In the Ozark Mountains region of southwest Missouri, any time is an excellent time to go outdoors. From scoring a birdie on a golf course in Branson to birdwatching at an Audubon center in Joplin, there is an activity for everyone.
Table Rock Lake and Lake Taneycomo, Branson
With Lake Taneycomo at its doorstep and Table Rock Lake just minutes away, Branson has plenty of water sports and activities for guests. There are slight differences between the two, though, according to Deborah Cohen, director of meeting and convention sales for the Branson/Lakes Area CVB.
“Lake Taneycomo has a calm atmosphere and is well-suited to activities like fishing,” she said, “while Table Rock Lake has more active sports.”
She added that there are kayaking options for groups on both lakes, and businesses such as Kayak Branson and White River Kayaking & Outdoors have plenty of experience with group outings.
Kayaking isn’t the only choice; there are a staggering number of things to do on the lakes, from stand-up paddleboarding, canoeing, waterskiing, parasailing and fishing trips to the new craze of flyboarding, which involves strapping a specialized wake board to your feet and being propelled in the air by large jets of water pushing upward. Flyboard Branson operates on Table Rock Lake and gives pre-flight training to attendees who want the latest in water-bound adrenaline rushes.
Springfield Conservation Nature Center, Springfield
Located within the city limits of Springfield are 79 acres of natural beauty waiting to be explored. The Springfield Conservation Nature Center and surrounding grounds are an excellent spot for relaxing downtime, and they also offer a number of interactive programs for groups, including guided hikes and workshops, or attendees can take things at their own pace with six different hiking trails totaling three miles.
“There’s a visitor center with educational displays, and trails that take you through different native habitats,” said Susan Wade, public relations manager for the Springfield CVB. “It’s operated by the Missouri Department of Conservation, so the center is a great source of information whether you’re into birdwatching, wildflowers or just love nature.”
A covered pavilion is also on the grounds, making it the perfect spot for a catered box lunch.
Top of the Rock, Branson
It’s hard to determine which is more popular in Branson: fun on the lake or the area’s prizewinning golf courses.
“We always have groups asking for golf outings,” said Cohen, of the Branson/Lakes Area CVB. “One thing they usually want is to have something close to their lodging.”
Two such courses, Buffalo Ridge and Top of the Rock, are part of the Big Cedar Lodge brand. The courses are regular stops for the PGA Tour Champions Legends of Golf and have earned numerous accolades for their design and beauty. The lodge is happy to help planners set up a golf tournament or an event at the Arnold Palmer Driving Range as well.
After a few rounds in the sun, guests can take a golf cart tour at Top of the Rock’s Lost Canyon Cave and Nature Trail. The cart tour takes guests past beautiful bluff formations and waterfalls, and there is even a walking trail for those who want to forgo the cart.