Why we love it: A wilderness retreat full of natural beauty and rustic luxury
- A wide range of accommodations, including luxurious glamping tents
- More than enough activities to keep the entire family entertained
- A spectacular spa with fireplaces in each treatment room
Nestled deep in the Ozark Mountains, Big Cedar Lodge was built in the early 1920s as a lavish country retreat for two prominent Missourians. It was purchased in 1987 by Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris, who turned it into a fishing camp, then converted it to a high-end wilderness resort spread over 4,600 acres of wooded hollows. Today, it’s a popular place to connect with the great outdoors—amid some serious luxury. Overlooking the blue-green Table Rock Lake, the resort is focused on water recreation, offering activities like fishing, water-skiing, tubing, and rides on just about any boat you could imagine. A favorite choice is the Goin’ Jessi, an exact replica of a 1934 Chris-Craft named after Waylon Jennings’s wife, on which guests can take hour-long tours with champagne. Also on-site are two full-service marinas, four golf courses, and a 50,000-square-foot entertainment center with everything from go-karts, bumper cars, and laser tag to a ropes course, bowling alley, arcade, and climbing wall.
When visitors aren’t busy having fun, they’re spending quality time in Big Cedar Lodge’s plentiful accommodations, which range from lodge rooms to cottages to private log cabins with stone fireplaces, private decks, and jetted tubs. For something really unique, however, book an overnight experience at Camp Long Creek, an area just minutes from Big Cedar with camp huts, cabins, and glamping units right on the lake. (Outfitted with king canopy beds, chandeliers, and outdoor living spaces with a fire pit, shower, and galvanized tub for alfresco bathing, the tents are particularly exceptional.) Dining options are equally varied, from a casual café to a fine-dining restaurant to a wine-and-whiskey cellar. Still, the Cedar Creek Spa & Salon is alone worth a visit, thanks to its beautiful stained glass windows, hand-hewn timber ceiling, and stone floors crowned by chandeliers. There’s even an ice room and a candlelit grotto with body jets, plus 12 treatment rooms equipped with fireplaces and robes that are warmed up for post-treatment relaxation.