Photo by jeffweese on Flickr.
Continuing our spotlight on America’s Heartland, this destination is truly perfect for families, student tours, education, and all-out leisure. Branson, Missouri, is famous for its shows and beloved for them. But anyone who’s been there knows there are tons of other things to love as well.
Let’s start with the scenery. There are several lookouts in the Branson area that make full use of the tree covered hills and winding lakes and rivers that define Missouri on its best day. You’ll love these views. There’s more than one for free – you’ll find them on the routes that wind around the city and into the hills. If you really want a spectacular sky-high experience, you can pay your way into Inspiration Tower.
Inspiration Tower is the lookout located at the Shepherd of the Hills attraction. Shepherd of the Hills is an outdoor performance based on the novel by Harold Bell Wright. It’s a mystery and a love story set in the Ozark Hills themselves, and it’s a favorite attraction for visitors to the area.
Speaking of live performances, you know there are a ton of them in Branson. Comedy, southern gospel, and classic rock and roll all make an appearance on the stages of Branson’s theater strip – sometimes all in one show. And there are plenty of other musical genres and artistic performances represented as well, including some of the best instrumentalists in the world and the very popular family theaters that showcase real live families stuffed to their pinky toes, from the patriarchs to the tiny little granddaughters, with amazing musical talent.
One of the favorite live extravaganzas is the Dolly Parton Dixie Stampede (pictured above, beautifully illuminated at night). When you arrive at the Dixie Stampede, you’ll walk by some of the amazing show horses you’ll eventually see inside. There’s a giftshop, a photo op, a snack bar, and an opening act to keep you comfortable and entertained before the real thing. But the real thing would be worth even a slightly uncomfortable wait. It’s a four course meal you eat with your fingers (and, trust me, you won’t mind). And the show is a lavish display of pageantry, history, patriotism, singing, choreography, and horsemanship. (I’ve only seen the original, but its Christmas show is apparently spectacular too.)
During the day, Branson offers great shopping at the Tanger Outlet Mall or its charming Landing with shops, restaurants, fountains, and a simply lovely walk along the Lake. Or you can enjoy miniature golf, speedways, The Hollywood Wax Museum, and other classic getaway attractions. One of the best is Silver Dollar City, the 1800s-centered theme park featuring craftsmanship, rides, live shows, and the amazing Marvel Cave. There’s also Celebration City, which is mostly just exciting rides.
One of the best attractions for educational tours is Branson’s Titanic Museum. You can’t miss this one – it’s a scaled replica of part of the famous ship. Inside you can walk on the Grand Staircase, put your hand in water the temperature of the Atlantic that terrible night, stand on the ship deck in various stages of its sinking, discover artifacts and memorabilia, and even hear the voices of survivors when you choose the audio tour. There’s much more – you could spend hours in this fascinating museum. It’s one of Branson’s best.
If I haven’t convinced you yet, you weren’t listening. And none of these descriptions can explain the way you feel when you’re there – the way you feel embraced by Missouri’s trees and hills, the way you appreciate the hospitality so much you wonder if you could find a summer job there just to be a part of all the getaway happiness a little longer. Branson is a midwest treasure you simply can’t afford to miss.