5 ways to spend a day on Historic Walnut Street — your neighborhood guide

Is Historic Walnut Street an arts area? A dine and drink district?

Yes, yes, and so much more.

That’s why this month’s Neighborhood Guide focuses on that stretch of road between National and Grant avenues. Walnut Street, which passes through Downtown Springfield, packs so much local goodness between a few blocks, it needs a guide to itself.

If you’ve ever been to Artsfest in early May or Cider Days in mid-September, you’ve been to Walnut Street. Those arts-packed events are just two reasons we love this historic Springfield neighborhood. But any time of year, you could spend an entertaining day or evening out and never leave the street.

A white tent selling art is set up in front of a historic Victorian home
Historic Walnut Street is the home of two large annual art festivals, including Artsfest in May, and renovated Victorian homes, many of which are now places of business such as the Walnut Street Inn. (Photo: Shannon Cay Bowers)

Not only does Historic Walnut Street boast a variety of places to dine, but it also leads to local boutiques, breweries, coffee shops, bookstores, lodging and, perhaps best of all, to local performing and visual arts opportunities year-round. Plus, it’s free to stroll the road and gaze at the street’s historic homes, many of which now house local businesses. (Start your stroll at the Walnut Street Inn — a lovely bed & breakfast — and head east from there.)

There’s so much to do that we can’t cover it all, but, to get you started, here are five ways to explore Historic Walnut Street.

What are neighborhood guides? (Click to expand)

We help you to explore our town with Neighborhood Guides, an occasional series highlighting five ways to find things to do, see, eat or drink in a selected section of Springfield. Some sections are broad, others more compact.

We’d love to hear your suggestions for neighborhoods or spots to highlight. Send ideas to Reader Engagement Editor Jeff Kessinger at [email protected].

Applaud the arts

Exterior photo of the Historic Landers Theatre
The historic Landers Theatre on Walnut Street is home to Springfield Little Theatre and its annual season of musicals and plays. (Photo: Sony Hocklander)

In the mood for dinner and a stage show? You can do that on Walnut Street. The Historic Landers Theatre at 311 E. Walnut St. — one of Downtown Springfield’s grand old dames built in 1909 — is hard to miss and a class act for kids and adults, whether watching a show or performing in one. The nonprofit, volunteer-driven Springfield Little Theatre is the resident company producing everything from classic musicals to comedy, children’s shows and variety musical acts.

Music also factors heavily into Walnut Street’s two annual festivals. As does original art, of course. Artsfest is the best example of immersing yourself in street art. The annual May festival on Walnut Street takes over the neighborhood between National Avenue and John Q. Hammons Parkway, celebrating local and regional juried artists selling creative works of jewelry, pottery, glass, metal and wood art, plus other 3D art, paintings, drawings, printmaking, photography and more.

Colorful paintings displayed on an art gallery wall
Colorful works by local artists are displayed and for sale in several venues, including Formed: An Artist Collective, on Walnut Street. (Photo: Sony Hocklander)

You don’t have to wait for annual festivals to find original art. The downtown portion of Walnut Street is home to several venues that participate each month in the First Friday Art Walk, a two-decade tradition of wandering through participating businesses displaying local art the first Friday evening of each month. Among the Walnut Street venues are Formed: An Artist Collective, Forming Art Studios, Transformation Gallery and Tattoo, BookMarx and The Downtown Church. You’ll also find original art in unexpected places, such as Gailey’s Breakfast Café, 220 E. Walnut St., downtown since 1942.

For a classic art gallery experience, Hawthorn Galleries (214 E. Walnut St.) features two levels of art viewed by appointment only. Formed, 210 E. Walnut St., Suite 100, sells original art by a variety of regional artists every day it’s open. It’s a great spot to shop for birthdays, Mother’s Day or yourself. And if you want to create your own art, sign up for classes at their Forming Art Studios nearby.

