Springfield, Missouri, a medium-sized city 190 mi/305 km southwest of St. Louis, makes a convenient base for seeing southwestern Missouri and the Ozarks.

While you're in town, you may want to visit the History Museum in Springfield's old city hall. The Springfield National Cemetery contains the graves of Civil War dead from both armies, and Wilson's Creek National Battlefield (10 mi/16 km southwest of Springfield) commemorates the site of an important Civil War battle in 1861. Take the self-guided auto tour, then walk to the principal battle site at Bloody Hill.

A driving tour of a different sort can be taken at Animal Paradise Family Fun Park, where you can have a close-up encounter with wild animals, including buffalo, ostriches and zebras. The American National Fish and Wildlife Museum, next to the Bass Pro Shop Outdoor World, is less exotic: It focuses on the wildlife native to southeast Missouri.

You can do more riding and looking at Fantastic Caverns, where a tram tour takes you through a cave system that once served as a speakeasy and a country-music hall.

Springfield is home to the Cardinals, the Double-A affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals. The team is a member of the Texas League and plays its home games at the charming Hammons Field, a minor league ballpark with a major league feel to it. http://springfield.cardinals.milb.com/index.jsp?sid=t440.

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