Tucked into the gorgeous Missouri Ozarks, Branson has been a premier destination for family reunions and middle American tourists since the late 1880s. There is truly no other city like it, the closest probably being Atlanta … if that metro were a little less Southern and a bit more PG. The mix of breathtaking natural sights and activities and endless large-scale shows and entertainment leaves travelers with an abundance of options — all of which are also viable for bringing along your kids and grandparents and guaranteeing some wholesome family memories.
Where to Stay
Those looking for a resort experience will appreciate Grand Country Resort and Big Cedar Lodge. But to truly get the full Branson understanding, you’ll want to find somewhere unique, where families from all over the country gather and feel like chatting in the common areas. The Ozarker Lodge recently remodeled into a boutique hotel experience. The rooms are standard and give modern Ozark vibes; what guests will find truly special are the mountainside heated outdoor pool, cedar soaking tubs and guest community engagement activities — movies and board games — in the common areas.
Where to Play
There is no shortage of things to do in Branson. In fact, one could attend a play, show, amusement park, adventure zone, museum, cave tour, etc. every single day for many months if not years without having to consider repeating an activity. To get the most out of Branson, we recommend carving out a full day for one or both of the major theme parks, White Water and Silver Dollar City, the latter of which remains a great American staple and wonderfully frozen in time. Every inch of its seven districts feels like an 1880s Ozark mountain town. The extensive rides (both thrilling and chilling), to the shows, to the dining stay faithful to the bluegrass heritage vibe. The highlight of the experience is the insane Marvel Cave, which takes the brave deeper into the earth than most people will ever go. Its history combined with its mind-blowing size is truly unforgettable. As far as shows are concerned, longtime favorites include Dolly Parton’s Stampede, the Haygoods and several Hughes Brothers variety shows. We remain stunned by Sight and Sound’s Queen Esther, which features a mammoth of a three-wall interactive set design that broke records with its size and dazzles the audience with its costumes, songs and large selection of live animals. When filling the time, don’t forget to jump on one of the many blazing mountain coasters and ziplines.
Where to Eat
Fresh produce enthusiasts and vegans might be left longing after a few days in Branson. But what the city does boast are Americana buffets, fried food aplenty and roll-tossing experiences. Yes, a few restaurants will literally throw a yummy, hot-off-the-stove roll across the restaurant into your open hands. The highlight of dining experiences included Little Hacienda, a bright and bustling Mexican restaurant with a modern and satisfying menu and creative and classic cocktail list, as well as Florentina’s Ristorante Italiano, which has lines out the door and constant waitlists for good reason. The traditional Italian options from the caesar salad to the lasagna are rich and flavorful.
Where to Drink
Given that much of Branson is faith-based in some form, many of its experiences, both shows and parks, are dry. So those craving a wine or craft beer flight will have to deep dive. Coming highly recommended, however, are bar/restaurant combos such as St. James Winery & Restaurant, Waxy O’Shea’s and Old Chicago at the Landing.