50 Things Every 417Lander Must Do

Dated: October 27 2017

Views: 471

BY KATIE POLLOCK ESTES via: 417mag.com

When do you know you’ve become fully initiated into your home? You can start by trying all the foods that are unique to the area. You can check the best sites off your bucket list. You can immerse yourself in the outdoors. And, let’s be honest, that can take years! This feature is your shortcut—a list of 50 things that every 417-lander should know, do or eat to be really and truly local.

DISCLAIMER: The information in this article was fact checked and accurate at press time, but 417 Magazine cannot guarantee its accuracy indefinitely.

Photo by Tim Hawley, Interactive art installation: Matthew Mazzotta, Cloud House © Matthew Mazzotta


Just steps south of Farmers Park (2144 E. Republic Road, Springfield), the Cloud House beckons visitors to the most relaxing work of interactive public art in the area. Step into the house-like structure with a friend and rock on the creaky wooden chairs. After a few seconds, rain begins to pour down from a marshmallow-fluff cloud and tap the tin rooftop before trickling down outside the windows. You can either spend your time wondering how it works or just sit back and enjoy the peaceful sound. (We recommend the latter.) This whimsical little local treasure that’s half clever engineering and half attractive design was developed during a residency at Farmers Park by designer Matthew Mazzotta. 


Photo by Starboard & Port Creative


In 417-land, hunting is more than just camo and, if you’re lucky, some venison stew later on. The sport is ingrained in our region’s history and culture, and it’s a pastime that’s shared among lifelong friends and generations of family members. It’s as much about the camaraderie and the tradition as it is about the hunt itself. When deer season begins, 417-land’s most avid hunters pull out their gear, set up their stands and make absolutely no other plans—because deer season trumps everything else. If you’re new to the sport, the Missouri Department of Conservation can hook you up with permit information, hunter education and certification classes, shooting skills courses and more. 

Missouri Department of Conservation Navigate to “Hunting and Trapping” online at  mdc.mo.gov.



Park your car on a dark road, turn off your headlights and hold your breath. If you’re lucky, you’ll spy an unexplained bright light up ahead. The source of the Joplin Spook Light is debatable (some say ghosts, some say headlights), but the best place to view it isn’t in Joplin at all, but rather just inside the Oklahoma border on Oklahoma East 50 Road looking west.



Summertime in 417-land is all about the water. The rivers, the streams, the lakes. All of them are hidden gems to anyone who isn’t from or hasn’t fallen in love with the region. And the king of all the waterways is Table Rock Lake. On a hot day, nothing beats the wind in your hair as you fly across the water on a boat. But the best—the absolute very best—is the moment when you find a quiet cove, stop the boat and jump into the cool, refreshing water. It’s the ultimate “ahhh.”



Channel your inner Clark Griswold, pile the family into your vehicle and warm up those pipes for a carol-filled road trip to Ozark Valley Christmas Tree Farm. The 417-land farm grows Scotch pine Christmas trees, and they offer up everything you need to cut your own: box saws, carts and even a hand with packing and loading it into your car. As an added scenic bonus, the farm is located on rolling Ozarks hills, so you can take in the rustic scenery while you’re there. You get to soak up some gorgeous bits of southwest Missouri and enjoy a family tradition while you’re at it. There is also a shop with wreaths, holiday decor and snacks.

Ozark Valley Christmas Tree Farm 1090 Manning Road, Southwest City, 417-762-2276



You’re acquainted with Lulu, right? The hip-swiveling siren of summertime sweetness? Lulu is the hula girl perched atop the Pineapple Whip trucks, a Springfield original serving frozen nondairy soft-serve treats in flavors that taste like a 417-land summer: pineapple, orange, strawberry-kiwi, mango-peach, grape, Nana-granate, and the oh-so-rare chocolate. But part of the allure of this treat is its expiration date; the trucks close for the winter, leaving you pining for your next dip of the whip. 