Read a good book

Interior photo of a bookstore inside an old home
Pagination Bookshop is one of several businesses on Walnut Street located in an old historic house. (Photo: Sony Hocklander)

Reading for entertainment? Yes, please! If books are your bag, you’ll love that Walnut Street has two outstanding local stores selling the old-fashioned kind — you know, printed on paper. Pagination Bookshop, 1150 E. Walnut St. near National Avenue, is a treat from the outside and in. A quaint shop residing in one of Walnut Street’s historic homes (this one built in 1905), Pagination sells new and some used books of many genres, plus literary-themed gift items like quirky socks, T-shirts, totes, bookmarks and more. Best of all for parents, they have a colorful kids’ room with books for youngsters and middle readers. Watch their Facebook page for occasional events.

In the downtown area at 325 E. Walnut St., Suite 101, BookMarx tucks its wares and two adorable cats inside a 100-year-old building. Nearly a decade old, the independent bookstore sells new and used books including classics, graphic novels, poetry, young adult and kids and more. Follow their Facebook page for lots of pictures of Squash and Googey, the resident cats — occasionally in hats — showing off books.

Dine out

A red plate of Thai food, sitting on a brown wooden table
Lunch specials are fast and tasty at Rama Thai Cafe, located in an old historic house on East Walnut Street. (Photo: Sony Hocklander)

What do you feel like eating? No, what do you feel like eating?

That will surely be the conversation when trying to decide where to dine out on Walnut Street. There are so many options! These will get you started.

Near National Avenue, Rama Thai Café, 1129 E. Walnut St., serves authentic Thai food in a cozy, two-level former home, making it a perfect spot for both palate and ambiance. The broad menu includes lunch specials, curry, noodles, fried rice and plenty of meatless selections. A few buildings west, Ebbet’s Field Sports Bar & Patio, 1027 E. Walnut St., is a longtime favorite, serving up good traditional grill grub since 1981 in a two-story house with an outdoor patio and three bars for cocktails and brews.

For a fine dining experience with an authentic Italian menu using locally sourced and grown-on-site ingredients, try Gilardi’s Ristorante, 820 E. Walnut St. Not only is Gilardi’s a lovely way to spend a special night out, but the restaurant with a recently renovated outdoor patio is also housed in an 1895 building (once a horse stable) tucked behind the historic Grey Gables home-turned-event center. You can’t miss this unusual complex on Walnut: Just look for a grand grey Victorian house with an urban farm in place of a lawn.

Once you’ve reached the downtown section of Walnut Street, locally established casual dining choices include Greek Belly (authentic gyros & baklava!), 7th on Walnut (a tiny 7-foot-wide sandwich shop), Pappo’s Pizzeria (scratch Italian fare) and Black Sheep Burgers and Shakes (gourmet grill — come hungry!). For a fast-casual vegan experience, try Walnut Street new kid Bosky’s Vegan Grill. And to scratch your best-breakfast itch, nothing beats Walnut Street staple Gailey’s Breakfast Café.

Exterior photo of the Hotel Vandivort
The Order and Vantage are two dine and cocktail venues found in the historic Hotel Vandivort on Walnut Street in Downtown Springfield. (Photo: Jack McGee)

Looking for something a little more upscale? Head for Hotel Vandivort, 305 E. Walnut St., where you’ll find two great options. The Order, a food and drink establishment on the main floor, serves American cuisine and is an easy spot to meet with friends. Vantage serves up a great sunset view with cocktails, plus a menu of small plates, charcuterie and raw bar offerings. Or try Flame Steakhouse and Wine Bar, 314 W. Walnut St., in the heart of downtown, a fine dining steakhouse with a wide-ranging menu (and a basement drink spot, the Red Room Lounge).

Raise a mug!

Interior photo of Seattle Roast Coffee in downtown Springfield
Seasonal specials are found on the menu at Seattle Roast Coffee at Walnut Street and South Avenue in Downtown Springfield. (Photo: Sony Hocklander)

Downtown Springfield is a perfect spot for casual meetups over drinks, too, whether your cups hold coffee, a smoothie, a shake or something a little stronger. Walnut Street leads to a number of tasty options. Let’s start with coffee (because doesn’t everything start with coffee?).

