Great Dates in Springfield, MO
Date ideas for foodies, romantics, sports fanatics, creatives and adventurous couples in Springfield, Branson and beyond.
By Katie Pollock Estes and Savannah Waszczuk with additional reporting by Haley Phillips, Abigail Blaes and Michelle Lewis
Jan 13 2023 at 2:25 p.m.
Jump to A Section
Editors note: This feature was last updated on January 13, 2023.
If you’re busy with work, busy toting the kids, busy living life—the worst thing you can do for your relationship is forget to make time to nourish it. When you get that cherished night out with your partner, make the most of it. This feature explores playful, adventurous and surprising date ideas in southwest Missouri that will take you out of your routine and out of your comfort zone. (But not too much, we promise.) So go wild. Call the babysitter, spring for that $20 to get a Lyft to downtown Springfield and go where the night takes you.
Our Online Calendar Just Got a Makeover!
Take a look at the new 417 Magazine calendar.
Dates for Foodies
Do-It-Yourself Dinner Date
If you’re wanting a more hands-on dining experience, Bawi Korean BBQ (4121 S National, Springfield, 417-886-2777) offers a unique dining experience where customers cook their own food. There are grills built in to every table where servers help to guide guests through the experience and make sure the food is cooked and seasoned to perfect. While you wait for your meal, grab a bottle of Soju, the traditional Korean drink offered at Bawi. Make a reservation ahead of time because this place fills up quick!
Learn to Cook Together
Pickwick & Cherry (607 S. Pickwick Ave., Springfield, 417-315-8602) offers a variety of baking and cooking classes, but special date-night events are perfect for couples. Each has a theme, and guests start out in a hands-on cooking class and then end the night dining on that meal by candlelight. Example date night themes are Parisian, comfort food and Scandinavian. Classes range in price from $99–175 per couple.
Bake Something Together
European Café (207 Park Central East, Springfield, 417-986-4646) is known for its beautiful, delicious and expertly executed baked treats. But did you know the cafe includes a classroom where the owners share their expertise in hands-on classes that focus on professional technique? Currently the cafe is partnering with local baker Garden Gal 417 to offer simplified sourdough classes.
Meet the Springfield, MO Breweries
As the local brewery scene has blown up, we’ve fallen in love with the little details that make each one stand apart from the rest. They all have their perks and their quirks, and we love them all.
Springfield Brew Co. still feels like the original. Mother’s Brewing Co. is still known for bringing neighbors together in a breezy, laid-back environment (what’s more laid-back than a grassy backyard?) at fun local events. We also appreciate the cozy vibe at 4 by 4 Brewing Company every time we hunker down at a picnic table to hear live music. White River has that patio that’s great for C-street people-watching. Great Escape Beer Works and Tie & Timber Co. both feel like welcoming neighborhood spots in Galloway and Rountree (respectively). And we raise a fist in solidarity to the gals at Hold Fast Brewing, the city's first all-women-owned brewery.
On nights when you don’t feel like choosing just one brewery to experience or want to get an inside look at the local brews—and especially if you have a group date planned for the night with a few other couples—you can always call 417 Brewery Bus Tours for a tour of local breweries around the Springfield area. Bonus: You don’t have to plan and can just sit back and enjoy the ride. Double bonus: The designated driver is included.
Brew Your Own Beer
Speaking of beer. In a four-hour class at Show-Me Brewing (1925 E. Bennett St., Springfield, 417-315-8617), a brewing specialist walks you through how to brew 100 bottles of your own beer from scratch. Prices vary depending on what type of beer you choose to brew, but they start at $125 plus the cost of ingredients. For example, ingredients for an Imperial IPA are $95 or more, but a porter would fall in the $60 to $75 range.
Give Us the Pizza!
If you and bae need another excuse to eat pizza once a week, get to know Millsap Farms (6593 Emu Ln, Springfield, 417-839-0847). Their seasonal Thursday night Millsap Farm Pizza Club gives you all access to the goods: wood-fired, gourmet pizza with all the decadent, delicious toppings you need. If you’re wanting a more private picnic experience, bring along your own picnic basket, blanket and adult beverages to find a quiet spot on the grounds. During their May–October season, the reservations fill up quick, so be sure to sign up ASAP. Cuddle up and chow down under the twinkling lights!
Tea Bar & Bites (621 S. Pickwick Ave., Springfield, 417-866-7500) is known for their monthly theme dinners. Seating is limited and reservations tend to fill up quickly, so keep an eye on their website and don't snooze on grabbing your seats. If you can't make a themed dinner, Tea Bar & Bites is still a great spot to cozy up next to your partner.
