Valley Water Mill Park is a hidden gem to be explored in Northeast Springfield. The park is a microcosm of the Ozarks and features trails, springs, habitat diversity, a lake and outdoor learning stations. (Photo by Sony Hocklander)

How well do you know your community? We help you to explore with our neighborhood guide, a series highlighting five places with something fun to do, see, eat or drink in a pocket of Springfield or neighboring metro town.

Last time, we visited Southeast Springfield. This time we explore the northeast corner of our city. 

Looking for inexpensive family fun with your kids or grandkids? An outing with friends? How about some nature-bathing “you” time, or something you’ve never done before like exploring underground or sailing over water? 

We’ve got you covered.

Our first three Neighborhood Guides shared five reasons to visit Springfield’s southwest, northwest and southeast. For this installment of our series, we explore northeast — the fourth corner of our community. With its city-to-rural transition, the area north of Division Street and east of Glenstone Avenue offers staycation-worthy things to do for a day of active play. It’s also a great area to take visiting family and friends. Lace-up your shoes — let’s go!

Fellows Lake, Marina and Trails

Fellows Lake Marina can help you navigate the water, whether by sail, paddle or motor. (Photo by Wes Johnson)

When it comes to local outdoor experiences around Springfield, the Fellows Lake Recreation Area is a must-go destination. Sure, it’s been around for decades, but thanks to recent collaborative community efforts, Fellows is becoming a crown jewel of outdoor opportunities for Springfield and Greene County. If you haven’t been for a while — or ever! — put it on your list.

For one thing, it has the new Fellows Lake Marina in Miller Park, now run by the Watershed Committee of the Ozarks. The marina provides multiple experiences. You can join the new Springfield Sailing Club, rent a sailboat and get sailing lessons, or purchase a permit for your small motorized boat, kayak or canoe to get on the water. Stop at the Fellows Lake Store (open seven days a week March 1 to Oct. 31) to rent a small watercraft. Like to fish? Try landing a bass, crappie, walleye or muskie, all residents of the lake. 

More than 25 miles of natural surface trails are ready to ride, walk or run at the Fellows Lake Recreation Area in Northeast Springfield. (Photo by Jym Wilson)

Trail-users get scenic lake views, too. Thanks to the Dirt 66 project, Fellows Lake now has more than 25 miles (and counting) of interconnected natural surface trails that weave through trees and pastures for walking, running and biking. We love the trails’ catchy names like That Dam Downhill & That Dam Return, Bullwinkle, Stick Return, Little Bit O’Downhill and more (find a map here). If you love trails, you’ll love Fellows Lake. (Read more here from Daily Citizen contributor Wes Johnson.)

Dark Stone Coffee

This little kiosk in Northeast Springfield is Dark Stone Coffee, an easy drive-thru for coffee and other beverages. (Photo by Sony Hocklander)

Can coffee be cute? About a block southeast of Kearney Street and Glenstone Avenue, a tiny black kiosk about the length of an SUV serves up big flavor. You won’t mistake what’s on the menu at Dark Stone Coffee with its large white “coffee” sign. The northside drive-thru is a handy local spot to grab your morning cup, an afternoon pick-me-up or a frozen coffee treat. 

The robust drink menu includes medium dark house roast, expresso, cappuccino and a selection of flavored lattes. There are tasty options like Snickerdoodle, Vanilla Bean, Hazelnut Cream, Mocha, and even a French Silk Pie. (A frozen Newspaper latte — black and white with raspberry red — is an afternoon treat this writer will go back for!) Whatever you order, you can be sure it’s a “clean drink,” free of corn syrup, food dyes and other additives. Tea, steamers, cocoa, fruit smoothies and other non-coffee drinks are also available, as are vegan and gluten-free drink options. (Drive-thru tip: They serve at windows on both sides of the building.)

Where: 1826 E. Turner St.

Online: darkstonecoffee.com

Contact: 417-450-9648

Crystal Cave

Opened to the public in 1893, Crystal Cave is Missouri’s second-oldest show cave and is located around 10 miles north of Springfield. (Photo by Kaitlyn McConnell)

With its much-ballyhooed reopening in March of 2022, touring Crystal Cave — just east of State Highway H north of Springfield — is worthy of anyone’s go-to list of local adventures. But it’s not the only reason to visit Crystal Cave, especially when looking for something new to do with kids. 

Kids of all ages can play miniature golf at Crystal Cave’s visitor center. (Photo provided by Crystal Cave)

In the visitor center, beat the heat with a round of 9-hole indoor miniature golf. They also offer a Gemstone Mining and Fossil Dig experience for kids who like to hunt for treasures. Or play one of the restored original game machines at the Crystal Cave Penny Arcade. 

