January 9, 2007
There's Plenty of Room(s) for Everyone
at Central Missouri’s Lake of the Ozarks
LAKE OF THE OZARKS, MO. – There’s something for everyone at Central Missouri’s scenic Lake of the Ozarks – boating and water activities, shopping, great restaurants, fun family attractions, lively nightlife and more.
It’s also true that there’s someplace for everyone at the Lake of the Ozarks. Visitors find a huge selection of accommodations to choose from: hotels and motels, campgrounds and condos, resorts and bed-and-breakfasts, houses and houseboats. There’s lodging near the water, next to the water, even on the water! And the lodging comes with an impressive array of amenities. Best of all, with 250-plus economy-to-luxury lodging facilities offering more than 7,700 units, plus 1,700 campsites, there’s plenty of room for everybody and every budget.
Oldies but Goodies
Perhaps you recall childhood summers spent at a cozy Lake-area mom-and-pop resort. There are fewer of those around these days, but they still do exist, though not necessarily in the same way as you remember them. For example, if you ever stayed in one of Irish Hills Resort’s nine original cottages, you may not recognize them now; they’ve been updated and modernized, and five brand-new cottages have been built in recent years. There’s also a new modular lake home and a new floating trampoline in the swimming area at the lakefront resort. Owner Sonja Triggs says, “We are close to Osage Beach but if you want to feel you’re out in the woods away from the hustle and bustle, you can do that here. A lot of people may go out to buy groceries and they don’t leave again until they have to go home.”
Most of Irish Hills’ business is repeat customers. “Once people come here they become an Irish Hills fan,” Triggs says. “We get families in the summertime and fishermen in the off-season. In fact I’ve heard this is one of the best fishing coves on the Lake.” Irish Hills has one of only three heated fishing docks in the area. In addition the resort allows pets and offers boat rentals year-round.
Another original Lake of the Ozarks resort that’s gone through some changes is Lakeside Resort and Campground (“Where you arrive as a customer and leave as a friend”). Walt and Dorothy Webner have owned Lakeside for 11 years. Part of the resort was built in 1931 but extensive remodeling has brought the seven cabins and campsite area up to date. “In the spring we get a big influx of snaggers since we are in a prime area for spoonbill (paddlefish) fishing,” says Walt Webner. “In the summer we get families with kids and grandkids. Everyone gets along and sits around the campfire.”
The resort offers a beach and boat ramp, and the campground’s 38 sites include several where you can practically catch a fish right from your RV or tent, Webner notes. Because Lakeside is located near Warsaw on the Lake’s western edge, “it’s very cozy and remote,” he adds. “There’s smaller boat traffic and cellphones don’t work down here, so you have to forget about your problems and just enjoy yourself.”
Located near Bagnell Dam, Camp Bagnell (“Where folks have been having fun since 1891”) is another campground in a quiet area. In fact, it’s located on the Osage River, not the Lake of the Ozarks. “Our guests enjoy fishing, canoeing and swimming in the river,” says Manager Caitlin Schulte. “It’s also a good spot for arrowhead-hunting.”
The historic area, once the “Railroad Tie Capital of the World,” was a thriving village in the 1850s and a real boomtown in the 1920s as thousands of dam workers and their families moved in. Things quieted down significantly once the dam and Lake were completed; however, Camp Bagnell’s 60 campsites fill up during the summer with a lot of families who come back year after year, Schulte says. In addition, the popular Old Bagnell Fish & Steakhouse next to the campground attracts diners year-round with its platters of hickory-smoked ribs and brisket, steaks, frog legs and catfish.
Condos, Condos Everywhere
A notable trend at the Lake of the Ozarks is the growing popularity of condos as vacation lodging options. “Luxury condos are the hot properties coming along now,” says Sky Johnson, owner of Eagles Nest Resort in Sunrise Beach. “We believe we are right in the middle between comfort and luxury and that’s exactly where a lot of vacationers want to be.”
Eagles Nest is made up of eight lakefront lodging units including cottages, townhomes and houses. “At one end there’s a cozy 35-year old cottage with ‘9,000 coats’ of white paint and at the other there’s the upscale Veranda Condo with white leather furniture and tile floors,” Johnson explains. “It’s an interesting mix of old and new.” Each unit has a deck and a private dock, and is fully furnished and equipped. Resort amenities include two swim docks with slides, a hot tub room, game room and central park area, even a pavilion with a stage and professional sound and lights. “We have created a variety of areas for people to have experiences, such as a fire pit and a path to reach it and a lot of little sitting areas outdoors,” Johnson notes.
Eagles Nest attracts family reunions, as well as visitors who bring their pets. “We are animal lovers and my husband, Bill, is a retired veterinarian,” Johnson says. “As a result, many of our guests have gone home with pets they didn’t come with!”