The Wine-Lovers' Date
We all know a glass of wine is a great accompaniment to a date, but what if wine was the basis of the date itself? To learn a little about locally made vino, spend a day touring Branson wineries. Start your day at St. James Winery and Restaurant (405 State Highway 165, Branson, 417-544-8283) for some good (and affordable) wine and eats. Stop off at Ozark Hills Winery (601 State Highway 165, Branson, 417-334-1897) for tours of the facility and, of course, wine samples. End your day watching the sunset at Lindwedel Winery (3158 State Hwy. 265, Branson, 417-338-0256). Enjoy live music on the weekends (Saturdays from 3 to 6 p.m. and Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m.) and admire the Ozarks Hills West of Branson from the deck. You can snack on a few treats like sausage and cheese trays, or bring your own picnic.
For a winery experience in Ozark, make your way over to The Vineyard Market (1759 West St. Hwy J, Ozark, 417-882-0399). It’s a perfect blend between a wine bar, bakery, coffee bar and cigar lounge. Browse their small boutique shop while you enjoy a glass of your favorite red or white. There’s something for every couple!
Couples Wanting Dinner and an Adventure
Right down the road from Big Cedar, you’ll find plenty of options for delicious eats and drinks at Top of the Rock (150 Top of the Rock Road, Ridgedale, 800-225-6343). Osage Restaurant features a stunning dining room with a beautiful view of the Ozark Mountains. All around Top of the Rock, you’ll find walls filled with local artwork and Native American artifacts. The Osage Restaurant also offers the perfect view of the Top of the Rock sunset ceremony featuring civil war cannons, traditional bagpipers, and a beautiful sunset over Table Rock Lake. Arnie’s Barn, named in honor of Arnold Palmer, offers Mexican cuisine in modern, rustic-inspired atmosphere. Lastly, if you’re looking for some more relaxed dining or a place to grab some cocktails and watch the sunset, Buffalo Bar delivers. End the evening hitting balls on the Arnold Palmer-designed driving range under the moonlight.
Dates for Romantics
Picnic in a Park
Don’t overthink this date night thing. Go for a tried-and-true date option and have a picnic in the park. Local restaurants can make the packing part easy for you.
It’s such a classic date. You spread out a lil’ quilt. You present an array of romantic snacks and a bottle of wine. You admire the beautiful surroundings and bask in your partner’s good company. You feel the breeze on your skin. You smack the mosquitoes off your arm and… Wait. Cut that last part.
Finding the perfect place for picnicking is the toughest part, but we recently put a list of five of our favorites together here. But we’d also like to recommend Mizumoto Japanese Stroll Garden (2400 S. Scenic Ave., Springfield). It’s only open April through October, and there’s a small fee to get in, but it’s worth the planning and a few bucks because the scenery cannot be beat. A walking trail takes you around burbling water features and divinely landscaped gardens. We’re going to clue you in to our favorite semi-secret picnic corner because we love you so much and feel bad about reminding you that mosquitos might ruin your date. When you enter the stroll garden, veer left on the path. Very soon you’ll come across the small amphitheater that’s surrounded by a level lawn. Toward the back there are just enough trees to provide some shade, and you’re just far enough off the path to not be in the way of your fellow strollers. It’s perfecto.
Now all you need to do is pack food, which is the least fun part. Too many decisions, too much slicing of cured meats. So we have a list of the best places where the pros can help you order killer charcuterie to pack for your al fresco meal.
The Drive-in Date
Southwest Missouri is home to three drive-in movie theaters: Sunset Drive-In Theatre (1601 E. Church St., Aurora, 417-678-6609), Phoenix Drive-In (16657 Highway B, Houston, 417-967-3010) and 66 Drive-In Theater (17231 Old 66 Blvd, Carthage, 417-359-5959). Find out which is playing a flick most appropriate for you and your sweetie, and hit the road. If you have a truck, drive it (so you can sit extra close). Or pack a blanket and a battery-operated radio and snuggle as you watch from under the stars. If you’re more into your date than the movie, that’s fine, too; just park in the very last row! We suggest hitting your favorite local candy store on the way out of town to load up on Raisinettes, Junior Mints, Whoppers and other sharable sweets to munch on. Keep in mind that the drive-ins operate seasonally, so in those winter months you’ll have to settle for an indoor movie experience.
The Couple's Massage Date
We’ve all tried to give our significant other a massage. Yes, it’s a sweet gesture, but let’s face it: It just isn’t the same. We suggest ditching that old bottle of massage oil and calling Acacia Spa (4058 S . Lone Pine Ave., Springfield, 417-823-8518) to schedule a spa getaway for you and your honey. Book the Couples Signature Massage to experience a full Swedish massage together. With options ranging from 60 minutes to two hours, you'll leave feeling completely relaxed. To enhance the romance of the day, be sure to book a Couple's Retreat Steam Shower to follow your massages. For $50, you and yours can enjoy the privacy and relaxation of the specially designed couple's steam shower.
Flip a Coin to Decide Date Night's FateDecision fatigue got you down? Don’t let it ruin date night. All you need for your next adventure together is a penny and an open mind.
