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Budget-friendly treasures at Lake of the Ozarks

Missouri’s Lake of the Ozarks will keep your vacation budget in check with its variety of free attractions. Here’s a look at a few of them.

Lake of the Ozarks is a budget-friendly destination
Credit: Missouri Division of Tourism

One of the best things about a trip to Lake of the Ozarks—other than the gorgeous lake, fantastic dining, beautiful scenery, lakeside pools, shopping, entertainment and recreation (and the list goes on and on)—is its affordability.

Even if you choose one of the swankier lodging options or decide to rent a boat for some fun on the water,  the Lake of the Ozarks keeps your weekend or vacation budget friendly with its variety of free attractions.

Here’s a 10-pack of lesser-known Lake of the Ozarks must-sees, just to get you started:


Lake of the Ozarks State Park

The largest state park in Missouri with more than 17,441 acres (7,058 hectares) of things to do, Lake of the Ozarks State Park offers two public beaches, boat launches, campsites, Lee C. Fine Airport, hiking trails, horseback riding and much more. Explore the 9-mile (14.5km) aquatic trail featuring a logging chute, caves and a naturally solar-heated bluff. The map with a detailed explanation is available at the park office. And be sure to check out the 400-foot swinging bridge across Auglaize Creek—a great spot for fishing, swimming or picnicking.

Ha Ha Tonka State Park

This amazing park is a must-see at the Lake. The park contains more than 3,600 acres (1,456 hectares) with 12 hiking trails, eight caves (only one offers public tours), picnic areas, playground, exhibits and castle ruins.

Disc golf

A great individual or family sport played like regular golf but with discs (or Frisbies). The lake area offers multiple courses where you can find a game. Eldon Airpark Disc Golf Course has a great nine- or 18-hole course (you can move the baskets) that can be played at any time. And Dragon Ridge Disc Golf Course in Camdenton offers a more rugged terrain located at its city park.


Old St. Patrick’s Church and Museum

The oldest church in Morgan County and the oldest stone church in the three counties surrounding the Lake of the Ozarks, St. Patrick’s Church held its first service in 1870. Living quarters added in 1936 for the circuit-riding priest have been turned into a museum showcasing vestments, photos and artifacts of the early church. The church was placed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.

Camden County Museum

Located in what was once the Linn Creek School, each classroom in the museum is devoted to a specific theme, ranging from archives to a weaving room, where woven rugs can be purchased.

Miller County Museum

This museum serves as a monument for the folk life of central Missouri society, with its American Indian heritage, early home accessories, machines, crafts, schools, churches and agriculture. It’s a wonderful source if genealogy is your passion, and they offer a variety of events throughout the year.

Morgan County Museum

The museum is located in the Martin Hotel, established more than 150 years ago in Versailles. The 28 rooms are decorated with exhibits, including a chapel, a doll room, a military room and a tool room.

Bagnell Dam Historical Museum

This historic log building was completed in 1930 by the Union Electric Company (now Ameren Missouri) and served as an administrative and entertainment center for the Bagnell Dam construction project that created Lake of the Ozarks. The building is now refurbished and serves the Lake area and its visitors as a museum, cultural activities center and offices of the Lake Area Chamber of Commerce.

Points of interest

National Shrine of Mary, Mother of the Church

Known as “Mother’s Shrine” and located in Laurie, this structure features the Mothers’ Wall of Life with names of mothers engraved in the black granite. The beautiful outdoor shrine includes a 14-foot sculpture of Mary standing above the fountains.

Bagnell Dam Overlook

Enjoy a breathtaking view of the Bagnell Dam in Lake Ozark and see the difference in elevation between the Lake of the Ozarks and the Osage River. The overlook has several areas explaining various facts along with a turbine that was recently retired after 70-plus years of use.

This list barely scratches the surface of all there is to see at Lake of the Ozarks. To create your own must-do list of free activities, visit