Photo Brandon Alms


The chili at Casper’s (601 W. Walnut St., Springfield) is only half of the reason you need to go there. The other half is the atmosphere. Practically every inch of the Quonset hut is covered in kitsch. And this place is absolutely tiny. You might have to wait to get in. You might have to share a spot at the bar with a stranger. That’s all part of the experience. You can start a conversation and make a new friend while you wait for your food to find its way to you. And when your server sets down that little white bowl overflowing with meaty chili and piled high with cheese and chopped onions, you’ll understand why this spot has been slinging chili since 1909.



It seems like all the women and men (and even some of the kids!) of 417-land fall firmly on one side of the CrossFit debate. Either they can’t stop talking about it, or they roll their eyes when conversing with someone who can’t stop talking about it. It’s an activity that elicits strong opinions, that’s for sure. But be careful when you roll those eyes—they might just land on someone’s impressive bicep. We’re sure they’ll tell you how to get it if you ask.



Here’s the thing about greasy spoons: The nostalgic shtick can only get you so far. If you want to last, you have to offer up something seriously delish. For Branson natives and lake-bound daytrippers alike, Billy Bob’s Dairy Land has long been the little diner that was worth a side trip. The spot sells truly delicious (and enormous!) burgers, crispy crinkle-cut fries, loaded hot dogs and plenty of indulgent milk shakes for that classic old-time diner feel. But it’s the fried pies that you really don’t want to miss. The little half-moons of pie crust are expertly sealed around luscious filling and freshly fried. Every piping hot bite is a sweet little treasure.

Billy Bob’s Dairy Land 1901 West 76 Country Blvd., Branson



At our Springfield-based Andy’s Frozen Custard, everything is pretty darn delicious. But true 417-landers know that there is one little topping that Andy’s does better than any other treats purveyor around: roasted pecans. Outsiders might think, “Oh sure. Pecans on a turtle. That’s what I expected.” And to them we say, “These aren’t just pecans, you nut!” These pecans are roasted until they are perfectly crisp but still buttery rich, with just enough salt to add a savory touch to our favorite Andy’s classics, like the Ozark Turtle sundae or the butter pecan concrete. Want a sweet-and-salty hint? We especially enjoy adding the roasted pecans to our raspberry sundaes.


Photo by Brandon Alms


With so many streams both big and small winding through the Ozarks wilderness, it seems impossible to choose one to represent our floating and fishing culture. But the North Fork fits the bill. This spring-fed tributary of the White River winds through Wright, Douglas and Ozark Counties for 109 miles. A scenic canoe ride down the river includes a little bit of everything we love about Ozarks waterways. There are springs that you can hop out and visit (Althea Spring, for example), scenic old mills (like Dawt Mill with its dining and lodging options), a bit of white water and tons of quality rainbow trout fishing—some of the best rainbow trout fishing in the region, in fact. The water is cold and crystal clear, and spending a day on it is the perfect introduction to river-rat life.



Hey, if the Burrito Enchilada Style is good enough to have its own place on one of Mexican Villa’s painted murals, then who are we to argue? There’s a reason this massive dish is a local favorite. You might hear longtime Springfieldians tell you to order it (or the similar Sancho Enchilada Style) to initiate you into the world of Mexican Villa fandom. The massive burritos are filled with beef, beans, cheese and burrito sauce and then smothered with enchilada sauce and yet more cheese. You can tackle the beast in its entirety, or you can order a half-size portion. Either way, the Burrito Enchilada Style is your gateway drug to Mexican Villa’s other signature flavors, like the sweet sauce. It’s a thin, pink and very sweet dipper for your tortilla chips. Just because Mexican Villa offers up this sugary concoction, don’t expect the spicy sauce to be a weak one. Mexican Villa’s hot sauce definitely brings the heat. Depending on your personal taste, you’ll probably douse your Burrito Enchilada Style with one of these two sauces. And once you do, you can say you’re eating like a true 417-lander.

