by Diana Lambdin Meyer
For families who love the outdoors and love to be active, there should be no complaints about a vacation at Big Cedar Lodge. Take 50,000 surface acres of the magnificent Table Rock Lake and combine it with 2,200 acres of beautiful Ozark Mountains. Top it off with a couple of dozen man-made toys and courts and yes, everyone will stay busy at Big Cedar Lodge.
Guests of the resort can enjoy a myriad of water sports on the lake. Rent a speed boat and go water-skiing, a fishing boat and fish, or a pontoon boat and just lazy about. Jet skis and other water toys are available as well, along with a nice sandy beach. Five swimming pools meet everyone’s interests. Horseback riding, basketball and tennis and golf are among the many options for activities.
Big Cedar Lodge is owned by Johnny Morris, who made his fortune with Tracker Boats and the Bass Pro Shops sporting goods chain. The lodge reflects Morris’ love of the outdoors and particularly the Missouri Ozarks. In addition to the 50 acres of the Big Cedar Lodge, Morris also owns the adjacent Dogwood Nature Canyon, a 2,200 acre preserve where you can seek elk, deer, long-horn cattle and other wildlife on tram tours or your own private jeep ride. Archery and fly-fishing schools are among the activities here. All of this is within 15 minutes of the very family-friendly Branson Missouri, where live entertainment, shopping, restaurants and museums combine for an outstanding vacation for all ages.
The lodging choices are just as varied, from cabins deep in the woods to standard hotel rooms to luxurious suites. A Kid’s Club and four restaurants on property are among the reasons many people come to Big Cedar and never make it back up Highway 65 to Branson.
Our Editor Loves
- Five swimming pools and Table Rock Lake
- Little Cedar Kids' Club for ages 4 to 12
- Lots of family activities including movie nights
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
Would you like an authentic log cabin out in the woods or an elegant, perfectly appointed suite in a traditional lodge setting? Big Cedar has more than 200 guestrooms in six types of settings. The log and rustic cabins in the woods are complete with hot tubs, kitchens, balconies, lofts and burning fireplaces. Outdoor grills are available as well. The lodge features room arrangements sure to satisfy everyone in your family, including suites, adjoining rooms, and rooms with kitchenettes.
Big Cedar sits on almost 50 acres, so select rooms and cabins have a lake view; others share the wooded scenery that the Ozarks are known for. Note that some cabins are located further from family amenities, so be sure to study the property map on their Web site and ask questions before making reservations. You'll want to make sure you are close to the amenities your kids are most interested in.
Cribs are available at no charge, and an additional rollaway bed may be rented for $15 per night. The entire property has free Wi-Fi, and complete maid service is available for all room arrangements.
Always always we are filled in so many ways when we can come reside at Big Cedar Lodge! It’s so very comfortable and relaxing and we don’t usually want to go anywhere else while there because we want to savor it all!
Our Premier King Room on the top floor of the Spring View Lodge was fantastic. It had everything we could possibly want from the huge stone fireplace, balcony with a great view of the resort, double jacuzzi tub, a huge, luxuriously comfortable king size bed, and even a decorated Christmas tree next to the fireplace because we arrived at the start of the holiday season. We loved the welcoming basket of snacks and cookies waiting for us each night on our pillows. Since there is no elevator, getting the luggage upstairs can be a little challenging, but you can always ask for help from the hotel staff. We are looking forward to returning to this beautiful resort.
The list of water sports is all encompassing at Big Cedar Lodge and Table Rock Lake. Rent paddleboats, canoes, kayaks, pontoon boats, fishing boats or speedboats. Rod and reels are for rent or for sale, along with the requisite fishing license. (Everyone 16 and older must buy a Missouri state fishing license for a nominal fee.)
The marina is fully stocked with everything you could ever need, from bait and lures to wet sacks to sunscreen to bucket hats. Fill a little cooler with soft drinks and snacks and set out for a relaxing, fun-filled day on one of the top recreational lakes in the Midwest. Water skis, inner tubes, and wake boards are all available. If you or your kids don't know how to waterski and would like to learn, lessons are available. There's also a renowned scuba diving school here. Or simply find a nice cove and let the kids experience the raw, unbridled joy of jumping off the side of the boat over and over again.
Back on land, throw some horseshoes, or slap a ball or birdie across the nets in games of tennis or badminton. Shoot some hoops, ride a bike, or play a game of chess or checkers on oversized outdoor gameboards. There's mini-golf and big golf, sand volleyball and shuffleboard. Climb a rock wall and float on a lazy river.
Pony and horseback riding are also options, along with carriage rides and wagon rides. Throughout the property and at the adjacent Dogwood Canyon Nature Park, miles of paved and mulched trails wind through the natural landscape. There are five swimming pools on property, two of them more appropriate for little ones. One is an indoor pool and another has a zero depth entry; there are also two hot tubs.
For parents seeking time to themselves, the Little Cedar Kids' Club is available for children ages 4 to 12 from Memorial Day to Labor Day. The $60 fee includes a backpack, T-shirt, meals and other take-home treats. No discount is offered for families with multiple children. Other times, you might want to make crafts together -- bird houses, tie-dyed T-shirts and the like. In the evening hours, the Kids' House offers dinner and activities for the little ones, so parents might enjoy some adult time together. Hours are from 5 to 8 p.m.
