Missouri - A Family Destination

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Article Tags:

family activities , family entertainment , Family Fun , State Parks and State Historic Sites , Table Rock Lake , Route 66 , Springfield , Branson
Explore Southwest Missouri through the eyes - and lens - of a Missouri-based photographer.
Author: Aaron Fuhrman
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 first in a three-part series.

Ordinarily, a vacation that starts with a trip to the doctor’s office doesn’t end well.

So, when our family’s road trip to Springfield and Branson started with a whimper, my wife, Amy, and I thought, “uh-oh.”

We weren’t an hour down the road when our youngest complained of a sore throat. We pulled off the road in Hermann, made a run to the clinic, got a diagnosis (strep, naturally), had a prescription faxed to Springfield and got back on our way. Nothing was going to stop this adventure – and our littlest trooper was adamant we press on.

After all, this was no ordinary vacation.

Our first night’s destination was Springfield. En route, we saw a sign that necessitated a detour: Ha Ha Tonka State Park. It just sounds cool, right?

My wife and kids loved it. Being a photographer, I was pretty crazy about the park, too. After all, it’s not often you find an amazing view of The Lake of the Ozarks just a few feet from castle ruins. But that’s just what Ha Ha Tonka offers – that and beautiful natural formations, a spring and great hiking trails. It is located five miles southwest of Camdenton.

Because we had a pretty tight itinerary, we didn’t get to explore all we wanted to (or could have). It wasn’t long before we were back on the road to Springfield, the birthplace of Route 66.

Among the many Route 66 icons found in Springfield is one sitting at the corner of Glenstone Avenue and East St. Louis Street: the Best Western Route 66 Rail Haven.

This motel really takes you back in time, with décor that includes classic cars and neon signs. Inside, the Elvis and Marilyn Monroe themed suites are a sight to behold. The sofa in the “trunk” of the car-shaped bed was pretty sweet, too, just FYI.

We woke up the next morning ready to drive south so we could explore Branson, but first felt compelled to check out the massive Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World, for which Springfield is famous. I thought, “Well, an hour here and then we’ll get back on the road.”

Four hours later, we were still exploring the landmark. Then we had lunch. And then we explored some more. Holy mackerel! I pretty much had to pry the kids (OK, and me, too) out of there, but Branson was calling.

After we arrived and got settled in Branson, we totally were blown away by all of the outdoor fun.

Boating on Table Rock Lake probably was the highlight of our family getaway, but sailing through the treetops on Branson Zipline Canopy Tours at Wolfe Creek Preserve was right up there. (You'll find it 10 miles north of Branson, on Route 65.) So was the entire experience at Dogwood Canyon Nature Park, about five miles south of Lampe.

It’s hard to describe just how beautiful the Missouri Ozarks are. Southwest Missouri truly has some of the most spectacular landscapes and vistas in the Show-Me State – I hope our photos do them justice.

Enjoying the outdoors was just the beginning of our southwest Missouri getaway. Activities like Ride the Ducks (a kind of amphibious vehicle/boat), touring the Titanic Museum and a fun day at Silver Dollar City rounded out our week – and we got to experience the first ever Big Cedar Lodge Legends of Golf Tournament at the Top of the Rock golf course, 10 miles south of Branson.

No words can properly describe the course – and even looking at our photos, I’m still not sure I believe just how magnificent the place is.

We’re going back to southwest Missouri sometime soon, but there’s a lot to explore in other parts of Missouri and we want to see it all. Hopefully, without another visit to the doctor’s office.

(To read Part Two of this series, click here)

Aaron Fuhrman travels with his wife and kids, a trusted camera, and sometimes, a small dose of antibiotics.


 Ha Ha Tonka State Park
The remains of a huge, circa 1905 European-style stone castle add an air of mystery to this park. Situated ...

 The Lake of the Ozarks
Missouri's most popular lake destination features more than 1,100 miles of shoreline – that’s ...

 Best Western Route 66 Rail Haven
Eight sandstone cottages, built in 1938, then known as the Rail Haven Motor Court, started what is now ...

 Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World
One of the most popular attractions in Missouri, this is the granddaddy of all outdoor stores. Every ...

 Branson Zipline Canopy Tours at Wolfe Creek Preserve
We offer a world-class eco-adventure where visitors soar in the Ozark Mountains, through and over the ...

 Dogwood Canyon Nature Park
Many opportunities await at this 10,000 acre slice of unspoiled Ozark paradise. The rugged landscape ...

 Ride The Ducks
This is not just a sightseeing tour; it is an adventure. Your duck ride combines fun, music, history ...

 Titanic Museum Attraction
A one-of-a-kind, once-in-a-lifetime adventure. Experience life on board Titanic, just as it was on her ...

 Silver Dollar City
An 1880s-themed amusement park, where the adventure of the past is combined with the high-tech thrills ...

 Top of the Rock Golf Course
Top of the Rock golf course is a nine-hole, par-3 course designed by Jack Nicklaus. Theree sets of tees ...