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Midwest entertainment capitalMidwest entertainment capital

Branson, MissouriBranson, Missouri

Branson, Missouri, is known as the “live music capital of the world” for its numerous country music venues. But there’s so much more for the visitor: a theme park, theaters, rides, shopping, fishing, golf, ziplines, restaurants, and nightlife. And Branson kicks it all up a notch in fall, beginning with the weeklong Veteran’s Celebration. From there, it’s holiday fantasyland for kids and adults, so fly in this year for an extra-special holiday.

  • Branson is the Midwest’s capital for live entertainment, and Japanese-American country music fiddler Shoji Tabuchi is Branson’s ultimate showman. The costumes, choreography, and theatre are elaborate—even the bathrooms are over the top, with chandeliers and marble fireplaces. Photo courtesy Branson Convention & Visitors Bureau.
  • The Veteran’s Day Parade moves through downtown Branson. Photo courtesy Branson Convention & Visitors Bureau.
  • Branson’s flamingo dancers are stepping out for Christmas in Santa’s helper outfits. Photo courtesy Branson Convention & Visitors Bureau.
  • The World’s Largest Toy Museum in Branson boasts over 1 million toys and will take anyone back to their childhood. Photo courtesy Branson Toy Museum.
  • The “candlesticks” burn along the waterfront at Branson Landing. You can cruise on the paddleboat, left, or the luxury yacht, right. Photo courtesy Branson Convention & Visitors Bureau.
  • At Branson Landing, the White River Fish House sits on a floating barge in Lake Taneycomo. Smoked plank trout, alligator tails, and venison-stuffed mushrooms are a few of their specialty appetizers. Next, try the Ozarks-style fried catfish accompanied by a hot skillet of jalapeno-cheddar cornbread. Photo courtesy Bass Pro Shops.
  • At Silver Dollar City, the Geyser Gulch Kid’s Play Area is all lit up for the holidays. Photo courtesy Silver Dollar City.
  • Kids have fun with Santa’s elves at Silver Dollar City. Photo courtesy Branson Convention & Visitors Bureau.
  • A musical adaptation of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” in Silver Dollar City. Photo courtesy Silver Dollar City.
  • Santa waves during the nightly parade at Silver Dollar City. Photo courtesy Branson Convention & Visitors Bureau.
  • In 1907 Harold Bell Wright published the novel “Shepherd of the Hills.” A story about settlers in the Ozarks, the novel was an immediate best-seller and attracted more tourists to Branson. Nowadays, outdoor drama is always rollicking fun onstage at the Shepherd of the Hills, Wright’s original homestead property. Photo courtesy Shepherd of the Hills.
  • The Inspiration Tower provides 360-degree views of the Ozarks. Photo courtesy Shepherd of the Hills.
  • You can tour Old Matt’s Cabin when you visit Shepherd of the Hills. Photo courtesy Shepherd of the Hills.
  • The Ozarks, ablaze with fall color, rise above Table Rock Lake. Photo courtesy Branson Convention & Visitors Bureau.
  • The Dooley Lodge lobby is furnished in a cozy Northwoods style. Photo courtesy Dooley Lodge.

Choose from three general aviation airports: The largest is Branson Airport, about 10 miles south of Branson, the only privately developed and operated commercial service airport in the nation. Branson West is northwest of downtown, but close to the Table Rock Lake resorts, the music theaters, and Silver Dollar City. M. Graham Clark Downtown is closest to the center of downtown’s many activities.

Veterans and active-duty military personnel get special treatment year-round in Branson, with discounts and standing tributes before shows. One of the city’s most popular attractions is the Veterans Memorial Museum. Plus, Branson holds a weeklong “Veterans Homecoming” each year, culminating in a Veteran’s Day parade through the streets of historic downtown Branson at 11 a.m.

Debby Boone sings to Santa. Photo courtesy Branson Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Dozens of theaters in Branson provide endless live entertainment. Country-western music, comedy shows, holiday productions galore, high-kicking chorus girls, and famous singers are all here; it’s easy to reserve tickets and vacation packages online. And as Wayne Newton has been to Las Vegas, so Japanese-American country music fiddler Shoji Tabuchi is to Branson. The ultimate showman, he sings, dances, and plays a variety of instruments, accompanied by a large cast that often includes his family. For dining, Billy Gail’s Café is a local favorite breakfast spot famous for supersize portions and friendly service. And if you’re hankering for barbecue, you can’t go wrong with Danna’s Bar-B-Que & Burger Shop, in a remodeled fire station.

The Branson Landing entertainment complex has more fun in store, like free hourly performances, dozens of restaurants, and a long lakefront boardwalk where you’ll see pleasure boaters, street entertainers, and a spectacular water fountain/fire show. The Town Square shopping mall boasts more than 100 specialty shops; kids can meet Santa or ride the Toy Shoppe Express Train from Nov. 1 to Christmas Eve. Adjacent to and owned by Bass Pro Shops, the White River Fish House sits on a floating barge in Lake Taneycomo.

Take a paddleboat cruise on Lake Taneycomo and see the fountain show from the lake, or go all-out and make it a luxury yacht dinner cruise. To experience its maneuverability and see the sights from above, try a helicopter tour in a Robinson R-44 that seats the pilot and up to three passengers.

A holiday parade lights up Silver Dollar City each night in November and December. The tree in back stands five stories tall. Photo courtesy Silver Dollar City.

The Silver Dollar City theme park is just northwest of Branson. You’ll find roller coasters and other rides, plus a 60-minute underground tour of Marvel Cave. Onsite restaurants and a campground are available. Park admission includes all shows, rides, and events except a culinary and craft school. During November and December, the whole park and its trees are lit for Christmas. Check out the riverfront living nativity scene, five-story special effects tree, and nightly holiday parades down Main Street at 6 and 8 p.m., and take in a holiday musical adaptation such as Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life or Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.

But wait, there’s more: Nearby Shepherd of the Hills is yet another entertainment complex. A 2,800-seat outdoor drama amphitheater provides a rollicking twist on frontier days. Every night, guns blaze during Wild West shootouts, horses race across the stage, and a fire rages as a real cabin burns down. Drive through the 160-acre homestead and, in November and December, you’ll view a trail of sparkling lights that ends at Inspiration Tower. During the day you can ride the glass elevator up 230 feet to an enclosed observation deck for a 360-degree view. Jump off, if you dare, via the Vigilante Extreme ZipRider, or tear up the trails with an Ozark ATV Adventure. Other options include chuckwagon dinners, horseback trail rides, and tours of the historic homestead.

On the shores of Table Rock Lake, Dooley Lodges and Resort provides private cabins or guest suites. Northwoods décor, fully-equipped kitchens, outdoor grills, hiking trails, complimentary kayaks and canoes, and boat rentals make this a perfect spot for fishermen and other outdoorsy folks. You see, Branson really does have it all!

The Vigilante Extreme ZipRider can launch four riders at a time from 170 feet in the air. They’ll travel for over half a mile at speeds up to 50 mph. Photo courtesy Shepherd of the Hills.

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Crista Worthy

Crista V. Worthy

Crista V. Worthy has been flying around the United States with her pilot-husband Fred and their children since 1995, and writing about fun places to fly since 2006. She has single-engine land and sea ratings. Her favorite places to explore are the backcountry strips of Idaho and Utah's red rock country. She currently lives in Idaho and serves as editor of The Flyline, the monthly publication of the Idaho Aviation Association. To suggest future destination articles, send an email to [email protected]
Topics: US Travel

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