All of the guestrooms have DVD players and there's a huge video library for complimentary guest use. Or, for a splashier movie experience, "dive-in" movies are held around the pool a couple of nights each week. The staff coordinates lots of other events for the family as well; challenge your kids to bubblegum-blowing contests, worm races, sack races and scavenger hunts. Or just sit around the bonfire each evening and make S'mores.
Does the idea of a family picnic in the woods or on the lakeshore sound ideal? Do it -- day or night at Big Cedar. Personalized picnic baskets for your family are among the many services and dining options at Big Cedar Lodge. Chuckwagon cookouts are another option, offered throughout the summer and autumn months.
If you've chosen a cabin with a kitchen or kitchenette, many of the supplies you'll need are available at the marina store. With your outdoor grill, you can grill your own meat or fish, and make arrangements for the kitchen to deliver side dishes, bread and desserts to your cabin. If you've been lucky catching trout during your trip, take advantage of the fish cleaning stations located near the dock, and enjoy grilling it to your liking.
If you prefer, Big Cedar has four traditional on-site dining options for families, each in a historic building with its own story. If anyone in your family has a gluten allergy, gluten free options are available in all settings.
The Devil's Pool
The Devil's Pool Restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner with lots of family-friendly options at each meal. Parents will love the fruit bowls and vegetable plates for kids and the catfish tacos and pulled pork barbecue for adults. The desserts are worth cleaning your plate for: blackberry cobbler, strawberry cream puffs and Gooey Butter Cake. With a big stone fireplace, this restaurant is a wonderful family dining venue.
The Truman Cafe and Coffee Bar
The Truman Cafe and Coffee Bar opens early for muffins and pastries, biscuits and gravy and other simple breakfast pleasures. It's a great place to grab a quick and healthy lunch. Lots of soups, sandwiches and wraps fill the menu, and ooh, make sure you try the house blueberry poppy-seed dressing on the Cobb salad. The cafe closes mid-afternoon, so plan a stop for ice cream, frozen fruit drinks and other yummy treats.
The Buzzard Bar
After the Truman Cafe closes, scoot downstairs to the Buzzard Bar. A little bit edgier, this place serves a similar menu with the addition of adult beverages along with live music and comedy show into the evening hours.
The Worman House
The Worman House is renowned for its Sunday brunch, a knock-out event with Belgian waffles, made-to-order omelets and pancakes, homemade breads, carved meats, and just about anything your appetite can imagine. Otherwise, the Worman House is open only for dinner, presenting a casual, but a little more elegant atmosphere for your family. The trout amandine is a specialty, but the bone-in pork chop glazed with Ozark honey is incredible. For kids, there's a nice salad centered around carrot sticks and cherry tomatoes, ravioli and shrimp. For the pickiest, peanut butter sandwiches are on the menu, too.
Frosty's provides one more snack option. Not quite an ice cream truck, Frosty's is a trailer located in different places around the property during the week, and offers ice cream, fruit smoothies and other treats of the season.
Planning & Tips
All about the Extras
How wonderful is this -- each evening, just as the kids are ready for their bedtime story, there's a knock at the door and your family receives a basket of fresh baked cookies. And not just any cookies. These are Swedish Pepparkakor cookies, called "the wish cookie." Tradition requires making a wish while pressing your index finger in the center of the cookie. If the cookie breaks into three pieces, your wish comes true. If it breaks any other way, you just get to enjoy the spicy goodness, and as a result, become a nicer person. This is just one of the many extra treats for children at Big Cedar Lodge.
Spa packages are specially priced for kids under 15 and include manicures, pedicures, facials and massages. The fitness center is fully equipped and includes yoga and Zumba, however, participants must be 18 years old. In-room babysitting services can be arranged with an area service; advance notice is required.
Do you struggle each year to get the kids settled for a family photo? Give it a go on vacation while you're in a beautiful setting and everyone is in a good mood. Big Cedar has an awesome staff of photographers that take professional photos in their studio or in any of the scenic landscapes around the property.
The Art of Smart Timing
Big Cedar Lodge is open year-round. Although it can get pretty cold in the winter here on the Missouri/Arkansas state line, most of the time it's still nice enough to be outside and enjoy hiking in the nature area. Family Christmas celebrations at the lodge are a tradition for many families.
January and February are the least crowded times with the best bargains, and summer holiday weekends the most crowded. If your children's school schedule allows, September is a beautiful time to visit; you'll have the lake all to yourself and enjoy the wonderful warm weather. (Note that the Kids' Club is only open from Memorial Day to Labor Day.)
Big Cedar Lodge is located just south of Branson, literally crossing the Arkansas/Missouri state line in southwest Missouri. The Branson Regional Airport (BKG) is 13 miles or 20 minutes from Big Cedar and is serviced by Southwest, AirTran and Frontier Airlines. Grey Line provides shuttle service from the airport to Big Cedar and all of the major hotel properties in Branson. Children under 12 ride free. Although you could spend your entire vacation at Big Cedar Lodge, if you want to visit any of the shows in Branson, play golf or explore around the region, you will need a private automobile. Public transportation is all but non-existent here.
For Mom and Dad
If an ideal afternoon without the kids means golf, there are four area golf courses from which to choose on the Ozark Golf Trail. This includes the Payne Stewart Golf Club developed by the famous native of southwest Missouri. The Worman House is the most elegant dining experience on property. You'll certainly want to try the artist series cabernet from Napa Valley, bottled especially for Big Cedar Lodge. Follow it up with a romantic evening carriage ride around the property. Of course, you can always leave Big Cedar and head into Branson for one of the many shows.