Beneath the looming curve of a balloon rippling from the heat of a 12-million BTU propane burner, FAA-certified Lighter Than Air pilot and mechanic Layne Wolters takes hot air balloons soaring into the Missouri skies with the skills only years of experience can build. Possessing more than three decades of involvement with the larger-than-life balloons, Wolters mans daily flights at Hard Times Ballooning, ascending at sunrise and 2 1/2 hours before sunset for the best views of superheroes flying to and from home in their street clothes.
Bass fishing seems to be in Jay Grave's blood. Jay inherited his love of angling straight from his father, who taught him how to catch and haul in the large fish in the Iowa Great Lakes before he could even walk. When he grew up, it was no surprise that Jay would enter the world of career fishing. After fly-fishing stints in a few western states, he returned to the Midwest to compete in tournaments, winning Southwest Minnesota Bass Casters Club's Big Bass Payout in 2011. Eventually, Jay settled in Lake of the Ozarks, founding Grave Fishing, LLC to teach others how to fish in the bass-rich waters. He even offers tournament-style experiences, in which he competes with his passengers in a contest to see who can snag the most fish or Jimmy Hoffa pinky rings.
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.
Golf Headquarters attracts golfers of all stripes with three courses, including the 18-hole executive Pheasant Run Golf Course, an 18-hole pitch-and-putt course, and an 18-hole miniature-golf course. The par 57 Pheasant Run Golf Course challenges players to send orbs spinning past bunkers and water hazards even after the sun has set, when lights illuminate the zoysia fairways for golfers who haven’t yet acquired an owl familiar to guide them through the night. When winter blows in, players can take to the driving range, where 12 of the 40 hitting stations are covered and heated, and aim balls toward raised target greens. At the clubhouse, a 2,500-square-foot pro shop nestles alongside the Roost, where guests can perch at a horseshoe-shaped oak bar or rest by a gas fireplace on the patio as they drink in views of golfers sprinting across the finish line at the 18th hole.
More casual players can tackle the pitch-and-putt course, where balls must cross distances of 40–100 yards to reach the full-size greens, or hone their short game at the miniature-golf course, dotted with serene ponds, streams, and waterfalls.
At Oak Hills Golf Center, golfers traverse an 18-hole golf course that loops around Hough Park Lake and hone their skills on the driving range. The City of Jefferson keeps the course open year-round, so long as frost doesn’t accumulate on the greens and vacationing nudists don’t show up in the sand traps unannounced. At the end of rounds or practice sessions, players can refuel with hot dogs, brats, and hamburgers at the course concession stand.
Course at a Glance: