Live music and food are often associated with Branson, Missouri, but there’s a lot more to see and things to do when you’re there. Here’s a look at fun attractions, family-friendly adventures, and must-try food in Branson.
Disclosure: I was hosted by Explore Branson, and some of our activities were complimentary, while some we paid for. This post may contain affiliate links, and I may earn a referral payment from a purchase made after clicking the link at no additional cost to you. Thanks for your support! All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.
Take a thrill ride
Branson today is a lot cooler than Branson of my childhood. Sure, the theme park Silver Dollar City is still open…but they’ve added a lot more wild rides than when I visited in my teens. Have you heard about the Time Traveler?! It’s world’s fastest, steepest and tallest spinning coaster.
Now, you can also zip down hillsides at break-neck speeds on an alpine coaster (that you can control), like Copperhead Mountain Coaster at The Shepherd of the Hills. Or ride a giant, 150-foot-tall ferris wheel.
And experience XD Theater Motion as if you’re riding an out-of-control mineshaft cart, ride a 360 bike (exactly what it sounds like) or try astronaut testing at WonderWorks. If you’ve never been to a WonderWorks, it’s kinda like a children’s museum and science center rolled into an all-day indoor amusement park experience (with the rollercoaster being virtual).
1. Silver Dollar City, 399 Silver Dollar City Pkwy.
2. Copperhead Mountain Coaster at The Shepherd of the Hills, 6021 Hwy. 76 Country Blvd.
3. The Track Family Fun Park Ferris Wheel, 3335 Hwy. 76 Country Blvd.
4. WonderWorks Branson, 2835 Hwy. 76 Country Blvd.
Related post: My Missouri Ozarks Bucket List. I’ve got a post of our entire Ozarks road trip itinerary, too!
Stomp your feet during the Stampede
Dolly Parton’s Stampede is a phenomenon that has become synonymous with Branson. It’s a dinner-meets-rodeo competition-meets-live show. You’re divided into North vs. South teams depending on where you’re sitting, and then you cheer on your trick horse riders representing and racing for your side.
Kids love it. My 10-year-old was whooping with the loudest of them while we were there.
The dinner is multi-course and you’d better be prepared to eat with your hands. If the idea of nibbling on Cornish game hen during a barrel race doesn’t appeal to you, then maybe it’s not for you.
There is audience participation, which is where the stomping comes into play (it’s hard to cheer for your team when you have a biscuit or corncob in your mouth). They also bring some audience members out to the arena for some friendly games, including kids.
Tip: I’ve attended a show three times in the last three decades (including a Christmas show) and I’ll let you in on a secret – you need to arrive early and mingle in the lobby in order to possibly be asked to participate in a game. I was a college student the year they asked me to take part. I had no shame back then, so I was all for it.
And that’s how I ended up riding a stick horse around a Branson arena.
5. Dolly Parton’s Stampede, 1525 Hwy. 76 Country Blvd.
See exotic animals up-close
While we’re on the subject of the Stampede, be sure to show up a little early because the horses will be out in the stables prior to showtime.
If you’re interested in more exotic animals up-close – and perhaps hold one – then make a date to visit Promised Land Zoo. Those who purchase VIP Tour passes will get to touch or hold a few animals while learning about them from one of the keepers.
You’ll never know what animal it may be, though. Our group met Ms. Paisley the prairie dog, Miss Monty the royal ball python, and Freedom, he 10-month-old giant red joey.
After the animal encounter, VIP ticket holders board a mini bus and explore the drive-thru safari with cups of food to feed emus, camels, ostriches and others (if you’re lucky).
You don’t have to get the VIP tour to pet some animals, since the zoo does have a petting zoo space.
6. Horse stables at Dolly Parton’s Stampede, 1525 Hwy. 76 Country Blvd.
7. Promised Land Zoo, 2751 Shepherd of the Hills Expressway
Awaken the inner pirate
The Shipwrecked Treasure Museum is for a very niche audience, but if that’s what your kid is into, they’re going to love it. My pirate-loving son appreciated the varied displays of recovered treasures, and especially the hands-on activities at the museum.
