Coziest Fireplaces

Nestle into this cozy room with a flue in the heart of Missouri's Ozark Mountains.
Tanner C. Latham

A steady crackle. A pop. Then more crackling on this brisk winter evening. Despite being 10 miles from the footlights of Branson, the only show in the log cabins at Big Cedar Lodge is the glowing fire, its flickering shadows dancing on the walls' exposed timbers.

Luxuriously Rustic
Big Cedar Lodge in Ridgedale, Missouri, has welcomed guests since 1987. Like any good resort, the best part about a stay here is that you can do as much or as little as you want. The main draws are the luxurious amenities, such as the spa--cleverly located in the old carriage house. The property is more reminiscent of a hunting lodge than a swanky vacation spot.

Of course, in the winter months, take advantage of our favorite amenity--the fireplace. Almost all of the cabins and cottages offer one, but be sure to request it when making reservations.

When the Smoke Gets in Your Eyes
We have no qualms with anyone spending the entire time snuggled up in front of the fire. Chances are, though, at some point you'll get antsy, and Big Cedar offers some nice activities outside the comfort of the cabins.
Take your game to the 9-hole, par-3 Top of the Rock Golf Course. Even though it's chilly outside, the Jack Nicklaus-designed course is in great shape. When you're not concentrating on the game, revel in the grandiose views of Table Rock Lake and the mountains and valleys of the Ozarks.

While up there, enjoy lunch at Top of the Rock Restaurant. Try any of their delicious pastas or even a wood-fired pizza; you'll love the vistas that stretch out before you as you dine.

Still want to work on your short game? Grab the kids, and do a little putting on the miniature golf course. Be on the lookout for the massive (and we mean massive) largemouth bass that marks the spot. Or just stroll along the several walking and hiking trails that crisscross the property.

Make reservations for an early dinner at Devil's Pool restaurant. Order the hickory-smoked prime rib or the cornmeal-dusted rainbow trout. Don't rush, but try not to miss the best part of the day at Big Cedar Lodge--sunset.

Look to the big Missouri sky to see a flood of orange and lavender push the blue right along. The cabins hanging over Table Rock Lake become amber reflections in the water. Soon, chimneys begin stringing spires of smoke upward to the faintly blinking stars. Guess it's time to settle in for another cozy night at Big Cedar Lodge.

Big Cedar Lodge: 612 Devil's Pool Road, Ridgedale, MO 65739; (417) 335-2777 or www.bigcedar.com. Rates: range $89-$399.

This article is from the January 2003 issue of Southern Living. Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.