Lake of the Ozarks, Mo. - Vintage Ozarks memories and memorabilia flood the senses in the Lake of the Ozarks area, bringing visitors back to a place filled with barbeque, candy stores, ice-cream parlors, nostalgic gift shops, music and classic arcades.
For more than 80 years, the historic Bagnell Dam Strip (Business Highway 54) in Lake Ozark has delighted millions of visitors. Its old-time appeal, shopping and diverse attractions are typified by two Strip cornerstones – Dogpatch and Rebel Arcade – with their guardian “Muffler Men.”
“Muffler Men” are towering fiberglass figures originally created in the 1960s by a California company for gas station chains to lure owners of noisy automobiles to
replace their mufflers. The strip has two of these giants – an Indian, located at the Rebel Arcade, and the “Hillbilly,” one of the rarest types of “Muffler Men,” in front of Dogpatch. People travel to Lake Ozark from around the country to take pictures of these titans of history.
Speaking of History,
Dogpatch, (originally opened by Walter Tietmeyer in 1947 and based on Al Capp’s comic strip of the same name) is the longest continually operated store at the Lake and has had generations of visitors return to the store with their children and grandchildren. Immediately upon entering the shop, you’ll hear the jolly tinkling of an old piano and a welcoming “howdy” from a hillbilly “Grandpa” mannequin in a rocking chair. Inside, you’ll find a cornucopia of souvenirs, kitsch and gifts, ranging from corncob pipes to popular collectibles.
Batting cages, bumper cars, skee ball, classic video games and pinball machines await vacationers at the Rebel Arcade. Opened in 1972, it’s the Lake’s oldest arcade and is a destination for adults looking to recapture their recollection of what it was like to be a kid. Parents can even introduce their children to Pac-Man, Mario Brothers and other games of their youth. To contact Rebel Arcade, call 573-434-6036.
While you’re on the Strip, make plans to stop in for a meal of down-home comfort food at Stewart’s Restaurant. Be prepared for simply irresistible food and huge portions. Since 1953, locals and visitors have flocked to the family-favorite restaurant, famous for cinnamon rolls the size of a softball mitt, delectable breakfast platters, crispy fried chicken, juicy burgers and country-fried steak smothered in gravy. Stewart’s can be reached by phone at 573-365-2400.
Travel north of Bagnell Dam on Business Highway 54 to
Willmore Lodge- an historic log building that was constructed in 1930 by Union Electric Company as an administrative lodging and entertainment center for its Bagnell Dam project. Fast-forward to the present and it’s a tourist information center with a captivating, free museum that features exhibits on the building of the dam and the history of the Lake of the Ozarks. Visit weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. or weekends from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Call 800-451-4117 for more information about Willmore Lodge.
In Camdenton, Ozarkland General Store is a testament to all things Ozark. The store first opened its doors in 1960 as a small candy and souvenir shop but has expanded to include over 1,500 different items – including hand-stitched moccasins, glass art, Route 66 nostalgia and wooden pop guns. Stop in and watch as confectioners in the candy kitchen make fudge, taffy and other assorted sweets. To contact the store, call 573-346-7480.
Nothing represents the Ozarks more than mouth-watering barbeque and the Lake area has a variety of restaurants to choose from. Visitors looking for a delicious plate of chicken, pork or beef barbeque can find their fill at one of the Lake’s award-winning eateries such as: Wobbly Boots Road House and HalfSauced Barbeque in Osage Beach and Ozark Bar-B-Que in Sunrise Beach. And if you really love barbeque, you’ll want to make plans to join the best restaurants and cooks the area has to offer at the Laurie Hillbilly BBQ Cook-Off on Aug. 5 and 6 in Laurie, Mo. For more about this fabulous celebration of barbeque, call chairperson Susann Huff at 573-374-8776.
A warm slice of the Ozarks also is served up evenings at the Main Street Music Hall in Osage Beach. The Main Street Music Hall is a live variety music show in its 15th season at the Lake of the Ozarks. The show presents an eclectic mix of music and showcases remarkable musicians and vocalists, as well as side-splitting comedy from Gabby Gumm. For more information or for tickets, call 800-348-9501.