Dubbed the “Live Entertainment Capital of the World” due to the presence of more than 50 theater venues, the city of Branson, Missouri, is a popular family-friendly vacation destination for visitors pursuing all kinds of eclectic and engaging experiences.
Although Branson has a meager population of only 12,000 full-time residents, it continues to draw more than 8 million visitors per year.
Originally a territory of the Native American Osage tribe, this Southwestern Missouri town boasts a prime location near the Ozark Mountains and three serene, swimmable lakes in what’s known as the Tri-Lakes area.
Overlooked as one of the country’s most naturally beautiful states, Missouri is known as The Cave State, home to an impressive collection of more than 6,300 caves. Pack up the car and hit the road for a trip to this lesser-known, small-town America highlight for a welcome break from city life.
Outdoor Recreation in Branson
When it comes to outdoor activities in and around Branson, you have an endless list of options to stay entertained.
Travelers not afraid to get a little mud on their hiking boots should head to the 2,200-acre Dogwood Canyon Nature Park, complete with waterfalls, hiking trails, fields, and forests; or hit the trails within the Busiek Forest, Ruth and Paul Henning Conservation Area, or popular Lakeside Wilderness Trail.
For a more hardcore challenge, visitors will find plenty of opportunities for spelunking and rock climbing, during which we highly recommend bringing your own back and arm muscles.
Descend 300 feet into the nation’s largest cave entrance room of Marvel Cave, or take a gander at the cavernous beauty of the Lost Canyon Cave or Talking Rock Caverns; also known as the “Fairy Cave” for its documented resemblance to a “subterranean fairyland.”
Explore the trails on horseback, practice your aim with trap and skeet shooting at the Ozark Shooters Sports Complex, or get out on the water with an afternoon of kayaking, bass and trout fishing, tubing, wakeboarding, and sunbathing on Lake Taneycomo.
Branson’s Top Entertainment & Cultural Attractions
For more than 50 years, Branson’s array of live performances and entertainment venues have been drawing people back for more. Two of the most highly rated and locally loved shows include Dolly Parton’s Stampede—an extravaganza featuring music, special effects, and horse stunts over dinner—as well as the epic Showboat Branson Belle: a show combining magic, comedy, food, and music aboard a riverboat on nearby Table Rock Lake.
Other worthy options include the Grand Shanghai Theatre’s Amazing Acrobats of Shanghai, Sight & Sound Theatres, The Mansion Theatre, and the country music variety show of Branson’s Famous Baldknobbers. Keep an eye on the local event calendar for show announcements, theatrical events, and timely local attractions.
Head to the 1.5-mile stretch of Lake Taneycomo known as Branson Landing for an evening of outdoor shopping, entertainment, serene boardwalk views, and restaurants. You may also want to stay for the evening water fountain show with lights, fire, and music; compliments of the same team responsible for Las Vegas’ mesmerizing Bellagio Hotel fountain show.
Alternatively, sit back and savor the views from the 40-minute ride in the Branson Scenic Railway’s panoramic dome cars.
Catch up on the local landscape at the artifact-filled Ralph Foster Museum; pay respects to the tragic events of 1912’s most infamous disaster at the Titanic Museum; brush up on history at the photogenic Edwards Mill; or enjoy the lakefront views on a tour of the dairy farm at College of the Ozarks.
Where to Eat & Drink in Branson
Support a worthy cause while visiting The Keeter Center at College of the Ozarks—a University where students work on campus to pay their tuition—by dining at the upscale Dobyns Dining Room.
For dining spots with a view, head to Top of the Rock’s Osage Restaurant, Arnie’s Barn, Buffalo Bar, or outdoor patio for drinks and dinner overlooking Table Rock Lake, or the Hilton Branson Convention Center Hotel’s Level 2 Steakhouse.
For casual eats, visit Danna’s BBQ & Burger Shop; snag a famous fried pie from Billy Bob’s; a slice of pizza from Rocco’s Pizza; or sandwich from Vasken’s Deli; or hit El Morro Tacos for a post-lake lunch.
Indulge in local BBQ specialties and live music at the retro-inspired Gettin’ Basted or Pickin Porch Grill, or go back in time with a charming dining experience at the Cakes & Cream Fifties Diner. For classic Asian-inspired fish dishes, Wakyoto Japanese Restaurant and Momo Sushi & Grill hit the spot.
When it’s time to wet your whistle, be aware that moonshine is the name of the game. Try the hooch at hotspots like Missouri Ridge Distillery, Smith Creek Moonshine, and Copper Run Distillery, one of the oldest moonshine producers in Missouri and the first legal producer in the Ozarks.
Romantic Rendezvous, Branson Style
There are still plenty of opportunities for couples both young and old to splurge on a diverse range of romantic experiences.
Rent a boat and cruise the shores of stunning Table Rock Lake, or rekindle the flames with a cooking class at Silver Dollar City’s Midwest Living Culinary & Craft School, located in a charming, timber farmhouse. Hit the skies on a once-in-a-lifetime hot air balloon tour of Branson, or see the Ozarks from above on a helicopter tour of the area.
Ready for a wildcard? Drive one-hour southwest for a day trip to the Victorian-inspired village of Eureka Springs, known as the “Wedding Capital of the South” for its variety of gorgeous wedding venues.
Branson’s Top Rated Family Activities
For families traveling with the little ones, attractions like the 1880s amusement park—called Silver Dollar City—offer plenty of daytime enjoyment; as do similar attractions like the 13-acre White Water Park, Fritz’s Adventure, and Track Family Fun Parks. The fun towns are replete with bumper boats, mini-golf, laser tag, go-karts, and a Ferris wheel.
Animal lovers will be pleased to find a selection of thrilling experiences to choose from, including:
- The classic Promised Land Zoo
- Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery’s animal and environmental science lessons
- 180+ animal species of Branson’s Wild World
- The National Tiger Sanctuary—home to leopards Arctic foxes, mountain lions, lemurs, lions, and of course, tigers
- The Butterfly Palace & Rainforest Adventure.
Where to Stay in Branson, Missouri
When it’s time to book your ideal timeshare exchange, Trading Places International offers a variety of upscale accommodation options: Branson Yacht Club, French Quarter, Palace View by Spinnaker, Stormy Point Village, Surrey Vacation Resort, and Westgate Branson Woods.
Grand Crowne Resort trio offers three unique Branson experiences: Perched on the Ozarks, Nestled in the countryside and parked right among the cities’ attractions. Each offers distinct and delightful vacation vantage points.
Those seeking private lakeside views, convenient downtown digs, and everything in between will be pleased to find world-class accommodations, amenities, and location options with Trading Places. Add our unparalleled, ultra-easy online booking platform to the mix, as well as our team of travel experts, and you’re ready for a memorable Missouri getaway.