I’ve never viewed the middle of the country as a travel destination. It’s always seemed too flat, too boring, and frankly, too wholesome and close-minded to be a place where I wanted to spend much time. But if I’ve learned anything in nearly five years of traveling around the country, it’s that most places will surprise you. Also, if you want to get from one side of the country to another it’s kind of hard to skip over the middle.
So last week we found ourselves smack in the middle of the country in Springfield, Missouri. If asked what things I most associate with Missouri I would say churches and tornadoes. Turns out I was right about the churches, there really is one on every corner (of course, I could say that about any number of states). And while Missouri does have tornadoes, the city of Springfield has not had one in over 150 years. A fact which we found almost comical when halfway through our stay we listened to the tornado sirens go off intermittently for about 30 minutes. Thankfully, the path went far south and never touched down.
Since we didn’t explore around the state I can’t generalize too much, but I can say that a few things about the city of Springfield surprised me. First of all, downtown Springfield is a undergoing a revitalization of sorts with trendy bars and restaurants popping up all over the place. There are several breweries, a 24-hour donut shop where they sell pastries with names like Homer, E.T., and Dirt Worm, and a rum bar where you can get a fancy drink served in a skull shaped mug. There’s a local butcher shop, a brand new natural food store, and of course, the required number of hip coffee shops. There is also a movie theater where you can see a film for only four bucks, a vibrant music scene, and a culture that supports the LBGQT community. So apparently, all of the midwest isn’t quite as wholesome or close-minded as I thought.
Outside of downtown Springfield, the city has the usual box stores and rows of condos, but it also has a number of public parks, several greenway trails, a Japanese garden, and even a 35-mile long rail trail on the north end of the city. Oh, and it also has the flagship Bass Pro Shop store where they have two resident alligators, several baby ducks, and a whole bunch of fish and turtles (all rescue animals who can longer live in the wild).
So while I still don’t think of the middle of the country as a top vacation destination, I now know that it certainly has some redeeming qualities. Will we be settling in Missouri anytime soon? It’s doubtful (although it is very affordable) but I can definitely see us returning for a repeat visit the next time we make a cross country journey.
It’s funny, I often notice there are several states no one talks about in travel blogs…. mostly in the middle of the country. Missouri is definitely one of them (Oklahoma is another big one… does anyone ever actually visit Oklahoma???) Anyway, it’s good to know there are fun things to do if we end up heading through there…. And I agree, places surprise us quite often these days. You just never know until you check it out for yourself.
At least this time of year Oklahoma seems to be tornado central which is part of the reason why we avoided it. Like all states though, I have heard about some great campgrounds in Oklahoma. I find the more often than not we’re surprised by the places we think might be boring or not for us.
Looks like a fantastic place to visit! Beautiful gardens and paths…and those burgers! Wow!
I’m still thinking about those burgers! It was a good thing we left the next day otherwise we might not have resisted a second visit.
Stereotyping regions as “close-minded” says more about the writer than those being discriminated against.
And chastising someone for being honest about their perceived biases (and admitting that they turned out to be false) says more about the reader than the writer.
What a wonderful surprise, as my assumptions run parallel to yours. Love the cute downtown and those amazing donuts! Wonderful gardens with very cute turtles :-)))))
A small city worth a visit if you ever find yourself in southwest Missouri. In a time when we see so many downtown areas with empty storefronts and deserted streets, it’s great to see a city that has been able to revitalize itself and create a vibrant community.
A couple years ago we stayed at Bennett Spring State Park which is a little NE of Springfield. One of the nicer places we stayed on our 45 day trip to the West coast. Worth a look if your in the area.
That sounds like a place we need to put on a list for a later visit. We’re already way past MO now, but I looked the park website and it looks lovely!
I have to agree with Laura…there are sections of the country that Just don’t end up being written about in blogs. And you are so right….you can’t get from one side of the country to the other and skip the middle. So I’m glad to read about Springfield Missouri….a place to visit and do a little exploring. After all, it’s part of the country!!
Yes, there is a tendency for the middle section to get skipped over when it comes to blogging about fun and exciting places. While in my mind Missouri still doesn’t compare to the states I love like Colorado or Maine, I’m happy that we stopped to explore a bit instead of simply driving through.
Ignoring your post completely, did you cut your hair? It looks so cute!!!
Yes, I did! I got about 6″ cut off! Thanks for noticing :)
Happy to hear you enjoyed Springfield! I currently reside there and I’m very happy living in this little city along 66. The Ozarks has a lot to offer when it comes to outdoor fun, exploring, and taking pictures. Someone mentioned Bennett Spring. Also look up Ha Ha Tonka State Park sometime. It might entice you into wanting to come back to the middle of the country again soon!