Experiencing Lake of the Ozarks for the first time
By Jackie Tucker
“You’re going to love it, trust me. My family has been coming here since before I was born.”
My boyfriend, Sam, was bouncing up and down in the driver’s seat like an overactive toddler. I couldn’t help but smile. Not being a native Missourian, this was my first trip to Lake of the Ozarks—he was clearly excited to show me his childhood vacation spot.
And I was just as excited to see it. I did my research and discovered Lake of the Ozarks won USA Today’s 10 Best Reader’s Choice Awards for both the number one Best Recreational Lake in the nation and the Top Four State Parks in the nation.
“What’s one of your favorite memories on the lake?” I asked, turning down the radio.
He grinned with a look on his face that told me he was mentally thumbing through years of summer vacations and weekend holidays. “Honestly, just hanging out on the pontoon boat with friends and family. Listening to my dad and his buddies tell stories. Swimming and fishing. Relaxing and really feeling like you are away.”
“Good memories,” I said.
“Yeah,” he nodded then reached over and squeezed my hand. “And now I’ll have some with you.”
Sam’s a total keeper.
We pulled into town around noon, and Sam suggested we head to the condo and make sandwiches for lunch while we figure out what to do with the rest of our day. That sounded good to me—but then we passed Wobbly Boots Road House. It was voted best barbecue five years in a row, and we realized why as quickly as I asked Sam to make a u-turn.
The aroma of barbecue was enticing us even before we got through the door, and the food lived up to the hype. After a couple platefuls of pulled pork and savory barbecue chicken—accompanied by great conversation with the bartender—we sat there full, happy, and ready for an afternoon of fun.
In the discussion of afternoon plans, I mentioned that I really wanted to see Bridal Cave. Sam had been there on a family field trip as a kid, and he was happy to take me exploring.
I’m kind of a geek about local folklore, and Bridal Cave has a pretty legendary story. The tour guides told us of kidnapping and intrigue, star-crossed lovers, and a big American Indian wedding ceremony in the cave. We listened as they led us through room after room of truly awe inspiring onyx formations, more than at any other known cavern. We even got to see the crystal clear waters of Mystery Lake, which is a more recent discovery in the chambers of the cave. It was breathtaking.
The next day we had breakfast at Cozy Café, which serves delicious home-cooked dishes that satisfy in the way only comfort food can. I had the bird’s nest, which is an egg in toast on top of hash browns with, of course, a side of ham. I felt like I was at my Grandma’s house, and Sam clearly did, too. He devoured his traditional Belgian waffle, which was topped with delectable maple syrup and rich, fluffy whipped cream.
Once we had breakfast, Sam could not wait to get to Leisure Lake Charters—I think he was most excited about teaching me to fish. Turns out, I’m a pretty good angler. Granted, Sam was the one who actually caught most of the fish, but I was right there reeling them in. What I really enjoyed the most were his stories about fishing and boating on the lake with his dad and brother. Seeing him in this environment, this place of so many great childhood memories, was pretty special.
That evening, sun-tired and happy, we returned to the dock and promptly started talking about dinner. I just started to say, “So, I heard about this place called” when Sam began to tease me about all the research I’d done. “Ok, tell us where we’re heading to tonight,” he said with a grin. “Bentley’s,” I responded. “Funnily enough, I was hoping to take you there,” Sam said.
After getting cleaned up and dressed for a nice evening, we headed to the restaurant. All the reviews I read were amazing, and I was particularly looking forward to sitting on the elegant patio—the views of the lake and forest looked gorgeous. Lucky for us, it was the perfect night for outdoor dining. A shrimp cocktail, perfectly cooked steak, and a delicious glass of wine later, I looked at Sam.
“I get it—I see why you love Lake of the Ozarks so much.”
He smiled. “It’s funny. Seeing it through your eyes made it feel like I was visiting for the first time.” He lifted his glass. “To making new memories.”
“To new memories,” I toasted, and then had an idea. “Hey, what do you think of coming back here for New Year’s Eve?”
The grin on his face gave me his answer.
Discover more great Lake of the Ozarks fun!