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Wonders of Wildlife: What To Expect When You Visit


I've been going to Bass Pro Shops since I was a child because I grew up just outside of Springfield, Missouri, which is where its headquarters is located. Of course, I never cared too much about the shopping aspect, but what I did love was going to the Wonders of Wildlife museum.


It was a very interactive experience for kids with imitation animals to look at, fish swimming around in tanks, live birds walking and flying around, an exciting though pretend fishing activity and a giant fish with its mouth open that you could take a photo in front of or walk through. It was a fun place to be as a kid.


Then at some point, after I got older, it closed down. I found out that they were making way for a new and improved Wonders of Wildlife! This museum and aquarium finally opened in 2017 and it's won several awards since then. But it wasn't until a few months ago in 2023 that I finally got to visit, and now I'm here to tell you all about it because it's not only a huge museum now, but it's also a very unique experience.


So many people forget about the environment and the animals that are a part of it. They don't realize how important hunting is when it comes to conservation. They don't realize how beneficial outdoor activities are for the mind, body and soul. And this new Wonders of Wildlife strives to remedy all of that.


What You'll Find In This Post:


 

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Know Before You Go

It's important to get all the logistics squared away before you go, especially if you're not from the area.


Hours

The museum and aquarium are open from 10AM - 7PM on Monday through Thursday and 9AM - 7PM on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.


Pricing

The cost to visit the museum and aquarium seems to change seasonally, weekly, even daily. A one-day pass for adults is anywhere from $35-$55. A one-day pass for children ages 4-11 is anywhere from $20-$25. There are discounts for veterans and seniors. Additionally, there's a two-day pass and an annual membership pass. (If you're wondering why you'd think about these options, keep reading.) And there are other special activity passes as well.


Really, my main advice when it comes to pricing is to check out the various passes and discounts online beforehand. You can find those here.



"Average" Time It Takes

On the Bass Pro website, it says that you can spend 3 or more hours in this museum. Other places online say 3-4 hours. But this can be too low of a number depending on what kind of person you are, so let me break it down for you.


If you're bringing children who have short attention spans, this could take you just 3-4 hours, since the museum part of Wonders of Wildlife might not capture their focus as much or for very long. If you're an adult and just like to walk quickly through museums, then I would say the same thing.


However, if you're someone who likes to read everything when you visit a museum, really enjoys hunting, fishing or learning about animals, you're going to be in the museum and aquarium all day. (Yes, there's that much to see!) My husband and I got there at about 10:30AM on a weekday and stayed until 5PM, which was the closing time that week, and we were rushing to get through the entire second half of the aquarium.


So if you think you might be like this, prepare yourself for a full day. Or, if you'd feel better breaking up the experience, consider the two-day pass (if you're just visiting) or the annual membership (if you live in the area) because it's hard to walk, read and view in a museum for that long, especially if you want to pause for a nice lunch or get to dinner on time.



Where To Park

Bass Pro Shops has a huge parking lot that's free to park in. The website does ask you to park on the Wonders of Wildlife side, though.


Where To Start

We walked into the Bass Pro Shops' entrance and upstairs to buy our tickets. You'll be able to see the museum clearly because there's a huge deer showing you the way (see the photo above). This started us with the museum side, which runs into the aquarium. You can also walk into the aquarium, but I'm not sure if you can get to the Wonders of Wildlife portion from there.


Either way, if you plan on doing both the museum and the aquarium, I suggest starting with the museum because it includes an introduction about why this facility was built, and the museum is a good "warm-up" before the aquarium.



Where To Eat

If you decide to do the museum and aquarium in one day and don't want to leave until you're done, there is a restaurant in the lobby of the aquarium called Fish Tales Cafe, which sells salads, sandwiches, pizza and more. There's also a snack stand partway through the aquarium called the Shipwreck Snack Bar. It offers popcorn, slushies and bakery items.


Both of these places have food that children will probably enjoy (and some adults), but if you're looking for good quality food, you won't find it there. If these don't sound appealing, you might want to leave the museum/aquarium during lunchtime and come back when you're done or do the two-day pass and come back the next day. As long as you show the workers your receipts, you'll be able to get back in and start where you left off.


You should note: there are NOT any food options in the museum portion. So eat before you go so that you don't get hungry during the first half.




The Positives and Negatives

As with any experience, there are positives, negatives and those things that are both positive and negative (which we'll call "neutrals"). So let's get into them.


THE POSITIVES

  • It's engaging and interactive. I felt like there was a really good balance of words, pictures, videos and other interactive activities in the museum. I'll go into these in detail in the sections below, but overall, Wonders of Wildlife captured my attention all the way through. (As a disclaimer, you do need to enjoy wildlife and animals to enjoy this museum, though.)

  • You can watch some of the real animals via live streams. This is a fun thing to do after you visit if your kids want to check up on the animals they enjoyed. It's also a great learning opportunity at home if you don't have the money to visit Wonders of Wildlife or can't go all the way to Springfield, Missouri. You can watch the live streams by clicking here.

The Negatives

  • The tickets are pricey. This definitely isn't a cheap experience, but it does help that it includes a museum AND an aquarium. My opinion is that it's worth it if you take your time going through it. But if you rush through and are in and out in a few hours, it might not be worth it for you.

  • Some of the live animals probably shouldn't be in this museum/aquarium. I'm sure they're all well taken care of, but some of the enclosures did seem a bit small for a few of the furry animals. And like any zoo-type place, you hope that they're not being disturbed too much by all the people walking through.

