Life at the Lake and Capital Fun

A recent outing in Central Missouri offered the opportunity to explore some “close to home” places I’d never been to or experienced personally.

The Castle Ruins at Ha Ha Tonka.

The journey started by spending a little time — not nearly enough to see and do everything, that’s for sure — in the Lake of the Ozarks area. The first stop on this trek was Ha Ha Tonka State Park near Camdenton. I had been to this amazing location before, but last time, it was snowing. On the recent trip, it was 102 degrees. The weather certainly was different, but the site was beautiful both times.

From the Ha Ha Tonka castle ruins, you’re afforded a panoramic view of the park and the Lake of the Ozarks below. The Ha Ha Tonka Spring, with its stunning blue water, certainly is a natural wonder. If you like hiking trails and seeing incredible natural formations, such as bridges and sinkholes, be sure to visit Ha Ha Tonka.

After that, it was off to Osage Beach for a ride with Celebration Cruises. This two-hour journey aboard an 80-foot yacht offered two of my favorite things: a chance to relax and let someone else drive, and a barbecue lunch.

During the cruise, we saw lots of people out boating, tubing, riding jet skis and just having a great time. I was so jealous; I would have given just about anything to go for a swim, but alas, this was a working trip. Maybe next time.

In addition to seeing folks on the water, we also saw (and heard some tidbits about) the homes near the lake’s shore, including one residence with its own helipad. Yes, that’s pretty sweet, and so was the cruise. It’s a wonderful way to relax and enjoy the lake.

This ride at Big Surf looks so fun!

After the cruise, it was off to Big Surf Waterpark, which couldn’t have looked any more inviting on a warm summer’s day. The temperature was up to about 103 by the time we got to Big Surf, and the fact I was there for work, not play, was difficult to endure, considering Zambezi Falls half pipe looks like one of the coolest rides ever. The water slides, wave pool and lazy river looked refreshing, too.

After Big Surf, we cleaned up, went to dinner at Shorty Pants (I’d recommend the Shrimp Po’ Boy) and then headed off to the night’s main event, a show at the Main Street Music Hall. The Main Street Opry show offered classic country tunes (think Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn and Conway Twitty), along with modern hits (from artists such as Reba, and Miranda Lambert), a lot of fun and excellent performances.

The show totally exceeded my expectations and I am hopeful to get back there again soon to see the Reelin’ In the Years show, which features music from the 1960s-80s. In fact, while we were at Ha Ha Tonka, we chatted with some wonderful ladies from the state of Mississippi who were very impressed by the show, as they had seen it the night before.

After a fun day and night at the Lake, it was time to get back to Jefferson City for more fun and new experiences, including tours of the Governor’s Mansion, the Missouri Veterinary Medical Foundation Museum and the Museum of Missouri Military History.

The Missouri Governor's Mansion.

The Governor’s Mansion has a rich history dating to its construction in 1871, and it’s been home to 35 governors. During the tour, you see portraits of the first ladies of Missouri, learn about the history of the mansion, and hear stories about some of more famous folks who have visited, including George Custer.

One of the more amusing stories involves a small child who was given a tool set as a gift; he used the saw on the legs of the chairs at the formal dining table.

After touring the mansion and grabbing a bite to eat, we went to the veterinary museum, where the science of caring for animals is put in the spotlight.

There are many interesting pieces on display at the museum, including a hand-written book dating to the 1500s, items taken from animals’ stomachs (think giant hairballs) and a hands-on area where you feel different types of animal skin and bones. It’s a cool little museum, and I would encourage anyone with an interest in science, and/or parents with young children, to explore this unique attraction.

The Museum of Missouri Military History.

Our last stop in Jefferson City was the military museum, which is located on base at the Missouri National Guard Headquarters. The museum offers a pretty in-depth look at the National Guard and what role Missouri has played in a variety of wars/conflicts, dating back to the Civil War.

Displays include uniforms, photos, weapons and artifacts related to the military in Missouri. In short, it’s a history/military buff’s dream. Perhaps the coolest part of the tour is a station where you can “suit up” so to speak, to see what it’s like walking around with a soldier’s gear on. Let me tell you; that stuff is heavy. I can’t imagine having to walk very far, let alone run and/or work, in that gear. Hats off to the men and women who do; you are amazing!

This is just a small sampling of the cool things to do in Central Missouri; there are countless more places to explore in this region of the Show-Me State. To learn more about Central Missouri, log on to VisitMO.com or simply click here.

(Thanks to our colleagues at the Lake of the Ozarks CVB, Tri-County Lodging Association, and the Jefferson City Convention and Visitors Bureau, along with the folks whose attractions we visited, for their time and efforts.)