Stone church at top of the rock in Branson Missouri.

9 Offbeat Towns To Visit In The Ozarks

The Ozarks, a mountain range in mid-southern America, are already offbeat. Uncover offbeat but still upbeat Ozark haunts, those with vibrant natural and commercial attractions that are undeniably unique. Discover small towns with caves, castles, wild horses, giant sculptures, and museums of things like a pioneer village, Route 66, and the Titanic. Learn where you can find these charming Ozark oddities.

Eminence, Missouri

Spectacular nature around Eminence, Missouri.
Spectacular nature around Eminence, Missouri.

Eminence is a 500ish-person "city" in an eminent section of the Missouri Ozarks. The Ozark National Scenic Riverways, which make up Missouri's largest national park, flows through the community and into the Alley Spring and Mill, a 130-year-old bright red former wheat mill on a deep blue mineral spring that maintains a 57-degree temperature. If that is not magical enough, Eminence has multiple herds of wild horses, which are thought to descend from domesticated horses released by destitute Depression-era farmers. In 1996, Arkansas-born president Bill Clinton signed a bill protecting the equines as living features of the National Scenic Riverways. You can spot these Ozark unicorns roaming around Shawnee Creek Horse Camp and RV Park.

Grove, Oklahoma

Sunset over Grand Lake, Grove, Oklahoma.
Sunset over Grand Lake, Grove, Oklahoma.

The Ozarks come to an end near Grove in northeastern Oklahoma. Another undersized city, Grove, has about 7,000 residents and straddles 46,500 acres of Grand Lake o' the Cherokees. Along with marinas and resorts, the lake's extensive shore contains the Har-Ber Village Museum, a six-acre reproduced pioneer village from the 19th and early 20th centuries. After checking out pre-statehood antiques in Har-Ber, you can see two massive, more modern antiques in nearby Copeland. The 20-foot "Muffler Men," one with a hat and one without, stand on either side of a storage facility. The hatless figure advertises Copeland Switch Antique Shop.

Jasper, Arkansas

Cliff House Inn near Jasper Arkansas in the Ozark Mountains.
Cliff House Inn near Jasper Arkansas in the Ozark Mountains. Editorial credit: Tammy Chesney /

There is a second Grand Canyon in America, which can be found just outside Jasper, Arkansas. The "Arkansas Grand Canyon" is not actually a canyon. Rather, it is a wide, deep valley in the Ozark Mountains. You can survey the site from many areas, but arguably, the most accessible point is a rest stop on the AR-7 six miles south of Jasper. The Cliff House Inn lets valley viewers rest overnight and provides them with food and souvenirs. Two other offbeat sites are the Bradley House and Chaney Log Cabin, which co-headline an open-air museum of 19th-century Arkansas in Jasper proper.

Camdenton, Missouri

Camdenton, Missouri
Lake of the Ozarks photographed from an overlook at Ha Ha Tonka State Park in Camdenton, Missouri.

Camdenton is the gateway to the Lake of the Ozarks, one of the top vacation spots in Missouri. On the southern arm of this 54,000-acre reservoir is Ha Ha Tonka State Park, a hilariously named recreation area with a somber yet stately attraction, the Ha Ha Tonka Castle. A medieval-style mansion conceived by Kansas City businessman Robert Snyder, the castle began construction in 1905 with help from Scottish stone masons. In 1906, Snyder died in one of the state's first car accidents. Snyder's sons finished the castle in the 1920s, but it was destroyed by fire about 20 years later. The ravishing ruins remain.

North of Ha Ha Tonka and next to Camdenton is Bridal Cave, a near-mile-long limestone cavern in Thunder Mountain Park. Given its name, Bridal Cave is an offbeat wedding destination. Another short drive north is Osage Beach, the setting of the Netflix show Ozark. Marty Byrde's, a gastropub inspired by the popular series, can be found in nearby Lake Ozark.

