I wish I had a whole week to write about the fun time we had in Ridgedale, Missouri, but school resumes today and I do not. However, I’ll just point out a few highlights of the trip and move on.
The scenery: Beautiful! The Ridgedale/Branson area is deep in the heart of the Ozark “Mountains” and the landscape is gorgeous. Big Cedar Lodge sits on the Table Rock Lake, and our surroundings – trees, water, bridges, streams, waterfalls, colorful flowers, miniature golf course, swimming pools, restaurants, etc. – were so pretty!
The lodging: We stayed in a clean, modern, luxuriously equipped (albeit rustic) cabin at Big Cedar Lodge. Here’s a couple of photos of our cabin. It was a private one-bedroom with loft and a kitchenette including a full-sized refrigerator and freezer, a large outdoor deck with a gas grill, and a small breakfast area. The cabin included a King bed, Queen bed (in the loft), and a Sleeper sofa in the living area. The pics don’t do it justice.
Swimming: With so many other fun things to do, we only swam twice at Big Cedar Lodge. Olivia and Farrah enjoyed the lazy river and one of the pools the first night, and all 3 older girls enjoyed a different pool at the resort the evening before we left. I took the opportunity to indulge in one of the huge hot tubs.
Wildlife Tram Tour at Dogwood Canyon: It rained the second day we were there, but that didn’t stop our plans. We headed off to Dogwood Canyon (30 minutes away but owned by the same folks who own Big Cedar Lodge). Protected by our ponchos, we enjoyed a beautiful tram ride throughout a canyon. We passed through or near streams, lakes, lots of fish to see, beautiful trees, flowers, caves, a small butterfly garden, bridges, and more! Our highlights: We were able to feed to trout, get face-to-face (literally) with wild bison, deer, Texas longhorn, and elk. It was actually a bit scary! We also saw some turkey off in the distance.
Pony Rides: It was Callie’s first time riding a pony, and she did an awesome job. All three girls rode individually for about 15 minutes each, down a wooded trail path. Pony rides were for ages 10 and under, but the resort offers horseback riding for all ages (starting at age 8 I believe). The ponies were pretty, well-fed, and clean (well, as clean as a pony can be)!
Lost Canyon Cave & Nature Trail: Our family took an electric golf cart on a two and a half mile ride along the Lost Canyon Cave & Nature Trail and we were met with stunning rock formations, beautiful views of Table Rock Lake, an an awe-inspiring cave. The centerpiece of the cave is a cascading waterfall complemented by viewing balconies on all four levels and a cave bar (for ordering drinks). We couldn’t have asked for more beautiful weather to enjoy this rare experience!
Branson, MO: We visited the Branson “strip” several times, and I LOVE the feel of the area. With all the lights and venues that advertise old-time shows, it was as though we had just stepped back in time. Twice we ate at a retro-styled diner/dessert parlour that had a large Jukebox and even table-top jukeboxes at each booth, and I already miss the place. Their pizza was superb, and the cheesecake was very good (though a bit too sweet). The Branson strip highlights hundreds of shows daily, adventure and amusement places (go karts, miniature golf, fun museums, etc.), and lots of unique places for dining and shopping.
Campfire Wagon Ride: This was my favorite activity, probably because it involved chocolate! We enjoyed a unique wilderness journey in a horse-drawn wagon down to a rustic campsite. Once there, we made s’mores and sipped sodas, enjoyed a very entertaining and funny singing / guitar-playing cowboy, and had a marshmallow fight. This was a small, intimate event with only about 12 of us total. Fun time! The girls got a chance to hear and sing some of their favorite songs. It really reminded me of a simpler time!
Other activities: During our time here, we also canoed, played miniature golf, ate at a couple of the restaurants, made a couple of meals in our cabin, rode the complimentary shuttle around the grounds, played on one of the playgrounds, and more. We were hoping to do BINGO, a glow-in-the-dark scavenger hunt, and a dive-in movie, but we simply ran out of vacation! On the ride back through Arkansas, we stopped at the Hilary Clinton Children’s Library & Learning Center in Little Rock.