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.
From their perch on drifting kayaks, visitors explore Lake Taneycomo or Table Rock Lake, floating past geese and groundhogs who chitter on the banks of the man-made lakes. Twenty-seven miles of placid waters snake around foliage that hides hiking trails, deer, and even bald eagles, and guests can traverse the surface in 3- or 5-mile stretches as guides point out the wildlife.
Jack Spears and his sons David and Austin want people to love the Illinois River as much as they do, so they placed their resort's expansive camping, RV, and cabin grounds on the bank in positions that allow boarders to appreciate the scenery year-round. In the summer, their General Store's ice-cream fountain pours nonstop as river-goers take a rest in the shop's shade. The resort boasts year-round security to preserve campers' gear and scare off loitering snowmen in the winter. The staff also doles out dry goods, supplies, and groceries to campers or families staying in the manors of Pine Valley Retreat throughout the year.
As visitors to The White Rose turn down the property's drive, they're instantly transported to a simpler time: on the left, a lush lawn sprawls before a house not yet visible, and on the right, rows upon rows of grapes keep rank to form a four-acre vineyard. Twisting around the bend, then, the house appears, with its elaborate porch, elegant columns, and white limestone reminiscent of Ireland's "penny walls."
Built in 1900, the home preserves its fair share of history, and today, it bridges the gap between generations by keeping its door open to guests. Four of the house's rooms serve as bed and breakfast getaways, each outfitted with antique furniture and decorative accents. The estate also churns out its own wine with an intricate, handcrafted process, which it shares with visitors during tastings in the parlor.
As days start to shorten and the leaves start to fall, guests of all ages congregate at Campbell's Farm for an annual autumn celebration. General admission grants kids access to a petting zoo, a purple dragon bounce house, and a pumpkin-painting station, and extra amusements such as pony rides, face painting, or a challenging needle-in-a-haystack game provide enough family-friendly fun to last an entire afternoon. Children can also wind their way through the cornstalk-lined path of a 4-acre fun maze, while the bravest among them dare to navigate the labyrinth after dark, risking chance encounters with spooks around every twisting turn. After a spine-tingling tour on one of the farm's haunted hayrides, groups can also be spotted warming up around the glow of rented bonfires as they roast hot dogs or marshmallows to quell hunger pangs or construct extremely perishable birdhouses.