8 a.m. After fueling up with a big breakfast at home, get an early start and begin your fun outing in northwest Springfield at Fantastic Caverns (4872 N. Farm Road 125; 417-833-2010). This is an especially cool activity for a scorching hot summer day—the cave stays around 60 degrees year-round, so its built-in, all-natural air conditioning will cool you down in a hurry. Fantastic Caverns is perfect for all ages and physical abilities, as it is a “ride-through” cave and doesn’t require any walking. Tours last about one hour and start every 20 to 30 minutes. Open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. through the summer. Visit fantasticcaverns.com.
10 a.m. Just around the corner from Fantastic Caverns is Ritter Springs Park (3683 W. Farm Road 92, Springfield), a spot that boasts a large and shaded picnic area (did you remember to pack snacks?), plenty of playground equipment, an archery range and more. But the real reason you want to pop in here is the water. At Ritter Springs you can take a gander at the little scenic lake or veer off the trail and find a quiet spot to dip your toes into the stream. It’s a great place to cool down for a minute during your outdoor fun.
12 p.m. Say good-bye to Ritter Springs and head over to Lost Hill Park (4705 N. Farm Road 151). Find a shady spot to unpack and enjoy a picnic lunch. Formerly a farm, this park is rural, quiet and typically not very crowded. Throw out a blanket, lie down and catch a 20-minute power nap while your lunch settles. The South Dry Sac Greenways Trail runs right through this park, so once you’ve rested, hop up and take a walk or a jog. Alternatively, bring your bikes for a quick ride before heading out.
2 p.m. Next, arrive at Dickerson Park Zoo (1401 W. Norton Rd.; 417-864-1800) and close the place down by visiting with all the animals. The giraffes are a kiddo favorite, and you can’t leave without feeding them! The zoo is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, including on all summer holidays. Visit dickersonparkzoo.org.
5 p.m. You know your kiddos’ tummies are rumbling by now. Stop in at Pizza House (312 E. Commercial St., Springfield, 417-881-4073, springfieldpizzahouse.com) before you head home and share a pie. The teensy tiny slices of St. Louis–style goodness will surely satisfy everybody’s taste buds.