FEATURES

 

Dad’s
Day Out
Published:
May/Jun 2004

Above: A family enjoying a horseback ride at Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield. Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau photo

Below: Visitors to Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World can spend hours seeing everything in the store, including a four-story waterfall and a huge aquarium. Missouri Tourism photo

Before You Go
For additional information, contact the Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau at 1-800-678-8767, or visit the Web site www.SpringfieldAdventures.com.

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Springfield, Mo., is a good choice for a father’s Day getaway,
where he can enjoy sports, wildlife and civil war lore.

By Patsy Bell Hobson

amily vacations are most often designed with children in mind. Moms seem to know instinctively where the best shops and spas are located. But what about dad? Where can he go to enjoy some of the things that interest him?

Springfield, Mo., tucked in the southwest corner of the state, will welcome dad with wildlife, sports and Civil War sites. This Father’s Day, give dad a break from doing the lawn, pile everyone into the family car, and head to southwest Missouri.

Springfield's big lure

Springfield’s flagship, Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World, is the “Grandaddy of all Outdoor Stores.” People plan family vacations and weekend getaways around a visit to Bass Pro Shops’ one-of-a-kind experience that includes a wildlife museum, four-story cascading waterfall, 30,000-gallon saltwater aquarium and fine dining at Hemingway's Blue Water Café. This vacation destination draws sportsmen and non-sports enthusiasts alike to an art gallery, fish and wildlife exhibits, a barbershop and an indoor firing range.

Next door, the American National Fish and Wildlife Museum, Wonders of Wildlife, is a giant celebration of the great outdoors, housing 700,000 gallons of circulating water and more than 250 live animal species, hunting and fishing displays and interactive exhibits. Computer simulators let visitors reel in a trophy fish or hear stories about the contributions of James Audubon or Teddy Roosevelt.

Begin your tour with a “Walk through the Woods” exhibit. This Missouri woodland habitat includes a suspended bridge walkway, birds flying overhead and ducks swimming in the water.

Visitors will get the feeling of being under water as they walk down the stairs along curved acrylic windows that offer a different perspective of pond life. Then, walk into the mouth of a 20-foot-long bass to discover how a fish lives. Next, stroll through an Ozarks cave containing displays of blind cavefish, crawfish, salamanders and even a colony of live bats. The Out-To-Sea Gallery is a canoe/aquarium filled with touchable sea creatures, such as horseshoe crabs, urchins, cowry snails and sea stars.

Show me the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame

Dad’s day out in Springfield would not be complete until he slips into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame racecar simulator or broadcasts a game with Harry Caray or Joe Garagiola.

The racecar has a motion-sensitive steering wheel and 200-watt speaker system that gives drivers a chance to feel and hear what it’s like on the inside of a real racecar. Set the three-minute simulator to beginner, intermediate or advanced levels. Even armchair sports enthusiasts will enjoy being in the broadcast booth to re-create sports history’s greatest games.

The Missouri Sports Hall of Fame is filled with sports memorabilia and interactive displays of most men’s and women’s sports. Throw a touchdown pass. Get a pep talk from former baseball manager Whitey Herzog, or step into a batting cage as a major league pitcher hurls his best 100-mph pitch to you.

The Civil War in Missouri

Civil War buffs may never want to leave General Sweeny's Museum of Civil War History and the adjacent Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield. General Sweeny's Museum tells the story of the Civil War west of the Mississippi River.

The displays begin with John Brown and the Kansas abolitionists who fought alongside him as he rode against Missouri's pro-slavery forces in the 1850s. Rare artifacts include Beecher’s Bible, a Sharp Carbine Rifle like the one Reverend Beecher sent to John Brown in boxes marked “Bibles,” a piece of Brown’s tent pole and the military manual that belonged to John Brown Jr.

The tour continues with several displays devoted to the Aug. 10, 1861, Battle of Wilson’s Creek, which took place next to the museum. Civil War historians must see the very rare Cherokee Brave Battle Flag used by troops under the command of the only native Confederate general, Brigadier General Stand Watie. From the museum, head out to the Wilson’s Creek National Civil War Battlefield.

The Battle of Wilson’s Creek marked the beginning of the Civil War in Missouri. Wilson’s Creek was the first major Civil War engagement west of the Mississippi River. Confederates, though victorious on the field, were not able to pursue Union troops. Gen. Nathaniel Lyon, the first Union general to be killed in the war, died in this Confederate victory. The battle awakened greater federal military activity in Missouri and set the stage for the Battle of Pea Ridge in March 1862.

Whether dad is a hunting and wildlife enthusiast, a sports fan or a Civil War buff, you can guarantee a fun family vacation with a little time out just for him.

Where in the
world is our dad?

There are plenty of places throughout the region where dads can find attractions and activities that appeal to them. Here are just a few ideas:

Dad in Kansas

Yesterdays Museum, located in the lower level of Topeka Harley-Davidson, is a free walk-through display about Harley-Davidson history. Henry’s Grill, the barbeque restaurant in the dealership, is a local favorite. For more information, call (785) 234-6174 or visit the Web site www.topekaharley.com.

Also in Topeka, dad can view a wide variety of military and aviation-oriented memorabilia at the Combat Air Museum. Call (785) 862-3303 or visit online at www.combatairmuseum.org.

If dad’s a NASCAR fan, you might get tickets at the Kansas Speedway for him. More outdoor gear, fishing or hunting equipment in massive surroundings are at Cabela’s. Both the speedway and Cabela’s are located in Kansas City, Kan. Consider staying at the Great Wolf Lodge next to Cabela’s, where the children will enjoy the indoor water park.
Call the Kansas City Kansas Convention and Visitors Bureau at 1-800-264-1563, or visit www.kckcvb.org.

Dad in Illinois

Visit the John Deere Pavilion, which offers free admission and is open year-round, in Moline, Ill.

The John Deere Pavilion anchors The John Deere Commons, which includes the John Deere Store, a specialty retail shop with a variety of John Deere merchandise; the John Deere Collectors Center, a living-history exhibit of a 1950s-era John Deere dealership; and the Radisson Hotel perched on the banks of the Mighty Mississippi River. For more details, call (309) 765-1000 or visit the Web site www.johndeerepavilion.com.

–Patsy Bell Hobson


Patsy Bell Hobson is a contributor from Liberty, Mo.

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