Mexican Villa several locations in Springfield and Ozark



When it comes to interactive kid-pleasing features, Springfield’s own Dickerson Park Zoo takes the cake with its Giraffe Deck feeding experience. Guests of the zoo can purchase wafer crackers to feed the giraffes right up at the animals’ eye level. It’s a chance to see just how tall these creatures are and how long those hungry black tongues are as they reach out to grab a bite straight from your hand! The feed costs $4, or it can be purchased with zoo tokens. If you are visiting the zoo with kiddos who just can’t get enough of the fun they have interacting with animals, bring them to the Outback Corral petting zoo after they feed the giraffes. There they can hand-feed smaller critters, like goats, donkeys and more.



If you’re in the mood for a challenge, see if you can walk or ride your bike the entire length of the Frisco Highline Trail, crossing all 16 of its bridges in the process. The trip is no small potatoes. In fact, it’s the longest rail-to-trail path in the state besides the famous Katy Trail. The Frisco Highline Trail winds across two counties and covers a whopping 35 miles, cutting through scenic pastures and across rivers. Find more info about the trail online at ozarkgreenways.org.



Even the bravest daredevils will get a thrill from racing down the twisting, looping track of Outlaw Run in the pitch-black darkness. So when Silver Dollar City stays open until 10 p.m. for Moonlight Madness in the summer, you should jump at the chance to experience this unique thrill. The ride is completely different when you can’t see where the cars are headed. Every turn is a surprise. Every loop is a shock. It’s a must-try for thrill-seekers in 417-land.



You know you’ve been there. You're trying to explain Springfield-style cashew chicken to a newbie, and you’re met with a confused face and furrowed brow. You try to talk about the sauce. (It’s more like a gravy?) You try to explain the chicken. (It’s like the yummiest chicken nugget you’ve ever had.) But no matter how hard you try, it’s just not gelling. You’re singing its praises, and your friend is nothing but dubious. Here’s how you fix it: Take them to try the original recipe and have dinner at Leong’s Asian Diner. It’s a good segue into the dish’s history (invented in the ’60s by David Leong) and the only way to really show your pal what it’s all about.

Leong’s Asian Diner, 1540 W. Republic Road, Springfield, 417-887-7500, 



People are sometimes surprised to learn that canoes and ski boats aren’t the only way to get around on 417-land waterways. Stockton Lake, just an hour north of Springfield, is known for its stellar sailing opportunities. It plays host to recreational sailors, the annual Governor’s Cup Regatta sailboat races, and (lucky for you) sailing lessons. When you decide you’re ready to try your hand at this sport that’s as beautiful as it is fun, get in touch with the folks at Stockton State Park Marina. There you can opt for a handful of knowledge- and skills-based sailing courses, depending on your experience. The Basic Keelboat class is $625 for two days and covers everything you need to get your feet wet, like navigation rules, sailing terminology, helm commands and more. It’s a prerequisite for more advanced courses, like Basic Coastal Cruising, Coastal Navigation Standard and more. Classes are taught by a certified instructor and U.S. Coast Guard Captain. So now that you know, are you ready to feel the wind in your sails?

Sailing School Stockton State Park Marina, stocktonstateparkmarina.com



Photographer and native Springfieldian Julie Blackmon is a recognizable name outside the region, yet she still lives and works right here in 417-land. If you are familiar with her work, keep your eye out to spot her distinctive style. You can see her art on the walls at Druff’s in downtown Springfield, and she has had work featured in Time and The New Yorker. Once you fall in love, get your hands on her books Homegrown and Domestic Vacations.


Photos by Adam Williams Photography


You already know good lighting is Instagram gold, right? Well, put that good lighting in a well designed bathroom, slap a clever hashtag on it, and you have one of 417-land’s favorite Friday-night-out trends: the #hotelvandivortbathroomselfie. And here’s the thing, folks. It’s not just about the way the light in that bathroom makes your skin glow and your blemishes disappear. It’s about being out with the cool kids on a weekend night. It’s about being the one who’s enjoying a killer cocktail at Hotel Vandivort’s restaurant, The Order, while somebody else is just sitting around at home, scrolling through Instagram in their jammies. It’s about being there. And it’s fun! Only a hotel that’s having fun could have embraced bathroom selfies with such gusto. So, if you haven’t already, go make one. We promise you’ll be impressed by the social media potential hiding in those potties.



