(UPDATED AUGUST 2022) Have you discovered the beautiful Land of the Lakes region? Branson is a shocker. Branson made me feel like family from the get-go, from the beautiful landscape to the friendly locals and visitors. Here is why I think Branson, MO, is the ultimate family-friendly destination.
Branson’s visitors range from traveling families and groups of millennial friends to middle age or elderly couples vacationing. This is one place where “one size fits all.” Billboards and signs showed a love of Jesus and the strong faith of the Branson community, while neon signs advertised everything and anything unadulterated and family-oriented.
A Wide Range of Lively Shows
Branson is bursting at the seams with live entertainment. The only show I took in during my travels was the Showboat Branson Belle. It is a magnificent dinner and musical performance on Table Rock Lake on the outskirts of Branson. Seven hundred people can fit in the venue.
The three-story paddle-wheeler provides stadium-style seating for ultimate views of the energetic stage show, complete with flashy neon and plenty of special effects. The boat takes a short cruise on Table Rock Lake while the show goes on.
A tasty three-course dinner was served by the most attentive staff I’ve had in ages. Seriously, the team knew I needed a drink refill before I knew it myself! Our meal consisted of salad, pot roast, chicken, vegetables, and dessert. While we ate, we were entertained by a variety show of talented singers and dancers featuring classic rock & roll, patriotic songs, contemporary country, Broadway melodies, and finally concluded with a handful of religious hymns.
Other live shows in Branson include National touring acts such as Motown Downtown, New Jersey Nights, The Haygoods, and Grand Jubilee Show, as well as dozens of Broadway-style musicals and other theater productions.
Popular family attractions include Ripley’s Believe It or Not, The Titanic Museum, and the world’s largest toy museum.
A World-Class Amusement Park
One of the top-billed attractions in Missouri is, without a doubt, the internationally awarded 1880’s style Silver Dollar City theme park. Silver Dollar City has a living history and showcases talented artisans (over 100 in total) like glass blowers, potters, wood carvers, and soap makers.
It has a culinary and craft school sponsored by Midwest Living, Magazine, where guests can sign up for cooking and baking classes all year round. Cookbook author Debbie Dance hosts the fun and informative courses, where you make things like Strawberry Salad, Peach BBQ Chicken, and Peanut Butter pie.
My favorite part of Silver Dollar City was the rides— totaling over 40! A newer coaster, Time Traveler, was a blast for all ages and delivered plenty of thrills. It has been dubbed the world’s fastest, tallest, and steepest spinning coaster. Living history and a homestead animal barnyard are on exhibit throughout Silver Dollar City, as well as the Wonder Earth Harp, which was a real crowd-pleaser. Be sure to ride the Frisco Silver Dollar City steam train around the park.
The food is one of the most desirable parts of visiting Silver Dollar City. Dozens of kiosks serve typical park food, while sit-down restaurants deliver meals for a heartier appetite. We enjoyed the all-you-can-eat buffet at Molly’s Mill Restaurant with roasted garlic carrots, green beans, fried okra, a variety of salads, fried chicken, catfish fillets, and their specialty, apple dumplings. Find your favorite snacks at kettle chips, funnel cakes, and Coke floats at the many Silver Dollar City snack bars and kiosks.
Delicious Dining Options
White River Fish House, owned by Johnny Morris (founder of the Bass Pro shops and a local legend around these parts), is highly recommended. The Crab Stuffed Mushrooms are divine! The White Cheddar Cheese Curds with marinara dipping sauce is another great appetizer selection. I had the Glazed Salmon (with potatoes and broccoli) for my meal, but I would much rather have ordered the Shrimp Bonetti pasta meal that my friend Jeffrey did.
I went to the Farmhouse Restaurant for lunch on Main Street in downtown Branson. Chicken & Dumplings were on the menu, so I couldn’t pass them up. The dish was good, a little salty, and came with green beans and coleslaw on the side. I rarely get this type of food, so I enjoyed every last bite. The sweet tea was stellar, too.
For an additional fee, I added on a trip to the salad bar. It’s a popular choice since almost every other diner was doing the same.
Shopping in Branson, Missouri
Though I’m not a shopper, I do appreciate browsing in local shops. Downtown Branson had plenty! While popping into every establishment along Main Street, I was shocked at how friendly the shop owners were. The workers and visitors alike spoke, smiled, and were curious about where I was from. I felt very welcome in Branson and found the town to have a very happy vibe.
For more sophisticated and recognizable shopping, visit Branson Landing. This beautiful outdoor complex often features live entertainment, more than 100 stores, restaurants, and a dancing water show. Branson Landing overlooks gorgeous Lake Taneycomo, where you can partake in many water activities and enjoy the shops and eateries.
Shopping at Branson Landing includes Chico’s, Bass Pro Shop, and Build-A-Bear Workshop, to name a few, while you can find tasty treats at Kilwin’s and The Fudgery.
Where to Stay in Branson
I stayed at the Hilton Branson Convention Center on my trip, a perfect location for seeing downtown Branson’s main points of interest. The Hilton’s Serenity bed was comfy, and the room also had a sitting area with an oversized chair and ottoman that I used often. There were plenty of lights and outlets, which was helpful when working. The enormous windows afforded great views of the downtown.
Though I didn’t have time to use any of the Hilton’s amenities (fitness room, pool, fishing, cribs, etc.), I ate breakfast at the Level 2 Steakhouse one morning, which was fantastic! If you are in town for a conference, having the convention center attached to the hotel makes for the most convenient.
Dogwood Canyon Natura Park
One day, we visited Dogwood Canyon Nature Park, another property owned by Johnny Morris (of Bass Pro fame), in Lampe, Missouri. The park is about 30 minutes from downtown. This exceptional 10,000-acre nature-scape is a photographer’s dream and nature lover’s oasis. From the cascading waterfalls to the crystal clear trout streams, it made for a wonderful day.
Flowering dogwood and evergreen trees surround the lush Dogwood Canyon landscape, while the Ozark Mountains add the backdrop. My friends and I took the Wildlife Tram Tour, which included a 2-hour narrated tour on an open-air tram. The tour featured Texas Longhorn, bison, elk, and white-tailed deer sightings. We lucked out and saw minks sitting by the waterfall at one point, a first for me.
The tour stopped at Thunder Falls Crossing to feed the fish and Glory Hole, a blue-green pool where golden trout reside.
Other activities at Dogwood Canyon Nature Park include hiking, biking, horseback riding, and trout fishing in the lake. Segway tours of the property are also available. Make sure to stop by the Hope Wilderness Chapel, a rustic replica of a picturesque 1800s church.
Branson: A Good, Clean Fun Family Vacation Spot
I’m glad to have added Branson, Missouri, to my travels. The state has incredible scenery, which I’m just starting to explore. Branson is a treasure trove of family-friendly adventures and attractions for all ages. Have you been?
Thanks to the Branson/Lakes Area CVB for hosting part of my visit. As always, opinions and reviews are 100% mine and unbiased.
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