We had reached the point in our RV Adventure where I had not researched routes or destinations, made any kind of reservations, and didn’t have an inkling of a plan. This was uncharted territory for me as I am definitely “a planner.” Because of the chaos of the move, my semi-loose planning only extended to Topeka. Now that we were heading east again the question became, “where should we go from here?”
We knew that we had to go through Missouri so Troy and I got out the map to see what looked interesting. Highway 70 didn’t look too promising, however, as our eyes drifted south, we saw a huge lake in the middle of the state. After closer inspection, we realized it was the Lake of the Ozarks! I had heard about this area from Midwest friends before but hadn’t given much thought about visiting until now. Lake of the Ozarks, here we come!
I will admit, the planning geek in me had to find a campground before we left. I did a quick online search of websites such as: Good Sam, KOA, TripAdvisor as well as a general search of Lake of the Ozarks campgrounds. Osage Beach RV Park stood out to me with their great reviews and it looked conveniently located. I gave them a call, made a reservation, then we hit the road!
Our drive took us to the outskirts of Kansas City, then we turned south to reach Highway 7. Instead of speeding down the interstate, we opted for this smaller road, in hopes it would be a more scenic route. It proved not only to be scenic, but fun too! The road undulated up and down and in some places, the hills were so close together, it felt like being on a rollercoaster!
Troy and I got a chuckle out of the names of the towns we passed through. The town of Tightwad is right before the town of Racket. Really! We stopped in a town called Eminence for lunch. We pulled right into a boarded up 50’s- style gas station/café and took advantage of the shaded outdoor tables that once seated their customers.
After being on the road for about 4 hours, we finally arrived in the Lake of the Ozark region. We saw a billboard for Bridal Cave and the family quickly took a vote and decided we had to go. We were still in the grips of a heat wave, and the cool climes of a cave sounded awesome!
Bridal Cave was first discovered by Osage Native Americans centuries ago. Today, it is a popular tourist attraction with tours leaving every few minutes. We didn’t have to wait long until it was our turn to visit the cave.
There are no words to describe the beauty of the first room of the tour. It was one of the most decorated rooms I have ever seen. Massive “drapery” formations covered the ceiling and walls. This is the room that over 3,000 couples from around the world have said their “I-do’s,” hence the name “Bridal Cave.”
The tour takes you through several of these amazing rooms where the temperature is always a cool 60 degrees. There had been a recent expansion so visitors can now see Mystery Lake; which holds beautiful crystal clear water. Tours also include the obligatory moment of “lights out” which is my kids’ favorite. By the end of the tour, we all exclaimed that Bridal Cave was at the top of our list of favorite cave tours!
Notes: Open 7-days a week from 9AM to 6PM in summer/ until 4PM during other seasons. Price is $16 for Adults 13 and over, Kids 5-12 $8, 4 and under are free. There is no designated RV/trailer parking. If you have a small rig, it would be fine but larger rigs and trailers will find it very difficult to turn around. Luckily for us we were there later in the day and the parking lot was pretty much empty, otherwise we would have been stuck.
It was a quick drive from Bridal Cave to Osage Beach RV Park. Right away we knew we were going to enjoy our stay. The front staff were super friendly and had our reservation all ready to go. We were assigned Site #7 which was perfect for us. Our site backed up to forest and we were fortunate to not have neighbors right next to us. Since the heat wave and humidity continued, we got to enjoy the fireflies here too. We even saw a mama turkey with her babies in the foliage!
Notes: Osage Beach RV Park’s season is from April 1st to October 31st. They have full service sites which are nicely spaced with shade. They also offer cabins that will fit up to 4 people. Summer RV rates are $35/day and they offer discounts if you stay 3 day and an additional discount for 7+ days. Cabins are an inexpensive alternative with summer rates starting at $40/night. They do not offer tent sites. Amenities include a retro-style playground, sparkling pool, clean restrooms/showers, efficient laundry area ( I used and it was great), and they sell propane on-site.
Weather forecast predicted another scorching day so we knew we had to be on (or in) the water. What better way to stay cool and explore the lake that renting a boat? Troy asked around the campground and found that Bridgeport Boat Rental would be a good place to rent a speedboat.