8. Shipwrecked Treasure Museum, 505 Branson Landing Blvd.
See a live show
It’s what you do in Branson. There are more than 100 shows to choose from, and I’d say most are perfectly suited for the whole family.
We took the kids to one of the top draws in the city, The Haygoods. The siblings’ show is definitely a crowd pleaser, covering a range of songs from Hank Williams and the Jackson 5 to a hint of Metallica and a song from “Frozen.” The show is super polished with special effects, and full of jokes, impressive musical skills, a little tap dancing, and a lot of audience interaction.
Is it a little schmaltzy? Yes. Except for the true music snobs (you know who you are), you’ll get over it and enjoy the experience.
9. The Haygoods at the Clay Cooper Theatre, 3216 State Hwy. 76
Enjoy a little Branson kitsch
Whether you love photo opps or trinkets, Branson has plenty of both. For the ultimate store of knicks-knacks, souvenirs, or nostalgic candy, head to one of the last 5 & 10 stores in the world, Dick’s 5 & 10 in downtown Branson.
While you’re downtown, head over to Branson Landing if you like your Instagrammy photo opps. By each elevator in the parking garage, you’ll find cute Branson murals. The Landing area also serves as a good selfie backdrop, especially during the Fountain Show.
For more photo opps:
- The world’s largest rooster, Mr. Peck, stands in front of Branson’s Great American Steak & Chicken House. He’s 43 feet tall.
- WonderWorks is full of them inside – and outside. The exterior is an upside down building.
- Beyond The Lens has a lot of high-tech photos opps.
10. Dick’s 5 & 10, 103 W. Main St.
11. Branson Landing, located on Branson Landing Boulevard on Lake Taneycomo next to Historic Downtown Branson
12. Great American Steak & Chicken House, 2421 Hwy. 76 Country Blvd.
13. WonderWorks Branson, 2835 Hwy. 76 Country Blvd.
14. Beyond The Lens, 3115 Hwy. 76 Country Blvd.
Eat all the food
Bring your stretchy pants, because you and your kids can take on some major food challenges while in Branson. Can they stuff down a 14-inch pancake at Billy Gail’s, Branson’s oldest café? I’d like to see them try. If eggs are more of their preference, the omelets are prepared with FIVE eggs.
Word is, the Hungry Hunter Restaurant has giant pancakes the rival Billy Gail’s.
There are other food challenges that have prizes if anyone in your group pulls it off. At the Hurts Donuts location in Branson, participants have 90 seconds to eat a donut the size of a golf cart steering wheel. It’s not cheap if you don’t finish, but if you do, you get a T-shirt that gets you bogo donuts for life.
15. Billy Gail’s, 5291 State Hwy. 265
16. Hungry Hunter Restaurant, 5753 Historic State Hwy. 165
17. Hurts Donuts, 1600 State Hwy. 76
Related post: 5 Branson restaurants you’ve gotta try at least once
Save money in Branson
On a budget? There’s a good chance you can score awesome deals on tickets to shows and attractions in Branson. I recommend browsing Groupon prior to your trip (pay attention to any use-by dates).
Alternatively, I’ve found discounts for attractions on Tiqets.com as well.
Where to stay in Branson
If you want to be within walking distance to attractions and restaurants, you’ll want to seek a hotel on or near Highway 76. In your hotel search, hotels in Branson Theatre District will be the perfect location. Plenty of hotels in that area have pools, too, and the Radisson Hotel where we stayed in March had both indoor and outdoor connecting pools.
If you want a quieter location, perhaps one with a view, search for hotels or resorts near Table Rock Lake or Silver Dollar City. You’ll still be near all of the attractions, but you won’t have the near-constant traffic to contend with.
Tip: Unless you’re loyal to a particular hotel chain, I recommend checking Booking.com for any spring travel deals that are good for hotel stays through June 21, 2022.