Every true 417-lander knows where to find the best places to take a dip in our region’s many gorgeous lakes. But there is one extra-special spot that even the most seasoned lake-goers might not know about: Secret Cove on Bull Shoals Lake. The lake itself is a treasure with less development than other waterways and tons of crystal-clear water that you can enjoy without encountering too much boat traffic. But Secret Cove is arguably the best part of the whole lake. Navigate your boat to a narrow cove between points 17 and 18 on the lake, and you’ll wind back half a mile—surrounded on both sides with sheer bluffs—before reaching a spot where you can hike up the hillside to an interesting rock formation. It’s like your own scenic little hideaway on an already hidden-away cove.


Photo courtesy Big Cedar Lodge


As if the sprawling, scenic vista viewable from Top of the Rock weren’t enough of a reason to visit the attraction, you can also add a little bit of moving music to the mix. The Top of the Rock Signature Sunset Ceremony features live bagpipe music and the firing of a Civil War cannon to accompany the colors of an Ozarks sunset. It’s a bit of pomp, but well deserved. The striking views from the mountaintop preserve are nothing short of breathtaking.



Once you realize the cultural opportunities available in 417-land, there’s just no turning back. To experience all that the region has to offer, you have to take in as much of that show-stopping culture as possible. Just this month alone, there is so much happening. Springfield Ballet is busy gearing up for its annual performance of The Nutcracker, which starts December 15. The actors with Springfield Little Theatre at the historic Landers Theatre are wrapping up The Miracle Worker (which runs through November 5) and getting ready for the November 24 opening of Elf Jr.: The Musical. Over at the Springfield Symphony Orchestra, the November Salute to Veterans pops concert fits perfectly into the 2017 to 2018 revolution-themed season. Springfield Contemporary Theatre is performing a class: Driving Miss Daisy. The Moxie offers up independent and foreign films all year long. And the Springfield Regional Opera performed Verdi’s Otello as the opening show in the organization’s 37th season in Springfield. 

More Online springfieldballet.orgspringfieldlittletheatre.orgspringfieldmosymphony.org, sropera.org, moxiecinema.com, springfieldcontemporarytheatre.org


Photo by Chuck Travers


One of our very favorite little pieces of community in 417-land is created around the region’s small farm owners, who are all about sharing the farm-to-table love. Several have started hosting regular dinners on the farm, where guests can dine on tasty fare, enjoy a relaxed night in a scenic setting, meet a new friend and get to know the men and women who grow and raise their food. One of the first to crop up was Thursday Night Pizza Club at Millsap Farms. From May through October, the Millsaps sling hot pizza and share their slice of paradise. Since then, other farms have joined the fun with food and cocktail events at Green Thicket Farm, Lavender Falls Farm and downtown’s Urban Roots Farm.



When lifelong 417-landers regale you with tales of their youthful escapades about the town, you might hear about their time atop the mechanical bull at Midnight Rodeo (1773 S. Glenstone Ave., Springfield). If you’re really paying attention, you might even conclude that a true 417-lander hasn't come of age unless they’ve been bucked off once or twice. And if all of that bucking weren’t enough to make you feel just a little discombobulated after a few drinks, there’s also this: The bar rotates. 



The bad news is that drive-in theaters are steadily disappearing. The United Drive-In Theatre Owners Association counted only 324 of them in the U.S. in 2016. The good news is that 417-land is lucky enough to have four temperate seasons and actual drive-in opportunities. That means cool nights snuggled up in front of a movie screen are a must-do before it’s too late. Get your nostalgic fix at the Sunset Drive-In Theater (1601 E. Church St., Aurora, 417-678-6609). 

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Michelle Cantrell

Michelle is a native of Southwest Missouri and has twenty-five years of experience in selling real estate in the greater Springfield area! Michelle specializes in all price points, including new const....

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