The Art of Smart Timing
On a hot summer day in the Midwest, there's no better place to be than in or near the water at the Lake of the Ozarks. Or, if you've overdosed on fun-in-the-sun, cooling off in one of the area show caves is a great choice. Therefore, summer holiday weekends are often very crowded at the lake. But Monday through Thursdays are perfect times to be on the water, particularly if teaching children how to water ski or operate a jet ski safely is on your vacation agenda.
If your vacation schedule allows for travel in late May or September, you'll find great bargains in lodging and at many of the attractions. However, the Lake of the Ozarks is a year-round destination, particularly for families who enjoy golf or prefer indoor water parks to the outdoor water experience.
To say that there's always something happening at the Lake of the Ozarks is both a cliche and an understatement. From Oma and Noma Days, celebrating the first people who crossed Bagnell Dam in 1931, to fireworks at all of the major holidays, to various music festivals, there are numerous family-friendly events all year long at the Lake. There are "boat-in" movie nights at the state park and at various resorts; a monthly parade of lights where boats are encouraged to decorate according to themes; an endless number of fishing and golf tournaments with children's divisions.
Stop at the numerous welcome centers in each community, clearly marked with big signs, and pick up the coupon booklets. They can really save your family some money.
The communities of the Lake of the Ozarks are located almost equal distance from Missouri's two largest cities, Kansas City (MCI) and St. Louis (STL), which are well-served by all major airlines. Delta Connection offers daily flights into Columbia (COU) (about an hour north of the Lakes region) via its Memphis hub. Transportation services are available to the Lakes region from Columbia are available, but pricey. Private automobile is your best choice.
The drive from St. Louis and Kansas City will be about two or three hours, depending on which city is your departure point and to what part of the Lake you are heading.
An automobile is necessary to get to most of the amenities of the lake, and sometimes the drive between communities will take longer than expected because of the two-lane roads that curve around the hillsides. However, a trip by boat is often faster, depending on the destination and the type of boat. For example, a trip across the lake by houseboat may take all day. If you bring your own speedboat or rent one from the many marinas, it may be quicker and more interesting to travel by water. Most restaurants and resorts have waterfront access as well as a roadside presence. Some offer delivery service by water.
Off the Radar
The original entertainment venues of the Lake community are known locally as The Bagnell Dam Strip, and at times are overlooked for jazzy, more modern options. But these are all very sweet, family-owned places that offer homemade taffy and fudge, bumper cars and those old-time photos that every family has to have made at one time or the other. It is kind of kitschy, but a favorite of those who have returned to the lake for generations.
Lake of the Ozarks Convention and Visitors Bureau
Lake of the Ozarks Planning & Tips
Lake of the Ozarks Planning & Tips
Read our Lake of the Ozarks Reviews
Read more about Lake of the Ozarks Family Vacations