Lake of the Ozarks has held a sort of mythical Midwest status in my mind. It was where the fun 20-somethings went for Spring Break. It was where the affluent families went to summer in a houseboat. And I decided it was time to me to see what Lake of the Ozarks meant for a regular family.
Disclosure: Our visit to the Lake of the Ozarks was hosted by the Lake of the Ozarks Visitors Bureau. Some restaurant meals were comped, and some my family paid out-of-pocket for. All thoughts, opinions, and typos are my own. This post may contain affiliate links.
Where’s the Lake of the Ozarks
Lake of the Ozarks is a giant, man-made reservoir in Central Missouri. It’s so large, it resides in four counties (Benton, Camden, Morgan and Miller counties). The lake has about 1,150 miles of shoreline.
My home base for exploring the region was Osage Beach. It’s the largest city near Lake of the Ozarks, and it sits at the lake’s southeastern arm that joins the main channel. Their motto: The heart of the Lake of the Ozarks.
There are smaller communities in the area, including Camdenton and Lake Ozark. Expect a good amount of driving since the nature of the lake and Ozark Mountains call for a lot of bridges and winding roads.
Things to do on a rainy day in Lake of the Ozarks
Bridal Cave was the one attraction that was a favorite of everyone in our group — me, the kids, my dad. The hour-long guided tour is about a quarter-mile into the gorgeous cave, through narrow passageways with nicknames like Concussion Tunnel and the Lemon Squeeze.
We visited on a rainy day in the spring in the off-season, and could walk up and get tickets for the soon-departing tour. Our guide, Evan, said on a peak summer day, it gets crowded though, so don’t count on being so lucky.
The draw? Bridal Cave is one of the most decorated caves in America (decorated, meaning it has a lot of cave features per square foot). A comfortable 60 degrees year-round, the well-lit cave has a fascinating backstory as well as awe-inspiring stalactites and stalagmites, with fun nicknames like Cave Bacon and Frozen Niagara. My youngest was particularly fascinated by the experience and more than once turned around to tell me that “This never gets old!”
Hours: Bridal Cave is a year-round attraction, but they’re a little later during their summer hours.
Where: 526 Bridal Cave Road, Camdenton, Missouri
Similar attractions: Missouri is the Cave State for a reason. Stark Caverns (125 Cave Drive in Eldon) is another cave in the area with tours.
Related post: I’ve got a post of our entire Ozarks road trip itinerary, too!
Jolly Mon Indoor Water Park
Definitely a kid-favorite, Jolly Mon Indoor Water Park is a 20,000 square-foot indoor waterpark that allows a tropical escape no matter the season. It was a happening space on the cold Sunday we visited, even in the off-season.
The highlight for my older kids were the two three-story waterslides. One was large enough for single and double tubes. The slides empty into the start of the lazy river. Younger kids will love the dump bucket, water cannons, and smaller slides.
While there is a 21-seat whirlpool hot tub, Jolly Mon isn’t much of a hangout for child-less crowds (though beer is served there).
Hours: Being indoors, Jolly Mon is open year-round, though hours are reduced in the off-season. Definitely check the hours if you’re planning a spring visit like ours
Tip: You do not have to be a guest of Margaritaville to splash around at Jolly Mon Water Park – they are open to the public. Admission tickets can be purchased at Jolly Mon’s desk upon arrival to the water park. Advance purchase tickets are not available.
Where: Located within the Margaritaville Lake Resort complex at 494 Tan Tara Estate, Osage Beach, Missouri. One of the restaurants inside Margaritaville made this list of recommended restaurants in Lake of the Ozarks!
Fin City Arcade
Fin City Arcade isn’t the only arcade or indoor entertainment center in the area, but what it has going for it is its hours. We were in Osage Beach on a weekday in March, and as it turns out, not everything is open that time of year. So, lucky for us, the resort we stayed in (Margaritaville Lake Resort) had the Fin City Arcade. It maintains pretty steady hours year-round.
While there’s a variety of 50+ games, including air hockey and skeeball, my kids gravitated toward the games promising ticket paydays. On a rainy day, it’s a decent option for an hour of fun. The kids wound up with a fistful of tickets that they traded in for a beach ball, frisbee and the most annoying “farting” slime.
Where: Located within the Margaritaville Lake Resort complex at 494 Tan Tara Estate, Osage Beach, Missouri
Similar attractions: Miner Mike’s (4515 Osage Beach Pkwy, Osage Beach); Fin City Bowling (also located inside Margaritaville Lake Resort); Lazer Force Laser Tag (5473 Osage Beach Parkway, Osage Beach)
Ha Ha Tonka State Park ruins
I know what you’re thinking: A state park on a rainy day?! Yes. Yes, you can handle a little rain for this stop.
I’d planned on short hike with the family while we were in the area, but the weather didn’t cooperate. But I still wanted to see the ruins at the state park, so I bundled everyone up and made them all go anyway. Luckily, there is a parking lot near the ruins, so no big hike was needed, and the path to the ruins was paved.
So there was no muddy mess after our park adventure.
Tip: All Missouri state parks are free to enter.
Where: Ha Ha Tonka State Park, 1491 Missouri D, Camdenton, Missouri