The Pythian Home was built in 1915 of limestone for use by the fraternal order of the Knights of Pythias and others receiving their bounty. Sold to the US government during WWII, this imposing structure sits on the fringe of what formerly belonged to Evangel University, but has since been sold into private ownership. Today, the National Guard either owns the building, the area around it, or both, so that it should not seem surprising to see jeeps and military materiel in the vicinity.
The zoo is an economical diversion for the whole family, having a wide variety of animals on display in nice, natural habitats. Admission is nominal, only $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and $3 for children under 12 (those 2 and under are free). The entire walk through the zoo is only 1.25 miles. Strollers and other aids are available at the gate. Closed only New Year's Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas, the zoo is open all-year round with operating hours slightly varying depending on the season.
This great dairy products plant began humbly in the late 1930s as the work of two men. Today the dairy, which controls the Quality Chek'd line, provides products to many neighboring states, including Oklahoma (and ultimately my own refrigerator). I think I'll have a dish of ice cream now in celebration!
Some of the animal sculptures in town are more acceptable as child's renditions than works by renowned sculptures (take the work outside the lion's pit at the Dickerson Park Zoo for instance). If you're unwilling to cough up the $11.25 to gain admittance into the American National Fish & Wildlife Museum, or you don't have much time to explore the free Bass Pro Shops, you'll find fewer wildlife sculptures as grandiose as the gigantic, springing ungulate outside the Fish and Wildlife Museum.
The true measure in my opinion of a zoo's worthiness are its variety of animals, its habitats and treatment of animals, and the number of the larger animals, specifically the giraffes, hippos, elephants and the like, but especially the bears and big cats. The Dickerson Park Zoo has two very large black bears which are native to Missouri. On the hot, sultry day of my visit, I was surprised to see the larger bear sleeping directly in the sunlight, shattering a myth that they always seek shaded areas for their beds.
The zoo has a single male lion but no lionesses, no tigers, jaguars, mountains lions or leopards. Apart from the sole cheetah and a single bobcat (the latter being native to Missouri), the Dickerson Park Zoo offers the King of Beasts in a solitary playground.
The zoo also has a couple of Indian elephants, and three giraffes, also not part of the petting zoo. As you'll find at other zoos, these tremendous creatures are free to come and go from the shade of their quarters to avoid the summer heat, but visitors are allowed to view them either in the compound or from inside their huts. As situated at Dickerson Park, the habitats and neighboring walks are not particularly suitable for photographing these large mammals.
Perhaps the most enjoyable animal to watch in the zoo are the two river otters. These fierce warriors have a compound all their own, where visitors can watch from the higher dry ground, or from below the water level if the otters are in their pool. Though it is possible to stretch your arm over the barrier to pet these cuties, their cute teeth might strip away the flesh of your attentions.
Finally (yes, finally), the zoo has a number of bird species that are almost free to flee their pens. Bald eagles (which are native to Missouri) are free to come and go as they choose (three eagles were present during my visit). The zoo also has a few peahens and a couple of peacocks, whose plumage is as likely to be seen outside their accustomed environs as within.
This small town is about 50 miles north of Springfield and off Hwy 13, a main highway toward Kansas City area. It has a part of Truman Lake running right through the middle of town, and that creates a quite and serene feeling of peace in the old time setting. Town square is from mid 1800's which has many old buildings. The town was formed around 1820. It was nearly destroyed in the Civil War during 1861 because the Jayhawkers wanted to show their power. A main attraction on the highway is the cheese store that has around a hundred varieties to choose from.
Just miles south of Springfield in nearby Republic, Missouri, you can take the 4.9-mile auto tour of the Wilson's Creek National Battlefield. Some structures from this Civil War engagement still stand, but like Vicksburg, Valley Forge and others the park is primarily used as a retreat for joggers and walkers. The park itself is quite rural, having little within it but the trees and the stream that gave the battle its name.
Here's an oddity: barn swinging. We Missourians don't have either the money or the climate for most traditional 'sports' so we make up our own. Hence, the barn swings. Basically all you do is get in this sort of slingshot-like swing, jump off a platform & hope you swing around in circles. It's actually kind of fun (or funny), and it's a heck of a work-out. I could hardly get out of bed the next day, I was so sore.
A good place to visit: Doennig Sports Swings, Hayrides Bonfires Rock Climbing & Paintball (the name says it all, don't you think?)
671 Jackson Spring Rd., Ozark 65721
We got to the Dickerson Park Zoo in Springfield just as they were feeding the otters. We had fun watching these guys scramble for their fish. The zoo is on north side of town near the fairgrounds. Can see it from I-44 but will have to take one of the exits and go back to the zoo on a frontage road I can't remember the name of.
Most people who go southwestern Missouri visit Branson to the south of Springfield. They miss some of the other sights of the area. To the west of Springfield is Wilson's Creek Civil War Battlefield. Farther west is Carthage and the Precious Moments chapel. To the north is the scenic Stockton lake. Photo here is visitor center for Wilson's Creek Battlefield.
The Springfield Conservation Nature Center is a very nice place. It is close to things and offers hiking and bird watching in a natural setting on 80 acres of land. The visitor center is quite nice and modern with much there for children. I got gifts at the shop in the visitor center for my nieces and nephews. It is not too hard to reach once you know how. The Nature Center is on a frontage road near the junction of highways 60 and 65. We missed the turn first time we were going there so we called them from a pay phone and they told us what we did wrong. Number to call is 417-882-4237. Nature Center address is 4600 S. Chrisman, Springfield, MO 65804. I have not been there in 5 years now but on my last visit they were not open on Mondays.