How to Spend a Family Weekend in Lake of the Ozarks

There are plenty of things to do in Lake of the Ozarks with kids in tow. Here is a guide on how to spend a weekend (or a few days anytime) in Lake of the Ozarks. Whether you are looking for water, hiking, or other exploring, Lake of the Ozarks is filled with beauty and wonder for the whole family. In addition to grabbing a boat and playing on the water, here are a few things to do in Lake of the Ozarks when you’ve just got a quick weekend to explore. All activities are kid-friendly!

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Make sure to reserve your car rental early! You can find a deal on a car rental whether you’re flying into St. Louis, Kansas City, or Springfield/Branson.


Bridal Cave in Lake of the Ozarks – Camdenton, MO

There are a few caves to choose from in Lake of the Ozarks. After researching a few, we decided to visit Bridal Cave, and it did not disappoint.

Bridal Cave in the Ozarks; appearing-dripping stalagmites

Bridal Cave is located under Thunder Mountain. It is believed to be originally discovered by the Osage Native Americans, and that they held weddings inside. True to its name, Bridal Cave has hosted over 4,000 weddings within its cavern.

Tours at Bridal Cave run all day long. Your admission includes a guided tour. The guides are fun and interactive, full of information and interesting facts, and ours was great with all the kids in the group.

Our kids loved seeing the wishing well, the glow-in-the-dark rocks (glowing because of the phosphorous make-up), and the incredible rooms filled with stalagmites and stalagtites. The guide was great about teaching about formations, compositions, and telling stories of history within the cave. This was a highlight for the kids and adults.

You can buy tickets right at Bridal Cave. Right now, adults are $22 and kids are $11. Check the Bridal Cave website for updated info.

inside Bridal Cave in the Ozarks

Bridal Cave Good-to-know:

  • While the path has been roughly laid with concrete, strollers would not work in here.
  • There are few spots that are tight (though very short).
  • There are a couple stretches with low ceilings that adults will have to duck as they walk. These are not very long stretches.
  • The whole cavern is lit; you do not carry flashlights. The guide has a remote controlling the lights in the cavern, and will warn you if he turns them off to show glowing rocks. The kids in the group loved this and actually requested he turn off the lights a few times.
  • There is a really cool gift shop, showcasing myriad rocks of different types, colors, and sizes.

Visit Ha Ha Tonka State Park with the Kids

Ha Ha Tonka State park is filled with exciting hikes that the kids will love! Try the nicely-paved Castle Trail to visit remains of a mansion built in the early 1900’s. By the 1940’s, the castle was destroyed by fire. The exterior walls remain today.

Ruins of an old Castle on Castle Trail in Ha Ha Tonka State Park

Other great (but not completely paved) trails include the Colosseum Trail and Island Trail. Each are less than a mile, and can easily be mix-and-matched.

If the kids are up for a challenge, take Spring Trail, which will walk alongside the water. It does, however, include a 316-step staircase in one portion. My kids found it fun and exciting, and we weren’t the only family there enjoying it. It’s definitely doable with kids if they find challenges fun!

kids going up lots of stairs on Spring Trail at Ha Ha Tonka State Park

Ha Ha Tonka is filled with exceptional beauty. Whether you want water, history, or greenery, Ha Ha Tonka is a great family day out.

>>> Read more details about hiking with kids in Ha Ha Tonka State Park. <<<

Good to Know:

  • Bring snacks and water. It’s easy and very enjoyable to spend a few hours here. Pack out what you bring in.
  • There are bathrooms at the Castle Trail parking lot
  • Admission is FREE (woo hoo!)
  • There is a Visitor’s Center with just a couple souvenirs, a staff member to answer any questions, and a few animal displays to learn about native wildlife.

Check out my Amazon picks for hiking day-packs and hiking essentials!