Bridgeport Boat Rental is family-owned and has been around for decades. We did have a little bit of a problem locating it, so you may want to write down directions. It was a quick check-in and then we were boarding our Sea Ray power boat. There was plenty of room to spread out and it had a swim deck and ladder. We had wanted to rent a tube, but they only had one small one left so they threw it in for free. Drake and Mia were ecstatic!
It’s not until you get on the lake that you realize the enormity of it. We rented the boat for two hours, but even in two days, we couldn’t have seen it all. We didn’t make it far before Mia started getting inpatient to try the tube. I thought she was pretty brave as we were seriously in the middle of the lake. Troy got her all set-up and away we went. I could hear her hooting for joy as she skipped over the waves. I was a nervous wreck but she had a blast.
Next it was Drake’s turn. He was a little more hesitant at first, but once he got going, he had a perma-grin on his face! Even when he fell off, he still was smiling!
Mom needed a break from all the excitement so we made our way into one of the plentiful coves. Lots of boats were there bobbing gently in the water while the occupants cooled off in the beautiful water on rafts; some with coolers alongside them. It was great fun to swim around and soak in the beauty.
Before long, the kids were asking to do more tubing so back out to the middle of the lake we went so they could go another round. I even took a turn (my first time too) but found the tube to be a little small for me to really enjoy. I’d try it again but pretty sure I’d prefer to stay in the boat!
The kids wanted one more turn before our rental time was up. They wanted to go “super-speed.” Troy was only too willing to oblige. Each of them had a great ride, and both went flying off the tube at some point. They were all laughing but I about had a coronary.
For the last 15 minutes, we spent time checking out the large lake houses, bars and restaurants with boat docks and “party” coves. We really want to come back again to this lake. So much to do.
Note: Bridgeport Boat Rental was named by the local paper as the #1 Boat and Jet Ski Rental in 2014! All rentals are $45 per hour Monday through Friday from 8:00 AM to 12:00 PM (Elite not included). Normal rental rates for speed boats start as low as $110 plus tax for 2-hours. They also rent Pontoon Boats and Jet Ski’s.
After returning the boat we skipped right over lunch and headed to Big Surf Water Park, located in Linn Creek. We took advantage of the “After 3PM Surfer” rate which is half off the full-day ticket.
It was my first time to a water park and even though Big Surf has been around for years, I found it in good repair with nice landscaping and clean. Drake and Mia were in heaven and vowed right from the start they would try every ride in the park.
They started with Rapids, an easy slide that dropped them into rapids that could be accessed without going down the slide. I did try the rapids (not the slide) but found the water pressure wasn’t high enough to keep rafters going and all the rafters would bottle-nose at certain spots. While it bothered me, Drake and Mia didn’t seem to mind. After a few rides on Rapids, they opted to try the Space Bowl; a swift slide that drops riders into 30-foot wide bowl. They loved it!
Next, we spent some time at the Wave Pool before making our way over to the Lazy River which was just my speed! Lazy River was the one activity we could enjoy as a family and frankly, floating around was the perfect way to spend a hot afternoon.
Before we left, the kids reluctantly decided to give Zambezi Falls a try. This 4-story half pipe ended up being their favorite. They dubbed it, “The White Taco.” It was a great way to end our day.
Notes: Cost for all-day passes for adults/teens age 11 to 59 years old is $28.95, and Juniors, age 4-10 is $23.95. Season begins May 30th and goes through Labor Day weekend. Daily hours are 10AM to 6PM but after August 17th, open weekends only.
First thing on the agenda when we returned to camp was dinner. Fortunately for us, I had put a pork roast into the crock pot so within a few minutes, we were devouring a delicious hot meal. The crock pot is truly a friend for RV’ers on those busy days! And the best part? We had enough leftovers for pulled-pork sandwiches the following day!
The Lake of the Ozarks was such a pleasant surprise of a destination. Our two short days that we spent here wasn’t enough time to scratch the surface of all this area has to offer. We all agreed that Lake of the Ozarks was definitely a destination we want to come back and enjoy again.
Apparently, it is not just our family that think that Lake of the Ozarks is awesome. USA Today just named Lake of the Ozarks the #1 recreational lake in the country! (July 27, 2015)