Branson was once a small Missouri town with a barn show that exploded into one of Mid-America’s most visited destinations. I lived there for a year and learned the ropes, the back roads, and the must see attractions and now pass that experience onto you, dear reader. So, without further adieu–
This may seem old fashioned, but familiarize yourself with a map of Branson. Your primary areas of interest are the strip (where all the shows are), downtown (the history), and The Landing (Starbucks, shopping, and nicer restaurants). The wonderful news is that this is all connected by one road- Highway 76, which becomes Main Street once you hit downtown. Stick on 76 and you can’t go wrong.
But what if you want to skip the congestion of 76? Take Roark Valley which runs parallel to 76. It’s what the locals use to get around the tourists.
If you want to get to Table Rock Lake for some sun and fun, take 165. If you are on the east end of the strip or staying on The Landing, take 65 south to 165. It looks longer on the map but trust me, it’s much faster.
You can find a million places to eat in Branson but there a few local spots where you can eat well and miss the crowds. If you love classic burgers and retro diners, you need to check out Billy Bob’s Dairyland. I suggest sitting at the bar and getting to know the owners, Bob and Nancy. Go hungry and take cash.
If you are looking for barbecue, head over to Danna’s BBQ on Fall Creek Road. The BBQ Nachos and Fat Burger are my favorite, but you can’t go wrong there.
If you want to go fancy, go up to the Chateau on the Lake, which has an incredible view of the lake at sunset. Just heading up there for dessert on the patio can be really nice.
This is the most difficult thing to suggest because it really depends on what you like to do. As far as shows go, the Acrobats of China is jaw-dropping. The Sight and Sound theater is easily the most impressive theater in town with encompassing scenery and lighting. If you want music, I’d suggest the Haygoods, a family band who have been performing in Branson for over 25 years. For dinner theater, go see Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede, a Medieval Times-styled restaurant with southern flair.
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If you want to get out of town and into the outdoors Dogwood Canyon has everything you could want: hiking, nature tours, horseback riding and fishing. It’s a bit out of town, so plan to spend the afternoon or day there.
If you like amusement parks plan to spend a day at Silver Dollar City. Seriously, it’s worth every penny. The rides are awesome (Powder Keg and Wildfire in particular), the food is good, and there is more than enough to do. Even if you hate rides, you can find something to love about SDC.
If you are looking to do some serious fishing, you really can’t go wrong. Table Rock is great for bass and other warm water fish, while Taneycomo is the place for trout. The fellas down at Bass Pro on the Landing are a wealth of information concerning any question you have. I’d suggest talking to them before heading to a hidden spot or hiring a guide.
At night, head down to The Landing (the far eastern end of 76) for their water show. The cool breeze coming off Taneycomo lake makes it the perfect place for summer evening stroll. To cap it off, they have a free water and fire show that plays every thirty minutes. They usually play a mix of shows each night, so you can see a couple in the span of an evening.
That is Branson in a nutshell from a former resident. There is much more to do and see there but whatever you choose know that there are always deals and discounts. Always. Call the theater, check with the Branson Tourism Center, ask the person at your hotel…just look for them. The diligent tourist can go a weekend without paying full price for anything.