The College of the Ozarks doesn’t charge tuition. Instead, students at this southwest Missouri school are required to work fifteen hours per week. Student workers in many of those jobs create goods or hospitality experiences available for sale to the general public. We visited the College of the Ozarks, located about four miles from Branson, expecting to spend a couple of hours in the Ralph Foster Museum and to grab a bite to eat in the Dobyns Dining Room. We ended up spending a full five hours on campus, discovering there is much more to explore at the College of the Ozarks besides the museum.
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Start at the Keeter Center, the rustic lodge recreated from Dobyns Hall, a lodge that was displayed at the 1904 World’s Fair. The original lodge was moved to the College of the Ozarks where it stood until 1930.
The Keeter Center houses fifteen luxury suites, the Dobyns Dining Room, an ice cream parlor, a gift shop and a small armed services memorial. The Keeter Center is also where you can pick up a map to take a self-guided campus tour.
Plan to eat lunch or dinner in the Dobyns Dining Room (reservations recommended). Many of the ingredients used in the dishes are campus-to-table and some of the other ingredients are sourced locally. All of the vegetables and fruits in my Spinach with Smoked Chicken Salad were raised by the students on campus, and so was my husband’s pork fritter. Yep, they raise pork on campus.
Hard Work U, as the college has been dubbed, also has a dairy, from which all of the restaurant’s dairy products are made, including the rich, creamy ice cream sold at the College Creamery.
The Maybee Lodge in the Keeter Center offers fifteen suites that accommodate up to six people each. We didn’t stay at the lodge and didn’t see the rooms, but judging from the descriptions and photos on their web site, the suites truly are luxurious. Every room has a fireplace, private balcony and other upscale amenities.
A 12-foot water wheel powers the mill where student workers grind whole-grain meal and flour.
You can purchase the meal and flour in the mill, as well as jellies and apple butter made on campus in the Fruitcake and Jelly Kitchen. Students also bake about 30,000 fruit cakes each year.
Upstairs in the mill we watched basket weaving and rug weaving demonstrations. Baskets, placemats, rugs and tablecloths that the students make are available for sale.
Over 7,000 plants fill greenhouses, where we spent quite a bit of time photographing the beautiful orchids and other flowers.
I think this one looks like a rubber duck.
The greens for my salad were most likely grown in this hydroponic greenhouse.
Williams Memorial Chapel
The campus chapel used to be a Presbyterian church. It’s now non-denominational and the public is invited to attend Sunday morning services.
Ralph Foster Museum
The Ralph Foster Museum is named for an Ozark region radio pioneer instrumental in bringing country music to a national level. Besides broadcasting, the museum includes antique and archaeology exhibits.
One of the more fun exhibits is the car used in the pilot of The Beverly Hillbillies sitcom.
A huge collection of firearms takes up most of the museum’s upper level. I stopped counting after a hundred. I’d guess there is three times that number of firearms in the museum.
The upper level also includes natural history exhibits with taxidermied big cats, bears and other animals.
Be careful though. You never know what may sneak up behind you.
The College of the Ozarks, located southwest Missouri’s Point Lookout is an ideal side trip when visiting Branson. Check the web site for hours of the various campus sights or to make reservations for the Dobyns Dining Room or Mabee Lodge.
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