Rate: $629 per night
Glam Factor: 4 of 5
In 1987, Johnny Morris, founder of what was then still a burgeoning Bass Pro Shops, bought 42 acres and a rundown motel overlooking Table Rock Lake, just outside of Branson, Missouri. The goal was to have a place for customers to test fishing boats. But like everything else Morris touched—the man started his $8 billion recreation-gear empire selling bait and tackle out of the back of his father’s liquor store—the catch-and-release property in the Ozark Mountains turned into a trophy fish.
Today, Morris’s Big Cedar Lodge covers 4,600 acres and offers golf, a spa, horseback-riding, water sports, dining, shopping, and luxe accommodations from lodge suites to log cabins. The closest you can get to the land’s rustic origins is one of the lakeside glamping units. But the canvas-tent exteriors belie the luxury within. The open-air stone room features a double wall to ensure privacy as you bathe in the outdoor tub.
Call a ranger if you need help starting a blaze in the firepit or reinforcements for the complimentary s’mores kit. Grab a drink from the fridge and hit the private deck overlooking the lake to watch the sunset. When you’re ready to retire, put on one of the terry-cloth robes and adjust the thermostat for maximum comfort as you kick back in the king-size bed and watch TV.
In the morning, you can grab a breakfast burrito at Big Cedar’s cafe and still make your tee time at one of five par-3 golf courses designed by the likes of Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus. Or check out the Lost Canyon Cave and Nature Trail, on which an electric cart carries you through a tour of the area’s rock formations and waterfalls—truly roughing it in style. 190 Top of the Rock Rd., Ridgedale, Missouri, 800-225-6343, bigcedar.com
While You’re There…
Eat: About 30 minutes north of the camp, Lambert’s Café (throwedrolls.com) is famous for its “throwed rolls.” But the staff hurls much more than bread at hungry patrons. Free pass-around Southern fare like black-eyed peas and fried okra precedes the heaping helpings of fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and country-fried steak.
Hike: Just up the lakeshore from Big Cedar, the White River Valley Trail System snakes through Table Rock State Park with 10.25 miles of hilly hiking and mountain-biking trails.
Explore: Nearby Branson made its name as a gimmicky version of Nashville, but live music isn’t the only attraction there. In the heart of the city’s Entertainment District, Fritz’s Adventure (fritzsadventure.com) features the nation’s first outdoor Aerodium—which gives you the thrill of skydiving in a safe vertical wind tunnel.