Spring Break will be upon us before you know it. Why not take a trip to one of several attractions on Arkansas’ back doorstep, all part of legendary developer Johnny Morris’ family of properties? These stylish resorts and attractions offer something for everyone. Best of all, you can experience some of Arkansas’ wonderful small towns and cities on your way there!
For those who may not know, Johnny Morris is the billionaire business mind who parlayed his love of the outdoors into Bass Pro Shops, the retail juggernaut specializing in all things hunting, fishing, and camping. Born in 1948 in Springfield, Missouri, Johnny grew up fishing and by the time he was a young man, he was hooked by professional B.A.S.S. tournaments. In 1972, he started scooping up the latest in fishing gear he’d find at competitions, bring it home and sell it out of his father’s liquor store in Springfield. From such humble beginnings was Bass Pro Shops born.
Within two years, he’d created a sportsman’s catalog and by 1978, he’d introduced Bass Tracker, the industry’s first fully accessorized, ready-to-fish boat, motor, and trailer package of his own design. Less than a decade after he began, Johnny opened the first standalone store in Springfield. As the company grew, stores became more elaborate experiences with gigantic fish tanks stocked with game fish and spectacular taxidermy displays. These elements and more make the stores as much a tourist destination as a retail outlet.
Today, the Springfield location, nicknamed “Grandaddy” doubles as Bass Pro’s national headquarters. The number-one tourist destination in Missouri, the 500,000-square-foot store attracts four million families, sportsmen and outdoor enthusiasts and offers a café, National Archery Hall of Fame, a conservation education center and more.
BIG CEDAR LODGE
Among the attractions here are lodge rooms, cottages, glamping and private log cabins. The resort also offers five golf courses, designed by some of the top names in golf: Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Gary Player, Tom Fazio, Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw. On-premises dining includes fourteen bars and restaurants, plus a food truck, dinner cruise and in-room dining.
There’s also a wide range of scheduled activities and other attractions including outdoor adventures and seasonal festivals providing fun for the whole family. The overall experience earned Big Cedar Lodge the honor of being ranked #1 Resort in the Midwest by Travel + Leisure.
WONDERS OF WILDLIFE MUSEUM AND AQUARIUM
Building on Johnny Morris’ lifelong commitment to conservation, Wonders of Wildlife provides visitors with an immersive educational experience demonstrating the delicate balance of wild ecosystems and the birds, animals, and fish. Using the Ozark Mountains as a backdrop, the attraction covers a total of 350,000 square feet and boasts one and a half miles of trails.
Wonders of Wildlife, which sits next to the Bass Pro Shops national headquarters in Springfield, opened in 2001 and, after an expansion, reopened in 2017 featuring aquariums and live streams containing one and a half million gallons of water and 35,000 live animals throughout the property. It is dedicated to all those who conserve wildlife and wild places.
TOP OF THE ROCK
A very special slice of Big Cedar Lodge resort, Top of the Rock is perched on the highest elevation in Taney County near Branson. Up here, you’ll not only be treated to breathtaking views, but also multiple amenities such as deluxe lodge and cabin accommodations and great cuisine.
Dine among the clouds at Osage Restaurant, Arnie’s Barn or the Buffalo Bar. Or for something completely unique, drop in to the End of the Trail All-American Wine Cellar for fine wines, a whiskey room and a cigar humidor.
Also located here is Top of the Rock, a Jack Nicklaus-designed par three golf course that features peaceful waterfalls, wandering creeks, bass-filled ponds, and pristine lakes.
Also not to be missed is Lost Canyon Cave, an unforgettable two-and-a-half-mile journey on an electric cart exploring the Top of the Rock Lost Canyon and Nature Trail. This dramatic golf cart tour follows a beautiful trail created to highlight stunning rock formations, waterfalls and views of Table Rock Lake.
A 10,000-acre outdoor paradise, Dogwood Canyon Nature Park in Lampe, Missouri, provides a fun and relaxing visit to the majestic Ozarks at its finest. The park offers a variety of family-friendly outdoor activities including hiking, biking wildlife tours, horseback riding, trout fishing and more.
Get back to nature with six and a half miles of paved paths and nine miles of nature trails to view crystal-clear streams, cascading waterfalls and the myriad wildlife that calls Dogwood Canyon home.
BASS PRO SHOPS AT THE PYRAMID
BIG CYPRESS LODGE
Just two and a half hours from Little Rock and a duck call from the Mississippi River sits one of the most spectacular Bass Pro Shops locations in the world. Located inside Memphis’ famed The Pyramid, the store must be seen to be believed.
The transformed sports arena features more than 22 million cubic feet of space in downtown Memphis, including Big Cypress Lodge, a one-hundred-five-room hotel; two restaurants; a bowling alley; and the tallest freestanding elevator in North America. Home to Ducks Unlimited National Waterfowling Heritage Center, a pistol and archery range and a recreated Delta cypress swamp among other amenities, this one-of-a-kind store is worth the drive and is only blocks away from many other Memphis attractions.
Known as the Natural State, Arkansas is a land of immense natural beauty and ample outdoor activities, so it’s easy to feel right at home in any one of these attractions inspired by the great outdoors. Surrounded by the grandeur of the Ozark Mountains, they speak to a way of life that’s connected to nature in all its glory. Enjoy them with your family soon!