When the 417 team was brainstorming date ideas for this feature, one of the editors offered, “What about a penny date?” The rest of us had never heard of a penny date, so she enlightened us: You flip a coin at every intersection as you drive to your date. When the penny flip is heads, you turn right. When it’s tails, you go left. After you’ve flipped the coin a predetermined number of times, you park the car, hop out and have a date wherever you happen to end up.
If you need to plan your social life down to the minute, spend two hours reading Yelp reviews and perusing restaurant menus, and make sure your outfit matches your destination, then this is not the date for you. But if you’re tired of the “Where do you want to go eat?” “I don’t know. You pick.” conversations and are open to a little bit of spontaneity, then you’ll love it.
When I embarked on a penny date with my husband, Eli, we decided to start our flips at Jefferson Avenue and Park Central East, heading toward the square. We planned to flip the penny 20 times before stopping to get out. Lest you admire my spontaneous spirit, I must confess: This was strategic. The planner in me couldn’t just take off and entirely wing it. I knew if I left from our home, the penny flips could land us on a farm road in the middle of nowhere. I figured a downtown start and a relatively small number of flips would land me someplace with food.
Our left and right penny flips wound us in spirals and swirls around downtown until the final turn onto Pershing Avenue between Robberson and Jefferson. After taking a look around, we decided to walk down the block and across Jefferson to get some food at Grad School. It turned out to be a nice break from our favorite go-to dinner spots closer to home. A walk down to Black Sheep for shakes could have topped off the night, but we were stuffed.
The best part of the penny date—better than the destination at the end—was the car ride. When you approach every intersection unsure of which way fate will have you turn, you get 20 mini adventures in one easy date.—Katie Pollock Estes
The Bed & Breakfast Date
Sometimes spending a night away from home can make all the difference. There’s the excitement of packing, the enjoyment of having no real time constraints and the satisfaction of not having to make your bed in the morning. You and yours can enjoy one of these luxurious nights away from home at Bear Creek Bed and Breakfast (1320 Keithley Rd., Walnut Shade, 417-443-0036). Book your room and add special packages like the Wine and Fondue package or the Mini Wedding Cake and Bottle of Wine package (perfect for any anniversary). Bear Creek Bed and Breakfast’s entertainment options include massage therapy, horseback riding and a fishing guide, and all cabins and suites have private hot tubs. Go find your suitcase.
Or visit a historical bed and breakfast in Lebanon, The Manor House Inn (505 E Elm St., Lebanon, 417-718-6200). The owners of the bed and breakfast recently finished their extensive remodel to the Inn while maintaining all of the historic quaintness. The 14 room home originally built in 1903 is described as a “Route 66 Retreat.” Each of the six guest rooms has their own theme and decoration scheme. Decked with a game room, a library and a porch with a scenic view, you and your honey need not even leave the house for the weekend.
Make it a Weekend Getaway
Sometimes the best date is a getaway, and these four nearby towns are perfect for a day trip that turns into an overnight trip. No need to pack more than a change of clothes. No need to plan. Just pick an activity and a place to stay, and you’re good to go.
Nourish Your Inner Artist: Make a whole day of it at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. The galleries are surrounded by beautiful grounds with walking trails and lots of outdoor art exhibits. We especially love the guided tour of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Bachman-Wilson House.
Greet the Penguins at 21c Museum Hotel: Continue your art appreciation getaway with a stay at a hotel that doubles as a modern art gallery. Also on site is The Hive restaurant, so dining during your super-quick trip will be that much easier to plan.
Cheer for the Tigers at Mizzou: Depending on when you travel, you can use your trip up north to mid-Missouri to catch a Mizzou Tigers football or basketball game—just don’t forget to wear your black and gold. Treat yourself to a stroll through campus too.
Dig Into Charcuterie and More: Simple snacks of meat, cheese, bread and pickled veggies are always irresistible, but The Barred Owl Butcher & Table has other dining options as well—with cleverly curated ingredients. The watermelon salad, for example, combines herbs, sumac, pistachios and feta cheese.
Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Shop, Dine and Stroll in Downtown Eureka Springs: Plan to spend your day away wandering around the hilly streets of Eureka Springs, where you can pop in and out of shops and boutiques. When you get hungry, we recommend Local Flavor Café for an upscale bite.
Sleep in a Haunted Hotel: Some say it’s haunted. Some call bunk. But either way, the 1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa has quite a storied history, a beautiful view of the hills and a spa where you can relax and get your mind off all the spooky stuff.
Place Your Bets: Whether rolling craps or maintaining a poker face, you’ll find your gaming groove at Downstream Casino. We love this as an overnight because the casino has a hotel, spa and dining, too—it’s practically a mini Vegas vacay.
Dig into a Steak at Wilders Steakhouse: In business since 1929, this classic steakhouse is a great date-night dinner while you’re in the Downstream and Joplin area. Angus steaks take center stage, but the apps menu is nothing to sneeze at. (We’re looking at you, crab-stuffed mushrooms.)
