A Weekend on the Water
Within hours of Kansas City, you will find some of the most gorgeous and invigorating lakes in the Midwest. If you’re searching for an idyllic bed and breakfast, a posh resort loaded with amenities or a quaint and cozy cabin, you can find what suits you surrounded by lush, tranquil landscapes and all sorts of entertainment opportunities.
A far cry from the day-to-day life of 3G connectivity, multitasking and long commutes, a lake getaway could be the ideal escape from the daily grind. The bright lights here? A million stars reflecting on the water. And as you cozy into your waterside retreat, you just might forget to check your email and your Twitter feed. In fact, you might not want to leave.
Whether you are a boater, an angler, a swimmer or simply looking for a great view, look no further. With options for relaxation and exploration, prepare to soak in the serenity and make a splash at these five Midwestern lake escapes.
Lake of the Ozarks
With 1,150 miles of shoreline, Missouri’s largest lake is a favorite for vacationers for myriad reasons. Perhaps its biggest draw, the fishing at Lake of the Ozarks is top-notch.
With rock bluffs, mud flats, gravel bars and crappie beds, and a variety of fish species such as largemouth and spotted bass, black and white crappie and walleye — to name a few — it’s no wonder generations of anglers from across America are hooked on fishing at the Lake of the Ozarks.
And with nearly 50 full-service marinas spread throughout the lake, it is easy to rent a boat for the weekend, soak in the sun and cozy up to the docks of the dozens of shore-side restaurants and bars, such as Shady Gators, located at mile marker 7 and voted best drinks and entertainment at the Ozarks. With frequent live music and more than 100 boat slips, it is perfect for a night out on the water.
On shore, delight in 288 holes of golf on 17 courses featuring designs by Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Tom Weiskopf, enjoy horseback riding at Lake of the Ozarks State Park or take a lantern tour of Ozark Caverns. In between spa visits, shop at the Osage Beach Premium Outlets and dine at acclaimed restaurants Bentley’s, Baxter’s Lakeside Grille and Blue Heron.
For an evening of family-friendly fun, head over to Bagnell Dam, otherwise known as “The Strip,” which is a nostalgic, kitschy neighborhood filled with old-time photo studios, funky souvenir shops and homemade fudge and candy stores.
Lake of the Ozarks is home to more than 200 resorts, hotels and condos, not to mention the ultimate waterfront lodging option: houseboats for rent. Some of the most notable Lake Ozark resorts include Camden on the Lake (Camdenton), Lodge of the Four Seasons (Lake Ozark) and Tan-Tar-A (Osage Beach). A 420-acre resort boasting more than 800 rooms, suites and condominiums, Tan-Tar-A is home to the blissful Windjammer Spa, a 27-hole golf course, and the Timber Falls Indoor Waterpark.
For more information or to plan your visit to Lake of the Ozarks, visit funlake.com or call (800) FUN-LAKE.
Nothing says lakeside serenity quite like a weekend relaxing on Lake Ouachita near Hot Springs, Ark. Nestled in the hills of the Ouachita National Forest, Lake Ouachita is natural beauty at its finest. Because no homes are allowed to be built on the lake, it is easy to feel as if you have been whisked away to a different world as you set sail on one of the country’s cleanest lakes (according to the EPA). The lake is home to more than 1,000 miles of shoreline and more than 200 deserted islands, where it is easy to find your own private beach paradise.
The lake is also a popular destination for scuba divers as it features one of the largest crystal veins in the world, as well as rare non-stinging jellyfish and sponges found in very few freshwater lakes.
True to the quiet spirit of the lake, the most popular lodging option at Lake Ouachita is a host of quaint bed and breakfasts. From cozy cottages to historic mansions, vacationers can take their pick of more than a dozen locally-owned and -operated B&Bs perfect for a weekend of relaxation. Or if a resort respite is more your cup of tea, check into the Mountain Harbor Resort and Spa on Lake Ouachita. One of the most acclaimed nature spas in Arkansas, Turtle Cove Spa offers a full menu of spa treatment and salon services, and the resort grounds also include a restaurant and a full-service marina, which offers boat rentals and guided fishing tours.
For a truly unforgettable experience on Lake Ouachita, consider renting a houseboat or yacht. Hill’s Lake Escape at Brady Mountain Resort provides a fleet of 20 houseboats from which to choose for rental, and Lake Ouachita Yacht Brokerage lets you live the dream as you float the day away on a luxury vessel.
For more information on Lake Ouachita, visit lakeouachita.com.
TABLE ROCK LAKE/LAKE TANEYCOMO
Nestled in the rolling hills of the Ozarks and surrounded by southwest Missouri’s lush landscapes, Table Rock Lake and Lake Taneycomo, both part of the White River system, are known for clean, pristine waters and a superb location near all the entertainment Branson has to offer.
Whether you spend the day boating and swimming in the glistening blue waters of Table Rock or channel your adventurous side and go parasailing at State Park Marina, Table Rock Lake offers countless on-water activities. With 3,100 surface acres and 750 miles of shoreline, you can almost always find a quiet cove away from boat traffic to enjoy skiing, wakeboarding and parasailing. Jet ski rentals are offered at several marinas and resorts on the lake. Or climb aboard the Spirit of America, a 48-foot catamaran that leaves from State Park Marina daily at noon, 2 p.m. and dusk.
Or if you are more interested in relaxing beach-front, head to Moonshine Beach, located on the north end of Table Rock Dam. As the lake’s only sandy beach, Moonshine boasts an ample swimming area and a sand volleyball court, as well as picnic areas and a playground.
