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Amanda heads to Lake of the Ozarks!

Jun 11, 2021 06:14PM ● By Amanda Wharton
Amanda at LOZ [18 Images] Click Any Image To Expand

Once the largest man-made lake in the United States, the Lake of the Ozarks (LOZ) draws attention not only to visitors from Missouri but from all over the country. This popular Midwest tourist destination is one of a kind and has something for crowds of all ages and interests to enjoy. My parents used to own a cabin cruiser at LOZ that we would stay on, so I practically grew up at LOZ as a kid doing water sports like tubing, knee boarding and skiing. As if this location wasn’t special enough to me, I actually met my fiancé at LOZ 5 years ago! I plan multiple trips to LOZ every summer with my friends and family.

When planning a trip with my friends, we typically reserve an Airbnb or VRBO near the attractions we want to visit. Available accommodations fill up fast, especially for holiday weekends, so planning early is a must. No matter what end of LOZ you find a place to stay at, there is something fun to do nearby and even if it’s not near by land, the Lake of the Ozarks Water Taxi can pick you up and take you by boat. Sometimes we are lucky and the driver lets our group take control of the aux cord and play our own music. My friends and I love to hang out at one of the many pool bars during the day like Coconuts or Backwater Jacks, and then go out later to a bar like Shady Gators to dance the night away.  Here are just a few of the amazing attractions I favor!

If you’re looking for a unique pirate themed dining experience, the Jolly Roger’s is the place for you! Last summer, my fiancé’s family took us to LOZ for their family vacation where we stayed in an Airbnb in the Gravois Mills arm of the lake. We rented a boat one day and drove it across the lake to Jolly Rogers where a man dressed like a pirate greeted us and helped us tie up to the dock. The restaurant is on a deck with a roof that shields you from the summer sun in most areas while giant ceiling fans help keep patrons cool. Multiple families had their dogs at their feet! The pirate themed décor was fun, but the staff dressed up as pirates was what made the whole experience. While waiting for our food, one of them brought around a parrot for us to hold and take pictures with! The food and drinks were great too.




Looking for a relaxing evening sipping wine on a patio that overlooks the lake? Then Shawnee Bluff Winery may be more your speed! I love a good sunset, and watching the sun fall over the main channel at this location is breathtaking. My fiancé is less fascinated by the beauty of the sunset, but he loves to watch all the boats drive by as they head home from a day out on the water, so it’s a win-win for us. The establishment is dog-friendly, so we were even able to bring our pup, Malcolm. The waitress was very accommodating and provided him a bowl of water. My parents tagged along with us and we spent the evening playing cards, laughing at old lake stories, and listening to the live music being played right on the patio. Shawnee Bluff offers wine tastings, and you can purchase a glass or a bottle, but their wine slushes are a perfect way to cool off on a hot summer day. 


A more playful and family friendly lake experience can be found at Franky and Louie’s restaurant. The menu is diverse from tacos to seafood to jambalaya. My personal favorite is their baja chicken street tacos which pair amazingly with a Miami Vice. There is live music from local Missouri bands almost daily on their outdoor patio. After enjoying your meal, you can put your toes in the sand at their lakeside beach which can be a nice place for adults to relax with drink in hand or a place for kids to play in the shallow waters. There is an ice-cream shop right on the beach which really hits the spot after laying in the sun all day. Just a short walk down the beach, you can find Super Dave’s Paddle Adventures where you can rent paddle boards and kayaks to take out around the cove. Super Dave himself taught my friends and I the tricks to staying on our boards. It’s all fun and games until a large boat comes through the cove a little faster than expected and creates a large wake to throw off your balance! 


The best way to spend a summer day is at one of LOZ’s many pool bars. My favorite one is Coconuts, but Backwater Jacks is a close second. These two can get a bit rowdier than the others and are often full of bachelor and bachelorette parties.  There is often either a DJ or live music to entertain patrons. On the weekends, Coconuts has several contests including, but not limited to belly flop and twerking competitions. Hearing the cheers of tipsy customers as one of my fiancé’s friends won the flop contest with a back flip into a belly flop was exhilarating! We love to sit on the swings at the bar while we order drinks to add to the fun. Multiple tables in the pool make it the perfect place to congregate and make friends with other visitors. I have met some very interesting people from all over the country in that pool! 

If you are looking for a less rowdy experience, then Dog Days may suit you better. Dog Days has a pool bar with underwater stools and multiple tables to stand around. The lounge chairs in the shallow area are where my friends and I typically lay out to tan with a frozen drink in hand. The stage is front and center for days when they have live music or a DJ. Their restaurant offers indoor seating in addition to their outdoor seating that overlooks the lake which is a gamechanger on scorching summer days. We put our name in for a table as soon as we arrived and were quoted a 2 hour wait. It was nice to have the pool to enjoy while we waited for them to be ready for us. My favorite item on their menu is their jerk chicken nachos. They came with several toppings, piled high on a baking tray. My sister and I could barely put a dent in it, so I definitely recommend ordering it for multiple people to share. One of my favorite experiences at Dog Days is their event called The Canine Cannonball. My sister and I spent the day watching the dog competitors jump as far as they could into a giant pool while the crowd cheered them on. Anyone that knows me knows that I love dogs and seeing dogs of all shapes and sizes everywhere I looked and watching them do something they loved made my day! I would highly recommend this event if you are a dog-lover! 

At night, my friends and I love to visit Shady Gators! This triple deck bar is a restaurant by day and a club by night. Each separate level of the bar features a different vibe. My friends and I love to dance, so we often find ourselves on the top floor where a DJ is playing current pop and hip-hop music. The dance floor is full of people and sometimes there are even fog or foam machines for special events. The middle level features a DJ who plays throwback-like pop music. The bottom floor is designated for live music, where a band plays on the stage. The music genre of this area varies by night from country to rock. Surprisingly, we are always able to enjoy the music of the level we are on with very little interference from the noises of the other decks, but it can be hard to hear each other’s voices. With access to a large well-staffed bar on each floor, this establishment can handle the crowd and customers are served within a reasonable time. This establishment overlooks the lake and is a great place to watch fireworks on holiday weekends. Adjacent to Shady Gators is Lazy Gators which features a pool bar and also hosts events such as concerts and festivals.  My fiancé and a couple friends recently attended a Party Favor concert at this location that was amazing! The ground is a sand pit, so your feet don’t get tired after standing for a long time and we were able to order drinks at the bar just steps away from where our group was standing. 10/10 would recommend attending a concert at this venue!

 There are many different experiences to be had at LOZ. From pool bars to lakeside beaches to romantic wineries, there truly is something for everyone at the lake. Between the many Airbnbs, VRBOs, and hotels, there is a place to stay no matter where around the lake you want to be, but planning early is a must. These are just a few of the places that I love, but there are so many more the explore! Just remember to pack your cooler, hat, sunglasses, and some sunscreen and be prepared to have some fun.