Take the Kids to see Bagnell Dam

The History of Bagnell Dam

Bagnell Dam has an interesting history. It is located on the Osage River in Lakeside, MO. Construction began in 1929, just two months before the start of the Great Depression. However, the local area was booming with work. Over 20,000 people were with jobs working on the construction, coming from many states and even a few other countries. Since so many men were needed for work, another construction project was building accommodations like housing, a hospital and schools for families that had moved to the area. Even then, many men still slept in tents.

The location of the dam was chosen due to its proximity and practicality of construction. Missouri is home to one of the nation’s major waterways, and hydroelectric power had great potential on the Osage River. There is enough water flowing through the area that damming the River was an economically viable decision.

In addition to creating power, Lake of the Ozarks was another result of the dam. Lake of the Ozarks is one of the largest manmade lakes in the world, with 600 billion gallons of water.

View of bagnell Dam in the Ozarks

How to See Bagnell Dam

Scenic Overlook

On the far side of the dam, you can go to the city Ameren and drive up to a scenic overlook. There you will find informative boards explaining some of the history and workings of the dam as you witness it in front of you. Kids will love seeing the old Turbine, used from 1931-2001. The turbine had 33,500 horsepower and spun at 112.5 rpm; it was replaced in 2001 with an even more efficient turbine at the Osage power plant.

After the kids explore at the scenic overlook, hop back in the car and continue driving down the road just a bit. As the road drops, you’ll have some more great views of the dam.

Wilmoor Lodge, a log home/visitor's center

Stop at the Wilmoor Lodge

Wilmoore Lodge was used as an administration building during construction. Today it is the Lake Area Chamber of Commerce Visitor’s Center, as well as a museum for the Bagnell Dam. Walk through many sections of history and construction of the dam, and then enjoy views from the large sitting area. Then make the steep but short trek down to the gazebo and garden area for more stunning lake views.

Play at Lake of the Ozarks State Park

There are plenty of easy trails to hike with the kids at Lake of the Ozarks State Park. Rocky Top Trail is an easy hike just over 2 miles, and provides great views of the lake.

However, if you need a rest from hiking, head to Grand Glaize Marina for fun recreational activities. The public beach there is a beautiful place to relax or play and cool off in the water. Watch for ducks, geese, and other wildlife as they take refuge in the calm beach area. Or, rent a kayak and play on the water for a bit.

Just across the little bridge from the public beach area is a playground that the kids can burn some energy on. It has room to run, climb, slide, swing, and play for all ages.

Good to Know:

Admission to the Lake of the Ozarks State Park is FREE!

There are bathrooms at the public beach area at Grand Glaize Marina

We saw lots of baby goslings and ducklings at the beach. It was very cute…until one parent-goose became a little more aggressive and approached us. Leave plenty of space between you and any baby animals you come across.

Stroll Through the Ozarkland Store in Camdenton

Known as a road trip tradition, make sure to stop at the famous Ozarkland Store in Camdenton. This huge, red-barn is filled with souvenirs of all kinds. The kids can pick a shirt, jewelry, candy…the store is huge. Fudge is very popular in the area, and at the back you’ll find a huge selection of fudge. From Raspberry Cheesecake to Butterfinger, there are tons of flavors to choose from. Pick a few to be boxed up and enjoy throughout the trip. Perhaps it will make a great reward after a long day hiking and playing.

Where to Eat in Lake of the Ozarks

One cool thing about Lake of the Ozarks is that it is filled with fun restaurants. By that, I mean that you not only sit down and eat, but there are plenty of activities to enjoy at the restaurant! Here are a few family-friendly, fun-filled restaurants at Lake of the Ozarks.

Malted Monkey

Located near Bagnell Dam, you can take the family to Malted Monkey where you can enjoy a large ropes course. For $25, you can stay and play as long as you’d like on the ropes course (but once you come down, your turn is up!)

After you wear yourself out, sit down and grab a burger, unique mac ‘n cheese combo, salad, hot dog, or sandwich.

