Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo
Sunset at Lake of the Ozarks
Sunset at Lake of the Ozarks
Original photo by Julia Dehner

Travel Guide for Your Weekend Getaway to Lake of the Ozarks

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Mizzou chapter.

Lake of the Ozarks is less than an hour and a half drive from the University of Missouri and has a lot to offer to college students looking for an escape. When visiting a location filled with such a variety of activities, restaurants and resorts, it’s important to note everything available that can be done in just a few short days. 

Before heading to the lake, the first order of business is to figure out where you and your group will be staying. Resorts and hotels can be found all throughout the lake area. It’s important to figure out what will be the best fit for you. Some locations, like the Lodge of Four Seasons or Margaritaville Lake Resort, offer amenities including pools, dining and golf courses (just to name a few). But, these amenities come at a cost. Some more reasonably priced places to stay can be found on websites like Airbnb or other private rental companies. If you’re going with a group of friends and are planning on splitting the cost of a house or condo, you can save a ton of money this way. 

Once you have figured out where you will be spending your nights, the next step is to plan where you will be spending your days. Most people who plan to visit any lake want to try to get out onto the water. Marinas and rental locations can be found in almost every major cove around the lake. At these establishments, you will have the ability to rent wave runners, kayaks, boats and more. Though, it is important to keep in mind that different marinas have different age requirements and some require temporary boaters licenses before you take any watercraft onto the lake. 

Another popular activity for nature lovers could include a nice outing to Ha Ha Tonka State Park located in Camdenton, Mo. (a less than 30 minute drive from the heart of Lake Ozark). The state park not only offers trails for hiking, caves and a gorgeous spring, but also interesting historical sites including castle ruins that have been there for over a century. 

After a long day hiking or jumping the wakes of passing boats on a wave runner, you might be inclined to hit the hay early in the night. Keep in mind, this is just the start of your lake vacation! The nightlife at Lake of the Ozarks is one of the most popular activities there is. Bar hopping or cruising the Bagnell Dam Strip are the two main ways to spend your evenings. The Bagnell Dam Strip has an assortment of shops and entertainment for your group. You can have the options of checking out an escape room, a rope course or grabbing a bite to eat. 

Further down the Bagnell Dam Strip you will find an array of dive bars. These bars are known to have great music and low drink prices. Barhopping is especially easy in this location when one bar is only five feet away from the next. If you are on the hunt for a more unique drinking experience there are lakefront bars all over the lake area as well. Some of the more popular lake bars for college-age adults include Shady Gators, Backwater Jacks and Shorty Pants. These bars will have pricier drinks but have a much more youthful atmosphere. There are also special events that take place at some of these lake bars, so it’s important to look up what is specifically happening in the lake area on the dates you will be in town. 

There is so much to do at Lake of the Ozarks, especially in the summer. Whether you want to sunbathe on a boat or party it up in a pool bar, Lake of the Ozarks is the place for you. The suggestions above only cover a small part of what you can do on your weekend getaway, so don’t be afraid to branch out and go wherever the waves take you.   

My name is Julia Dehner and I am a Junior at the University of Missouri. I'm currently majoring in strategic communication through the journalism institute and minoring in Italian studies.