Southwest Missouri: A Family Destination

A family outing on Table Rock Lake
A family outing on Table Rock Lake.

Missouri-based photographer Aaron Fuhrman has long been a VisitMO super fan. He has shared some of his work on the VisitMO Facebook page and frequently showcases his love for #Missouri, on Twitter. Recently, Aaron and his wife, Amy, loaded up their four children for a week-long vacation to Southwest Missouri. This is their story – the first in a three-part series.

Read Part Two Read Part Three

When our family’s road trip to Southwest Missouri started with a whimper, my wife, Amy, and I thought, “uh-oh.”

We weren’t an hour down the road when our youngest complained of a sore throat. We pulled off the road in Hermann, made a run to the clinic, got a diagnosis (strep, naturally), had a prescription faxed to Springfield and got back on our way. Nothing was going to stop this adventure – and our littlest trooper was adamant we press on.

After all, this was no ordinary vacation.

Our first night’s destination was Springfield. En route, we saw a sign that necessitated a detour: Ha Ha Tonka State Park. It just sounds cool, right?

Ha Ha Tonka State Park is a photographer's dream.
Ha Ha Tonka State Park is a photographer’s dream.

My wife and kids loved it. Being a photographer, I was pretty crazy about the park, too. After all, it’s not often you find an amazing view of The Lake of the Ozarks just a few feet from castle ruins. But that’s just what Ha Ha Tonka offers – that and beautiful natural formations, a spring and great hiking trails. It is located five miles southwest of Camdenton.

Because we had a pretty tight itinerary, we didn’t get to explore all we wanted to (or could have). It wasn’t long before we were back on the road to Springfield, the birthplace of Route 66.

Among the many Route 66 icons found in Springfield is one sitting at the corner of Glenstone Avenue and East St. Louis Street: the Best Western Route 66 Rail Haven.

This motel really takes you back in time, with décor that includes classic cars and neon signs. Inside, the Elvis and Marilyn Monroe themed suites are a sight to behold. The sofa in the “trunk” of the car-shaped bed was pretty sweet, too, just FYI.

We woke up the next morning ready to drive south so we could explore Branson, but first felt compelled to check out the massive Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World, for which Springfield is famous. I thought, “Well, an hour here and then we’ll get back on the road.”

Four hours later, we were still exploring the landmark. Then we had lunch. And then we explored some more. Holy mackerel! I pretty much had to pry the kids (OK, and me, too) out of there, but Branson was calling.

After we arrived and got settled in Branson, we totally were blown away by all of the outdoor fun.

Boating on Table Rock Lake probably was the highlight of our family getaway, but sailing through the treetops on Branson Zipline Canopy Tours at Wolfe Creek Preserve was right up there. (You’ll find it 10 miles north of Branson, on Route 65.) So was the entire experience at Dogwood Canyon Nature Park, about five miles south of Lampe.

It’s hard to describe just how beautiful the Missouri Ozarks are. Southwest Missouri truly has some of the most spectacular landscapes and vistas in the Show-Me State – I hope our photos do them justice.

Top of the Rock Golf Course.
Top of the Rock Golf Course.

Enjoying the outdoors was just the beginning of our southwest Missouri getaway. Activities like Ride the Ducks (a kind of amphibious vehicle/boat), touring the Titanic Museum and a fun day at Silver Dollar City rounded out our week – and we got to experience the first ever Big Cedar Lodge Legends of Golf Tournament at the Top of the Rock golf course, 10 miles south of Branson.

No words can properly describe the course – and even looking at our photos, I’m still not sure I believe just how magnificent the place is.

We’re going back to southwest Missouri sometime soon, but there’s a lot to explore in other parts of Missouri and we want to see it all. Hopefully, without another visit to the doctor’s office.

Aaron Fuhrman travels with his wife and kids, a trusted camera, and sometimes, a small dose of antibiotics.

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