When I was a kid, Branson was already a pretty common vacation spot for Oklahomans. In 1991, though, 60 Minutes did a feature on Branson and the town’s popularity exploded around the nation. If you haven’t been back since you were young, this is definitely not the Branson you remember!
Coming from Oklahoma City, it’s about a five hour drive up Interstate 44 to Branson. There are easy places to stop in Tulsa and Joplin if you need to break up the drive for your younger passengers. Remember that most of the drive through Oklahoma is on turnpikes, so have change ready if you don’t have a Pikepass. Once you reach the outskirts of Springfield you won’t be able to miss the billboards directing you to Branson. And what is there to do when you get there? Just about everything you can imagine.
Theaters and Shows
Branson is home to a multitude of theaters hosting musical shows, magicians, acrobats and more. We had the opportunity to take in several shows during our trip, starting with Presleys’ Country Jubilee. The Presley family opened the first live music show on the strip in Branson, and they’ve been entertaining audiences for years with their musical variety and comedy show. Arrive early to take part in the sing-along held in the lobby before each show.
The productions at Sight and Sound Theatre are incredible. Each season a new Bible story is brought to life on stage with beautiful music. The theater seats 2,000 and scenes from the musical we saw took place on all sides of the audience. My children especially loved it when actors (and live animals) would pass close by.
If you’re looking for a dinner theater experience, the Showboat Branson Belle provides a good meal with music, magic and comedy. As you have your meal and watch the show, you cruise Table Rock Lake. There is also time to explore the boat and enjoy the beautiful scenery. Dinner cruises start at 8:00pm and last several hours, so if you have young children you may want to take advantage of other cruise options.
If you have nature lovers in your family, The Butterfly Palace & Rainforest Adventure should be at the top of your itinerary. As you walk through the aviary, you will see some of the most beautiful butterflies in the world—and your kids have the chance to don special gear as they search for different species. You can learn about other rainforest animals in the science center, through interactive exhibits and live animals. There are also some fun attractions included in your ticket price. Our entire family enjoyed the mirror maze—the only one I’ve ever been in that was big enough to actually get lost in! Outside, kids can climb the giant coconut tree that’s almost as tall as the building.
If you’re looking for a low-key way to pass time in Branson, there are several good shopping centers. The Tanger Outlet is located right off the strip, so we were able to get there easily and spend a little time shopping between our other activities.
Branson Landing is a beautiful new outdoor shopping center located on Lake Taneycomo in downtown Branson. The wide variety of shops will give everyone something to enjoy and there are many restaurants to choose from, too. Starting at noon each day you can see the amazing light and fountain show in the town square.
You may be surprised at how much you can learn about history in Branson. We had the opportunity to visit the Titanic Museum (3)and the experience was amazing. After the late 1990s, I thought there was not much new information about the Titanic out there, but you will learn plenty here. Touching the tip of an iceberg was really just the tip of an iceberg in this hands-on museum. You can try to climb decks tilted as the deck of the Titanic was at different points during that fateful night or see how long you can keep your hand in water the same temperature as the ocean was. As you move from exhibit to exhibit, you can walk across the deck and feel the same weather passengers would have felt. You also learn about individual passengers as you are assigned an identity at the beginning and learn what ultimately happened to that person that night. Allow yourself at least a couple of hours to explore.
Silver Dollar City is probably best known as an amusement park, but there are great learning opportunities available, too. The park, which works to preserve the Ozark culture of the late 1800s, has many talented craftsmen who display a wide array of skills from making pottery and blowing glass to making knives and carving wood. The craftsmen will demonstrate their talents and answer questions and you can purchase their creations, too. You can also visit an old-fashioned school to see what learning was like over 100 years ago.
Hands-On Fun and Activities
In addition to providing educational fun, Silver Dollar City is also known as the biggest amusement park in the area. You should allow at least a full day to take in the attractions and shows in the park, but you could easily spend more time there. Silver Dollar City has more than 30 different rides and attractions for all ages and sizes. Our eight year old was delighted to find he was tall enough for the big roller coasters and there were still plenty of rides our three year old enjoyed. If you have a wide variety of ages, there are attractions that will keep everyone happy, such as Geyser Gulch, a huge play area with fountains for splashing, targets for shooting, and crawl spaces for exploring. If you’re tired from the rides, take a break with one of the many live shows. Silver Dollar City is very family friendly, with most areas stroller and wheelchair accessible and nursing stations throughout the park. Check out the Silver Dollar City website before you visit for special pricing information and be sure to read their FAQ page for many helpful tips to make your time there go smoothly.
If you don’t want an all-day amusement park experience, there are several other options available on the main strip in Branson. If you’re looking for miniature golf, go-karts, or arcades you will find it easily!
You can find just about any kind of lodging in any price range in Branson. There are many hotels in town as well as condos for rent. We stayed in a condo at The Village at Indian Point, just a short drive from Silver Dollar City and overlooking Table Rock Lake. Our condo had two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a full kitchen and a washer and dryer and was very affordable. Rates at many places vary depending on the time of year, so if you have some flexibility with your travel time you may be surprised at what you can find for a good price!
Branson is a wonderful place to take a family vacation. There are so many options to fit just about any family’s tastes and budget. Almost everything is geared toward families so there isn’t any worry about accidentally taking your kids into a show that might be too scary or inappropriate for them. Take a little time to visit the Branson’s tourism website and you can find links for shows, lodging and special events in the area!
Branson/Lakes Area Convention and Visitors Bureau
Presleys’ Country Jubilee
2920 76 Country Blvd
Sight & Sound Theatres
1001 Shepherd of the Hills Expressway
Showboat Branson Belle
4800 Missouri 165
4106 West Highway 76
300 Tanger Blvd
100 Branson Landing
3235 76 Country Blvd
Silver Dollar City
399 Silver Dollar City Parkway
The Village at Indian Point
24 Village Trail
Jennifer Geary is a homeschooling mom from Broken Arrow, formerly of OKC, who loves to have adventures with her family.