The Ozarks make a stunning backdrop for biking, hiking, water sports and outdoor recreation during an active Midwest weekend getaway in Branson.
1) Table Rock Dam and Lake Anchored by a massive dam (see the ins and outs of the structure on a guided tour), this White River-fed reservoir serves as the centerpiece of Branson’s great outdoors. In the warm months, the lake is prime property for swimming, boating, waterskiing and some of the best fishing in the state. At Big Cedar Marina, hop on the 62-foot yacht Lady Liberty for a tour. (417) 334-4101; nswl.usace.army.mil/Missions/Recreation/Lakes/Table-Rock-Lake/Dam-and-Lake-Information/
2) Thousand Hills Golf Resort Tee off at this top-rated 18-hole course for a round that winds by rock formations, hardwood forests and streams. After your game, stick around the resort to swim, work out in the fitness center or soak in the whirlpool. Accommodations take in some 600 woodsy cabins and condos; the resort is just 3 miles from all the action of Branson’s strip. (877) 262-0430; thousandhills.com
3) Lake Taneycomo The clear, cold waters of this 2,080-acre manmade lake are ideal for trout; fishermen have pulled state-record fish out of here. Most of the shoreline is private property, but casual anglers can cast a line off the boardwalk at Branson Landing. Or just enjoy the view of rugged cliffs with a stroll along the waterfront. (417) 334-2360; branson.com/learn/branson-lakes/lake-taneycomo/
4) Branson Zipline The zipline craze comes to Branson with a quality course full of zips, suspension bridges and beautiful scenery just north of town. Adventurous guests can buy a ticket to the 1/4-mile-long, high-speed Blue Streak and complete their tour with a 100-foot free fall on a device designed for training paratroopers. (800) 712-4654; bransonzipline.com
5) Marvel Cave The Silver Dollar City theme park grew up around this natural cave, a tourist attraction since the late 1800s. Osage Indians were the first to discover the wet limestone cavern around 1500 AD, calling it The Devil’s Den. These days, amusement park admission includes an hour-long cave tour past highlights like the Cathedral Room and the bat wall. Be prepared to climb nearly 600 stairs. (417) 336-7100; silverdollarcity.com
6) Showboat Branson Belle This paddle-wheel riverboat struts her stuff around Table Rock Lake with afternoon cruises and three-course dinner theater excursions that rival the shows on the Branson strip. There’s not a bad seat in the house; the three-level dining room offers direct sight lines to the stage from any table. Before and after performances, stroll the decks for views of the water and mountains. (800) 475-9370; silverdollarcity.com/showboat-branson.aspx
7) Still Waters Lakefront Resort This Table Rock waterfront property offers plenty of amenities for active guests. With kayaks, hiking trails, rental boats and pontoons, bikes, pools and a water slide, it’s easy to fill your days. For accommodations, choose from older but well-kept standard guest rooms or spacious new condos with Jacuzzis, fireplaces and lake views. (800) 777-2320; stillwatersresort.com
8) White Water When temperatures soar, keep the whole family cool at this 13-acre water park with slides, wave pools, a lazy river and other splashy features. New in 2014, the KaPau Plummet promises to thrill adventurous types with a drop-floor launch into an encapsulated water slide and a free fall into the pool at the end of the ride. (800) 532-7529; silverdollarcity.com/white-water.aspx
9) Black Oak Grill Comfort food goes classy at the rustic-chic Branson Landing eatery. Quality ingredients and spot-on work in the kitchen turn familiar dishes—chicken-fried steak, almond-crusted trout, pot roast with braised vegetables—into conversation pieces. At lunch, the signature tomato basil soup is the perfect foil for a memorable five-cheese grilled cheese on multigrain bread. Save room for the Kahlua Ding Dong dessert. (417) 239-0063; blackoakgrill.com
10) Festiva’s Cabins at Green Mountain Resort Surrounded by maple and oak trees and set next to a stream, these well-maintained two- and three-bedroom cabins come with fireplaces, screen porches, cable TV, full kitchens and laundry facilities. You’ll also find a pool and hiking trails on-site; nearby are lakes, golfing and downtown Branson. (800) 396-6895; http://www.festiva.com/cabinsgreenmtn.php
Marvel Cave photo courtesy of Branson/Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce and Convention and Visitors Bureau.