Visit Lake of the Ozarks Family Friendly, Year-round Destination in Central Missouri

Visit Lake of the Ozarks: Family Friendly, Year-round Destination in Central Missouri

In addition to a wide variety of activities, Lake of the Ozarks offers lodging options for every taste, whether said taste runs to posh resorts, mom-and-pop motels, campsites, or even houseboats.

Tan-Tar-A Resort

Centrally located on the eastern shore, Tan-Tar-A Resort is ideal for families, with a variety of room options and many activities — two outdoor swimming pools, a health club, and indoor swimming pool, tennis courts, a miniature golf course with a wicked water hazard, an indoor water park where the weather is always fine, horseback riding, scenic boat cruises, bowling alley, arcade, and marina.

There’s even a spa, and both 18- and nine-hole golf courses meandering through the woods.

Begin a morning of fishing with the generous breakfast buffet at Black Bear Lodge Restaurant (serving lunch and dinner also), just a short hop from the marina for either a rented boat or a hired guide.

This is one of the best year-round fishing lakes in the country and many tournaments are held here for largemouth and white bass, catfish, and stripers. But if the kids just want to catch something, pretty little bluegill is almost always biting.

Tan-Tar-A’s fishing guides help bait the hook and release the catch.

Tan-Tar-A also rents personal watercraft and parasail rides, and babysitting and kid’s club activities are available, too.

The resort’s activities desk, located in the lobby, help guests plan a couple of perfect days.

Lake Ozark State Park

The Osage Beach area of the lake includes Lake Ozark State Park, which offers less-structured recreation on its free sand beaches, picnic sites, boat launches, and 12 developed trails.

The Trail Center on Highway 134 has information.

Horseback riding and campsites have a fee attached, and advance reservations are recommended for both.

The park contains one of Missouri’s largest springs, which pours 48 million gallons of water a day into the lake.

At the park-operated Ozark Caverns, each adult carries a hand-held lantern on guided tours past sights such as Angel’s Shower.

Other Lake of the Ozarks Attractions

Amusement parks and miniature golf courses are more plentiful than pine trees around here, and hungry vacationers can choose from more than 100 restaurants.

Shopping options include the requisite outlet mall, Osage Beach Premium Outlets on Highway 54, plus The Landing on Main Street, a Victorian-themed shopping village that houses the Main Street Music Hall, presenting a professional music show most of the year.

Bagnell Dam Strip

Farther north in the Lake Ozark area on the Bagnell Dam Strip, rustic lodges and cozy motels sit cheek-to-jowl with restaurants and shops.

Old-fashioned breakfast and cinnamon rolls as big as a child’s head are served at Stewart’s Restaurant.

Several excursion boats leave from this area, too, and personal watercraft rental and parasailing are available.

Nearby Willmore Lodge, originally an administrative and entertainment center for workers of Union Electric Company during construction of the dam, is now a visitor center and museum.

The huge Adirondack-style building houses exhibits on pre-lake history, dam construction, and subsequent development, and offers fabulous views of the lake.

Lodges and Condominiums

Just past the Dam Strip (gotta love that name) is an upscale lake neighborhood, Horseshoe Bend Parkway, where lake-front condominium resorts include amenities such as boat docks, tennis courts, swimming pools, and lots of golf courses.

The Lodge of the Four Seasons on this road is another complete service resort with rooms, suites and condos as well as 54 holes of golf, restaurants, a huge spa and full service marina.

Private charters and public lake tours depart from the marina

Camdenton Area Attractions

The Camdenton area’s high-end option is Old Kinderhook, a condominium and cottage community with a marina and Tom Weiskopf golf course.

More down to earth, quite literally, is Ha Ha Tonka State Park, a classic karst landscape of sink holes, caves, springs and natural bridges traversed by 15 miles of trails, from paved walkways to rugged switchbacks.

Many of the park’s features, such as the natural bridge and main spring, are only a short walk from parking areas.

The trails are all loops, which makes it easy to hike and hard to get lost.

One of the more unique features of the park is The Castle, the ruin of a stone mansion high on a bluff over the lake, built at the turn of the century only to burn several years later.

Also included within the park’s boundaries is savanna landscape that can be explored via the 7-mile Turkey Pen Hollow Trail, which leads to a primitive campground (the only camping in this park).

The park has a boat dock, picnic areas and a visitor center.

Just north of Camdenton on Highway 5 (or accessible by boat) is Bridal Cave, named for the 1,000-plus couples married there (they have the photo albums to prove it) and rated as one of the most scenic in the country. Guided tours take about an hour.

It is roughly 260 miles from Memphis to the Lake of the Ozarks area.

There are also five private airports around the lake, including one inside Lake Ozark State Park.