Big Cedar Lodge is just south of Branson, Missouri, and just north of the Missouri-Arkansas border. It was founded by Johnny Morris who is better known for founding the chain of popular retail outlets called Bass Pro Shops.

Morris took over the property in 1987 and it has grown today to feature a wide variety of lodging choices and activities on the shores of Table Rock Lake. The resort itself is nestled in the forest on an inlet of the lake and provides a marina and lots of lakeside and lakeview lodging choices.

I stayed in one of their private log cabins, which line the opposite side of the inlet giving you a view of the water and the resort. Several different sizes of cabins are available. They are all decorated uniquely and several have specific themes that relate to famous people that have stayed in the cabins (several Nascar drivers have frequented the cabins). And while Nascar doesn't bring the mental image of refinement, the cabins are extremely nice and come stocked with logs for the fireplace, a private deck with a grill, and a Jacuzzi bath tub.

The water runs over one of the several waterfalls on property that you can explore.

Big Cedar offers more traditional hotel-style lodging that is more affordable, but is also beautifully furnished and offers great views. The entire property is beautiful and sits on a hill that leads down to the lake where the marina sits. The Bent Hook Marina offers boat rentals, WaveRunner rentals, fishing guides, paddleboats and so on, while the store at the marina offers anything an angler could need. Other on-site activities are numerous and include stables that offer everything from pony rides to a full-on cowboy dinner ride or even a carriage ride around the property.

Most of the big-name activities above cost an additional fee, but Big Cedar is loaded with complimentary activities for you and your family. There is a lazy river, sand volleyball, heated outdoor swimming pools, mini golf, paddle boats, playground, canoes and all sorts of other things are included in the price of your room. In the event of a rain shower. Internet access is free as well. I'm pretty sure it would be impossible to be bored here.

One of the larger private cabins
for rent on property. Canoe and
paddleboat rentals are complimentary
for guests of Big Cedar
Lodge.

Everything else a posh resort offers is here, too, with a fully stocked fitness center and a spa that offers a variety of massages, body, nail and facial treatments. Big Cedar is known as one of the top family resorts in the country, so the spa even has a menu for the 15-and-under crowd offering massages and facials designed specifically for them.

Several dining options exist on property to service all sorts of dining needs. The Worman House is a casual family-friendly option that offers everything from fresh trout and steaks to burgers and fried chicken. The Sunday brunch is not to be missed. My favorite restaurant was the Devil's Pool restaurant.

Southern food is on the menu here with classics like fried catfish ($18) and steaks. From the appetizer menu, give the BBQ Pork Nachos ($11) a try. Fried pickles are always a favorite ($6). Downstairs from the Devil's Pool restaurant is the Buzzard Bar. Live music plays most every night and they share entrees with the Devil's Pool restaurant above. They do add in some more "bar-like" choices like The Smokehouse Burger ($13) or the French Dip sandwich ($14). There is also a great breakfast/lunch only spot on site called the Truman Coffee & Cafe. Offered is a full-on coffee bar as well as sandwiches like the Smoked Beef Tenderloin Panini ($9.95) and the Chicken Salad Wrap ($7.95). There is a great patio with a view of the lake behind that provides perfect scenery most every day.

The Worman House restaurant offers stunning views of the lake. The Worman House offers dinner nightly and a champagne Sunday brunch.

If you are in the mood to roam around the region, then the one-hour drive up to Springfield, Mo., would be worth your time because of the "granddaddy" Bass Pro Shops store. The 330,000 square-foot store dwarfs every other store in the chain and contains anything and everything that a sportsman could dream of. There's guided classes in the store including archery, pistol shooting (on their gun range, of course), Dutch oven cooking, fly casting, golf instruction and more. While an overwhelming experience, it is also one of the most beautiful retail stores I've ever been in.

Bass Pro Shop custom makes every aspect of the decor in their own in-house facility and it shows as everything is right where it needs to be. Even Disney could possibly learn a thing or two. Springfield is the region's larger airport, so you might be passing through the area, and the store is worth the visit. While no direct service exists from George Bush Intercontinental to Springfield or Branson, there is a non-stop from Houston Hobby to Branson, which is only 20 minutes or so from Big Cedar Lodge.

Devil’s Pool Restaurant and the Buzzard Bar offer waterfront views for restaurant goers.

Big Cedar Lodge is easily the most complete resort I've visited. They aren't kidding when they say that they offer something for everyone. It's easy to pull off a romantic weekend or an extended family trip for 25 people. The beautiful Ozark mountains and Table Rock Lake paint a picture worthy of any museum, and while Missouri may seem far away, it's only about a 10-hour drive to the southwest corner of Missouri.

Big Cedar Lodge is worth the visit and you get to explore a beautiful area of the country with the ease of a top-notch resort. Get all the info at bigcedar.com or call 800-225-6343.

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