5 cool reasons to visit Springfield, Missouri
The Queen City of the Ozarks, Springfield, Missouri, tempts many with its numerous attractions.
Gary’s Gay Parita service station
Route 66 attractions
Springfield, Missouri, just under three hours from Tulsa, bills itself as the “Birthplace of Route 66.” Indeed, it was here in April 1926 that those responsible for the new Federal Highway System decided to give the Chicago-to-Los Angeles roadway its iconic number. Downtown, you’ll see plenty of Historic Route 66 signage and other remnants of those early days, such as the glorious Gillioz Theatre, 325 Park Central E. The History Museum on the Square, 157 Park Central Square, gives a full accounting of Springfield’s story.
If you are still in a Route 66 state of mind on the drive home, don’t miss Gary’s Gay Parita service station in Paris Springs, roughly 15 minutes west of Springfield. The late Gary Turner built this replica in 2004 as a tribute to the original station that burned down in the 1950s. The name comes from the wife of the original owner, Fred Watson. Turner’s family tends the place now and greets travelers from around the world on a daily basis.
Gailey’s Breakfast Cafe
Gailey’s Breakfast Cafe, 220 E. Walnut St., is a delightful breakfast and brunch spot. The restaurant space is in the old corner drugstore the Gailey family ran for decades. Today, their spirit of hospitality continues at this downtown diner. It’s open late Wednesday-Saturday for dinner service, too.
Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium
Johnny Morris’ Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium, 500 W. Sunshine St., not only has an impressive title, but also an impressive menagerie of creature features within. In addition to detailed exhibits featuring animals and habitats from around the globe, there’s also a 1.5-million-gallon aquarium onsite that contains more than 30,000 fish in addition to other animals. When the new facility opened in 2017, readers of USA Today voted it the Best New Attraction in the country.
If geological wonders are more your style, you no doubt noticed the many Fantastic Caverns billboards on the drive to Springfield. This sprawling cave, 4872 N. Farm Road 125, is the only one in North America that features a riding tour courtesy of a Jeep and trailer. The temperature of the caves maintains a steady 60 degrees year-round, which is a welcome respite from the heat during the summer months.
Rail Haven Motel
If you’re staying overnight, the Rail Haven on Route 66, 203 S. Glenstone Ave., is more than just a standard Best Western; Elvis Presley stayed here. A few classic cars sit next to the office and a restored neon sign illuminates the road, setting the stage for a wonderful photo op before a good night’s sleep.