Travel Guide: Branson, Missouri
May 07, 2021 · by Ashton Dorow
Can you believe summer is almost upon us? It seems this year is flying by! The approach of the summer season means no school and warm, sunshiney weather--AKA, the prime time of year for family vacations!
Growing up, my family was blessed to be able to take a lot of trips together. We’ve been to quite a few places, but the destination we have traveled to more than any other is Branson, MO. We’ve been there so many times that when I see the famous “Branson Strip” come into view ahead, it feels almost like coming home. You would think we would be tired of the place by now, but it just goes to show that this family-friendly vacation spot nestled in the Ozark Mountains truly offers something for all ages--shopping, awesome restaurants, comedy shows, musical entertainment, breathtaking natural caverns, mountain trails, and more!
There is SO much to do in Branson--we still haven’t done everything there. But by now we’ve figured out a lot of what is worth the time and money, and what isn’t. As we’ve been planning our latest trip there (coming up at the end of this month!), I’ve been compiling lists of our favorite attractions and restaurants and I thought it would be great to share them with all of you!
Can’t-Miss Shows & Attractions
Sight & Sound Theater
This is my family’s number one favorite thing to do in Branson. It is seriously a can’t-miss thing for us. Sight & Sound Theater brings to life world-class musical productions of Bible stories, and I’ve truly seen few productions as well done as these! The beautiful costuming, the larger-than-life sets, the fascinating special effects, and superb music… it’s just incredible! Their current play showing in Branson is Jesus, and I believe it will be running through next year as well, but in the past we have also seen Noah, Joseph, Jonah, The Miracle of Christmas, Moses, and Samson. If you’re in Branson, no matter what show they are doing that year, you need to go to Sight & Sound! It will be an experience your family never forgets. Oh, and make sure to grab some of their amazing candied nuts before the show starts! The heavenly smell of them fills the entire lobby, so they’re hard to resist.
Silver Dollar City
Silver Dollar City is our second favorite thing to do in Branson. It’s such a beautifully designed theme park, with tons of trees and landscaping highlighting the mountain terrain. It has rides of all kinds, from kid-friendly carnival-esque ones to roller coasters sure to satisfy any thrill-seeker. There are also many shows to see, a natural cavern to tour, quaint shops, and some of the best theme park food you’ve ever had! We’ve been to Silver Dollar City in every season now, and while I’ll say it’s at its most beautiful in the fall, it's great in the summertime because of the water rides. Be sure to check out the 1800’s era cabin settlement (especially the little church), ride my favorite of the roller coasters, Thunderation, and grab one of their delicious skillet meals for lunch!
Dolly Parton’s Stampede
This is a Branson classic! Dolly Parton’s Stampede is the ultimate dinner show experience. You can enjoy a delicious meal--FYI, you have to eat everything with your hands!--and watch a first-class show that honors our nation’s history and celebrates all the things that make America great. If you’ve never been to Branson, you definitely want this show on your itinerary!
The Shepherd of the Hills
This is another classic, quintessential Branson show. The Shepherd of the Hills is an outdoor drama based on the 1907 historical novel of the same name by Harold Bell Wright. It tells the story of life in the Ozarks in the late 1800’s and includes over 90 actors and actresses, live animals, plenty of action and adventure, a sweet love story, a mystery, and above all, a timeless message that will impact your heart. You can actually spend an entire day at The Shepherd of the Hills if you want, since it has expanded to include several other live shows and an adventure park!
The Titanic Museum
The Titanic Museum is one of the most unique museum experiences out there. When you enter the museum--which looks like the ship itself!--you are given a boarding pass with the name of a real passenger from the ill-fated voyage. As you make your way through the museum, seeing genuine artifacts from the wreckage, replicas of rooms from the ship--including the famous grand staircase--, and much more, you learn about who your passenger was and ultimately, whether they survived the voyage or not. It is a fascinating and yet sobering journey through history that you won’t soon forget. Definitely a can’t miss attraction!
Dick’s 5 & 10 (and other downtown shops)
Anytime you’re in Branson, you have to make a stop by the famous Dick’s 5 & 10 store! It’s been around since the 60’s and retains that same classic atmosphere. While you can’t buy everything for only five or ten cents anymore, you can get pretty much anything you want at this place--from retro toys and games to classic candies, home goods to Branson souvenirs, and much, much more! When you’re finished here, be sure to check out the other adorable souvenir and antique shops downtown!
The Keeter Center
The Keeter Center at the College of the Ozarks is literally the best restaurant in Branson! This phenomenal restaurant, situated in a beautiful lodge-style building on the College of the Ozarks campus, serves delicious gourmet level food and is run entirely by students of the college. This college is unlike any other in the US (to my knowledge) in that it is free to attend and all of the students are instead required to work for their tuition on the campus--the college is even nicknamed “Hard Work U”. Not only do the students run the Keeter Center restaurant, they also operate a hotel and a couple museums there on the campus, as well as make and sell ice cream, baked goods, jellies, textiles and other home goods, and more! And every student we’ve ever met there is SO nice! The Keeter Center is more than just a restaurant--it’s an experience!
The White River Fish House
I would say this is the second-best restaurant in Branson. Created by Bass Pro Shops, The White River Fish House is on a floating barge anchored on the edge of the river at the Branson Landing shopping center. As you can probably imagine, being designed by Bass Pro Shops, the outdoorsy, fishing-themed atmosphere at this restaurant is over the top. But not only does the restaurant look cool, the food is delicious, too! Especially their famous jalapeno cornbread!
If you’re looking for a cheaper meal option that is still delicious, be sure to check out Clocker’s Cafe in downtown! It is the cutest, tiniest little cafe full of retro charm. I’d highly recommend going there for breakfast! Their prices are even better at breakfast time and the food is so good.
Without a doubt, the best breakfast to be found in Branson is at Billy Gail’s! They are famous for their down-home cooking and giant portions--particularly their pancakes. Seriously, they are so big they can hardly fit on your plate! Billy Gail’s is located off the beaten path, heading out of town towards Silver Dollar City, but it is well worth the trek to get a taste of this restaurant’s delicious food.
Photo by Hayden Scott on Unsplash