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.
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.
The Zone, a family fun center, includes skating, a fully loaded arcade, laser tag, laser maze, soft play area, bounce areas, and fun for the whole family! Kokomo Joe's consists of mini-golf, go karts, blow up obstacle course and water slide. Batting cages coming soon!
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.
As cool breezes cut summer heat and the leaves fade into sunset hues, Pin Oak Farms celebrates autumn with pumpkin picking, bonfires, and other activities. Tractors full of hay bales and visitors rumble out toward vegetable fields, happy shouts spiraling back toward areas for face painting and petting farm animals. A 5-acre corn maze or smaller straw-bale maze test one’s sense of direction or ability to crack open a compass and eat the good parts. Kids plop themselves down in a giant tub of corn, clamber around in bounce houses, or putt games of pumpkin-themed mini golf. At dusk, bonfires warm hands and bring to life dancing shadows behind groups and scout troops.