For me, the Queen City's crown jewel has little-to-do with its famed Route 66 car culture. Experiencing Springfield's relationship with nature, most vibrant during its namesake season, is where I get my kicks.

 

The Nature Center's winding trails are perfect pathways to the subtle therapy that wilderness provides

About 100 parks dot the city's landscape. Just beyond the intersection of some of its biggest thoroughfares lies its finest real-estate: the Conservation Nature Center -- free for the public to peruse. Its winding trails are perfect pathways to the subtle therapy that wilderness provides. That's why the Nature Center is fan favorite for visitors and locals alike. Throw on some comfortable clothes, step into a sturdy pair of sneakers and the simplicity of connecting with the wild is yours without the hassle of a trip out of town.

I often join friends and co-workers to de-stress along the trails that flank the Nature Center's creeks and prairies. A short walk -- or long hike, depending on which path you choose -- offers an easy glimpse at the incredible treasure that is Southwest Missouri's natural beauty.

We've watched a mother deer and her calf drink from Galloway Creek, countless species of birds and the roaring red sun set from Boardwalk Trail, carved along the shore of Lake Springfield.

 

The lake is where I feel most at home.

The lake is where I feel most at home. I grew up along the Atlantic coast of Florida, so the water is my solace. I have enjoyed many weekend afternoons kayaking at the lake. I feel that big bodies of water offer some inexplicable restorative quality you can't find on land, and for me, Lake Springfield is the place to find that.

Paddling around the lake is also a stellar workout; no doubt, you won't find these revitalizing views in any gym.

Springfield's relationship with nature is a well-tuned courtship. Don't put us in rear-view without experiencing that for yourself.