Osage National Condos near Osage Beach have the distinction of being adjacent to Osage National Golf Course, a 27-hole Arnold Palmer course on beautifully forested, rolling terrain and surrounded by lakes, creeks and the imposing bluffs of the Osage River. Naturally most of the 32 rental condos are occupied by golfers, “but we also have a lot of weddings and family reunions here,” says Resort Manager Heather Bock.
In addition to its proximity to the golf course, Bock says Osage National offers a relaxing country setting. “It’s close to Lake-area attractions but not in the thick of it. Also the condos are like a home but in a resort setting,” she says. Other amenities include a restaurant, pool, spa and playground.
Al Elam Vacation Rentals offers one-to-six-bedroom condos and two-to-four-bedroom homes in several Lake areas – all located directly on the water and most offering a boat dock, swimming pool, tennis court and playground. The company manages more than 20 homes and 40 condos.
“More and more people are looking for condos and homes instead of traditional hotels or motels,” says Russell Burdette, manager. “A home or condo offers more space with built-in convenience. Plus, you can’t beat the price.” For example, a home that sleeps 10 may cost up to $500 per night, “but that’s just $50 per person,” Burdette says. “That’s a lot less than a hotel that may not even have a lake view.” Being able to cook your own meals also saves money, Burdette notes.
Al Elam customers range from couples to families. “We serve a lot of large family reunions from 75 people on up,” Burdette says. He estimates about 40 percent of the company’s business is repeat customers. “A couple may come by themselves in the fall and bring the whole family the following summer,” he says. “A lot of our customers ask for ‘their’ condo every year.”
Then there’s Lone Oak Point Resort & Condominiums where you can rent a condo or purchase one. Its 41 units are nestled in a quiet, eight-acre wooded peninsula with a panoramic Lake view. “It’s such a unique place here,” says Terri Humphrey, managing agent and condo owner. “The landscaping is very natural with a lot of trees and flowers and 1,800 feet of shoreline.”
Humphrey notes, “It’s hard to find an old-fashioned cottage camp anymore but we think Lone Oak is a nice compromise.” All of Lone Oak Point’s original cottages from the 1930s-1950s have been replaced with larger, modern units. “No two are alike,” she says. The resort hosts many family reunions in the summer, and the spring and fall bring more couples, young and old. “We get a lot of repeat business because of the beautiful setting and great amenities,” including indoor and outdoor heated pools, two hot tubs and saunas, swim docks, exercise and game rooms, covered boat slips, playground, tennis and volleyball and more.
Generations of families visit the Lake of the Ozarks to stay at its well established, full-service resorts. One of the best known is The Lodge of Four Seasons, a waterfront luxury resort built in 1964. The award-winning resort offers 300 rooms and 50 condos. General Manager David Griffin says, “Our guests enjoy the full-service experience here. They never have to leave the premises because their recreation, activities, dining and relaxation are all right here.” More than 60 percent of The Lodge’s business is repeat customers. “A lot of people may come for a business meeting then return later for a leisure vacation,” Griffin notes.
The Lodge is a popular golf destination with 54 holes of championship golf on lakeside courses designed by Jack Nicklaus, Robert Trent Jones Sr., and Ken Kavanaugh. It’s consistently recognized as one of the finest golf resorts in the country by Travel & Leisure Golf Magazine and Golf Digest. In addition, The Lodge’s renowned Spa Shiki is considered one of the nation’s finest resort spas. The serene retreat has been profiled on NBC's “Today Show” and recognized as one of the best for excellence and value by SELF Magazine and Spa Finder among others. The Lodge also offers exceptional dining, from HK’s fine steaks and seafood to the more casual Breeze’s and Soleil sidewalk café. After hours, the Blue Moon bar offers more than 200 types of martinis.
Families love The Lodge for its wide range of things to do, including swimming in four pools, boating, water skiing, jet skiing and fishing. There’s also a cinema, Adventure Club for children and a fitness room and lovely Japanese gardens.
Tan-Tar-A opened July 4, 1960, with 12 cabins. Today, Tan-Tar-A Resort, Golf Club, Marina and Indoor Waterpark is the largest resort at the Lake, covering 420 scenic Ozark acres and offering 870 hotel rooms and 400 condos. “The advantage of a large resort like Tan-Tar-A is that it’s a destination in itself,” says General Manager Fred Dehner. “You can come here, park your car and not get back in it until you have to go home, because there is just so much to do, or you can relax and do nothing at all in a gorgeous setting.”
