Known as the birthplace of Route 66, Springfield is a vibrant city offering recreation, live entertainment, historic dining options, world-class attractions, and variety of shopping and cultural activities. Located in southwest Missouri situated in the heart of Ozark Mountain country, Springfield is the third largest city in the state and is one of the fastest growing cities in the Midwest.
Springfield was officially recognized as the birthplace of Route 66 on April 30, 1926, when officials first proposed the name of the new Chicago to Los Angeles Highway. In 1938, Route 66 became the first completely pave trans continental highway in America, the Mother Road, stretching from the great lakes to the specific coast.
Whether your interests are in local history or events of the past that shaped our nation, there are plenty of historical sites and museums in the area will provide both education and entertainment. If you’re cruising through Springfield or planning a vacation and want to see iconic stops on your way, our Springfield travel guide is filled with the best hotels, restaurants, museums, attractions and must-see Route 66 sites.
By Kinya Claiborne, STYLE & SOCIETY
Photo Credit: Shot by Shelly
Route 66 Travel Must-Sees and Beyond in Springfield, Missouri
Oasis Hotel & Convention Center
The Oasis Hotel’s coveted Paradise Suite is unlike any other accommodations in Springfield. The suites have two floors with a beautiful, solid wood spiral staircase. The upper level features a gorgeously decorated private bedroom with a bathroom where you’ll find a TV built into the mirror and a two-person, Infinity, Chromotherapy soaking tub. The downstairs living area is equipped to allow for full relaxation with a fireplace, 55-inch smart TV and a kitchenette. While you’re there, chill out at Fire & Ice Restaurant & Bar Springfield’s only Ice Bar featuring an extensive wine, cocktail and food menu.
Best Western Route 66 Rail Haven
Best Western Route 66 Rail Haven has been welcoming international guests along Route 66 for more than 75 years and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The vintage motel has been beautifully preserved to combine historic charm with modern comfort and convenience. Elvis Presley even stayed at the Royal Haven and the room he occupied has been preserved in his honor. Themed rooms throughout celebrate the history of the motel with nostalgic décor including Wild Bill Hickok, Marilyn Monroe and the Elvis themed room you can reserve complete with a pink Cadillac bed.
Fantastic Caverns is the largest ride-through cave in North American and is located beneath the rolling Ozarks Hills just north of Springfield Missouri. The Jeep drawn trams carry visitors on a 50-minute guided tour following a 1-mile ancient underground riverbed filled with massive formations. There are only four of its kind in the entire world and only one in North America. One of the world’s most beautiful natural wonders, Fantastic Cavern was first explored by a group of 12 women in 1862. It’s storied history includes being a speakeasy during prohibition and a venue for country music shows in the massive part of the cave that provides perfect acoustics for musicians.
Wonders of Wildlife National Museum & Aquarium
Wonders of Wildlife National Museum & Aquarium has been voted best new attraction and best aquarium in America. This 350,000 square-foot wildlife attraction features 35,000 live fish, mammals, reptiles and birds in an immersive wildlife museum that brings visitors eye to eye with the greatest collection of record-setting game animal ever assembled. The museum takes visitors on a journey through wildlife galleries featuring hundreds of creatures large and small followed by the aquarium were thousands of fish swim about, showcasing their variety of sizes, shapes and colors.
Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World
Don’t make a visit to Springfield without seeing Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World, the granddaddy of all outdoor door stores. This massive outdoor theme experience is the number one tourist attraction in Missouri attracting 4 million families, sportsman and outdoor enthusiast every year. The massive outdoor themed experience includes nearly 500,000 ft.² of shopping, seven intricate aquariums, waterfalls and even a swamp with turtles and alligators. The store offers visitors one of the largest assortments of outdoor gear, apparel and gifts under one roof.
Route 66 Steak N’ Shake
As only one of three locations still located on Route 66, the Route 66 Steak N’ Shake was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2012 and still houses the original signage. Enjoy famously delicious steak burgers in the classic red booth. Guests can also take advantage of the curbside service this location still offers.
Red’s Giant Hamburg
Although Reds Giant Hamburg opened in 2019, its history goes back to 1940s when the original Reds open it stores on historic Route 66. It’s home to tasty hamburgers and the first drive-through restaurant window in the world. The original Reds became a staple for Springfield residence and travelers until it closed in 1984. The new restaurant (no longer on Route 66) features the same old-fashion hamburgers, fries, ice cream and other menu items that were available from the original restaurant with classic photo-worthy decor.
History Museum on the Square
Voted ‘Best New Attraction in the Country’, visitors to the History Museum on the Square are transported into the rich tapestry of southwest Missouri‘s history through interactive exhibits, video and photography and a treasure trove of artifacts. The museum that opened in 2019 has more than 18,000 ft.² of space including three floors with a welcome center, six permanent galleries, traveling exhibit space and a Route 66 section. Highlights of the museum include a Trolley Time Machine with over 40 videos to take you back in time, the Shootout chamber to see if you are as good a shot as Wild Bill Hickok in a recreation of the first Wild West Shootout, and original and replica iconic neon signs from Route 66, the Mother Road.