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 selected section of Springfield or neighboring metro town. Last time, we visited Northwest Springfield. This time we explore the southeast corner of our city. We’d love to hear your suggestions, too. Send spots we missed to Springfield Daily Citizen Managing Editor Brittany Meiling at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Southeast Springfield is an outdoor lover’s playground, and boasts plenty of places to meet up with friends, feed your family and find healthy things to do. For the third installment of our neighborhood guide series, we explore another corner of Springfield: The area south of James River Freeway and east of National Avenue.
Some know this area as home to the Pat Jones YMCA or for kids’ soccer games, but with Lake Springfield, The Nature Center and Farmer’s Park within minutes of each other, you could plan an entire Saturday full of fun things to do.
We get you started with five great reasons to spend time in Southeast Springfield.
Farmers Market of the Ozarks/ Farmers Park
Start your weekend with food, fun, live music and local wares at the family-friendly Farmer’s Market of the Ozarks, open 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays at Farmers Park on East Republic Road near Glenstone. The open-air market is like a weekly mini-festival, with booth after colorful booth of fresh produce and flowers from local farms, plus local art and wearables, baked goods, beverages, meat and dairy products. On-site food trucks serve breakfast and lunch selections, or grab a bite at a local eatery. And in the warm summer months, ground-level Jumping Fountains entice giggling youngsters to get wet and cool off.
After shopping at the market, stop at the Cloud House on the south side of the Farmers Park complex. It’s one of several on-site public art sculptures — including the funky Frankentractor — that are fun to see for any age.
Architect Coffee Co.
Start your day a simpler way by stopping at Architect Coffee in the French Quarter shopping center between Fremont and Charleston Avenues. Architect is a local’s spot whether to pick up and go or to meet with friends and colleagues. They serve coffee and classic espresso drinks, a variety of tea, a yummy menu of seasonal smoothies (try the Honolulu Breeze!), and pastries baked fresh daily in-house, including vegan and gluten-free donuts. Also, a selection of hot breakfast sandwiches, quiche, toasts and their popular burritos are available through 1 p.m.
Springfield Conservation Nature Center
The Springfield Conservation Nature Center, minutes from Farmer’s Park just west of US 65, is a popular spot for runners, walkers and strolling families. Its three-mile multi-path trail system leads up and down hills around the 80-acre park. It’s bordered on one side by the James River Water Trail arm of Lake Springfield, goes along creeks, and even connects with the Galloway Creek Greenway trail.
It’s a great place to spot birds of all kinds including herons at the water’s edge and eagles in the winter months. Take your time so kids can look for tadpoles, frogs and turtles. Cross the bridge and take a side trail to the Photo Blind, a place to observe birds along the lake. You might even see turkey or deer while exploring the trails.
The park’s Visitor Center features information about programs, small live animals including a wild rat snake, and kid-friendly interactive educational exhibits, including a bird-watching area. Learn more about the Nature Center and view a gallery of photos here.
Where: 4601 Nature Center Way, just south of James River Freeway
Online: mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/places/springfield-conservation-nature-center; on Facebook here
Lake Springfield/ James River Water Trail
You could spend an entire afternoon playing at Lake Springfield, whether on foot or by boat. We love that the lake and its amenities are so accessible and close — one of many reasons Springfield is a great place to live for people who enjoy the outdoors.
The main entrance for the Lake Springfield Park and Boathouse is off Kissick Avenue, southwest of the Nature Center. This section of the lake features a network of paved and gravel trails with views of the lake, the Hilltop Pavilion with a playground, plus the boathouse and rentals to get you on the water. If you play disc golf, you’ll love the 18-hole professional-level disc golf course that’s like no other and takes players all around the park.
Get on the water with a kayak or canoe rental at the Boathouse. Have your own kayak? Launch in front of the Boathouse to paddle the lake or head left to paddle the connected James River Water Trail. Take the Greater Ozarks Audubon Trail that starts near the boat launch for a great view of the lake at Eagle’s Point, a rocky perch along the trail. (Find a trail map here.)
In addition to the main park, continue around the lake on Kissick Avenue to find a second parking lot for getting on the trails and several fishing access areas as you head southeast.
Or start your Lake Springfield adventure from the Southwood Canoe Access on the James River Water Trail arm of the lake — a great place to launch personal kayaks, do a little fishing or walk and bike the nearby Ozark Greenways Trail of Honor, which goes by the Missouri Veteran’s Cemetery and along the water trail.
Archie’s Italian Eatery
East Republic Road has a lot of great local dining choices for hungry locals and visitors spending the day. One of those, Archie’s Italian Eatery in a stand-alone building just east of Fremont Ave., offers a robust lunch menu with generous portions of traditional Italian fare for a reasonable price. It includes gluten-free options, too.
A selection of pizzas will satisfy kids. Plus, kids will get a kick out of “Rosie,” a unique robotic food delivery helper that runs dishes from the kitchen to tables to assist the servers.
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: email@example.com