How to be an Ozark Tourist
I am an Ozark tourist every day. It’s one of the perks of living in Harrison AR, a burgeoning city in the Ozarks.
Because I have lived in the Ozarks for over 30 years, I officially attribute “hillbilly” to my nomenclature.
Travelers flock to the Ozarks because (1) it is an amazing place for family vacations and (2) it is within a day’s drive from the big cities of St. Louis, Chicago, Kansas City, Dallas, Oklahoma City, etc.
Over 71 million tourists have passed through the gates of Silver Dollar City since it opened in 1960.
Shoe Essentials for an Ozark Tourist
Campers and RVs roll into Branson, filled with fishermen, nature lovers, golfers, and show goers. When the tourist season rolls around, I become a tourist, too — I throw on my flip flops and sun glasses and off I go. That’s the beauty of living in a tourist region.
Further, in a mountainous terrain filled with lakes and rivers means countless occasions for entertainment. Suggested shoe wear: cowboy boots, wading boots, hiking boots … flip-flops, boating shoes, water shoes, sandals, tennis shoes, loafers, golf shoes, pumps, slippers, and heels.
When you shop for a pair of travel shoes that seem comfortable at first try, ask yourself, “Are they comfortable enough for a day at Silver Dollar City?”
Now that spring has sprung, I think about all the fun outings that await us this summer as an Ozark tourist.
Ozark Tourist To-Do List
You will need a ticket for some Ozark destinations, but many are waiting with open doors. The corps of engineers at the lakes and the park rangers provide a safe and secure outdoor experience. We practice conservation. The Missouri and Arkansas state parks are well maintained. The official nickname of Arkansas is “The Natural State.”
I had the delight recently of seeing my young grandson discover acorns during a walk in the woods. He gathered as many as he could as if he had discovered gold.
World Class Attractions
- Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium: located in Bass Pro Shops headquarters, Springfield, Mo., this museum and interactive aquarium celebrate conservation
- Ancient Ozarks Natural History Museum (at Top of the Rock): a museum gallery of exhibits showcasing important Native Americans, Wild West frontier cowboys, and the Civil War. I was moved to tears halfway through this historical journey, as I walked through hallway after hallway filled with the culture of Native Americans. You see Johnny Morris’s reverence for the land and those who settled it. Someday, Johnny Morris will be awarded for this testament to a great people. Don’t miss it. Plan a day for Top of the Rock. Tour the cave on a golf cart and have lunch or dinner at one of its restaurants. Come back and play a round or two of golf. I have. Best times ever.
Branson – Hollister
- Bass Pro Shops store at the Branson Landing and in Springfield, Mo: boats, sporting gear, aquarium, etc. Bass Pro Shops hosts and sponsors fishing tournaments galore
- Big Cedar Lodge: a premier award winning resort, located on Table Rock Lake and built by entrepreneur Johnny Morris. Includes the pampering Cedar Creek Spa, Marina, major fitness center, water sports, Lady Liberty dinner cruise, Fun Mountain (a 50,000-sq-ft family amusement complex with dining), fishing, Garden Chapel, winery, dining, swimming, water falls, wildlife, natural beauty, musicians and entertainers, billiards, miniature golf, and the best gift shop ever Book a stay! (follow on Facebook).
- Bass Pro Shops Shooting Gallery: for outdoors men and women
- Branson Airport: book a flight to Branson
- Branson Landing: waterfront on Lake Taneycomo featuring shops, restaurants, entertainment, a Las Vegas-style water show, Zip Line, and more…
- Branson Scenic Railway: a 40-mile trip on a luxury locomotive; features the Polar Bear Express ride during the winter holiday season
- Branson Shows: there’s a LONG list of bluegrass shows and more. Watch a show on a boat, in an amphitheater, at the waterfront, or in a music hall. A few I’ve seen recently include: popular Clay Cooper’s Country Express, Soji Tabuchi, ranked as one of the most famous musicians in the U.S.; Dolly Parton’s dinner show Dixie Stampede; SIX singing brothers, Sight and Sound, Biblical theatre in the round; and currently playing at Clay Cooper Theatre, the best Elvis impersonator ever.
- White Water Branson: a summer water park in the heart of Branson on Highway 76 Strip
- Highway 76 Strip (Branson): flanked with music shows, restaurants, malls, The Titanic, Veteran’s Memorial Museum, World’s Largest Toy Museum, Branson Auto and Farm Museum, go-carts and other attractions
- Showboat Branson Belle, an SDC attraction: dinner and a show aboard a paddle-wheel boat
- Silver Dollar City and Marvel Cave Park: an Ozark 1880s, world-class, theme park for nearly 60 years. The 2018 season opens March 14, 2018. And something new this spring, a $26 million Time Traveler, billed as the “world’s fastest, steepest, tallest, spinning roller coaster.” Follow on Instagram and Facebook.