The largest indoor waterpark in Missouri, Timber Falls has been a huge success, Dehner says. It features two water slides, a lazy river for tube floating, activity pool, three-story treehouse with suspension bridges and a six-foot wide wooden bucket that holds more than 700 gallons of water and tips over every few minutes.
The resort also offers 27 holes of golf on two courses: Hidden Lakes, ranked as one of the best nine-hole courses in the U.S., and The Oaks, an 18-hole course designed by Bruce Devlin and Robert Von Hagge. Other Tan-Tar-A amenities include three swimming pools, a full health spa and salon, fitness center, Bears Den Arcade, award-winning restaurants, full-service marina, parasailing, horseback riding, mini-golf, Camp Tan-Tar-A for kids and much more.
Delightful Bed and Breakfast Inns
Some Lake of the Ozarks visitors wouldn’t think of staying anywhere but in one of the area’s charming bed-and-breakfast establishments. One of the newer B&Bs is Bass & Baskets, so named because owner Ed Franko is an avid bass fisherman, and his wife Deb is an avid collector of Longaberger baskets. The lovingly decorated inn reflects both.
“Our guests mainly are couples ranging in age from their 20s through 80s,” says Deb Franko. “Everyone loves the décor but especially our breakfasts.” They certainly are something special, having been named Best Breakfast in 2004 by Arrington’s Bed & Breakfast Journal, which also named Bass & Baskets “Best B&B to Visit Again and Again” in 2005 and “Best to Recommend To Others” in 2006.
Located in Lake Ozark and opened in 2001, Bass & Baskets features four themed guest rooms: North Woods lodge, Victorian romance, all-American red white and blue and a blooming garden. Each room also has a fireplace, Jacuzzi tub and a deck overlooking the Lake. Cozy and inviting common areas are found inside and out. “My husband says this is where you bring your wife when you have fished too many times,” Deb Franko says. “Our goal is for people to leave here feeling happy and relaxed.”
Like the Frankos, Gary and Cindy Brooks quit their jobs in St. Louis and moved to the Lake area to open a bed and breakfast. They bought the cozy and comfortable Cliff House Inn B&B in Osage Beach in 2004. “Cliff House probably offers the most privacy of any bed and breakfast at Lake of the Ozarks,” says Gary Brooks. "Each of the four suites has a private entrance and its own deck or deck access. And all have spectacular Lake views.” Plus, he adds, “We serve a gourmet breakfast in your room every morning. I make it myself and deliver it straight from the oven to the room.”
Cliff House guests range from honeymooners to couples celebrating long-term anniversaries. “It is a romantic, laid-back setting,” Brooks says. “Mostly our guests are not ‘Lake people,’ – that is, they are here to look at the Lake, not use it. We’re fortunate that we’re in a very scenic location with the sunset right across the Lake. It sets 365 days a year so we benefit from that.”
Float Your Houseboat
A growing number of Lake-area visitors have been discovering – and coming back to – the pleasures of staying right on the water in a comfortable, well-equipped houseboat. Forever Resorts, Inc., rents houseboats to vacationers through its Lake-area affiliate, Lake of the Ozarks Marina.
“Instead of a condo next to the water, you can rent a floating condo on the Lake and enjoy your entertainment and lodging at same time,” says Darla Cook, vice president of public relations at Forever Resorts. The company rents 56-foot, 59-foot and 65-foot houseboats. “The boats sleep 10 or 12 and include a living area, dinette seating, fully equipped kitchen and central heat and air,” Cook says. “The 59-foot has a wet bar on the sun deck and the 65-foot has hot tub on the top deck.” She adds, “Since the boats don’t have TVs they offer a chance to spend a lot of quality time with family or friends.”
The company builds the houseboats to its own specifications, Cook says. “They are very environmentally friendly and fuel efficient since you go about 5 to 8 miles an hour. The boats are built for comfort, not speed.” Each boat is refurbished every winter and serves an average of five to seven years, after which it is replaced with a new boat. “This keeps our product standard very high,” Cook notes. She explains the houseboat driver must be at least 21 years old and have a valid driver’s license. “Before you arrive we send you a DVD about operating the boat, and when you get to the Lake you go through a one-on-one, hour-long training session. It’s quite easy to navigate.”
Cook recommends reserving a houseboat as early as possible. “Holiday weekends fill up quickly,” she says. “But no matter when you rent a houseboat you can expect a unique and relaxing vacation experience.”
Whether you stay next to, near or on the water, or come for a family vacation or romantic getaway, remember there are literally hundreds of lodging options at Central Missouri’s Lake of the Ozarks. For more information about Lake-area lodging, as well as dining, shopping, attractions, activities and events, call the Lake of the Ozarks Convention & Visitor Bureau at 800-FUN-LAKE or visit www.funlake.com.
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