But do plan to tour the cave at least once. Missouri’s second-oldest show cave originally opened in 1893. Now reopened after a gap in public access, visitors can once again enjoy its 59-degree constant temperature and geologic wonders. These include a formation called the Washington Monument and multiple cave rooms with descriptive names: the Ghost Room, the Concert Hall, the Chimes Room — and more. You might even see one of the cave’s resident salamanders. In this story by Kaitlyn McConnell, learn more about the cave and its history before visiting.

Where: 7126 N. Crystal Cave Lane

Online: visitcrystalcave.com

Contact: 417-815-2283; info@visitcrystalcave.com

Valley Water Mill Park

In this view at Valley Water Mill Park, trail walkers can see the boardwalk and accessible fishing piers across the lake. (Photo by Sony Hocklander)

An oasis delight in Northeast Springfield, Valley Water Mill Park appeals to families, urban hikers, nature-lovers and even anglers. The 70-acre park features a 13-acre lake, a nature loop trail and spurs, educational interpretive signs, outdoor classrooms and lots of natural points of interest to explore. 

Like to fish? Accessible fishing spots, a boardwalk and plenty of shoreline area make it easy to cast for bass, bluegill, and catfish stocked by the Missouri Department of Conservation

Valley Water Mill Park has a 1.5-mile nature trail loop, plus several spurs for exploring. (Photo by Sony Hocklander)

Once a source of power and drinking water (with an original dam built in the 1850s), the lake area was purchased in 1957 by City Utilities of Springfield and became a park in 2006. With the lake and its caves, springs, sinkholes, creeks and habitat diversity, the park is a microcosm of the natural Ozarks. 

Along the nature trail through the hilly park, stop for a view at the Valley Water Mill Spring Learning Station. (Photo by Sony Hocklander)

The park’s main trail loops around the lake and into hilly terrain. Go counterclockwise to see the lake first, or start your adventure near the Watershed Center building which includes restroom facilities. There are plenty of side trails for exploring the glades, woods, bluffs, marshland and stream beds. Watch for scenic overlooks and bridges. There’s so much to see and do, you’ll want to make Valley Water Mill Park a regular outing. 

Golf, Golf, and more Golf

Golfers play on the Bill and Payne Stewart Golf Course in Northeast Springfield. (Photo provided by the Springfield-Greene County Park Board)

Surprisingly, Northeast Springfield is a minor golfing mecca. Just northeast of I-44 and Glenstone Avenue is the 18-hole Bill and Payne Stewart Golf Course, a long-standing public course easily reached just off the highway and run by the Springfield-Greene County Park Board. Located at 1825 E. Norton Road, it’s a 6,162-yard par 70 course with two practice greens, a driving range and a small snack bar that also serves beer. Learn more at parkboardgolf.org/bill-and-payne-stewart or call 417-833-9962.

The entrance to the Betty Allison Junior Golf Course at Oscar Blom is next door to the Bill and Payne Stewart Golf Course. (Photo provided by the Springfield-Greene County Park Board)

Right next door, with the same address and contact info, is its younger sibling, the 1,407-yard Betty Allison Junior Golf Course at Oscar Blom. The family-friendly par 3, 9-hole course is a great spot to play a quick, easy round with your kids or grandkids.

Big Shots Golf is an entertainment center with a restaurant near Glenstone Avenue and Kearney Street in Northeast Springfield. (Photo by Sony Hocklander)

From these two golf courses, look south. See that giant net towering over buildings and street lights? That’s Big Shots Golf, yet a third way to swing a club with friends or family. Located at 1930 E. Kearney St. just east of Glenstone Avenue, you can’t miss this entertainment center. Reserve time in a Tee Box to play a blended golf-video game on the interactive driving range. (They have kid-size clubs, too!) Or just stop in for a meal. Big Shots has a full-service restaurant and bar (including happy hour prices), plus a patio with a firepit where guests can play miniature golf and other yard games. For more information, visit bigshotsgolf.com or call 417-427-3040.


Sony Hocklander

Sony Hocklander is a freelance journalist, video storyteller and photographer who produces creative content through her small solo business, Sony Hocklander Creative LLC. When she’s not telling community stories, she loves wandering the Ozarks outdoors with a camera in hand. You can follow her on Twitter @SonyHocklander and on Instagram @shocklander or email her at: sonyhocklander@gmail.com More by Sony Hocklander