Branson, Missouri

Branson Landing in Branson, Missouri.
Branson Landing in Branson, Missouri. Editorial credit: NSC Photography /

Branson, Missouri, is the Ozarks' Disneyland. This 13,000ish-person city has Shepherd of the Hills, WonderWorks, Silver Dollar City, Bigfoot Fun Park, Aquarium at the Boardwalk, Ripley's Believe It or Not!, and Hollywood Wax Museum, all of which are on 76 Country Boulevard, undoubtedly the most entertaining road in rural Missouri. Also riding that road is Dolly Parton's Stampede, an extravagant dinner theater owned by the extravagant country singer. But that is still just the tip of the 76 Blvd iceberg. A mock iceberg leads visitors into the Titanic Museum, a repository of Titanic attractions and artifacts housed in a replica of the ship. What is quirkier than a Titanic museum hundreds of miles from the ocean? 

Baxter Springs, Kansas

Baxter Springs, Kansas
Downtown Baxter Springs, Kansas. Image credit: AbeEzekowitz via

Another endpoint of the Ozarks is extreme southeast Kansas, which comprises the small community of Baxter Springs. At different times, an Indigenous settlement, frontier village, Civil War fort, cowtown, mining center, and mineral springs resort, Baxter Springs' diverse history is displayed at the Heritage Center & Museum and Fort Blair Historic Site. Moreover, having been a stop on the infamous Route 66, Baxter Springs contains the Route 66 Visitor's Center, a former Phillips 66 gas station built in 1930 and repurposed as a museum. It features Route 66 information, souvenirs, and memorabilia.

Lead Hill, Arkansas

Beautiful evening at Bull Shoals Lake, Arkansas.
Beautiful evening at Bull Shoals Lake, Arkansas.

If you thought there could be only one abandoned medieval-style castle in the Ozarks, get a load of Lead Hill. Just outside this tiny Arkansas town is the Ozark Medieval Fortress, an attempt to build a 13th-century French castle using 13th-century materials and methods. The project began in 2009 and ended in 2012 for lack of funding. Surrounding Lead Hill and the OMF's ruins are medieval-sounding "hollows" like Clinton Hollow, Curtis Hollow, and Tucker Hollow. The last of those is a park and campground on Bull Shoals Lake, which is shaped like a dragon rather than a bull.

Carthage, Missouri

Restored vintage Phillips 66 Gas Station in Carthage, Missouri.
Restored vintage Phillips 66 Gas Station in Carthage, Missouri.

With roughly 15,500 residents, Carthage, Missouri, is the closest to a city-sized city on this list. It was named after an ancient Mediterranean city, and, appropriately, it hosted the Battle of Carthage, one of the first conflicts in the Civil War. Along with the Battle of Carthage State Historic Site and Battle of Carthage Civil War Museum, the city claims Boots Court Motel, a historic Route 66 motel that opened in 1939, fell into disrepair, and was recently renovated. It is now accepting reservations. Carthage's quirkiest attraction, however, has to be Precious Moments Chapel and Gardens, a church and park dedicated to the titular figurines that you may have seen under glass at grandma's house.

Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Historic downtown Eureka Springs, Arkansas.
Historic downtown Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Editorial credit: Rachael Martin /

If Branson is the Ozarks' Disneyland, Eureka Springs is their Burning Man. Oddballs come from far and wide to drink in this small and quirky Arkansas community. Its attractions include Christ of the Ozarks, Arkansas' 65-foot answer to Christ the Redeemer; Thorncrown Chapel, a postmodern mountainside church; Haunted Eureka Springs, a tour of historic and supposedly haunted downtown; and Quigley's Castle, an eccentric house called "the Ozarks' strangest dwelling." Naturally, this hipster haven hosts dozens of offbeat festivals, such as the Eureka Springs Chocolate Lovers Festival, Ozark Mountain UFO Conference, Hillberry: The Harvest Moon Festival, and its own version of Mardis Gras.

The Ozarks are the weird cousins of the Rockies and Appalachians. This black sheep of the American mountain family is fleeced with small communities containing strange wonders. These comprise Eminence, Camdenton, Branson, and Carthage in Missouri; Jasper, Lead Hill, and Eureka Springs in Arkansas; Grove in Oklahoma; and Baxter Springs in Kansas. Leave the flock to discover the magnificence of the Mid-South.

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