Major tourist cities
The Ozarks is a plateau that covers 50,000 sq. miles. There is also an Ozark culture which embodies the people that live in this region. The area has rolling hills, mountains that have eroded over time along with many man-made lakes. All of this makes the area attractive for outdoor activities including fishing, hunting and hiking.
The Branson area became a popular tourist attraction overnight with Harold Bell Wright's 1907 novel, "The Shepherd of the Hills". His novel told a story about the mountain country and hill people nearby Branson, Missouri.
Eureka Springs was settled in the late 1800s after stories of its healing springs circulated. In the 1900s, it gained famed as a artists colony, and attracted writers, painters and other creative types. Today it is known for its gorgeous scenery, well-maintained springs, Victorian architecture and vibrant art scene.
The hill people of the Ozarks have their own way of talking and a set of terms that you might not hear outside the region. For example some of the common terms are; "Toad Strangler" or "Gully Warsher" both of which mean a heavy rain. You might hear some way say "You look mighty peakid, are you a-fixen to be sick?" Others are "Rosanears" is corn on the cob, "yourn" is yours "Is that yourn?", a "branch" is a creek, "pritnear" is almost like ""I'm pritnear done with this". The hill people of the Ozarks were called hillbillies for many years; it is not a term to take lightly. As with other racial or ethnic slurs, the hillfolk may call themselves hillbillies, but others are not encouraged to use the term as it may be seen as offensive and deragotory.
The best way to get around is to drive. You will also get a good fill of the scenery driving the hills of the Ozarks. Spring and fall are stunningly beautiful, and summer is green everywhere; the back roads can be deadly in winter when ice or snow pack the winding and steep gravel/dirt roads. (There are no guardrails.)
On the other hand, the serpentine highways of the region are very popular with motorcycle riders, and a bike tour through the region offers thrills and challengers that can only be had on two wheels. Be wary of crossing the center line, though--most fatal wrecks in the area happen on sharp curves where someone veers into the other traffic lane.
Visit the Lake of the Ozarks area
Canoe one of the clear, clean rivers of the Ozarks, to include: the National Scenic Jack's Fork or the Current rivers, Elk River, Meramec, Big Piney, Gasconade, or the Huzzah. For the fishers, all contain good populations of smallmouth bass.
A number of natural attractions exist in Mark Twain National Park in southeast Missouri. Among these, Taum Sauk Mountain offers nice hiking starting near the highest point in Missouri. In 1.2 miles the trail reaches the Mina Sauk falls, which is splendid to see in the wet season. A little to the west are Johnson's Shut-Ins, some rock bluffs lining a river where the water is channeled in-between the rocks and can develop a nice little current. There are a few spots that are nice for swimming. Elephant Rocks State Park to the north also has some interesting rock formations, and driving a little farther on Highway 21 one comes to Hughes Mountain which has interesting rock outcroppings at the top called the Devil's Honeycomb.
Many campsites, rivers, and trails are to be found in this area. There are also some caves open for tour groups. The Onondaga Cave is of particular interest.
While frog legs,catfish, vension, beans and cornbread, and green tomato relish are some examples of the foods that nourished the original settlers--and are still available at some restaurants today--there are also some very good restaurants in most big Ozarks cities where you can find excellentsushi and Vietnamese and Thai items, remarkably good Italian food, lip-smacking barbecue, and vegan and vegetarian restaurants, as well.
Tornadoes are also a very dangerous surprise to watch for as well as deer that frequently jump into the road.