With beautiful outdoor recreation in the magnificent Ozark Mountains, thrills around every corner and plenty of down-home Southern cooking, Branson, Missouri is waiting to welcome you back. The beauty of Branson is that it’s a year-round destination that changes with wonderful new things to do in each season. Branson is known as a family-friendly destination with activities that appeal to everyone. It’s like Las Vegas, but G-rated, so you’ll feel comfortable bringing the whole gang with you.
Like a castle in the sky, the 4-star Chateau on the Lake stands proudly overlooking Table Rock Lake and the Ozark Mountains. When you drive up, you know you’ve arrived someplace very special. The resort features 301 guestrooms/ suites with upscale amenities like flat-screen TVs, complimentary WI-FI, Keurig coffee makers and plush bedding. Surround yourself in luxury with spacious bathrooms/granite countertops, Kohler shower heads and bath extravagances. My room also had a private balcony simply perfect for sipping morning coffee or enjoying a glass of wine while watching exquisite sunsets. We indulged in the sumptuous breakfast buffet at Chateau Grill and grabbed a few treats from the Sweet Shoppe. Other amenities include a full-service spa, 24-hour fitness facilities, indoor/outdoor pool. The on-property Chateau Marina lets you enjoy boat rentals, wave runners, water skiing, fishing, and more right from their private dock. What I especially liked about the Chateau was its close proximity to all of Branson’s attractions, but it felt like an oasis in the mountains.
Interior of Chateau on the Lake. Photo courtesy of Chateau on the Lake.
Venues are opening up again in the live entertainment capital of the world. Enjoy illusionists, magicians, inspirational shows and so much more, all suitable for the whole family. In season, you can literally go from show to show with three performances daily — 10:00 a.m., afternoon matinee and an evening show. Traditional favorites like the Dublin Irish Tenors, and the Hughes Brothers continue to delight audiences with exciting new spectacles. Check out the “Dancing Queen” at the Kings Castle Theatre, the ultimate 70s show, where this talented group sings and dances to your favorite memories. Returning after a successful run in Vegas, this show will wow you with a dazzling psychedelic kaleidoscope of color and movement. Don’t miss it!
Photo courtesy of Kings Castle Theatre.
For something really unique with lots of audience participation, head to the “Escape Reality” Magic Dinner Show and be astounded by the performances of Janine and Garry Carson. Named the “Best Dinner Show in Branson in 2020” among other awards, this family-friendly hit will keep everyone guessing, “how’d they do that?” You’ll start with a full 3-course meal and then the show starts! A brilliant combination of illusion, magic, comedy and fun, you’ll be talking about this show for a long time.
Silver Dollar City – Non-Stop Fun for the Whole Family
For over 55 years, Silver Dollar City has been Branson’s #1 attraction. This internationally-acclaimed 1880s-style theme park features 40 thrilling rides, 12 restaurants, live shows and 60 unique shops. One of the most interesting aspects of the park, known as The Home of American Craftsmanship, is more than 100 craftsmen demonstrating the art of woodcarving, glass blowing, pottery, blacksmithing and more. Watch them work, ask questions and bring home your favorite souvenirs. The daily live demonstrations are fun and fascinating. There’s something for everyone from thrilling coasters to kids’ rides to the swinging bridge to Up the Ladder and more. Newest area in the park is Rivertown where lip-smacking BBQ at the Rivertown Smokehouse rules the roost. Go for the hickory-smoked brisket, Chipotle-rubbed Turkey and baby-back ribs. You’ve never tasted anything so juicy and succulent. Add in their signature sides like molasses baked beans, fire-roasted Brussel Sprouts and Confetti Corn Salad for a sumptuous treat. Be sure to save room for the gooey-butter cake and my favorite, the cinnamon roll bread pudding. After your meal, head on over to hear the Rivertown Ramblers put on a hootin’, hollerin’ “Down by the Riverside” Show. End your Rivertown Adventure at the New Mystic River Falls with the 6-story plunge! Currently headlining this summer is the fun-loving Harlem Globetrotters showing off their impressive hoopin’ skills.
Photo courtesy of Silver Dollar City.
Where to Eat
Branson takes great pride in their down-home Southern cooking and warm, friendly hospitality. Here are a few suggestions.
Mel’s Hard Luck Diner
You won’t be down on your luck here because Mel’s is a real treasure, reminiscent of a 50s style diner complete with singing servers, real comfort food and old-fashioned shakes. Located in the quaint Grand Village Shops, Mel’s offers all the traditional diner food you’d expect like burgers, meatloaf and malts, but their salads like Sweet Sensations are fabulous, too. “Burgers are number one and our Reuben sandwich is number two,” said Mel Bilbo, owner. But save room for dessert because their chocolate nachos, Mel’s carrot cake and Avalanche with 12 scoops of ice cream are not to be missed. Then the waiters and waitresses start singing and you’re in for a real treat. Many of them appear in Branson’s top shows, too, adding to the fun, friendly ambience.