Larry’s on the Lake

Whether you drive a car or a boat, there is parking available at Larry’s on the Lake. Come aboard the floating dock (pretty stable; you won’t get seasick) to enjoy a delicious meal. The large menu offers huge nachos, salads, burgers, sandwiches, wraps, pizza, and more. There’s a great selection of items on the kids menu as well.

While you are waiting for your food, start a game of giant Jenga or cornhole. Music and fresh air will keep your spirits high.

Oh, and bring a quarter. The kids will love purchasing a large handful of fish food to throw over the edge and watch the catfish (or a sneaky duck) flock to the food.

Bear Bottom Resort

Enjoy Missouri’s longest waterslide at Bear Bottom Resort in Sunrise Beach. Live music picks up the mood and fireworks appear each Saturday at 9:45 all summer. Kids are welcome to play while the adults enjoy the swim-up bar in the pool.

There’s plenty of food selection, from salads and chili to burgers and tacos.

Where to Stay in Lake of the Ozarks

There are a few main areas in Lake of the Ozarks, and plenty of options to rest at the end of a long, fun day. Here are a few favorite hotels in Lake of the Ozarks.

Read: Why we LOVE using hotels.com

Camdenton

Camdenton is a pretty central location for all the activities listed above. Just a few miles from Bridal Cave, a short drive from the Dam, and not long to Grand Glaize marina, Camdenton is a great location for all adventure in Lake of the Ozarks.

typical hotel room

We stayed here at stayed at the Sleep Inn. The hotel was comfy, had an indoor pool, outdoor pool, small workout room, and was very clean. We are a family of 6 and were able to stay in one room, due to a pull-out sofa bed (and our kids being young and able to sleep on a pull-out sofa.) Breakfast is included in your stay. (Note- as of June 2021, you pick up a breakfast bag at the front desk, as the breakfast area is not open right now)

The room had a mini fridge and a microwave, which was convenient because it was located just across the street from a Wal-Mart, which helped us save a little on lunches.

Osage Beach

Osage Beach is another great area to stay in. It’s proximity to various activities, including the ones listed above, is also ideal.

Check out Lake House Hotel for a family stay in Lake of the Ozarks. This hotel is a family-fun getaway. The kids will love the onsite playground, indoor and seasonal outdoor pool, basketball, mini golf, and a couple waterslides. Adults will love that breakfast is included, hot tubs, and the nightly rate doesn’t break the bank! This highly rated hotel is perfect for the whole family.

Lake House Hotel

Lake Ozark

If you’re looking for something a bit nicer to really relax and indulge, check out the 4-star Lodge of Four Seasons Golf Resort and Marina. This large resort has 300 rooms, but it also boasts 6 different restaurants on site. Enjoy the indoor pool, the seasonal outdoor pool with a swim-up bar, golf course, spa, fitness area, yoga, and water / boating activities. This resort has it all, and is sure to make your family vacation memorable.

Lodge Of Four Seasons Golf Resort, Marina & Spa

Visiting Lake of the Ozarks with Kids

If you are heading for a weekend in Lake of the Ozarks, there is plenty to keep you and the kids busy. From beautiful nature, caves, beaches, hikes, and unique dining experiences, Lake of the Ozarks makes a great family getaway.


More fun nearby:

Make the drive down to Branson, Missouri!

What to do at Table Rock Lake


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9 thoughts on “How to Spend a Family Weekend in Lake of the Ozarks”

  1. A castle trail sounds great to me! I also love the look of the Bridal Cave. I haven’t been inside many caves but the ones I have visited I really enjoyed.

    Reply
  2. The Lake of the Ozarks looks so green and lush! I would love to visit those caverns. They look so cool and remind me of some caves I visited in San Antonio! Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  3. Nice post. What a family-friendly place! I particularly love the caves. I’m always enamored by nature’s palette of stalagmites and stalactites in the cool, moist caves.

    Reply

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