Summer season has come to a close for the Big Cedar Lodge, but fall events are just ramping up and golfing never ends.
The Ozark destination has become a golfing mecca with courses designed by greats including Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Tom Fazio. Next year, Payne’s Valley will open to become the first public-access course by the Tiger Woods-led design firm, TGR Design.
That anticipated course pays tribute to Missouri native and World Golf Hall of Fame member, the late Payne Stewart. The 19th hole is being called “Big Rock at Payne’s Valley” and promises to be a dramatic end.
Earlier this year, the 18-hole Ozarks National course designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw opened. By the end of 2020, Big Cedar Lodge will be home to five golf courses and the Arnold Palmer driving range.
The courses use the natural hills, valleys, water and other outdoor elements to enhance the experience among spectacular views.
Those same features are in the 2½ mile Lost Canyon Cave and Nature Trail that meanders through caves and along ridges ($30 for adults, $15 for children 4-11).
Visitors use electric golf carts to traverse the trail that provides the best photo opportunities at the resort. Waterfalls descend at several points in the journey and large canyons dip below breath-taking skylines.
Recently, a spot known as the eagle’s nest — near a 100-foot drop — opened for an excellent view of the Ozarks and perfect place to snap a holiday card photo.
Almost as a secret, the Ancient Ozarks Natural History Museum contains a dizzying amount of artifacts from the area and a few surprises ($12 adults, $5 for children 4-11).
The museum largely focuses on Native American and western exhibits with the oldest piece, a pottery bowl, dating to about 200 BCE. Dioramas recreate some extinct beasts and scenes from prehistoric times in the area.
A fascinating room features portraits from Frank Rinehart, a late 19th century photographer who captured images of the leaders and members of Native American tribes.
Many indigenous items are displayed including Hunkpapa Lakota Chief Sitting Bull’s headdress and war vest and thousands of arrowheads, ax handles, pottery and centuries-old toys.
Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show is represented, complete with Annie Oakley’s gun and travel trunk. Sprinkled throughout the galleries are masterpiece artworks such as watercolors by Fredric Remington.
Other unusual pieces are locks of hair from George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, Washington’s saddle pad he sat on during the Revolutionary War and Lincoln’s casket flag.
Kids will want a trip to Fun Mountain that offers a 4-story ropes course ($20 per person), go carts ($10), bowling, bumper cars ($5), climbing wall ($4), billiards ($10 an hour), golf simulation ($40 an hour) and arcade.
To get back to nature, go the Dogwood Canyon Nature Park about 20 minutes away ($18 for adults, $13 for children). The wildlife preserve straddles the Missouri-Arkansas line and has a little more than 6 miles of trails (round trip).
A treehouse and conservation center are meant to entice exploration by children. A self-guided tour is easy to follow by Segway, and tram tours are also available.
The park is nestled in a canyon that starts out wide but narrows as the trail goes further along a stream.
Trout are plentiful in the cold streams through the park with fishing allowed in many areas, which are clearly marked. Swimming is not allowed, but people can bring bikes, dogs (on a leash) and a picnic (no alcohol).
The park emphasizes environmental conservation so it’s fun to spot various birds and butterflies. An off-limits section contains buffalo, longhorn cattle and elk.
In the fall, several events and offerings are planned at Big Cedar Lodge:
The first-ever Cedar Fest will take place every Saturday in October. It will feature a hayride to a pumpkin patch, pumpkin decorating, mechanical bull, lawn games and an inflatable corn maze. A Great Pumpkin Hunt will ask for clues by black light after sunset, and a bonfire gives a chance to make s’mores.
Guided fishing excursions and early evening boat cruises on Table Rock Lake are available along with hiking, biking and horseback riding.
Dogwood Canyon Nature Park will host two events. The Autumn Watercolor Walks on weekends in October will take guests on a hike to discover why fall leaves change color. Guests will collect leaf rubbings to create a colorful fall portrait using watercolor paint. Also, the Owl Prowls in October feature a live owl encounter, s’mores around a bonfire and a guided twilight hike to call and listen for owls.