Interestingly enough, Table Rock Lake is known for excellent scuba diving. With visibility of 10 to 12 feet and a great variety of marine life to observe, many divers flock annually to the lake. There’s even a sunken sailboat and a sunken cabin cruiser at Jake’s Island.
Divers also love to explore the Enchanted Forest, an underwater grove of trees on the lake’s east side. And even if you aren’t a certified diver, State Park Marina offers a Discover Scuba course daily throughout the summer during which students actually get in the lake.
Long after the fun in the sun is over, Table Rock has much to offer in the way of entertainment. Take in one of Branson’s live music shows, head up to Silver Dollar City theme park, take a ride on the Showboat Branson Belle or spend the evening at Branson’s posh outdoor mall, Branson Landing, home to some of the area’s best restaurants and retail gems on a one-mile lighted boardwalk.
Depending on the company you keep, Table Rock Lake has a plethora of lodging options including the breathtaking Big Cedar Lodge, all-inclusive Stonewater Cove, family-friendly Still Waters Resort, and the romantic and luxurious Chateau on the Lake, home to the Spa Chateau (read: a lavish respite for lake-goers looking for a little pampering).
Accessible from historic downtown Branson and at multiple points east, Lake Taneycomo was formed with the completion of Powersite Dam in 1913. It was originally a section of the White River, and although Taneycomo is now technically a lake, it retains the look and feel of a river. When the Table Rock Dam was completed at Taneycomo’s headwaters in 1958, the nature of the lake changed. Taneycomo’s water now comes from the bottom of Table Rock Lake, making it a coldwater lake. The cold, clear water, stocked annually with approximately 750,000 10- to 12-inch rainbow and brown trout, makes Taneycomo a world-class trout fishing lake.
Even if you don’t know the first thing about trout fishing, Taneycomo has plenty of guided trip and equipment rental options. Not interested in fishing? Try exploring the lake from a stand-up paddleboard.
For more information or to book a Table Rock Lake/LakeTaneycomo vacation, visit explorebranson.com or call (800) 296-0463.
GRAND LAKE O’ THE CHEROKEES
Grand Lake o’ the Cherokees is located on the Grand (Neosho) River in northeastern Oklahoma, in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains. With its winding, scenic shoreline, and a plethora of marinas, restaurants and resorts, Grand Lake is the premier playground for water sports lovers and anglers alike.
Stretching 66 miles and holding 46,500 acres of water, the 1,300-mile shoreline of Grand Lake is dotted with luxurious lakefront homes. The Oklahoma crosswinds make Grand Lake a prime sailing lake, and more than 30 marinas offer boat rentals and chartered yacht services.
Fishing is a major draw for many visitors to Grand Lake, and as a result, the lake is host to more than 400 fishing tournaments every year. Perhaps best known for its ample bass fishing, catfish, crappie and bluegill are also popular species at Grand Lake.
But for those looking for life beyond the lure, the lake’s alluring Monkey Island is home to numerous restaurants, nightclubs and shops, as well as horseback riding, bike trails and spas. Monkey Island’s Shangri-la Resort and Conference Center and the Tera Miranda resort amongst others make this isle the hub of Grand Lake recreation.
Other lakefront towns undoubtedly cater to vacationers throughout the year with live music, fine restaurants, wineries and casinos. Visit the Summerside Vineyards and Winery in Vinita on Route 66, The Artichoke in Langley, or float into one of the boat slips and dine waterside at the Shebang on Monkey Island or Oliver’s Twist in Eucha. And in Grove, Okla., the lake’s largest city, visitors can board The Cherokee Queen, a riverboat-style paddlewheel cruiser, and tour the lake as they take in a dinner cruise. When you are done, head to Sailboat Bridge, also in Grove, which is a major draw for tourists who wish to savor the lake’s spectacular views.
For more information on Grand Lake o’ the Cherokees, visit grandlakeareainfo.com.
Known to many as the Iowa Great Lakes, Okoboji is the common name given to a group of natural glacial lakes in Dickinson County, Iowa. The area, located 210 miles northwest of Des Moines, is comprised of three main lakes — West Okoboji Lake, East Okoboji Lake and the largest, Spirit Lake — and is a 15,000-acre natural wonder. A culmination of the largest natural lakes in Iowa, the region is a wonderland of family fun and classic lake escapades.
Year after year, families flock to Okoboji to swim, boat, ski, wakeboard, fish and hop on carnival rides at Historic Arnolds Park, a turn-of-the-century theme park laced with a certain nostalgic charm and home to an 80-year-old wooden roller coaster.
While you are there, check out Okoboji Boat Works, a popular stop between the west and east lakes, which boasts a swimming beach, a playground and glass-bottom boat tours.
Off the water, check out summer theaters, art galleries and live music on Preservation Plaza or lace up your tennis shoes and get moving on the Iowa Great Lakes Trail, which is recognized nationally and is home to historical landscape and wildlife preservation.
Bring the whole family to the Bridges Bay Resort in Arnolds Park and choose from a variety of condominiums, which include a full kitchen, laundry, living room with fireplace and outdoor patio or deck. Bridges Bay is home to the area’s only indoor waterpark, ‘Boji Splash. Or set up camp at the Arrowwood Resort and Conference Center, situated on the grounds of the brooks National Golf Club and surrounded by the sparking blue waters of West Okoboji Lake. Just minutes from Arnolds Park, Arrowwood is the perfect playground for couples and families alike.
For more information on the Iowa Great Lakes region, visit vacationokoboji.com or call (800) 270-2574.