Settle in at your choice of Lake of the Ozarks resorts, cabins or hotels, then spend your days exploring the vast lake or the towns like Osage Beach that surround it. See our top picks for what to do, where to eat and where to stay.

By By the editors of MidwestLiving.com
Lake of the Ozarks

Speedboats and pontoons, lashed together in lines, form parallel floating pleasure islands in the middle of the half-mile-long Anderson Hollow Cove on busy summer weekends. Revelers in swimsuits hop from barge to barge, making new friends, sharing lunches grilled on-deck and leaping into the warm water. No lake sets up better for a party than Lake of the Ozarks, where tightly controlled water levels and loads of privately owned land have fostered development along most of the 1,100-plus miles of shoreline. More than 5 million visitors come each year to play. (College students, families and empty nesters-you'll see them all.) With the help of a boat (BYO or rent one), guests can easily pass a weekend cruising from resorts to 60-some dockside eateries with names like H. Toad's Bar and Grill. Or hop in the car to explore the souvenir and fudge shops lining the main drags of small towns Osage Beach, Camdenton and Lake Ozark. If you've ever looked for a place to laze on a lake or pose for an old-time portrait, this is it.

Lake of the Ozarks

Do

Bagnell Dam Strip Taste fudge or dine at a family-friendly restaurant. Play arcade games like Skee-Ball. Buy a souvenir T-shirt, or attend a car show. It's all on this main drag in Lake Ozark. lakeareachamber.com

Bridal Cave An Osage Native American tale of heartbreak, love and marriage centers here. Hour-long tours showcase mineral formations, like soda straws and draperies, and subterranean Mystery Lake at the Camdenton attraction. bridalcave.com

Bridal Cave

Bridgeport Boat Rental Choose from speedboats, pontoons and more in Osage Beach. bridgeportboatrental.com

Grandma's Candy Kitchen Give your sweet tooth what it wants-hand-dipped chocolates, 20 flavors of homemade fudge and 40 kinds of saltwater taffy- on The Strip in Lake Ozark. grandmas-candy.com

Ha Ha Tonka State Park More than 15 miles of trails and the striking ruins of an early-20th-century stone mansion-along with caves and natural bridges-draw visitors to the 3,700-acre Camdenton spot. mostateparks.com

Ha Ha Tonka State Park

Hook'em Guide Service Fishing guides happily teach newbies how to bait up, but they'll also show experienced anglers the best spots on the lake. (573) 216-2409

Lake of the Ozarks State Park Sandy beaches, 12 hiking trails, horseback riding, boat rentals and lantern-lit tours of Ozark Caverns attract visitors to this leafy park in Kaiser. mostateparks.com

Willmore Lodge When you swing by Lake Ozark's historical visitors center for maps and brochures, leave time to explore the museum exhibits highlighting Bagnell Dam's construction. willmorelodge.com

Willmore Lodge

Eat

Baxter's Lakeside Grille By the toll bridge in Lake Ozark, Baxter's has one of the best sunset-viewing spots. Pair skewers of grilled shrimp with a Baxter's Sunset: part mango margarita and part raspberry daiquiri. baxterslakesidegrille.com

Blue Heron A long-standing favorite, Blue Heron offers fine dining and a panoramic view of the lake. Arrive early to avoid the dinner rush. theblueheronrestaurant.net

H. Toad's Bar and Grill This waterfront spot serves chops, filets, seafood and pastas, but the crowd is here in Lake Ozark for dancing to live music Friday and Saturday nights. htoads.com

JJ's at the Copper Pot It's a great spot in Laurie for special occasions. Start in the piano lounge for live music, then indulge in prime rib and lobster tail before finishing with a vanilla bean crème brûlée. JJ's at the Copper Pot on Facebook

Old Kinderhook Resort Two classy dining options await guests at this Camdenton golf resort, part of the Lake of the Ozarks Golf Trail. The Hook Cafe serves breakfast and lunch; The Trophy Room plates entrees like Korean- style sea bass and a veal rib chop with wild mushroom risotto and fried shallots. oldkinderhook.com

On the Rise Restaurant A cafe amid Osage Beach's big-box stores serves breakfasts of baked vanilla bean French toast or lobster and chive omelets, plus gourmet lunches with pepper- Parmesan potato chips. ontherisebakery.com

Shady Gators Family-friendly by day; spring-break party by night. The Lake Ozark spot plays to the Cajun theme with menu items such as blackened catfish. shadygators.com

Shorty Pants Lounge On a quieter part of the lake near Osage Beach, you'll find authentic Cajun cuisine in a sophisticated setting. Try the Jack Daniels glazed chicken or the creamy crawfish and shrimp étouffée. shortypantslounge.com

Sunrise Cantina Enormous chipotle burritos make the drive to Sunrise Beach, on the lake's west side, worthwhile. Sunrise Cantina on Facebook

Stay

Bass Point Resort A relaxed vibe and affordable cabins and houses have kept this family-run resort on the lake's quieter west side in business for more than 50 years. basspoint.com

Lake Breeze Resort Cottages and condo-like units take advantage of a grassy lakeshore. In addition to a pool, there's a sand beach, fire pit and boat rentals. lakebreezeresort.com

The Lodge of Four Seasons Beyond its lobby with a sunken fireplace, you'll discover a polished retreat with 358 rooms and suites, a large marina, restaurants, golf, four pools, and a spa. 4seasonsresort.com

The Lodge of Four Seasons. Photo courtesy of the lodge

Old Kinderhook Golfers love staying here to play the 18-hole Tom Weiskopf course. Relax afterward in the spa or pool. oldkinderhook.com

Point Randall Resort Guests at the family-owned destination enjoy clean lakeside cabins and cottages, a fishing dock and swim dock, boat rentals, a heated pool, beach, and 1,000 feet of shoreline. pointrandallresort.com

Tan-Tar-A Resort A $10 million renovation is turning the 420-acre Osage Beach property, opened in 1960, into a Margaritaville resort, with refreshed rooms and new restaurants. tan-tar-a.com

For information: Lake of the Ozarks Convention and Visitor Bureau funlake.com

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