Lake of the Ozarks Review: ALL of it.

This past weekend, Drew and I took a long weekend at Lake of the Ozarks. We have never been, but heard it is huge and beautiful…and we love the show “Ozark”. It was not exactly what we imagined, however. Here’s the breakdown of everything:


This hotel was pretty cheap, about $90 a night, and right on the lake. They even had plenty of boat slips we could use for free, which most other places charge you an extra fee for that. So, we brought our boat and put it in the water with ease.

The hotel itself is pretty old, but the rooms were nicely updated and the beds were comfortable- firm, but also soft….just right. The room came with a fridge and microwave and we opted for the private deck with a view of the lake:

While there was a restaurant and bar there, it was pretty dead. There was also a small pool and pool bar (only open on Friday afternoons and Saturdays), which also remained pretty dead. So, we didn’t spend much time at the hotel.

Overall, I’d definitely stay here again due to its convenience to the water and restaurants nearby, and affordability. Plus, the staff could not have been more sweet.


On the two days we were in the water, Saturday and Sunday, both were pretty packed, even in the mornings. The lake is huge and windy, allowing massive boats to speed around at their will. This creates a LOT of big wakes. With our small ski boat, our travel ranged from fun to frightening.

There are massive mansions everywhere to look at on the coasts. So, driving around and just gawking at houses kept us entertained for a while. Lake Hamilton, you got nothin’ on Lake of the Ozarks.

On Saturday, we wandered upon “party cove”, which we heard was “crazy” and not kid-friendly. I disagree. There were plenty of families and nothing I saw was inappropriate.  Though, there were a couple bachelor and bachelorette boats, and tons of big rigs tying up together, all with loud music and everyone drinking. So, there was some partying. It got pretty busy around 3:00, but nothing to be scared of. We were still able to lay out and enjoy the scenery/ people-watch here.



The outlet mall here, Osage Beach Mountain Outlets, was pretty great! You know I’m a sucker for a bargain, and we found plenty of great deals at Eddie Bauer, Banana Republic, Gap, Yankee Candle, and plenty more. If you have a couple hours to kill around here, check this out, for sure.

The Bagnell Dam Strip is rated highly online, but we found it pretty boring. Full of gimicky, touristy shops and swimwear for sale, there isn’t much to do there. EXCEPT for this incredible candy store, Grandma’s Candy Kitchen. After a few free samples, I had to get some of this delicious fudge. We had a coupon and got 1.5 lbs for $12 which isn’t bad at all for a fudge shop full of tourists.  Some flavors include dark chocolate caramel, chocolate peanut butter, chocolate coconut, and my favorite: chocolate, caramel, peanut butter, and peanuts.  Don’t worry, we’re still eating on it….and it is still delicious.



Where things get “crazy” here are at the multiple pool parties at restaurants around town. Many you can drive your boat to, park at a slip, and enjoy.

Backwater Jack’s

Thursday evening, we visited Backwater Jack’s due to its great food reviews. It was about an 8 minute Lyft trip from our hotel, though you can park your boat here.
We show up a little shell-shocked. This place is HUGE with a large pool, a big stage with a band that has tons of people dancing, and then 10x that many people eating at this massive, multi-story restaurant.
Luckily, there was no wait for 2 people, though many larger families were told there would be an hour wait.

We started with drinks. Drew got a frozen margarita ($6) and I got a “pain in the ass” which is half frozen piña colada and half frozen rum runner ($7). They were very tasty, but pretty small.

Little did I know, when I ordered the “grouper fingers” I was going to be eating one of the best things I’ve ever tried….and I would be getting them all three days here. These grouper fingers are apparently popular at most restaurants at Lake of the Ozarks, so you can get them about anywhere. However, they were best here….and cheaper here. ($12) Grouper is coated in frosted flakes, deep fried, then drizzled with honey. A raspberry tartar sauce is served on the side. SO GOOD!

We also split a seafood salad ($12) which was nothing special, but we got our greens in.

We had to try their most popular side as well. The fried potato salad was delicious! Definitely give this a shot. It is lightly dressed, keeping the potatoes a little crunchy and there is great flavor- not too much mayo.

We ended up coming back here on Saturday for dinner. We got the grouper fingers again, plus their red beans and rice with cornbread. ($7). This wasn’t great, but it had some flavor. If you love red beans and rice, I’m sure you’ll like it. But it is not the most tasty version of this dish in my opinion. Plus, the cornbread is very plain, and just a tad sweet.

Drew also tried their famous homemade wantons. They make these in-house and looked incredible. However, I don’t eat cream cheese, so he was on his own here. He wasn’t that impressed. He said they were pretty bland.

Oh, they also serve sushi here, though we opted out.

*The crowd: On Thursday evening, the crowd was mostly couples in their 50s-60s. However, the crowd was much more varied on Saturday, as I’m sure all restaurants are around here on the weekends.

Dog Days

On Friday afternoon, this place was hoppin! There was a TON of people swimming in the pools. They have a family-friendly/ children’s pool plus an adults-only pool (though they are right next to each other). This restaurant/ pool/ bar seemed very similar to Backwater Jack’s. The restaurant was huge and packed, as was the pool. You could park your boat here as well. We went with Lyft again, as it was only a 5 minute ride from our hotel.  However, there was no live band.

The food, though!

We got drinks here again, but they were a little more expensive, about $1 more each than at Backwater Jack’s. They had the same “pain in the ass” and every other fruity-flavored drink you can imagine.

The best thing they have at Dog Days are these Tuna Poke Nachos ($14)! Fried wontons topped with seared yellowfin tuna, mango, wakame, pickled ginger, green onions, sesame seeds, wasabi cream, and a soy ginger sauce. It was delicious!!!  It also made for a not-so-heavy lunch, which was nice while you’re eating in a swimsuit.

*The crowd here was full of all ages, but mostly 20-somethings. It died down the later it got into the afternoon, though.

Shady Gator

Saturday night we checked this place out for a late night dinner/snack. Upon arrival, it was obvious it was packed. This place is so large that one area had a big stage with a band playing that you could not even hear from the other side of the restaurant, where there was a DJ and dance floor.

We got a fun rum drink to share and some more grouper fingers!

These grouper fingers were very delicious as well, but they were pretty greasy and had more batter than fish. Oh, I’d still get them again, but Backwater Jack’s were better.

We also got some chicken strips for $10. They were pretty good, but for $10, I expected a little more food. The honey mustard was tasty and sweet, though.

*The crowd here was VERY young. It seemed like mostly drunk college students were here. And it was packed. And loud. Oh, and there was a foam party on the dance floor where you could watch these swimsuit- wearing said college kids dance and slide around.
While this may sound fun for some, it got pretty overwhelming quickly and I decided this isn’t for me. We got out of there quickly!



The Lake of the Ozarks has a lot to offer: great house and boat-watching on the lake, cliffs to jump off of, a party cove (maybe minus the party now-a-days), the biggest deal here now are the pool party/ restaurant venues. If you don’t like crowds…stay away. But do get some amazing food here! I’m not sure I’ll be back, but if I do, it is because the food is calling my name.