- Silver Dollar City Christmas: a festival celebration with over over 6.5-million lights, The Old Fashioned Christmas
- Top of the Rock: wedding chapel, sculptures and viewpoints, dining, wine cellar, Signature Jack Nicklaus Golf Course, Lost Canyon Cave and Nature Trail Tour, and Ancient Ozarks Natural History Museum
- College of the Ozarks (Hard Work U): tour the campus, dine at the Keeter Center, and visit the Ralph Foster Museum to see the car from TV’s Beverly Hillbillies
- Destination weddings: Chapel of the Ozarks at Top Of The Rock, Thorncrown Chapel at Eureka Springs, Integrity Hills, The Garden Chapel at Big Cedar, Sycamore Creek Family Ranch, and more.
- Of course, we are nested on the east by NE Arkansas and the home of Walmart, Tyson, JB Hunt, etc., and the mega complex of Bentonville; Rogers; Fayetteville, and the UofA, where they call the Razorback Hogs.
Listing a few courses for starters, but a more complete list is on my Golf Envy page.
Bass Pro Lodge golf courses – Forget your clubs at home? Rent some at the course.
- Buffalo Ridge Springs 18 Hole: Tom Fazio re-design, with sightings of Buffalo, deer, and a road runner on a good day. Beautiful, sculpted greens and fascinating landscapes, open 365.
- Top of the Rock 9 Hole, Par 3 – Jack Nicklaus designed: here’s a hole-by-hole view of this dazzling course
- Mountain Top 13 Hole Short Course – Gary Player designed: sets on a mountain top above Buffalo Ridge Springs – great restaurant and pro shop. You will want to play this course over and over again. Great social course for you and your golfing friends.
- Ozarks National, a Ben Crenshaw course – Coore/Crenshaw design
- Payne’s Valley, a Tiger Woods par-3 course, 19 holes. Sink a hole-in-one on the 19th (140-yard par-3 hole) and win a $1,000. See the inspiration for the 19th hole at Payne’s Valley engineered by founder Johnny Morris.
Need more golf?
- Branson Hills, a membership golf course, nestled in the hills of Branson, off HWY 65
- Harrison Country Club, with club memberships – golf, pro shop, golf pro, dining, tennis, swimming
- Thousand Hills 18 Hole: highly rated course in the heart of Branson
- Lake of the Ozarks: for more popular golf courses
- TopGolf: mega driving range in Rogers, AR
- Buffalo National River: camping, kayaking, tubing and canoeing, AKA floating the Buffalo!
- Bull Shoals Lake: boating and fishing, with cabins for getaways
- Dogwood Canyon: buffalo, elk, waterfalls, creeks, chapel, fly fishing, Segway excursions, biking, nature … a mill with a restaurant, museum, and art; and a tree house and nature learning center
- Bull Shoals-White River State Park: outdoors fun
- White River: fish, canoe, kayak, camp, hike …
- Table Rock Dam: tourist center and fish hatchery
- Roaring River: popular Missouri state park for trout fishing
- Eureka Springs: founded on the supposed healing power of its natural springs, a historic tourist destination with art, shopping, spas, jazz, haunted hotels, cottages, under-ground tours, art, and good food
- Crystal Bridges, American Art Museum, Bentonville, AR: free General Admission to this amazing art museum, thanks to Walmart and the Walton family and foundation support. Visit their website for times and details.
- Level Two Steakhouse at Hilton Conference Center, a premier restaurant in Branson for gourmet diners
- Dana’s Barbecue – popular – closed on Sundays
- Neighbor’s Mill (Harrison, Ark.; Springfield, Mo.; Rogers, Ark.) – wholesome ingredients for yummy sandwiches, salads, soups, bakery, and more
Spring also means our backyard airport is busy
The juncos took off on their return flight to Canada, and the Carolina Wren landed at our bird feeder, all within days of each other. It will soon be too hot in Arkansas for the juncos, so they will split. The Carolina Wren has come for cooler temps where he is sure to find more buggy things to munch.
Darrell jumped for joy and grabbed the camera when he saw the first Carolina Wren of the season on our trellis. He explains that the Carolina Wren is a spunky bird and likes especially to hunt tasty spiders and bugs under my canopy table and under the hedges and eaves. Today, the wren was at the bird feeder, and I felt like a good host to have seed waiting for this weary traveler.
Everything in life is someplace else, and you get there in a car.
Happily, I live in one of my favorite places, and more favorite places are simply a gas tank away.
My first time to drive a golf cart in the Ozarks
On Valentine’s Day, we zoomed through the cave tour on a golf cart, and had a blast!
As soon as the girls climbed into the back seat, they shouted,
It’s a convertible! They could see the magnificent mountain views and touch the waterfalls, all from a golf cart convertible.
From the cave ride, we jumped on the five-minute shuttle to Top of the Rock for more vistas, sculptures, dioramas, murals, stained-glass windows, restaurants, fossils, and … a Woolly Mammoth.
Another memorable day in the life of an Ozark tourist.
The whole thing about our outing is we were thinking the cave tour could not be
particularly beautiful on a winter day, mid-February, but it was spectacular.