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Top 10 Places to Visit in the Ozarks

The Ozarks is home to hundreds of beautiful destinations with a little something for everyone – from the foodie to the shopaholic to the nature lover.

July 21, 2023 | Madison Foster

Nestled in the heart of the United States, the Ozarks encompasses breathtaking views, vibrant forests, and cultural wonders that are as varied as they come.

From world-renowned attractions to extraordinary outdoor experiences, I rounded up the top ten places in Missouri and Northwest Arkansas you don’t want to miss.

1. Top of the Rock

Get there: 150 Top of the Rock Rd, Ridgedale, MO 65739

Top of the Rock sits at the highest point in Taney County and truly offers a little bit of everything.

For golfers, Top of the Rock offers a par-3 course – the first of its kind to be included in a professional championship. Some features of the course include waterfalls, bass-filled ponds, and spectacular views of Table Rock Lake.

For the history buffs, you can visit the Ancient Ozarks Natural History Museum. Afterwards, check out the shops and restaurants.

Top of the Rock is perhaps most known for its stunning views and outdoor attractions. You can take a guided walking tour or view the Cathedral of Nature, a huge cave system discovered in 2015 after a sinkhole opened.

Don’t feel like walking? I highly recommend the Lost Canyon Cave golf cart trail. Ride in an electric cart that can seat up to four people and experience waterfalls, rock formations, bridges, and even a bar located in the cave!

2. Whitaker Point/Hawksbill Crag

Get there: Co Rd 406, Kingston, AR 72742

Whitaker Point - also known as Hawksbill Crag thanks to the shape of the rock formation - is one of the most iconic nature spots in Arkansas. Regularly featured on travel brochures and a wildly popular site for photoshoots and engagements, this is a view well worth the trek.

This moderately difficult out-and-back trail is roughly 2.8 miles long and open year-round. It’s also open to dogs, so feel free to bring your furry friends as long as they’re on a leash. While it is well maintained and frequently has other hikers, be sure and exercise caution around the steep rocks and bluffs.

After a beautiful hike to the crag, you can take photos, enjoy a picnic, or just soak in the picturesque sights overlooking the Buffalo National River.

3. Wonders of Wildlife

Get there: 500 W Sunshine St, Springfield, MO 65807

From Johnny Morris, outdoor enthusiast and founder of Top of the Rock, comes the next must-see destination in the Ozarks. Wonders of Wildlife is a national award-winning aquarium and museum located right beside the Bass Pro Shops flagship retail store.

This 350,000 square foot building that includes multi-level trails showcases Native American artifacts, hand-painted scenery, taxidermy and more – all with an emphasis on wildlife conservation.

From penguins to alligators to jellyfish, the aquarium features an impressive collection of live animals. The best part? Wonders of Wildlife prides itself on taking great care of their animals and offering clean and spacious living areas. They are also active in animal rehab and rescue, such as participating in sea turtle rescue missions.

4. Crystal Bridges

Get there: 600 Museum Way, Bentonville, AR 72712

This art museum is one of the most popular spots in Northwest Arkansas, and for good reason. Stunning architecture and awe-inspiring art pieces come together to create an experience you won’t get anywhere else.

Crystal Bridges has permanent art pieces, rotating art exhibits – like the outdoor North Forest Lights experience held on select nights during the fall and winter – a restaurant and dining area, and miles of serene nature trails.

On your way out, you can stop by the museum store to pick up prints of your favorite art pieces, books on your favorite artists, and even some jewelry or souvenirs.

5. Meramec Caverns

Get there: 1135 Hwy W, Sullivan, MO 63080

Missouri is home to some amazing cave systems with more than 7,000 on record so far. There’s a reason it’s known as the Cave State, after all.

One of Missouri’s most popular and impressive cave systems is Meramec Caverns. Take an hour-and-20-minute-long tour through the caves complete with an LED light show.

If you want even more adrenaline, consider the zipline experience at the caverns that takes you over the Meramec River and allows you to reach speeds of up to 50 mph!

6. Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park

Get there: 148 Taum Sauk Trail, Middle Brook, MO 63656

At Johnson’s Shut-Ins, you can hike, camp, swim, fish, picnic, ride horses and even rock climb.

This site is unique in that it offers a natural water park complete with stone water slides and refreshing swimming holes. The term “shut-in” actually refers to the unique rock formations that confine sections of rivers and streams and carve through mountains to create pools and rapids.

7. St. Louis Zoo

Get there: 1 Government Dr, St. Louis, MO 63110

The St. Louis Zoo is sure to be a hit with animal lovers - it’s home to more than 16,000 animals, several of which are endangered species.

There is something to do for people of all ages. Kids can enjoy the carousel and 4D theater, while adults can take a ride on the Emerson Zooline Railroad or watch the different animal shows that change each season.

The best part? Regular admission to the zoo is completely free.

8. National WWI Museum and Memorial

Get there: 2 Memorial Dr, Kansas City, MO 64108

History buffs will love the National WWI Museum and Memorial in Kansas City. It was designated by Congress as the United States’ official World War I Museum, and for good reason.

Whether you check out the galleries, exhibit halls, or even the Liberty Memorial Tower, the museum is jam-packed with artifacts, documents, and historical accounts of events during and surrounding the war.

9. Silver Dollar City

Get there: 399 Silver Dollar City Pkwy, Branson, MO 65616

Silver Dollar City is a must-see when stopping in Branson. The 1880s-themed amusement park has rides and attractions for young kids all the way to older adults. Tripadvisor even named SDC the #1 theme park in the U.S.

From a tour through Marvel Cave to the dozens of food and shopping options, it’s easy to spend an entire day or more experiencing it all – and that doesn’t even include the rides!

Water attractions like Mystic River Falls or the American Plunge will help you beat the summer heat, while adrenaline junkies will be fans of roller coasters like Time Traveler, claimed to be the world's fastest, steepest, and tallest spinning coaster.

To keep things fresh, SDC also holds seasonal festivals and events. Enjoy longer operating hours in the summer, Harvest Festival in the fall, and a spectacular light display – more than 6.5 million lights spread throughout the park – for An Old Time Christmas in November and December.

10. Ozark National Scenic Riverways

Get there: Various locales with park administration headquarters at 404 Watercress Dr, Van Buren, MO 63965

The Ozarks is home to countless waterways perfect for swimming, kayaking, float trips and more. One of the best is the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, the first national park area to protect a river system.

The Ozark National Scenic Riverways is home to the spring-fed Current and Jacks Fork rivers, which are popular floating and fishing destinations. The area also has caves, springs, trails, visitor centers, and historic sites to explore to your heart’s content.

OMB and its affiliates do not provide legal, tax or accounting advice. You should consult your legal and/or tax advisors before making any financial decision.

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