Four Seasons of Family Fun
Each season reveals endless opportunities at Table Rock Lake
By Brian Wright
The annual cycle of seasons brings unique opportunities for visitors to Table Rock Lake. Located in southern Missouri, near Branson, Table Rock Lake is a special place that melds seasonal natural beauty with endless activities in a seamless and wonderful fashion.
Many Midwestern families plan a visit to Table Rock during spring break—and for good reason. The area is easy on the wallet, and there’s something of interest whatever your amusement.
Many anglers cast their lines in Table Rock from March through May to take advantage of the lake’s excellent bass fishing and spring spawn. It’s common to catch bass in the whopping five pound range—a battle that will test your strength and endurance. No wonder the lake is annually ranked among the best in the country.
Spring also marks the start of festival and event season in Table Rock, and many businesses around the lake reopen after their winter nap. Restaurants such as Baxter Country Store & Restrunt in Lampe, Coyote's Dockside Cafe & Pub in Kimberling City, and Charlie’s Steak Ribs & Ale at Rock Lane Resort and Marina on Indian Point serve local fare with friendly service. For a special treat, visit Devil’s Pool Restaurant at Big Cedar Lodge for the chocolaty decadence that is their Ozark Mud Puddle Cake (a chocolate-chip cookie topped with a gooey, Oreo-stuffed fudge brownie and homemade vanilla bean ice cream, as well as chocolate sauce, silky caramel sauce, and candied pecans).
Each summer, it’s all about the lake. With some 45,000 acres of freshwater paradise, Table Rock delivers on every level. The lake has three main arms fed by rivers, and thousands of coves along 800 miles of shoreline that offer unlimited opportunities for family fun. If you bring your own boat, consider staying at one of the cozy family resorts that dot the shoreline around the lake. Many offer lakefront lodging, boat slip rental, private launch ramps, and extended-stay packages.
If you’re looking to rent a boat for a day on the water, consider State Park Marina near the dam, What’s Up Dock in Kimberling City, or Cape Fair Marina in Cape Fair. All have large rental fleets ranging from jet skis and fishing boats to ski boats and pontoons.
Speaking of family fun, Silver Dollar City, named one of the world's Top 10 Theme Parks by Amusement Today, plays host to a full schedule of festivals and events this time of year, and stays open for extended hours so the fun doesn’t have to stop.
Many consider fall to be the prime season to visit. The larger crowds of summer begin to thin just as a vibrant show of autumn colors commences around the lake. The winding down of vacation season also makes it a quieter time for boating, which is one of the primary activities for fall because the moderate temperatures make for some of the most gorgeous days out on Table Rock Lake.
Autumn also plays host to numerous local festivals, which often feature local craftspeople—many nationally renowned for their skills. Many of these talented artisans display their craft at Silver Dollar City’s National Harvest & Cowboy Festival each fall. The Art Studios Tour of Stone County also has a good showing of artisans and takes place in October. Here you have the opportunity to talk one-on-one with artisans about their work, from the hand-hammered copper birdhouses to uniquely shaped kiln-fired pottery.
As many vacation destinations begin to wind down for the winter, the Table Rock Lake area rings in the holiday season. Winter may not officially begin until mid-December, but the holiday season lights up in spectacular fashion with practically every business, attraction, and resident getting into the holiday spirit at the beginning of November.
Silver Dollar City gets in on the holiday action with An Old Time Christmas—an event that has helped earn the area accolades from CNN, which describes Silver Dollar City as “one of the world’s top holiday destinations.” With more than 5 million dazzling lights, 1,000 decorated Christmas trees, and two excellent Broadway-style productions, An Old Time Christmas will warm the hearts of your family.
As one would expect, there are many beautiful homes in the hills surrounding the lake. Each year, the Neighbors and Friends of Table Rock Lake organize the Table Rock Lake Christmas Tour of Homes. Hop in the car to go from fabulous lake home to fabulous lake home—walk through to see rooms dressed to the nines for the holidays.
Two large New Year’s Eve celebrations close out the calendar: one rustic and one modern. Big Cedar Lodge, America’s premier wilderness lodge, offers visitors a setting second to none and a celebration right up there with the best of them. Stay the night in custom rustic accommodations and leave the rest to the resort. Chateau on the Lake hosts a contemporary New Year’s Eve celebration just a stone’s throw from Table Rock. Dine and dance the night away then stay the night in first-class accommodations. Both Big Cedar Lodge and Chateau on the Lake ring in the New Year with big, bold fireworks displays set over the reflective waters of Table Rock Lake.
Check out upcoming events to plan your vacation season.