Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium

Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium

Springfield Missouri

Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium

New and Improved!

Though I moved around a lot as a young child and teen, I consider the Springfield area my chosen home. There is always plenty to do in this area indoors or out at affordable prices or for free.  Bass Pro is one of the few places I  never tire of visiting and their new museum is top on my list of places to visit again ASAP, though it is NOT free.  Check out http://www.wondersofwildlife.org for hours and admission prices.

Bass Pro Hall of Racing

Cars line the upper reaches of the exhibit, showing off the Bass Pro racing lineup.

Last week, I took my seventeen year old daughter and my three year old grandson (not the 17 year olds child) and met up with my mother, my oldest son, and his two year old daughter.  This was plenty of people to help with corralling children and keeping an eye on their safety.  The museum opened at 10 a.m. and we went in through the store instead of the main museum entrance.  The store also has free exhibits separate from the Wildlife Museum and Aquarium that outline their local history as well as the growth of the different projects owner Johnny Morris has built over the years including Dogwood Canyon and Top of the Rock, both in the Branson area.  They are also on my list for a visit this year.  Another free exhibit is their racing history hall, full of cars including the one that Austin Dillon crashed in the Coke Zero 400 in 2017 and the motorcycle that Orange County Choppers built for Bass Pro Shops.

Polar Bear vs. Grandson

Wonders of Wildlife boasts the taxidermy remains of the largest polar bear on record

Of course, being 2 and 3 years old means that famous art, priceless Indian artifacts, and beautiful examples of taxidermy of all types of animals from around the world were boring and to be bypassed as quickly as possible.  The tank full of penguins on the other hand was a hit and we spent quite a bit of time with them.  The aquarium is beautiful and well thought out.   Different tanks hold a variety of fish and live animals including a snake tank in the floor and a walk through hall with fish swimming overhead.  There are also tanks the children can enter and stand in which had a place for their heads to stick up inside and see the fish from a completely immersed view.  Blue stairs light your way to different levels with escalators and elevators also available.  My granddaughter was much impressed by these and we almost lost her to the elevators several times.  Staff is on hand in all areas for assistance and to make sure small hands stay off priceless works of art.

Clown Fish

One of the many tanks in the aquarium that are built to allow children (and adults without claustrophobia) to stand up as fish swim around their heads.

In the tank

Look at that!!! What a great way to experience an aquarium.

Feeding the stingrays was a treat for the little’s-getting up close and personal to these, frankly, odd looking and slightly scary fish.  Be prepared for your child to get wet.  Older kids will like the stingrays and the interactive computer that uses their artwork of fish projected onto the wall, swimming around through make believe kelp.

Parts of the exhibits are dark and take some twists and detours, so having a few people to assist with children under 6 is a good idea.  The walk through, even at our quicker pace through the museum part, took 3 hours.  That is a long time for 2 and 3 year olds, but neither wanted to sit in a stroller.  They slept well that afternoon or so their parents told me.  As for me, my mom and oldest son-we are already making plans to return and walk through at a more leisurely pace.

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art


During our anniversary vacation, Tim and I decided to visit Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.  The buildings themselves are an architectural wonder set back on 120 acres in Bentonville, Arkansas.  One of the best parts about the museum besides the beautiful setting, Frank Lloyd Wright home, nature trails and art is the price: Free.  Yes, free for the permanent collection on view to the public.

As a woodworker and remodeler, Tim was most interested in the Frank Lloyd Wright home located on the property.  The home was originally built for a couple in New Jersey, but was consistently inundated with water from the nearby river (sound familiar Ozarkians?) prompting the owners to decide to move the house to a more practical environment.  The home was taken apart, the pieces numbered, crated and sent to its new home in the Ozark hills.  There are numerous videos available online about this particular house if you are interested in its history.  Unfortunately for us there were only so many tickets available for purchase on any given day to actually tour the inside of this home and we were too late.  I recommend you buy online ahead of your trip.  Tim and I arrived at the museum 15 minutes after opening and they were already sold out due to the high demand and internet sales.  The home is small and so to preserve the structure admission is very restricted.

There are 3.5 miles of trails which showcase large, weather resistant art pieces available for the nature lover/artist to see while wandering about the property.  One section of trail requires a purchased ticket due to the exhibit on display currently: Chihuly In The Forest.  This artist’s glass creations are especially beautiful in park settings and his work is displayed on the North Forest Trail.  Not being fond of exercise while on vacation, Tim vetoed the idea of a nature walk and we marveled over the inside architecture instead.

Crystal Bridges reminds one of steel turtles nestled in a river, interconnected by more steel and concrete walkways, decks, patios and outdoor seating.  To the untrained eye the wooden arches spanning the immense space look as though they were hewn from some ancient and enormous log.  On closer inspection, one can see the divisions and edges of the separate pieces brought together and curved to create the beams, a technical marvel.

American art, from as early as the 1600’s, purchased from collections all over the country are on display and give one an appreciation for the workmanship, detail and time it takes to create something so realistic and lasting.  The collections are grouped mostly by century, but also by artist or by genre of subject making it easier to make sense of the timeline and influences the artist may have been under at the time.  At times the frames showcasing the paintings were as intricate and interesting as the paintings themselves.

Modern American artists, of course, dominate the last steps of the museum.  While walking down the staircase to the Buckminster Fuller exhibit, look up.  The most fascinating piece of modern art Tim and I had ever seen was in this intricate string art displayed over the staircase.  I won’t tell you anymore here, you just have to see it for yourself.  To me, most modern art requires a lengthy explanation from the artist to understand.  As these folks were not available, we didn’t spend much time in this section.

All in all, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art was worth the 2 hour drive.  If you wanted to wander around on the trails, it would definitely take longer than the 2 hours we were in the museum admiring the art.  The museum also has a coffee bar and restaurant, Eleven, if you wanted to make a whole day of it.  I would also recommend, if you dislike crowds, that you call ahead and see if any school field trips are scheduled for the day you wish to go.  Tim and I tried to visit on a Friday afternoon around 2, but upon spying the 4 school buses and the line to get in the door, quickly revised our schedule and we went early Saturday morning.  They are open until nine at night on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and closed on Tuesday so plan accordingly.

No flash photography is allowed and knowledgeable museum guides are prominent in every room to make sure the rules are followed and to answer any questions you may have.  Self-guided headphone tours are also available; ask at the front desk when you check in.  Even though admission is free, you must check in and receive your day pass, so inquire about headphones there.   The museum website:  https://crystalbridges.org is very informative and user friendly so check it out before you plan your trip.  Upon reflection after your visit you may surprise yourself at how much you have learned and how appreciative you are of what American artists have to offer.