Branson, Missouri: The Ultimate Family-Friendly Destination
Branson, Missouri is a Midwest city that had never been on my radar until one of my travel conferences was scheduled there. I never even really thought about the scenery or what there was to do there other than seeing throwback country music artists (I’m a classic country fan!). Imagine my surprise when I discovered the Land of the Lakes in this beautiful, mountainous landscape. Branson was a shocker for sure. From the beautiful landscape to the friendly locals and visitors, Branson made me feel like family from the get go.
A quick thing I picked up on was that Branson, Missouri’s visitors were made up of families traveling or middle age to elderly couples on vacation. 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.
Branson appeared to be a wonderful place for good clean fun for all ages. I was right! Here are the things I recommend doing on your trip to Branson.
See 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. 700 people can fit in the venue. The three-story paddle-wheeler provided stadium-style seating for great views of the energetic stage show, complete with flashy neon and plenty of special effects. The boat actually takes a short cruise on Table Rock Lake while the show is going on.
A tasty three-course dinner was served by the most attentive staff I’ve had in ages. Seriously, the staff 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 made up 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 currently include National touring acts such as The Oak Ridge Boys, Vicky Lawrence and Mama, and Herman’s Hermits starring Peter Noone, 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 Nearby Do-Not-Miss Attraction
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 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 where guests can sign up for cooking and baking classes all year round. Cookbook author Debbie Dance hosts the fun and informative classes, 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! The newest coaster, Time Traveler, was a blast for all ages and certainly 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 take a ride on the Frisco Silver Dollar City steam train around the park.
Last but not least, the fantastic food is one of the stars at 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 foods such as 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.
Eating in Branson
As I said earlier, I was attending a conference during my Branson travels so my dining experience was limited. Restaurants I would recommend include the White River Fish House and Farmhouse Restaurant.
White River Fish House is owned by Johnny Morris, founder of the Bass Pro shops and a local legend around these parts. The Crab Stuffed Mushrooms are absolutely divine! The White Cheddar Cheese Curds with marinara dipping sauce is another good appetizer selection. For my meal, I had the Glazed Salmon (with potatoes and broccoli) 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, which is on Main Street in downtown Branson. Chicken & Dumplings was on the menu so I couldn’t pass them up in a place known for country cooking. My Chicken and Dumplings were good; a little salty and served with green beans and Cole slaw. I don’t get this type of food very often 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 obviously a popular choice since pretty much 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 in every establishment along Main Street, I was shocked at how friendly the shop owners were. The workers and visitors alike all spoke, smiled, and were curious as to where I was from. I felt very welcome in Branson and found the town to have a very happy vibe to it.
For more sophisticated and recognizable shopping, visit the Branson Landing. This beautiful outdoor complex often features live entertainment, more than 100 stores, restaurants, and a dancing waters show. Branson Landing overlooks beautiful Lake Taneycomo where you can partake in many water activities as well as the shops and eateries. Shopping at Branson Landing includes Chico’s, Bass Pro Shop, and Build-A-Bear Workshop, to name a few, while tasty treats can be found at Kilwin’s and The Fudgery.
A Great Place to Stay in Branson
I stayed at the Hilton Branson Convention Center on my trip. The hotel is huge and in a perfect location. 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 light and outlets, which was helpful when working. The huge 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 did eat breakfast at the Level 2 Steakhouse one morning and it was fantastic! If you are in town for a conference, having the convention center attached to the hotel makes for the most convenience.
A Hidden Gem
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, I had a fantastic day and I think everyone else with me did, too.
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 that included a 2-hour narrated tour on an open air tram to see Texas Longhorn, bison, elk, and white-tailed deer. 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 as well as Glory Hole, a blue-green pool where golden trout reside.
Other activities 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 an 1800’s church, which is great for photo-ops.
Branson: A Good, Clean Fun Family Vacation Spot
I’m glad to have added Branson, Missouri to my 2018 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?
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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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