Seattle Roast Coffee at Walnut and South Avenue, a member of the Ozarks Coffee Trail, is a spacious spot for grabbing a fresh brew to go. Or step up your order with selections like a Cinnamon Sugar Latte, Vanilla Sweet Cream Cold Brew, a Butterbeer Frappe plus teas, lemonade and Italian crème sodas. If you need a bite to eat, they also serve pastries, sandwiches, quiches and the like. Another member of the Ozarks Coffee Trail is Classic Rock Coffee Downtown, 535 W. Walnut St. Like its big sis on Sunset Street, Classic Rock serves coffee drinks, tea, shakes, smoothies and light breakfast and lunch fare.

Coffee with a little somethin’-somethin’ is a great reason to visit the MudLounge, a coffee-cocktail combo at 321 E. Walnut St. This brick-and-mortar lives up to its name and is a cozy spot to spend — or end — an evening out. Try one of its unique “Spiked Mud” coffee cocktails like the Spanish Coffee (rum, triple sec, Kahlua, coffee) or the Tiramisou Coffee (Kahlua, Rum Chata, coffee), or a cold brew cocktail, for instance, the Screwball Cognitive (cold brew, peanut butter whiskey, Bailey’s Irish Crème).

Exterior photo of Springfield Brewing Company
Springfield Brewing Company is one of two craft breweries in Downtown Springfield just off Walnut Street. (Photo: Sony Hocklander)

Walnut Street on the western edge of Downtown has become a little craft brewing district — it even says so on the Brewery District Flats (an apartment complex in the building where Classic Rock Coffee resides). That makes sense, with Springfield Brewing Company (on Market Avenue at Walnut Street) and Mother’s Brewing Company (on Grant Avenue at Walnut Street) nearby. SBC — a lively restaurant that’s great for big and small groups — has been around for more than 25 years. You might say SBC — or BrewCo —  is the father of local craft breweries. And Mother’s is…well, you get it. Mother’s doesn’t have a public restaurant, but they sure put on some fun events including (of course!) their Mother’s Day Festival over several Saturdays each May. They also do tours and serve as a private events center.

Shop small

Interior photo of Formed: An Artist Collective
Original art and jewelry, locally sourced home goods, vinyl records, books, vintage finds and more are found in small local shops along Historic Walnut Street in Springfield. (Photo: Sony Hocklander)

Shopping small is an easy way to get to know Walnut Street. And it’s always a good idea to keep our dollars local while supporting entrepreneurs. Between all the shops you can wander into, you’ll find music, jewelry, home goods, books, art and much more. In addition to bookstores and art stores, try these among the downtown shops.

If you’re into vinyl, look no further than Stick it in Your Ear, a staple for more than two decades at 300 E. Walnut St. The music store is one of Springfield’s go-to resources for vinyl records and music-related merchandise. Find artisan jewelry by local and regional artists at Crystalline Velvet, 306 E. Walnut St.; and locally sourced personal and home goods at J.L. Long Traders, 318 W. Walnut St., a family tradition since 1903.

A little farther east try Queen City Collectors, the new business at 412 E. Walnut St. (where A Cricket in the House was located before its owners retired). The shop just east of Jefferson Avenue sells a variety of vintage clothing, housewares, clothing, jewelry and much more.

By the time you leave Walnut Street, you’ll be fed, entertained, cultured and, if you’re lucky, taking home something local and unique.

Sony Hocklander

Sony Hocklander is a freelance journalist, video storyteller and photographer who produces creative content through her small solo business, Sony Hocklander Creative LLC. When she’s not telling community stories, she loves wandering the Ozarks outdoors with a camera in hand. You can follow her on Twitter @SonyHocklander and on Instagram @shocklander or email her at: [email protected] More by Sony Hocklander

Sign up to receive the best Underground art & real estate news in your inbox everyday.

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.

This post was originally published on this site be sure to check out more of their content.