The Neutrals

  • There's one way in and one way out. I find many museums to be chaotic when all their rooms are attached to one another and there are paths that split off in three directions. One of the nice things about Wonders of Wildlife is that there's one path (other than a detour in one area) that you follow all the way through until the end. The unfortunate part of this is that if you need a break from the museum or aquarium, you have to go all the way through the rest of the museum or the rest of the aquarium to get out. Granted, I'm sure if you have an emergency, you could ask a worker and they would take you to a faster exit.

  • It's a great museum for adults. Both the museum and the aquarium will be very interesting to adults who like animals and conservation. However, the downside to this is that I don't think both are great for kids. The aquarium? Yes. The museum? Not really. While it's still interactive, the concepts are more for adults so there is less for children to care about.


About The Museum

I was fairly impressed by the Wonders of Wildlife museum for many reasons.


1. The progression of topics made sense. It was kind of in chronological order but also connected topics in a way that visitors can prepare for what's next even from the previous exhibit.


2. The informational plaques weren't overwhelming. In fact, they were more bite-size than most museums I've been to, and there was rarely a long paragraph to get through. The words were also large, so they were easy to read.


3. The museum offers several types of interactive additions to the exhibits. I'll discuss the ones in the museum more specifically next.



So let's go through some of the exhibit topics you'll find in the museum and what you can expect from them. It starts out with some information on Native Americans. There will likely be a guide there who will allow you to hold a bison horn. Next, you'll move into a room about Teddy Roosevelt and his aim to protect the land and nature through conservation and National Parks. The Lewis and Clark gallery follows that room, and if you would like to learn more about what's happening in the paintings, there will probably be another guide who can share historical points with you.


From there, enjoy a walk through scenes from many of the National Parks in the United States as well as some information about why they're important. Just after that, you'll learn why conservation is so crucial, how hunting plays a big part in it and how the ethical focus of hunting has evolved over the years.



This is the perfect transition into a variety of taxidermy rooms where visitors can learn about different animals, from deer to birds. You can even touch the fur of many non-endangered species. Following these exhibits are displays about some ocean-dwelling creatures and the animals you'd see on safari. Be sure to enjoy the live penguins swimming about in their little habitat. They can be very entertaining! All of the taxidermy and habitat-themed exhibits include touchscreens where you can learn about each type of animal that's on display. There are also some videos you can watch as you go.


So there you have it: an overview of the museum. But just remember, this is only half of Wonders of Wildlife. The aquarium is up next!



About The Aquarium

The aquarium is where you'll find the most live animals. Of course, you're probably well aware that you'll see some fish, but it doesn't just include some fish. There is A LOT of fish! The aquarium just seems to keep going and going, and many of the tanks are so big that they envelop you as you walk. The live animals you'll see that aren't necessarily obvious are the alligators, flamingos, bats, owls, otters, beavers and more scattered throughout.


Although this aquarium isn't necessarily in chronological order, there are some themes. For example, many of the exhibits showcase a certain type of water ecosystem or location, and the animals that live in that area or type of area are all together. This further helps visitors learn about the various habitats and mannerisms of the creatures.


In addition to the touchscreens that you can use to look up the different types of wildlife, visitors can also physically touch some water animals, including stingrays (located at the end of the aquarium), small fish, crabs and more. Don't worry, parents, there are paper towels, hand sanitizer and bathrooms nearby. Kids will also likely enjoy crawling under some of the smaller tanks and looking at the fish from inside the carved-out viewing bubbles.


As a whole, the aquarium was very nice and includes a multitude of species. I also appreciated the design that went into many of the backdrops for the bigger tanks.



Things To Do To Extend Your Bass Pro Visit

If you have more time than you expected after or before visiting the museum and aquarium, or simply want to spend more time at Bass Pro, there's plenty more you can do there. Here are some ideas:


Shop 'til you drop at Bass Pro Shops.

Remember, this is the first Bass Pro and the biggest, so there's a lot to peruse and purchase (or to try not to purchase). You'll find all your outdoor needs or wants, from fishing gear and boats to hunting gear and guns to camping equipment and hiking clothes. As you shop, enjoy the taxidermy throughout the store as well as some live animals, like turtles, fish and alligators. Also, if you're looking for cheaper items, head to the Catalog Outlet Building.



Visit the FREE museums inside Bass Pro.

Up some stairs near the gun section of Bass Pro, you'll find two museums: the National Rifle Association Sporting Arms and the National Archery Hall of Fame. The first showcases the evolution of hunting arms, and the latter displays all types of bows and some information on those who are in this hall of fame. There are other smaller museums throughout the store as well, which you'll likely see as you shop and can visit if interested. (In fact, I remember there being one I hadn't seen before near the entrance of Wonders of Wildlife.)


Shoot fake guns or real guns at shooting ranges.

I believe there's still a small shooting gallery for kids toward the front of the shop, and I know there's an indoor shooting range in one corner of the store.



Eat dinner at Hemingway's Blue Water Cafe.

Hemingway's is located inside of Bass Pro Shops, which means you can save yourself a drive before dinner or eat lunch there between activities. The menu isn't extensive but does include meals for kids. In general, adults will find mostly seafood options and a few other meals to choose from that are not seafood-themed. The price isn't cheap but also not extremely expensive ($$), and from what I remember most recently, it was pretty good food. (I had my wedding rehearsal dinner there, but that was a some years ago.)


Stay at the Angler's Lodge.

Angler's Lodge (the Springfield location) is located on one side of Bass Pro Shops across the street. So if you plan on enjoying the store, restaurant, museum and aquarium over a period of two days, this could be a good option. Or if you simply want to get an all-around Bass Pro experience, this is the company's closest lodging. (There's also more unique and popular lodging in Branson, Missouri, which is about 30 minutes away.)


If you're interested in some other unique Springfield, Missouri, experiences during your visit, check out this blog post.


 

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