More Weekend Getaways
Drivable Weekend Getaways from Springfield, Missouri
Play hooky and take Friday off. We've rounded up the best things to do over a long weekend in places like Memphis, Oklahoma City, Hot Springs and Omaha. Pack your bags and get the car ready—all of these destinations are within driving distance!
Small Town Getaways
We've rounded up nine of our favorite nearby small towns that offer big fun without extensive travel. Pack an overnight bag and see what area towns have to offer for a weekend getaway.
Dates for Sports Fanatics
The Game Day Date
If you and your significant other are a couple of football–lovers, there is no better date than a Missouri State Bears football game. Help cheer the Bears to victory at a football game at Plaster Sports Complex (1015 E. Grand St., Springfield, 417-836-7678). A couple of hours before kick-off, hold hands with your sweetie as you wander around BearFest Village, located north of the stadium in the grass plaza in front of McDonald Arena. The spot has a massive free tailgate party before every home game. Local restaurants and vendors give away free food and swag, and the tailgate features live performances from the Missouri State pride band stage with live music or a DJ.
If football isn’t your sport of choice, check out a Missouri State University basketball game at JQH Arena. With Dana Ford at the helm of the men’s team, things are looking up for the team just on the cusp of a big break.
Springfield Cardinals Date
There’s nothing quite like hearing the crack! of a home run hit. A Springfield Cardinals game is the perfect low-key, affordable baseball experience with all of the fun and excitement. Before the game, hit up Ebbets Field, a no-frills house bar on Historic Walnut Street, that’s within walking distance of the stadium. Gear up with your Cardinals red and head over to the Hammons Field (955 E Trafficway St., Springfield, 417-863-0395) for some beers and stadium-style hot dogs.
The Sports Buffs' Date
Who knows more about sports—you or your other half? Test each other on Missouri sports trivia while you roam through the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame (3861 E. Stan Musial Dr., Springfield, 417-889-3100). Guests of the hall of fame take a self-guided tour of the two-story museum, which features sports artifacts and tributes that highlight past Missouri athletes. Football fans will love seeing a jersey and helmet worn by a St. Louis Ram in the 2000 Super Bowl championship, and baseball lovers will drool when they get a glimpse of Stan Musial’s old baseball glove. After you take in all the history, battle it out with basketball shooting and football throwing contests.
Dates for Creative Spirits
The Art Walk Date
Springfield’s First Friday Art Walk (downtown Springfield) has been a fun date-night option for Springfield, MO couples for more than 15 years. Grab your one and only and head to downtown Springfield to enjoy some fresh air, original art and complimentary snacks. First Friday Art Walk continually features more than 25 venues showing local, regional, national and even international art, so you’re sure to find a piece to take home with you or a little inspiration to start a new project of your own. After making the rounds, continue the fun with dinner at one of downtown Springfield’s hottest restaurants.
The Pottery-Painting Date
Couples are always welcome to come in and paint pottery at Firehouse Pottery and Art Studio (4150 S. Lone Pine, Springfield, 417-881-8381), but the spot has a discounted date night every Wednesday evening. For this mid-week special, couples get half-off the Firehouse studio fee. Lovebirds are invited to bring in their own food and drinks to enjoy while they paint creations of their choice, from which there are hundreds to choose. Options include everything from coffee mugs to serving dishes. Set the mood by bringing a bottle of your favorite wine and a few cheeses, or even pack a meal and eat your dinner while you paint.
Learn to Throw Clay
If you want to take your pottery skills even further, recreate that scene in Ghost that made pottery sexy (you know the one) and attend a couples class at the Art Zone (107 W. Aldersgate Dr., Nixa, 417-224-9816). You can bring a bottle of wine and learn the ins and outs of the pottery wheel—creating and glazing a piece of pottery that you get to take home. Be sure to register in advance; classes sell out and run $60 per couple.
The Learn-to-Dance Date
The extent of my dancing skills goes from swaying back and forth to following the foolproof instructions of a wedding classic; in other words, they’re nonexistent. When the opportunity came for my husband and I to try out one of Sycamore Creek Family Ranch’s barn dances, I welcomed the idea of a fun night out with a little two-step how-to.
The night my husband, Austin, and I visited Sycamore Creek Family Ranch for its first Under the Harvest Moon Barn Dance, it was nice and humid. Meandering down the gravel road to the dance, we shared memories of the last time we had visited Sycamore Creek. Earlier this year, we said our “I do’s” at the ranch’s Shiloh Ridge venue on another hot and humid but perfect night. As we rounded the curve, we found the stately barn covered in twinkling lights, just waiting to greet the guests as they shuffled in. Upon arriving, we sat down for a quick bite to eat and observed the initial instructions for the first round of line dancing. The barn dances revolve around four types of dancing: Texas two-step, some country waltzing, swing dancing and line dancing. To kick off the evening, the caller, perched on the small platform above the dance floor, introduced himself and his wife and proceeded to show a few steps of fancy footwork. Admittedly, they made it look easy.
