Fun Above and Below
Choose your own family adventure at Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri
Spend time talking to vacationers at Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri and you’re likely to hear this ultimate seal of approval: “We used to come here when I was a kid.”
My husband, Matt, and I understand this sentiment completely. We both visited with our families when we were young, traveling from Arkansas, Illinois and other parts of Missouri to enjoy what Lake of the Ozarks has to offer. We felt a bit giddy at the thought of giving our 5-year-old daughter, Abby, her own set of cherished experiences from the lake, and let’s be honest—we also looked forward to it ourselves.
The lake gave us everything we wanted— some thrills, some relaxation and plenty of time enjoying nature. Just like how we remembered.
We were super excited to arrive at Lake of the Ozarks and we needed to take advantage of that energy. We decided to go straight to the top of our list, and top of the canopy.
Zippy’s Ziplines gave us the fun of gliding amongst the trees while still feeling incredibly safe. It features three lines so we had plenty of options based on how much adrenaline we wanted to get pumping. And by the way, the views are incredible. How often do you get a bird’s-eye view of the luscious trees and glistening lake?
Even though we had a blast on the zip lines, we still wanted to go higher. Paradise Parasail lifted us above the trees. The thought of sailing 500 feet in the air got our hearts pounding a little faster than we normally like, but we found peace of mind in the fact Paradise has been in business 35 years at the lake and maintains high ratings in online reviews. Once we were in the sky, those worries sailed away. We had so much fun! Strapped into a swing, hanging from a parachute and pulled by a boat, I’m pretty sure parasailing is about as close as I’ll ever get to actual flying. When we were done with the views, we had the option of coming down into the lake via a gentle dip or a thrilling free fall. Abby and her dad wanted to ease in, but I went for the splash. Choose your own adventure!
Closer to the ground, Miner Mike’s Indoor Family Fun Center has long been a staple of kid-friendly entertainment at the lake. It houses plenty of arcade games but also has some less-common features including a small Ferris wheel, a train roller coaster and “the maze”—a series of tubes, slides and ball pits that keeps kids enthralled for hours. Kids are the focus, but “family” still includes Mom and Dad, and we got in some good-natured competition with a few rounds of Pop-A-Shot® and my one year of bowling league in middle school paid off when I left Matt in the dust at Skee-Ball®.
Speaking of classics, our afternoon at Big Surf Waterpark turned out to be a favorite for our family with its variety of pools, slides and rides. In the beginning, Abby was happy to splash around in the pools, but once she got her feet wet, she wanted to try out the slides, bikes and other water toys. Abby made us promise to come back when she’s brave enough to try the “big girl slides.” Mom and Dad will be happy to oblige and take on the rapids and Space Bowl— a slide that drops you into a spinning bowl!
Time to chill
After so much excitement, we wanted to take it down a notch and thought miniature golf would fill the bill. We considered hitting Putt-n-Stuff Family Fun Center, which has a couple of courses to choose from with classic mini-golf obstacles as well as bumper cars and go-karts. In the end we chose nearby Sugar Creek Miniature Golf, which has courses that are a bit more challenging, but the place plays up the area’s natural beauty and Ozarks history.
Keeping it simple with the great outdoors
Our time at Sugar Creek made us want to be in nature, so we spent the next day at Ha Ha Tonka State Park with its great hiking trails and breathtaking views of the lake. We crossed a natural bridge, which was our favorite part. It was huge, with beautiful layers of rock. And while it offered a beautiful perch to look down from, we enjoyed exploring underneath even more. We also managed to hike past some turn-of-the-last-century castle ruins, which our daughter loved learning about, and check out a few of the views. But the park is so enormous, we’ll definitely have to return to see the rest.
We had never considered taking a cruise on a pirate ship, but it’s certainly a great option for anyone wanting to be outside at Lake of the Ozarks. Jolly Charters, an extension of Jolly Rogers Grub & Grog grill, provided Abby with an unforgettable experience searching for treasure on its pirate treasure hunt with the help of Captain Scalawag, who says he’s the most heard-of pirate on the lake. The company provides all kinds of interactive cruise adventures on its Jolly Charters Calypso Pirate Ship.
/> On the other hand, we did have some previous experiencing with paddle boarding. However, Super Dave’s Paddle Craft Adventures gave us an unexpected new experience—stand-up paddle boarding. After a brief lesson, we got the hang of it quickly. It was an incredible feeling to glide across the like while standing up, guiding ourselves along with an oar.
Lake of the Ozarks also showcases why Missouri is known not only as the “Show-Me State” but also as the “Cave State,” with tours of nearby Bridal Cave and Stark Caverns. We appreciated having such a beautiful and serene option to cool down.
I don’t think we’ve ever packed so much into one family vacation, and we still didn’t hit everything on our list. Not to worry, we’ll certainly be back. We can’t stand to stay away too long!