For more than 20 years, pilot Rodney Williams has shuttled guests on breathtaking excursions into the clouds aboard the gently swaying baskets of Branson Balloon's hot-air-propelled vessels. As balloons rise slowly into the stratosphere, passengers can enjoy views of the trees, valleys, lakes, and Sasquatch dwellings of the Ozarks stretch out underfoot. After the sojourn into the skies, Rodney leads clients through a post-flight champagne toast and the Balloonist's Prayer—ceremonial pleasantries that have helped Rodney maintain a perfect safety record throughout his entire career as a pilot.
The Moxie is a central hub for independent and classic cinema, specializing in celluloid of the funky, offbeat, and arty distinctions. The diverse film list includes thought-provoking flicks that span the genres and ages, with everything from Rubber—a recently screened modern flick about a villainous tire—to vintage film noirs such as Humphrey Bogart's The Big Sleep (showing Saturday, May 14), to the all-penguin remake of Citizen Kane (tickets up to an $8 value each). The deal’s combo package also delivers cinematic sustenance via two fountain soft drinks (a $3.50 value each) and two popcorns (a $3.25 value each) from the theater’s cinebar. Though most theaters use popcorn to meet the state-mandated liquid-butter minimum, the Moxie elevates kernel-cooking to an art worthy of its film selection, topping morsels with 13 distinct flavors, including barbecue, ranch, jalapeño, and apple cinnamon.
Since launching off from the shores of Fort Myers Beach in 1982, Paradise Parasail’s signature smiley-face parachutes have become an iconic image in the sky, now flying high above the waters of both the Gulf of Mexico and the Lake of the Ozarks. USCG-licensed captains navigate each of the company's boats as riders trail behind at heights of up to 500 feet. With feet flopping in the wind, thrill-seekers are free to wave to their friends, family, and nearby migratory birds. Parasailers can also pose for photos and videos captured by the company's onboard photographers.
Located within a 3.5-hour drive of Kansas City, St. Louis, and Springfield, the 54,000-acre Lake of the Ozarks has a become a weekend destination for kayaking, fishing, or parasailing. About 300 natural caves surround the lake, with the Ozark Caverns tours taking visitors to see unusual cave phenomena. About 20 miles away, Bridal Cave and Thunder Mountain Park leads one-hour tours that show off towering columns, stalagmites, and stalactites.
At Branson Boat Club, families and friends cast off into the waters of Table Rock Lake on leisurely personal retreats. Boaters bring family members along for a 90-minute orientation in which Branson Boat Club's harbormaster imparts hands-on boating-safety instruction and raps about his favorite episodes of Gilligan's Island. Afterward, families set sail aboard their choice of the club's six boats. Plumb the lake depths for fish in the 22' Fish Series pontoon boat with two fishing seats and a 9' canopy, or kick back on the 22' Cruise Model Relax pontoon boat with a canopy, stereo system, and CD player. Boaters must pay for their own gas (around $30–$75) and bring along their own wisecracking parrot navigator.
Located in the idyllic Ozark Highlands, Meramec Vineyards offers visitors a full experience of drinking, eating, shopping, and learning. Its small, cozy eatery, Bistro d'Vine, is open for lunch daily and serves a menu of fresh, seasonal bistro fare, such as quiche with baby greens ($7.35), pork tenderloin with fresh fruit, cheese, and caramelized onions ($7.45), and salmon served over a greek salad ($9.95). Meramec also has bottled wine ($8.95–$23.95) available for purchase for sipping or for christening cruise ships. There's a wine to suit all occasions, including Celebration White ($9.95) for clambakes, New World Red ($8.95) for Thanksgiving feasts, and a pumpkin-flavored Harvest Moon ($10.95) for scaring already skittish Ichabod Cranes. Guests can commemorate their time at Meramec with non-liquid souvenirs from the gift shop, such as gourmet food, wine openers, or a local artist's rendering of you buying his painting.
Sharky's Billiards and Grill caters to billiards buffs with a plethora of Brunswick Gold Crown nine-foot pool tables and a menu of delectable eats. Under the ambient lights of the pool hall, players challenge each other to games of 8-ball, 9-ball, and stick-ball, an exciting and totally illegal fusion of billiards and baseball. Stay fresh during your two hours of play with a cheeseburger and fries ($6.50) or a platter of chips and salsa or cheese dip ($2), then knock back a cold bottled or draft beer ($2 for domestic, $3 for premium) to maintain laser-like focus during daring bank shots. Aside from showing off its top-of-the-line pocketed tables and laid-back atmosphere, Sharky's entertains customers with pumping music and karaoke parties.