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Branson, MO: Unending Entertainment in the Ozarks

A Rand McNally Destination of the Month

By Lazelle Jones

Photo courtesy of Flickr user amanderson2

In February 2012, a twister touched down in Branson. Although it damaged several properties, no one was hurt, and today you’ve really got to look to see where it happened. Long story short, this resilient Ozarks entertainment capital is ready to host the 8 million visitors who come each year for good old family fun.

And Branson and the Tri-Lakes Area (Table Rock Lake, Lake Taneycomo, and Bull Shoals Lake) certainly are playgrounds for the child in everyone—from newlyweds heading out on life’s journey to young families to those enjoying their golden years. Group tours by the bus load and countless family reunions are testaments to the bang for every hard-earned family buck spent. Here are some ways for you to join the fun.

That’s Entertainment

Branson’s 50-plus theaters are often filled to capacity by music-lovers who come for gospel, Motown, Cajun, bluegrass, and, of course, country—performed by Mel Tillis, Merle Haggard, Roy Clark, and Clint Black, to name a few. Singing legend and long-time Branson supporter Andy Williams continues to perform at his Moon River Theater. He’s not the only iconic crooner in town, either, with periodic shows by the likes of George Jones and Johnny Mathis.

Also on the various billboards are tributes to the Blues Brothers, the Beatles, the Rat Pack, Johnny Cash, and others. The Caravelle Theater’s Tony Roi – The Elvis Experience transports you back to the Las Vegas Hilton (circa 1972) with a two-hour show so authentic that it gives rise to the possibility that the King might just still be with us. Also part of Branson’s entertainment mix are headliner comedians, performing animals, variety shows, magic acts, murder-mystery productions, Chinese acrobats, Irish tenors, and . . . well, you get the idea.

Eat, Drink, and Be Merry

The restaurants are just as varied as the entertainment. In Old Downtown, spots like the Branson Café feature the home-style cooking that American’s relish (pun intended). Each morning at 4, the current owners of this 100-year-old eatery, bake fresh breads, pies, and cakes. These and the daily specials are quickly gobbled up by the midday lunch-counter crowd.

At Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede, you can enjoy a four-course dinner while being entertained (this is Branson, after all) by musical-production numbers and equestrian trick riding and stunts. For a quiet, romantic evening head to Andy Williams’ Moon River Grill, for dinner on the patio or atrium, with a 180-degree-view of the Ozark Mountains, or in the dining room, where Andy’s private art collection dresses the walls.

The Comforts of Home

Homey bed-and-breakfasts make you feel part of Branson’s fabric, and family-friendly motels loaded with services and amenities offer great value for money. Luxury hotels and resorts—among them Thousand Hills Golf Resort, with its acclaimed 18-hole course—take advantage of area lakes and rolling hills. To really feel pampered, try the Chateau on the Lake Resort Spa & Convention Center, where many rooms have balconies with views of Table Rock Lake. If the setting doesn’t calm you, the spa treatments will.

The temperate climate and mountain landscape make Branson a great camping spot, too. There are some 25 RV parks here, including the Branson KOA Campground, with more than 140 full-service sites; the 14-acre Cooper Creek Resort and Campground, with 75 full-service sites; and The Wilderness campground, with 73 full-service sites and a free shuttle to and from the Silver Dollar City amusement park. At Compton Ridge, primitive sites let you pitch a tent, throw down a sleeping bag, and bivouac in pristine surroundings.

Get Out and About

Branson isn’t the only Tri-Lakes Area town worth a visit. Just 2 miles south is Hollister, where a romance novelist has transformed the Tudor-style Ye Olde English Inn into a boutique hotel with an antiques and flea market. For still more one-of-a-kind treasures, other shops are steps away.

Reeds Spring, a small town 20 miles northwest of Branson that should not (repeat, not) fall under your “nook-and-cranny” radar, has antique shops of its own. It’s also rumored that the pizza, calzones, and desserts served at the Reeds Spring Pizza Co. are so good that they must be delivered to the tables directly from heaven. For more area sights and attractions, check out our Family Fun and Fine Fiddling road trip, between Springfield, MO, and Branson.