade Italian specialties make Nonna’s a hot destination downtown. Grilled meat—big piles of it—is the draw at the Argentine Steakhouse and ReRico Brazilian Grill. Locavores flock to the celebrated farm-to-table cuisine at handsome Farmers Gastropub.

Active Pursuits

With the mossy Ozarks tantalizingly close, it’s easy to immerse yourself in the great outdoors when you visit Springfield. First stop: the Bass Pro Shop World, a 300,000-foot active-sports emporium with equipment for every outdoor activity imaginable—plus waterfalls, an aquarium, a stuffed grizzly, and a Starbucks. For a tree-lined stroll or a scenic bike ride, the long ribbons of free public recreational trails on the city’s Ozark Greenways are sheer bliss.