Introduction to Springfield, Missouri
Known as "The Cultural Center of the Ozarks," the city of Springfield lies in the southwestern part of the state of Missouri, about 50 miles north of the Arkansas border. The city is home to Missouri State University, and also home to Ozarks Technical Community College, and Drury and Evangel Universities. Springfield is served by Interstate 44 which leads to St. Louis (215 miles to the northeast). Other major highways serving the city include U.S. Routes 60, 65, and 160, and Missouri State Highway 13. Portions of historic U.S. Route 66 still exist in parts of the city. The county seat of Greene County, Springfield is situated just 45 miles north of the major tourist and entertainment destination of Branson.
Incorporated in 1838, Springfield became known for a major Civil War engagement which took place in 1861 just outside the city. Known as "The Battle of Wilson's Creek," the conflict involved Confederate and Union forces engaged in bloody fighting in a region bitterly divided between Northern and Southern sympathizers. In 1865, Springfield was the site of an historic gunfight where "Wild Bill" Hickok killed Davis K. Tutt, Jr. over a gambling dispute. The incident is widely considered by historians to have been the first real "Wild West" gunfight, in the style that would later be depicted countless times in TV and movie westerns.
Things to do and see in Springfield
Among Springfield's most popular attractions are the following:
- Discovery Center of Springfield: An interactive hands-on science center for children
- Fantastic Caverns: The only cave in North America large enough to ride through
- Juanita K. Hammons Hall for the Performing Arts: Located on the Missouri State University campus
- Landers Theatre: Constructed in 1909 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places
- Springfield National Cemetery: The only cemetery in the nation where the dead on both sides of the Civil War are buried side by side
- Wilson's Creek National Battlefield: Site of the Battle of Wilson's Creek and home to The Hulston Civil War Library
- Wonders of Wildlife Museum & Aquarium
- Dickerson Park Zoo
- Mosher House
- The Booth-Dickey House
- The Railroad Historical Museum
- The Springfield Art Museum
Less than an hours drive south is the city of Branson, a major entertainment and vacation destination. Often referred to as the "Las Vegas of the Ozarks," Branson is a bustling modern commercial town that probably resembles Las Vegas more than any other city. It is the site of several musical and entertainment venues with regular appearances by famous celebrities, most (but not all) of whom are in the country music field. Among the many performing arts sites featuring live entertainment in Branson are the Andy Williams Moon River Theater and Dick Clark's American Bandstand Theater.
Sports fans in Springfield have access to first rate collegiate competition. The Missouri State Bears are members of the Missouri Valley Conference for all sports except football (Gateway Football Conference), men's swimming (Sun Belt Conference), and field hockey (Mid-American Conference). The Bears have enjoyed great success, particularly in basketball and baseball. The men's basketball team reached the NCAA's Sweet Sixteen in 1999, the women's basketball team made the Final Four in 1992 and 2001, and the Bears baseball team appeared in the College World Series in 2003. Fans of professional sports can watch Minor League Baseball's Springfield Cardinals, a Double-A affiliate of the Major League's St. Louis Cardinals. The Springfield Cardinals play in the Texas League.
Located just east of Springfield is The Missouri Sports Hall of Fame. The Hall showcases sports memorabilia of Missouri athletes and includes numerous interactive exhibits and displays.