The best new attraction of 2017 is a celebration of conservationism

You'll *wonder* why you haven't been there yet

By Kae Lani Kennedy,


The American conservationist movement has long drawn its strength from some of the country’s most legendary naturalists: among them William Henry Jackson, who documented the grandeur of the Yellowstone region; Theodore Roosevelt, who laid the foundation for the National Park Service; and Gifford Pinchot, the father of American forestry. 

And now, Johnny Morris – the founder of Bass Pro Shops – has solidified his place alongside such remarkable environmentalists with Wonders of Wildlife.

Located in Springfield, Mo. at the Bass Pro Shops flagship store, Wonders of Wildlife devotes its 350,000 square feet to celebrating conservation, wildlife and sportsmanship.

In the Aquarium Adventure, guests immerse themselves into underwater habitats that include over 35,000 animals and span over 800 species of sharks, rays, jellyfish, eels and herring.  Visitors can traverse underwater tunnels, feel as if they've plunged deep into the ocean courtesy of 3-story tanks, and touch small sharks and stingrays. 

As astonishing as these experiences are, there's more to them than that immediate "wow" factor.  The Aquarium Adventure makes it a point to educate guests on conservationist efforts, as well as how we can all improve the marine life of our local lakes and streams.

Also very much of note is the Wildlife Gallery, which takes guests through an elaborate series of dioramas depicting wildlife scenes from the Arctic to the African Savannah. This area also houses the world’s largest collection of such record-setting big game as bison, caribou, moose and bear.

Each scene replicates a part of the world, and is depicted with exceptional accuracy and realism. Animals are posed to best capture their natural majesty, while hand-painted scenery and special effects ensure that visitors further feel as if they've been transported clear across the globe.

Wonders of Wildlife opened in late September 2017, and despite only having been open for a few short months, they overwhelmingly won USA TODAY 10Best's Readers' Choice Award for the year's Best New Attraction.

It's not at all difficult to see why. This celebration of wildlife serves as a reminder to us all that, as Johnny Morris' motto states, "we all live downstream."