Lake of the Ozarks has been on Chicago resident Colleen Kelly's "vacation bucket list" for some time.
"This is a great vacation destination for all ages here at Lake of the Ozarks, from little kids to grandparents," she said. "That is why it is especially appealing for me and for families."
Last week, the seasoned travel expert and writer was able to check it off her list as she explored many unique attractions at the Lake while filming an episode of her television show, "Family Travel with Colleen Kelly." The episode will air in the spring as part of the show's second season.
A National Public Television series airing in 90 percent of the country and recently picked up by APT Worldwide for international distribution, "Family Travel with Colleen Kelly" gives viewers a personalized, behind-the-scenes tour of must-see locations throughout the U.S. and abroad with each half-hour episode.
For Tim Jacobsen, Lake of the Ozarks Convention and Visitor Bureau (CVB) executive director, having a national travel show highlight Lake of the Ozarks was chance to target one of the Lake's most increasingly popular demographics: families.
"We are really highlighting things that would be great promotions for new visitors and new family visitors to come to the Lake. It is a pleasure working with a well-organized and professional crew to produce a high quality promotional effort about Lake of the Ozarks to be aired to a national audience this upcoming spring," he said. "Some of our unique attractions are not offered in other areas, so this show makes an attractive promotional piece for Lake of the Ozarks."
From the wakeboarding through Kirby's School of Wake and exploring the Bridal Cave and Ha Ha Tonka to riding aboard the Tom Sawyer Paddlewheeler and shopping at independent facilities such as The Landing on Main Street in Osage Beach, these are all such unique activities to Lake of the Ozarks only, Jacobsen said.
From Tuesday through Thursday, Kelly, her two daughters, 12-year-old Dunovan Kate and 9-year-old Shea Grace, and her crew shot a variety of segments at many of these Mid-Missouri destinations including a visit to Iguana Watersports, a flight over the Lake with Airlake Aviation's Corey Leuwerke and fishing with FLW Outdoors fishing champion Marcus Sykora.
"The caves were amazing. I thought I would walk into a nice cave, but it was just fascinating. My girls loved the mystery lake at the end of the tour. It was also very educational; we learned about the difference between stalagmites and stalactites," Kelly said with a smile. "The girls also got to try wakeboarding with Kirby (Liesmann); they had a great time."
For Kelly and her business partner and co-executive producer Tricia Fusilero, their vision of "Family Travel with Colleen Kelly" was completely exemplified in the educational, cultural, historical and family-fun destinations they visited over the three-day stay at the Lake.
"This is what we love about the Lake, it has a variety of things for all ages," Fusilero said. "Her kids are (12) and 9, and I have teenagers. You want to do something educational, something with a little culture and just fun stuff. We also visit places at a variety of cost levels. Here at the Lake, you can get that. For example, Ha Ha Tonka State Park is wonderful and has so much to offer and at no cost."
Tricks of the travel trade are ones both Fusilero and Kelly have learned over the years. For Kelly, travel has been in her blood from a young age. Her mother, now retired, was a teacher and her father was a business executive. Often, they would bring their children on trips.
When Kelly was in college, she began saving to travel to another "bucket list" destination: Europe. She gained the finances and was able to study abroad in Austria, backpacking all over the continent and visiting many different countries. Even though she and her husband are from the Midwest, she told her then fiancÃ© about her experiences in Europe and they ended getting married there, as well.
"My passion is travel, and being a journalism major, I started to write travel pieces. It is easy to write because it is what I love to do, too," she said.
Kelly's accolades include being a travel expert for Chicago's "WCIU You and Me This Morning," a national travel expert and guest speaker for "Travel & Adventure Show," family travel ambassador for State of Illinois Tourism, family travel expert for Sunnybump.com, freelance travel contributor for the Chicago Tribune newspaper and columnist for Irish American News, a regional print publication.
For television, Kelly, her sister Catie Keogh and a third partner started "24/7: City Secrets," which Kelly described as the "Access Hollywood" of the Chicago area. Keogh is executive producer and host of "24/7: City Secrets," and Kelly still serves as a travel correspondent for the show, which airs on NBC in Chicago. With multiple Emmy nominations and wins, the Chicago area show has excelled to new heights and allowed Kelly and her business partner and friend Fusilero to pursue their vision of a national travel show.
"Everybody wants a travel show, so we asked ourselves, "How do we make this different?' Between us we have five children; she has three and I have two. We started looking for a family travel show that has gone national, which we did not find one," she said. "Travel is not easy with families. There are so many great family travel destinations and families are doing this to make memories and get away from the stress."
"Family Travel with Colleen Kelly" delivers family travel and vacation planning advice from one parent to another parent, Fusilero said. With planning as one of the hardest parts, this show takes out that hassle and offers ideas for the whole family to spend that quality time together away from home, she said.
"It is not about her family and her kids on vacations; she is the guide taking all families to these regions. You can watch the show and get lots of different ideas for all families," Fusilero said.
For more information about "Family Travel with Colleen Kelly" and to watch complete episodes, visit www.FamilyTravelCK.com.