By Dawn Erickson
“I have laid aside business, and have gone a-fishing,” appears in large letters on the vaulted ceiling of the registration lobby at Big Cedar Lodge near Branson, Missouri. Attributed to Izaak Walton, the phrase sums up the reason many thousands of vacationers find Big Cedar Lodge an ideal destination.
Thousands of people, however, don’t lay aside their business when they visit Big Cedar Lodge. They travel to this rustic-yet-luxurious resort for business meetings, retreats and conventions because the woods and water environment allow them to enjoy the outdoors even when they are working indoors.
Big Cedar’s meeting spaces open directly to the outdoors with patios and decks that are often utilized as meeting space. It’s common to find easels, flipcharts and productive conversation seating outdoors, where meeting attendees can enjoy views of Table Rock Lake, the Ozark Mountains, and Big Cedar Lodge’s unparalleled landscaping. Walls of windows brighten meeting rooms to create cheerful, light-filled boardrooms and conference settings.
The natural environment contributes to relaxation and camaraderie, according to Big Cedar’s staff. “Participants are more creative because of the environment,” said Regional Sales Manager Jodie King.
Meeting rooms bring the outdoors inside
Big Cedar’s 800 acres offer a wealth of amenities and activities. However, meeting rooms are located within convenient walking distance of lodgings and restaurants. Meeting rooms feature unexpected luxuries and ambiance, such as high log-beamed ceilings, stone walls, enormous wood-burning fireplaces, decks and patios.
The Grandview Room is the largest of them and accommodates up to 250 people in theater-style seating and up to 200 for dinner on the top floor of the conference center. The Lakeview Room, also in the conference center, seats about 150 people for meetings and 120 for dinner.
Rooms A and B are located in the registration building. Cedar Creek Room A holds up to 64 people in theater-style seating and up to 40 people for dinner. Room B seats 100 for meetings and 70 for dinner.
The pine-paneled Governor’s Boardroom features carved furnishings and fireplace, touches of stained glass and a regal atmosphere. Fourteen can be seated in comfort around the immense table. The room will also hold up to 30 people for receptions. The Governor’s Boardroom is adjacent to the Governor’s Suite on Valley View Lodge’s top floor.
The Worman Room, on the lower floor of the original 1920s home, holds about 120 people for meetings and up to 84 for dinners.
Customized activities make meetings unique
Other attractive meeting and activity space is available at various locations on the resort’s grounds and can be arranged with Big Cedar’s sales team. The four-member team customizes each meeting and event for an exceptional experience at the Branson area’s most unique resort.
Board meetings, strategic planning sessions, team building exercises, incentive groups, church, groups and couples retreats are just a few of the group types accommodated at Big Cedar Lodge. More than 700 groups gather at the Lodge each year.
The sales staff works hard at “getting the word out, bringing people in and treating them to Big Cedar,” said Shari Beckley, director of sales and marketing.
Group activities can take advantage of Table Rock Lake, where several national bass fishing tournaments are held each year. Bent Hook Marina at Big Cedar Lodge offers full service to guests including professional fishing guides, rental boats and fishing equipment. A corporate fishing tournament or serene afternoon on a pontoon boat can be part of the meeting schedule.
Guests can travel by boat or horse-drawn wagon to chuckwagon meals at secluded locations. Bonfires, trail rides, scavenger hunts and other customized adventures are also offered.
Spa services are available at two locations: the Carriage House Spa and Lakeside Cabin Spa. Massages, wraps, manicures, pedicures and other therapeutic services are available. The fitness center, on the lower level of the conference center, offers a variety of professional equipment, and walking trails wind through the resort for outdoor exercise.
Complimentary leisure activities at Big Cedar Lodge are planned for guests of all ages. Meeting attendees accompanied by their families can choose from four swimming pools, and a couple of children’s pools and hot tubs. Canoes and paddleboats, a fitness center, basketball, tennis, croquet, miniature golf, horseshoes, walking trails, a playground and a nature trail are offered to all guests. Tours of Big Cedar Lodge’s colorful gardens are also available.
Top of the Rock, a nine-hole Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course, will reopen in 2008. The spectacular course is also a certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary.
Restaurants, lodgings follow rustic luxury theme
Big Cedar Lodge features some of the region’s finest restaurants, and meeting attendees can enjoy their meals indoors or outdoors, as weather and schedules permit. The Devil’s Pool Restaurant serves “southern home-style” fare with menu service. Buffets are also available for breakfast and lunch. Just below Devil’s Pool is the Buzzard Bar with many of the same menu items as the restaurant upstairs, and as well as sandwiches, salads, soups, snacks and specialty drinks.
The Worman House features gourmet delights and can be reserved by groups for conference breakfasts and buffet lunches.
Top of the Rock Restaurant, adjacent to the golf course and offering possibly the most dramatic view of Table Rock Lake in the region, will reopen in 2008.
Rustic furnishings and décor are featured in all 247 lodging units at Big Cedar Lodge. Three lodge-style buildings offer multiple units with two queen beds or a king-size bed, full baths and sitting areas. Some include Jacuzzi tubs. Two-room suites, two-bedroom suites and the stunning four-bedroom, 2,500-square-foot Governor’s Suite are also available. Private cabins and cottages range in size from one room to two stories with lofts. All cabins include kitchens, fireplaces, decks and gas grills.
Service and hospitality are also exceptional. “The staff is very passionate about Big Cedar and it shows in how we treat our guests,” Beckley said. “It’s like we open our home for our guests.”
Big Cedar Lodge’s meeting and event arrangements can also reach beyond the resort boundaries to other locations. It shares ownership with the 10,000-acre Dogwood Canyon Nature Park, where groups can enjoy a two-hour wildlife experience aboard an open-air tram. The tram tour extends into Arkansas for views of the nature park’s herds of bison, elk and Texas longhorn cattle. Guided horseback tours are also popular.
Guests at Dogwood Canyon can also experience an old-fashioned cattle drive with their co-workers or families. Participants work together to move the Texas longhorns to another location, and then enjoy a chuckwagon meal. Specialized activities such as rock-climbing and kayaking can also be arranged.
Meeting participants schedule extra time for family fun
Most meetings include a two-night stay, and frequently meeting attendees schedule an extra day or two before or after their meetings to enjoy the resort with their families.
Children are welcome everywhere. The Registration building’s huge lobby features a recessed table filled with toy logs and building materials, and a jigsaw puzzle table stands nearby. Little Cedar Kids Club ensures that children ages four to 12 are offered their own outdoor experiences. Three-hour sessions filled with outdoor games, activities and educational programs entertain children while helping to build their environmental awareness. Hours and programs vary throughout the year. Little Cedar Kids Club and customized private sessions can be arranged through convention services.
Located 10 miles south of Branson in Ridgedale near the Arkansas state line, Big Cedar Lodge is only minutes from Branson’s world-class live entertainment. More than 100 family-friendly shows in theater-type venues, three theme parks, a dozen golf courses, shopping from outlet to upscale, and a host of family activities make Branson a year-round tourism destination.
(Dawn Erickson is a contributor from Branson, Mo.)
Big Cedar Lodge’s meeting and events staff can be reached:
612 Devil’s Pool Road,
Ridgedale, MO 65739