The crowd consisted of young and old, pros and amateurs, and Austin and I contemplated where we fit in as the caller gave out simple instructions. Once the music started, people quickly began to fumble around, laughter erupting across the barn. Polishing off the last of my sandwich, I was eager to jump in, whereas Austin rose from his seat with hesitance. After a quick review for the new dancers joining in, “Cotton-eyed Joe” began to play over the speakers. Almost immediately, the memory of those basic steps left my brain. I struggled to catch up, and before I knew it, the song was over. Line dancing is no joke. The next song required a partner. Determined to redeem myself, I latched onto Austin’s arms and listened intently as the caller walked us through the steps. His left, my right, rotate in a circle and walk backward as you go. Easy enough. Once more, the music started and I was stepping on Austin’s boots with every turn. Laughing at my lack of coordination, I realized country dancing might not be my forte. With every boot scootin’ boogie that played, new steps were added, knocking my pride down another peg.
After a few warm-up songs, the lights dimmed and the dance floor opened up to test our newly found skills—or to revert back to our old swaying tactics. The room was a nice mix of both, relieving the stress I had of trying to impress those around me. So far, Austin was faring much better than I was. As one who does not dance—and vocalizes it often—he carefully trotted across the floor and did his best to walk me through each move, finally finding a rhythm after a few preliminary (and embarrassing) attempts. Three water breaks and one dizzy spell brought on by spinning into my partner later, we retreated to the back patio where we tried our hand at the lawn games set up. Austin beat me at both corn hole and ladder ball, but the cool evening air was a welcome relief from the crowded dance floor. The barn’s lights flipped on, signaling a new dance was about to begin, so we made our way inside. Building on the steps we had learned earlier in the night, the final workout came in the form of “Copperhead Road.” By the second verse, I was already out of breath. As the song sped up, I slowed down, unable to match my stomps to the beat. Looking around at my red-faced companions, I felt accomplished for surviving the night’s initiation.
Having never been to a barn dance before, I was grossly unprepared for the stamina it requires. But like everything else, practice makes perfect—or less embarrassing, at least. So, while we aren’t quitting our day jobs, you might find us at Sycamore Creek on a Friday night laughing our way through the steps and swirling around the dance floor.—Haley Phillips
Step by Step Dance (1722 S. Glenstone Ave., Suite G, Springfield, 417-689-4141) is another great option for dance lessons. Couples have the option of learning many different types of dance, including swing, country, ballroom and salsa. After a first-time free session, group classes are available for $10 per person, or couples can get private lessons for $60 per hour or a package of five classes for $250.
Dates for Culture Enthusiasts
Theatre Geeks’ Dreams Come True
Straight from Broadway, Juanita K. Hammons Hall for the Performing Arts (525 S John Q Hammons Pkwy, Springfield, 417-836-7678) continues to wow with its annual lineup. For the 2022-2023 season, award winning shows including Aladdin, Tootsie, My Fair Lady and Hamilton are hitting the stage. If you’re wanting a more intimate show, check out Springfield Little Theatre (311 E Walnut St, Springfield, 417-869-1334). This beautiful, historic theater may be compact, but it doesn't affect the quality of the shows. Plus, it allows for a more personal, intimate show for you and your love to get cozy and comfortable.
For the Couple Needing a Good Laugh
Laughter is the best medicine and the best date night, and Springfield has plenty of places to get your giggle-fix. Springfield Improv (1300 E Poplar St., Springfield, 417-840-3932) has a variety of weekly shows. Check out the team's website to find upcoming shows. If you want less improv and more stand-up, Blue Room Comedy Club (420 W. College St., Springfield, 417-228-8403) is for you. With a selection of drinks and appetizers, you can relax, munch on a few jalapeno poppers, and have a good laugh.
An Artful Date
Hop around some of Springfield’s most art-filled spots for an afternoon-into-evening date that will inspire your creative side.
2 p.m. Sculpture Walk | Spend an hour or so strolling around downtown Springfield and checking out some of the public sculptures that are scattered around the city. They add color and creativity in unexpected places, and visiting them on foot gives you a chance to slow down and take a closer look. Find a Sculpture Walk map online here.
3:30 p.m. Springfield Art Museum | Head indoors to admire the temporary exhibitions and more than 10,000 permanent works on display at Springfield Art Museum. Oh, and if you didn’t get your fill of sculptures during Sculpture Walk, there are plenty outside in the art museum’s sculpture garden too.
6 p.m. Progress | You’ve been walking around a lot. Are you hungry? Head to Progress in Farmer's Park for an early dinner of some of the most artfully prepared food around. Don’t sleep on the cocktail menu; it’s divine.
8 p.m. First Friday Art Walk | End the night by bopping around downtown art galleries and businesses that have local artists’ work on display—often with nibbles or wine as well. Yes, yes… there’s more walking at First Friday Art Walk. But it’s the perfect excuse to hold hands.