The Keeter Center
Visit the Dobyns Dining Room at the Keeter Center on the College of the Ozarks campus for a great farm-to-fork lunch or dinner, made and served by the students. When I mean made, they actually work at the campus dairy where their premium ice cream and wholesome milk come from. Enjoy salads, soups, sandwiches and luscious desserts. Try their mammoth Sunday brunch that will absolutely wow you. Be sure to stop by their gift shop for their beautifully-crafted handmade items like baskets, fruit spread and roasted nuts.
Photo by Mira Temkin.
Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen
Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen at Branson’s Landing won’t let you leave hungry. Meals are served family-style with appetizers to desserts from Paula’s own Southern-style recipes. Leave room for the Ooey Gooey Butter Cake, Deen’s signature dessert. Her gift shop has cook books and gadgets galore!
What To Do
Have an Interactive Adventure at Beyond the Lens! Family Fun
The new kid in town is Beyond the Lens, the king of “Techno-Tainment” where you explore, experience, escape. Start with the FlyRide, which takes you high in the sky to 22 national landmarks, over snow-capped mountains, gorgeous deserts and the Grand Canyon, without ever leaving your seat. Go rafting and even feel the water. It’s a breathtaking ride across America.
Now is the time to put your phone away because all the selfies are taken for you in an app, included with your admission, and downloaded back to you. All you do is have fun! Play Virtual Reality games, compete in pop culture quizzes, look for Big Foot, plan your escape and play in the ball pit. The Flip Zone Bumper Cars are out of this world, if you dare! I’ve never seen anything like this place before. We came away with having a great time and learned something. The best part is new exhibits are being planned, so when you come back to Branson, you’ll want to visit again.
Flip Bumper Cars at Beyond the Lens. Photo courtesy of Beyond the Lens.
Ripley’s Believe It or Not will blow you away!
There’s always something new to see at Ripley’s. Two floors of good old-fashioned fun with 8 themed galleries and over 500 unique artifacts. Here’s your chance to experience the weird and wacky exhibits as collected by Robert Ripley from his travels across the globe. You know you’ve arrived by the giant statues in front. There’s also a new Ripley’s in Branson – Ripley’s Super Fun Zone where extreme fun takes on a whole new dimension. Try Lazer Tag, outdoor maze and laserace. Enjoy hours of fun in this high-energy space. Buy your tickets online and save a few bucks.
Butterflies are free at the Butterfly Palace and Rainforest Adventure
Photo courtesy of Butterfly Palace.
This is the place that will captivate your entire family and be glad your admission is good for three days. You’ll want to come back. At The Butterfly Palace, weave your way through the rainforest where you can feed a critter and pet a lizard. Our favorite part was the butterfly aviary where over a thousand live butterflies fly free. Wear red to attract the butterflies and have them land on your red flower. Be sure to catch the 3-D film and learn more about these beautiful creatures. The Emerald Forest Mirror Maze was fun and challenging, but we found a few kids who helped us navigate our way out!
The Titanic Museum
People continue to be fascinated with the Titanic, more than 100 years after the massive ship sunk. When you enter the replica ship, you’re given a Boarding Pass with a real passenger’s name. Throughout your tour, you learn more about the passenger and learn their fate. Costumed interpreters show you the Grand Staircase, elegant china, stories of survival, the lifeboat, you can even dip your hand in the 28-degree water temperature. It’s a museum where you can literally spend hours learning more about this ill-fated journey.
Aquarium at the Boardwalk
Photo courtesy of Aquarium at the Boardwalk
Out front of the Aquarium at the Boardwalk is a massive stainless steel octopus sculpture that greets you. Stroll down the boardwalk and explore ten zones of fish & fun. Discover the mermaid palace, take the submarine adventure and touch the stingrays. The ocean kaleidoscope is just gorgeous. Buy your tickets ahead of time as entry times do sell out.
Walking down Main Street is like taking a step back in time. Be sure to visit Dick’s 5 & 10 and show your kids what an old-fashioned dime store looked like. Here you’ll find thousands of souvenirs, gifts, toys, and candy. Then check out Branson Landing, a scenic boardwalk along the 1.5 mile Taneycomo Lakefront with more than 200 shops, restaurants and entertainment venues. Stop to see the beautiful fountain showcasing a spectacular show of water, light, fire and music. Branson is a fabulous destination to make wonderful family memories. Make your plans to visit Branson soon.