Created by the Bagnell Dam in 1931, the winding arms of the Lake of the Ozarks in central Missouri offer plenty of coastal waterfront fun right in the heart of the Midwest.
From Naperville, expect a daylong road trip (about seven hours) or book a 90-minute flight from Chicago to Columbia, Missouri. The latter will get you within an hour’s drive of Lake Ozark and Osage Beach, two of the most popular lakefront towns that come alive for the summer season.
“We have 1,100 miles of shoreline, more than the state of California or Florida,” says Lagina Fitzpatrick, executive director of central Missouri’s Tri-County Lodging Association. “We have 100 or so marinas that actually rent boats, or if you’re a little more adventurous, you can go wakeboarding.” Tubing, water skiing, paddleboarding, and parasailing also are popular. (For a guide to activities, check out funlake.com.) “It’s just nice to get out on the water,” Fitzpatrick says. “That’s what we are all about.”
On June 11, the Lake of the Ozarks community will attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the largest boat parade. “The current record is 1,180 boats in Malaysia,” Fitzpatrick says. “If anybody is interested in being a part of history and bringing that record back to the United States, we’d love to have them.”
Experience some adrenaline-fueled action on dry land at the new Ozarks International Raceway (ozarksinternationalraceway.com) designed to host professional drivers as well as racing enthusiasts. The 3.97-mile track boasts a 1,200-foot elevation change, making for some interesting curves and sightlines. “There’s going to be a really unique experience where people can ride in the passenger seat of a Ford Mustang GT4,” Fitzpatrick says. “[The track] has 19 corners, and these aren’t all left turns like in NASCAR.”
Options for where to stay range from cushy resorts such as the Lodge of Four Seasons (4seasonsresort.com) and Big Cedar Lodge (bigcedar.com) to quaint B&Bs, rustic cabins, and campgrounds. For rentals, you can find everything from waterfront condos for couples to sprawling lake houses for multiple families. The Lake of the Ozarks State Park (mostateparks.com) even has two yurts for rent, complete with dome skylights and windows.
Photo Courtesy of Tri-County Lodging Association