The Movie-Lovers’ Date
A date to the movies doesn’t have to include you and yours shoved in a crowded theater with giggling teeny boppers seeing the latest blockbuster. Springfield’s Moxie Cinema (305 S Campbell Ave #101, Springfield, 417-429-0800), a not-for-profit theater downtown, specializes in showing independent American and Canadian movies, foreign films and documentaries. Movie tickets have a competitive $11 price tag, and matinees are only $8. For a full dinner and a movie date night, visit the Alamo Drafthouse (4005 South Ave., Springfield, 417-708-9599). The fried dill pickles, pizzas, and gourmet hot dogs are to die for and make for great movie munchies. If you’re wanting something to satisfy your sweet tooth, the shakes are just big enough to share with your date. Can we get two straws, please? After the movie, stop by the Backlot, Alamo’s bar and restaurant, for a few extra cocktails. Keep an eye out for Tuesday Trivia nights, live music and game nights.
Dates for Kids-at-Heart
The Throwback Date
Challenge your main squeeze to a game of Pong at 1984 (400 S. Jefferson Ave., Springfield, 417-831-3665). A date at this classic ’80s arcade only costs $10 per person, and you can play an unlimited amount of games until the spot closes at 11 p.m. Popular games at 1984 include Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man and Frogger, and many of the games have a two-player option. You can stand side-by-side as you play Tetris or work as a team to beat opponents in Joust. If you’re competitive, you can race one another in Final Lap or battle it out in Karate Champ. If you get the munchies, grab candy, chips, soda or a slice of pizza at the 1984 snack bar, or head to Springfield’s Incredible Pizza (2850 S. Campbell Ave., Springfield, 417-501-0826) to enjoy a full buffet of pizzas, salads, pastas and desserts and a game of skee-ball. Finish the evening off at a drive-in movie and snuggle up close to your boo.
The Day-at-the-Track Date
There are many ways to feel like a kid at The Track Family Fun Parks (multiple locations, Branson, 417-334-1612). Enjoy a little friendly competition as you race your sweetie to the finish line on one of the many ground-level go-kart tracks, which are filled with plenty of straightaways. If you’re not in the mood to ride solo, enjoy a few laps together in one of the spot’s double-rider cars. Daredevils can check out the Heavy Metal High-Rise at Track 4 (3345 W. 76 Country Blvd., Branson). This beast is a four-story tall steel and concrete track that has a crazy spiral up and an aggressive, thrilling down-hill slope. Track 4 also has an Andy’s Frozen Custard, so you can share a sundae after the thrilling ride. Before you leave, you can also crash into each other on the bumper boats, have a hole-in-one contest while playing putt-putt golf, or see who can win the most tickets while playing arcade games.
Share a Shake at Taylor's Drive-In
Grab a juicy steakburger and a sweet milkshake—made even sweeter if you share it—at Taylor’s Drive-In (139 Memorial Plaza, Springfield). The old-fashioned drive-in restaurant has been open since 1947 and still has a retro feel inside its tiny dining room.
Andy B's has upped their game significantly with killer food, a full-service bar, game zone, underground laser tag, luxury bowling lanes and the opening of their Branson location.
Not Just Bowling Date
Bowling is, of course, a classic date that can’t be beat. But Andy B’s (1127 Battlefield Rd., Springfield, 417-883-1234, bowlandybs.com) has a few more options to keep the night fresh and exciting. While Springfield’s Andy B’s will hold a special place in our hearts, the new Branson location is incredible (405 Branson Landing Blvd., Branson, 417-213-8631, bowlandybs.com). After the third game of bowling gets a little tiresome, take a break and grab some lane-side food and beverages. If you’re wanting to keep the competitive streak going, head over to the arcade and challenge your date to a game of Space Invaders or Skee-Ball. Round up the tickets you win and see who ends up with the most before the end of the night. Then, trade in your winnings for some serious prizes. One giant teddy bear, please!
Roller Rink Date
Act like junior high sweethearts as you join hands and roll around the rink at Skateland (5163 S. Campbell Ave., Springfield, 417-881-8011, springfieldskateland.com). Public skate sessions, which start at only $5 per person including skate rental, are a great way to enjoy conversation and a little exercise. If you’re really good, you can show your sweetie some slick moves while playing limbo and the corner game, and if you’re brave enough, you can dominate the rink during the reverse and speed skate specials. If you don’t want to worry about bumping into kiddos (and you want to make a date at the skating rink a little more romantic), consider attending the adults-only skate on the second Saturday of every month.
Ride the Rides at Silver Dollar City
Does this Silver Dollar City suggestion seem more like a family outing than a date? You already know you love seeing your kids’ faces light up at the theme park, but—I’m sorry—they’re not invited. This is a chance for you and your snuggle bug to ride every single ride alone without the background noise of bickering kids begging for Tater Twist. Oh yeah, that’s right; the Tater Twists are just for you, too. And instead of racing past Eva & Delilah’s Bakery hoping the kids don’t catch a whiff of those sugary cinnamon rolls, you can cozy down and enjoy one together with a cup of coffee. Then it’s off to Powder Keg with nobody to slow you down. You’re sold, right?
