Lead Me to the Lodge

Jan 1, 2016 | Travel

[title subtitle=”words and images: courtesy Big Cedar Lodge”][/title]

If dropping temperatures have you dreaming of cozy winter getaways, the perfect solution may lie right across the border. Tucked away in Missouri’s Ozark Mountains is Big Cedar Lodge, an 800-acre natural haven that exudes rustic elegance. Originally the vacation homes of wealthy entrepreneurs in the 1920s, then known as Big Cedar Hollow, this land has been brought to life by the guiding hand of Johnny Morris, founder of Bass Pro Shops. The successful visionary and conservationist purchased the land in the 1980s, sparing no detail to reveal the beauty of the Ozarks region.


Originally intended to be a fishing camp, Big Cedar Lodge has developed into a world-class destination. With over thirty different room types and an unbelievable array of attractions, guests can do everything or nothing at all.


Ridgetop views are an integral part of the grand Falls Lodge, where deluxe king rooms offer fireplaces, vaulted ceilings, and Jacuzzi tubs with separate walk-in showers. Balconies offering sunset views all point toward Table Rock Lake while overlooking the charming Garden Chapel and meandering streams.


If you’re envisioning natural seclusion for your weekend getaway, more than eighty private cabins dot the vast property, scattering across the lakeside or tucked cozily into the surrounding woods. A one room cabin is sized perfectly for two, with a studio-style king bed adjacent to a wood burning fireplace. With firewood restocked daily and room service available for every meal, you don’t even have to leave your room if you choose.


Certainly the crème-de-la-crème of romance retreats can be found inside Cottage 600. Designed with relaxation in mind, this one-of-a-kind Tudor-style accommodation is perched over a stream that can be seen from the balcony—or from the glass floor inside the spa-like bathroom. The open-concept suite offers a king bed, sofa, and wood burning fireplace, with heated floors throughout.


A charming bridge fit for a storybook is all that separates Cottage 600 and the world-class Cedar Creek Spa. This 18,000 square-foot paradise is complete with hand-hewn timber ceilings, natural stone floors, handcrafted stained-glass accents, and antique-style chandeliers. A roaring fireplace serves as the dramatic backdrop for the saunas, hot spas and steam rooms leading out to private open-air showers. Grand double staircases lead you to one of eleven luxuriously appointed treatment rooms, each with its own cozy fireplace. After indulging in a relaxing massage or facial, experience the soothing qualities of hot and cold therapy inside the stone-lined grotto pool and ice room. Start with the ninety-five degree calming pool and its water jets, and then make your way to the grotto’s forty-five degree ice chamber, where a hand-activated laser beam dispenses ice to invigorate and energize your body.


All of the little things add up to a lot of charm at Big Cedar Lodge. If you can manage to leave the ambiance of the crackling fireside in your private cabin, a stroll across the property’s grounds offers an array of surprises. Your meandering may take you past the turtle pond, historic Worman House, or to Devil’s Pool Bridge with its breathtaking waterfall patio.


As dinnertime rolls around, dining options abound at Big Cedar Lodge. Enjoy the views of Table Rock Lake from one of Big Cedar’s three restaurants: Devil’s Pool Restaurant, Buzzard Bar, and Truman Café. (Insider note: the Buzzard Bar offers live entertainment every night.)


For the traveler who wants to add a little adventure, look no further than Johnny Morris’ Top of the Rock Ozarks Heritage Preserve.  Located adjacent to Big Cedar, this landmark first for the region is a true celebration of the Ozarks terrain and its early settlers. Pack you sweater and embark on the 2.5 mile Lost Canyon Cave and Nature Trail, where you’ll drive yourself on a golf cart through the ancient Ozarks landscape past waterfalls, scenic overlooks, over handmade Amish bridges, and even through a cave. Once reaching Top of the Rock, spectacular views open to the Arnold Palmer Driving Range, Tom Watson Putting Green, and Jack Nicklaus Golf Course all overlooking Table Rock Lake. (Insider Tip: For a truly exclusive experience, stay overnight in the Civil War-era cabin, the only overnight accommodation at Top of the Rock. This historic structure was relocated and rebuilt by local Amish craftsmen and overlooks the driving range, hole #1 and Table Rock Lake.)


Dining at Top of the Rock is nothing short of extraordinary. Arnie’s Barn Restaurant is a 150-year-old barn that was found in Arnold Palmer’s hometown. The barn was moved and reassembled by local Amish craftsmen at Top of Rock where it now serves Mexican food with an Ozarks flare. The cornerstone dining experience, however, is The Osage, with enchanting sunset views and traditional Americana fare. There truly isn’t a bad seat in the house with panoramic scenes of the Ozark hills and décor that reflects the inspiration drawn from the landscape and history of the area. Below The Osage is Buffalo Bar, with wood-fired pizzas and open-air patios.


Descend the stone-lined stairway from Buffalo Bar to find yourself in the End of the Trail All-American Wine Cellar. With its candlelight ambiance and awe-inspiring views from the infinity pool, this destination is the perfect place to unwind before or after dinner.


At the heart of Top of the Rock, you can learn about the passion that started it all at the Ancient Ozarks Natural History Museum. This subterranean adventure chronologically walks you through the development of the Ozarks, beginning with the real skeletal remains and dioramas of the prehistoric era and finishes with impressive displays of Civil War history. The museum features one of the most astounding collections of Native American artifacts ever assembled. You’ll walk away feeling inspired as you learn about the key history of this region and its evolution into one of the country’s best-kept secrets.


If your romantic weekend for two turns into a family affair, don’t worry—there is plenty to see and do for guests of all ages. The Kid’s Adventure Club, for ages four through twelve, is a hands-on experience for the resort’s younger guests. From archery, to cooking, to plants and wildlife, each club has a different theme where kids will have different games and activities to collect adventure pins. Big Cedar Adventure Planners are released monthly and give guests the low down on the don’t-miss activities during their stay, like bingo, bonfires, movies and scavenger hunts.


Don’t let Big Cedar fall off your radar, because in the coming months there will be even more exciting additions. As Johnny Morris’ incredible vision for the Ozarks continues, a gristmill, treehouse, and shooting range are all in the works.


Dogwood Canyon Nature Park, located in nearby Lampe, Missouri, is a 10,000-acre nature-lover’s paradise with horseback riding, wildlife tram tours, fishing, hiking and biking. In the spring, the property will reopen with a new working gristmill, complete with a general store, restaurant, bike barn, and patio area. The education center will offer a place for groups and families to learn more about conservation, and includes a treehouse built by the Treehouse Masters.


Also coming this year is the Bass Pro Shops Outdoor Academy, a great place to practice your sharpshooting with a variety of shooting sports available. The Academy will also be home to an outdoor amphitheater that will host unforgettable entertainment.


No matter the season, Big Cedar Lodge has served as the ultimate escape for generations as its visitors have sought to find tranquility and a little piece of heaven on earth. Whether your trip is a getaway for two or twelve, unforgettable memories await.


To plan your getaway and learn more about Big Cedar,
visit bigcedar.com or call 1.800.225.6343. 

Do South Magazine

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