When you’re looking for a getaway, whether for a weekend, a week-long trip, or even an extended stay, chances are Branson, Missouri, isn’t on your shortlist—but it should be! This southwest Missouri city may not boast the household recognition of places like Orlando or San Diego, but it’s beautiful location nestled in the Ozarks lends it a charm you won’t find in a sprawling metropolitan destination.
That’s not to say that Branson is dull, however. Often styled as the “Live Music Capital of the World,” Branson’s lively theater scene brings music, comedy, plays and more to the stage on a nightly basis. The bright lights of Branson theaters, though they have since expanded to include a myriad of talents, have traditionally been host to the rising stars of country, and have even drawn the interest of country legend Dolly Parton, who opened Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede dinner theater here in 1995.
For those looking to get out and get active, Branson is the place to be! Besides the incredible trails winding throughout the area, the city is also adjacent to two beautiful lakes: Lake Taneycomo (named for Taney County, MO) and Table Rock Lake. If you’re still not convinced that Branson is the place for you, don’t fret; below, you’ll find five uniquely Branson vacation experiences that will make for an unforgettable trip to the Ozarks!
Explore an 1800’s Themed Amusement Park
Silver Dollar City is Branson’s very own amusement park, but it’s not just your run-of-the-mill park; it’s actually themed like an 1800’s Ozark village! This fun and family-friendly location has all the traditional amusement park attractions—over 40 rides and attractions in all—while also hosting period-accurate demonstrations such as candy making, glassblowing, and a fully-functional blacksmith shop.
Yet, this wouldn’t be a true Branson institution without live music. You’ll find countless shows with dancing, music, comedy, storytelling and more—Branson is all about entertainment. Additionally, Silver Dollar City also hosts many exciting events throughout the year that coincide with major holidays. Old Time Christmas, for example, transforms the park into a sparkling winter wonderland.
Head Underground in Marvel Cave
As part of the admission to Silver Dollar City, you’ll also get access to Marvel Cave, a natural, wet limestone cave with an interesting past in Branson. Silver Dollar City itself was built around Marvel Cave on the foundation of an old mining town. The original settlers had intended to extract marble from the cave—in fact, the cave was named “Marble Cave” at that time. Unfortunately, they never found any marble, and the cave was renamed and eventually re-branded as a tourist destination.
Today, you can descend over 500 feet into the cave on a guided tour. Along the way, the knowledgeable guide will share interesting facts about the history and importance of the cave. The 60-minute tour ends with a cable train ride back to the surface—I bet you were worried you’d have to hike that whole way up.
Hiking in the Beautiful Ozarks
If hiking through Marvel Cave wasn’t enough to sate your adventurous spirit, the many miles of public trails (over 200 in all) are sure to get your heart pumping and your legs burning. Take a trip to the south side of Lake Taneycomo, where you’ll find the White River Trail System, which first opened in 2011. This 10.25-mile trail system consists of four major looping trails interconnected by smaller paths. While it’s primarily a biking area, hikers are indeed welcome on the trails, and you’ll be glad for the slower travel pace, as this area offers incredible sights—don’t forget your camera!
Other great hiking spots around Branson include the Busiek State Forest, the Ruth & Paul Henning Conservation area, and Roark Creek. With an expansive list of trails in the Branson area to explore, from easy walks to rigorous treks, you’re sure to find somewhere to connect with the outdoors.
Relax on the Waters of Table Rock Lake
An artificial lake created by the Table Rock Dam, the cool waters of Table Rock Lake offer a relaxing change of pace from the rigors of the surrounding trails. A wide variety of freshwater fish make their home in the lake as well. In fact, Table Rock Lake hosts many popular bass fishing tournaments. Grab your rod and relax—the fish will come to you.
If fishing isn’t your thing, don’t worry; with over 52,000 acres of surface area, Table Rock Lake has plenty of room for all the water activities you can handle. Boating, parasailing, water skiing and much more are available to you on the lake—just head to one of the two marinas to get started.
Ride the Branson Scenic Railway
Long gone are the times when railroads were the most efficient way to travel, but you can relive the experience on the Branson Scenic Railway. Hop aboard renovated train cars for a trip through the majestic Ozark Mountains on a two-hour luxury tour. If you’re traveling with your special someone, book the weekend dinner tour for a romantic, four-course meal served by candlelight; nothing says “I love you” like a first class dinner aboard a painstakingly restored passenger car winding its way through the pristine wilderness.
Get to Know Branson
The often-overlooked city of Branson is a welcoming haven in the Ozark Mountains, full of charm and on the rise. The “Live Music Capital of the World” has captured the hearts of many travelers over the years, and the city continues to see growth. Besides the incredible natural surroundings and famed live entertainment scene, Branson is also home to such cultural icons as the Hollywood Wax Museum and the Titanic Museum. Visit Branson for yourself and discover what so many others have already realized: Branson is the place to be!
About the Author: Brian Bates is a travel writer for www.sunsetnightlyrentals.com. He enjoys reading epic fantasy novels, going on forest hikes, and camping with his family.