Dates for Outdoors Explorers
Close to Home Nature-Filled Adventures
Pack up your bicycle built for two (What? You don’t have one of those?) and drive to Dogwood Canyon for a day wheeling around on the easy breezy paved trail that winds through a deep and gorgeous Ozarks canyon. You’ll zip past waterfalls, caves and even more nature goodies. And if you don’t own a bike, you can rent one there. After your bike ride, detour over to nearby Top of the Rock to finish off the day with dinner and a sunset view at Osage Restaurant, Buffalo Bar or Arnie’s Barn.
The Exploration Date
Everyone knows how to get to Joplin from Springfield by Interstate 44. That’s the traditional way. But what fun is that? We suggest taking a step back in time with your honey and road tripping on Historic Route 66. Take Chestnut Expressway west out of Springfield, which turns into Missouri 266 (which is Historic US-66). Continue west on Missouri 266 until you get to Gay Parita, an old-fashioned replica Sinclair station. After snapping a few pictures, get back in the car and continue west, crossing over Highway 96 to Highway N. The town of Spencer will be just ahead at the first right. Stop here. The place is no longer a live city, but is now a completely restored miniature village, complete with a picturesque gas station, feed store, general store and barbershop. After visiting Spencer, continue west along the narrow stretch of paved roadway until you once again intersect with Highway 96, then turn left and head towards Carthage. You will eventually pass through Joplin, and just after Joplin is perhaps the most fun part of the trip: Galena, Kansas. Galena is home to Cars on the Route (119 N. Main St., Galena, 620-783-1366), a Kan-O-Tex service station. This site is home to “Tow Tater,” a 1951 International Boom Truck that was the inspiration behind the Tow Mater character in the Disney movie Cars.
The Bike-Riding Date
A leisurely bike ride with your sweetie is the perfect way to enjoy a little exercise and some time together. Load up your bicycles and head to the Galloway Creek Greenway Trail (start at the Pershing Middle School Trail Head at Pershing Middle School, 417-864-2015) to enjoy some pedaling, scenery and conversation. Continue your journey approximately three more miles, then either stop off at the Springfield Nature Center (4601 S. Nature Center Way, Springfield, 417-888-4237) or keeping going to cross a bridge that straddles the James River. Either way, it’s a beautiful experience you’ll want to have with your honey. We also have an extensive list of other biking trails here.
The Dinner-in-the-Dark Date
For a truly one-of-a-kind evening out, consider the Civil War Dinner Tour (Smallin Cave, 3575 N. Smallin Rd., Ozark, 417-551-4545). After arriving at the cave’s gift shop, guests are led by lantern light to the campsite, which is set up like an old Civil War campsite. Guests scoop up their own meal of ham and beans, cornbread and fried potatoes, and hosts dressed in old-fashioned garb tell the story of the Civil War and its connection to southwest Missouri and Smallin Cave. After eating and hearing stories around the campfire, guests are taken into the cave and told old legends, including why Native Americans believed the cave was haunted. Toward the end of the event, guests sit in the dark as they learn the story of the Baldknobbers, and a couple of the infamous gang members make an appearance. If you and yours cannot make the Civil War Dinner Tour, Smallin Cave also has Wild Cave Tours, with special group pricing, all year long.
The On-the-Water Date
Are you the outdoorsy type of couple? If so, you’ll love an afternoon on the river. But you don’t have to worry about finding a canoe, loading it up and taking it countless miles to get on the water. Lake Springfield Park and Boathouse (5324 S. Kissick Ave., Springfield, 417-891-1550) offers canoes and kayaks for rental for $12 per hour or $36 for four hours. You can each go solo in your own kayak, or you can share a canoe and paddle your way down the James River Water Trail. If you’re not seasoned water rats, no worries, the spot also has double-kayaks, which are more stable and great for first-timers. Be sure to pack water and snacks, or even a lunch, which you can enjoy on a gravel bar.
Go on a Guided Hike
One of the best options for aspiring outdoors lovers who are inexperienced hikers is to find a guide who can make it a little easier for you. 37 North Expeditions offers trips that make great day dates and marry the great outdoors with some social fun. Recent trips have included horseback riding followed by down time at a winery, a sunset hike that ends with s’mores, and a hiking and apple picking combo excursion.
Hear a Lion or Tiger Roar
While all the tours that take you through the sprawling National Tiger Sanctuary are a little different, all of them have one or two things in common: majestic beasts and a chance to learn all about them. We guarantee some of these cats will have you reaching for your date’s hand—they are big! And on the way home, you can take a detour to Copper Run Distillery just eight minutes away, where you can decompress with a tasty drink.
More Outdoor Adventures
19 Great Places to Camp in the Ozarks
The ultimate guide to camping and sleeping under the stars in southwest Missouri and northwest Arkansas.
