Southwest Missouri: Wow-worthy Family Fun

Missouri-based photographer Aaron Fuhrman has long been a VisitMO superfan. He’s 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 third in a three-part series.

Read Part One Read Part Two

I’m not sure how many times the word “wow” was used.

But it was a lot.

There are several awe-inspiring, family fun destinations in Missouri, but during our trip to Southwest Missouri, we found two we aren’t likely to forget anytime soon.

About 30 minutes southwest of Branson, near Lampe, is Dogwood Canyon Nature Park. It’s an outdoor lover’s dream – and a photographer’s delight!

At Dogwood Canyon, there are plenty of activities, from bicycling to horseback riding, to keep you and your family entertained for hours. One of my favorite things – and actually, even my wife and kids enjoyed it – was simply sitting still and taking in the beautiful environment.

Dogwood Canyon Nature Park.
Dogwood Canyon Nature Park.

Yes, the kids actually sat still and soaked it all in. It has to be good, right?

Paved paths make exploring this hidden gem easy on the feet (and smooth for pedaling) and the natural beauty certainly makes it easy on the eyes.  After exploring Dogwood Canyon, I posted a couple of photos from the site on my Facebook page and they prompted several positive comments.

I think one that perhaps sums it up best came from my friend Melissa, who simply wrote: “Pure beauty.”

Another way to say that is “wow.”

Over at Top of the Rock golf course, near Ridgedale, stunning views of Table Rock Lake provide the perfect complement to the recently renovated and re-opened course, which in June hosted the Big Cedar Lodge Legends of Golf tournament, featuring players from the Champions (Senior PGA) tour.

Top of the Rock Golf Course at Table Rock Lake.
Top of the Rock Golf Course in Ridgedale.

While the course itself is unreal, the fairways and greens of this Par 3 track only tell part of the story.

The clubhouse looks like something out of a book of European castles. The massive stone exterior and beautiful design make it one of Missouri’s must-see sites.

Inside are features like a huge underground wine cellar, the future site of a museum devoted to the natural history of the Ozarks and a restaurant called Arnie’s Barn, the structure of which was moved from Arnold Palmer’s farm in Pennsylvania to the Top of the Rock. Yes, that Arnold Palmer.

Outside, the course grounds include what’s probably the most amazing driving range in the U.S., a practice green that can only be described as unreal and a beautiful stone church where services were held on the Sunday of the Legends tournament (and many future brides and grooms will say “I do”).

tope of the rock Collage
Top of the Rock Golf Course in Ridgedale.

Since we were there, Top of the Rock added a new feature, The Lost Canyon Cave and Nature Trail, which, by all accounts is an experience not to be missed. I’ve been checking our calendars to determine when we might get back down to explore this little gem; it can’t happen soon enough!

From a photography standpoint, one of our favorite spots (our oldest daughter is becoming quite a shutterbug) was this amazing reflecting pool at the back of the clubhouse. With the pool in the foreground, an eye-catching sculpture in the pool and Table Rock Lake in the background, we spent a good long time taking in this view – and taking plenty of pictures to document it.

All in all, it was a fabulous vacation in Southwest Missouri, and it’s plain to see we were wowed by this experience.

Aaron Fuhrman travels with his wife and their four kids, a trusted camera and a nose for wow-worthy adventures.

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