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.
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.
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.
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!
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