Hidden Gems in Southwest Missouri
Leave routine behind and embark on a little adventure to find shopping, dining and experiences that are a bit off the beaten path.
Paddle Into a New Adventure This Summer
Before the summer’s up, test your paddling prowess with these different ways to hit the water.
Dates for Adrenaline Junkies
Float Away in a Hot Air Balloon
What’s more stereotypically romantic than a hot air balloon ride at Branson Balloon? Not much! You’re high above the ground. It’s kind of scary, but not too much. It’s a little chilly up there—better snuggle up. Then when you land after your bird’s eye view of the Ozarks, you get to work together to land the balloon. A thrill, a beautiful setting, a snuggle and a little teamwork that you can celebrate together. This might just check all the great date boxes.
Ride the Branson Ferris Wheel at Night
This is usually part of our day dates list, but we’re going to recommend riding Branson Ferris Wheel at night instead. Why the change? That’s when the attraction is lit up with 16,000 programmed LED lights. It’s a sight to see from the ground and from the air. You can hold hands 150 feet above Branson and take in the lights of the strip. It’s a bit of a thrill. The swaying gondola in the cool evening breeze adds to the experience without being too scary—even all the way at the top.
Date for Competitive Couples
There’s nothing wrong with a little healthy competition! Take your boo to TommyHawks (1631 W College St., Springfield, 417-350-1221), and test your skills. Make a reservation that includes coaching, scoring and a champion’s trophy OR walk-in and explore for yourself. Bring your own drinks (no hard alcohol though), and take turns aiming for success. Remember, at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter who won as long as you’re having fun! Ok… Just kidding. Gear up!
Date for Couples Needing to Unleash Some Steam
Ever had a bad day at work and just feel the need to break something? Instead of taking your frustrations out on your significant other, schedule time with your cutie to bust a bunch of stuff in Springfield’s Rage Room (1950 S Glenstone Ave, Springfield, 417-872-9055). They provide the baseball bats and hammers as well as the stuff to smash. You’ve just gotta bring some excitement and a can-do attitude. Unwind, have a laugh and enjoy seeing your boo let loose in a safe, stress-relieving environment.
Belaying with Bae
If you are up for a new physical challenge, try rock climbing at Zenith Climbing Center (3534 E Sunshine St #3, Springfield, 417-986-3869). There are numerous options (and price points) to get you started, but we recommend the one-hour Pro Belay class that includes all equipment and a staff member to hold your ropes. That way if you’re timid about your first climb, you’ll have a professional there to help. Be sure to sign up one week in advance. Get ready to bond over belaying, try your hand at bouldering (climbing without ropes and harnesses), gear up for yoga or even give an aerial silks fitness class a shot.
The Date That Will Make You Soar
If you’re honey makes you feel like you could fly, how about actually being in freefall with them? Fritz’s Adventure’s Aerodium in Branson (1425 MO-76, Branson, 417-320-6138, fritzadventure.com) will have you and your date feeling weightless. This skydiving equivalent is safe but will give you an instant adrenaline rush. However, because the aerodium is outside, it is seasonal, so check the weather before you go! You can still get your kicks inside the rest of Fritz’s Adventure by climbing utilities poles, rock wall climbing, and running through the ropes course. Basically, it’s a jungle gym on a massive scale and will surely get your heart pumping.
Great Neighborhood Dates
Springfield has some hopping neighborhoods that are packed with great dining and fun activities. To prepare these great date itineraries, we picked four neighborhoods to discover and then had just one rule: You have to be able to park your car once and then walk to all the activities.
Cherry & PickwickStart the Day: Cortado and greek bowl at Cherry Picker Package x Fare
Do Some Shopping: Homemade ice cream and locally grown goods at Culture Counter
Get a Bite to Eat: Tacos and nachos from Team Taco, ramen from Skully's or pasta from Ott's
Experience Something New: Handpour a candle at Heirloom Candle Bar
Treat Yourself: A cup of tea and a cinnamon roll from Tea Bar & Bites
Grab a Drink and/or Live Music: Local brews at Tie & Timber Beer Co. or grab a cocktail from The Royal
What's Happening in 417-land?
There's always something going on in or around Springfield, MO that could turn into a wonderful date night. Sign up for our Datebook newsletter for some of the week's best events and happenings, or check our our online Calendar.
Explore Related Stories
Plan a Staycation and Be a Tourist in Your Own Hometown
10 ways to be a tourist in Springfield, Branson or Joplin, Missouri. We've found the best places to stay, the best restaurants to try and...mar 2020 | Branson, Commercial Street, Downtown Springfield, Drinks
Best of 417 2023 Winners
We've compiled the best places to eat, dishes to try and bars to sit down and have a drink in southwest Missouri, as voted by our readers.feb 2023 | Best of 417, Drinks, Food
Best Winter Ever in 417-Land
46 glorious ways to embrace the chill and fall in love with the season, like adventurous outdoor excursions and frosty family outings or...dec 2016 | Beer, Branson, Camping, Commercial Street