If Las Vegas is Sin City, then Branson is Family-Friendly City. Nestled in the Ozark Mountains, this simple small city hosts a variety of activities that are enjoyable for all ages. The two closest large airports that service the area are Springfield or Northwest Arkansas, but the drive is enjoyable and during the fall, quite a show all by itself. Branson has its own airport serviced by Frontier, but it only has flights to and from Denver.
Branson has a bit of everything you can ask for—children’s activities, nationally known theatres, almost any attraction or museum you can name, and plenty of outdoor flora, fauna, and incredible scenery to engage the most enthusiastic of outdoorsy people. The one thing you won’t find in Branson is gambling or debauchery, so plan accordingly. Holidays are full of magic in Branson where you can find the Polar Express or a glassblower creating handmade ornaments. See what all you can do in this “Show Me State” adventure city.
16. Talking Rocks Cavern
(image via Talking Rocks Cavern)
The beauty of the underground comes to life at Talking Rocks Cavern, where 100s of years of history lie just beneath the Earth’s surface. Talking Rocks Cavern is also the best place to spend a hot summer day in Branson, as the air temp remains a cool 63°F. Plus, the rock formations are extraordinary. The caverns are vertical in nature and have appropriate handrails and concrete steps. They are fantastic to explore for all ages. There are also above-ground lookouts, mini-golf, gemstone mining, and nature trails. The Rock and Gift shop offers stunning rocks, minerals, and fossils including geodes and one-of-a-kind semi-precious stones like amethyst and onyx.
Admission ranges from $13-$22. (mini-golf extra)
15. Showboat Branson Belle
Taking a ride and having a meal on Table Rock Lake couldn’t be more elegant or fun than aboard the Showboat Branson Belle. The cruise is offered on an authentic paddleboat and offers breathtaking views of Table Rock Lake and the surrounding area. Even better, live entertainment is helmed by the Showboat MC featuring music from the 1960s through today. The best part of the cruise is very likely the 3-course menus that feature wonderful selections like ribeye, trout fillets, chicken, or vegetarian options.
Tickets range from $59-$89.
14. Veterans Memorial Museum
(image via Veterans Memorial Museum)
The Veterans Memorial Museum honors those who have served in the armed forces and is filled with an incredible collection of wartime exhibits that include not only the stories of these brave men and women but also cover the depths of the human experience. Composed of 10 individual halls, the museum pays homage to wars and conflicts during the 20th century. There’s everything from first-hand accounts of these wars to tactical vehicles and aircraft. The center of the museum includes a wall with over 400,000 names of women and men killed in action in WWII.
Admission runs $6-$18.
13. Eat at The Keeter Center
(image via Keeter Center at College of the Ozarks)
The Keeter Center is located on the College of the Ozarks campus and offers an upscale farm-to-fork dining experience that is enhanced by live instrumental music. The Keeter Center is unique in that it’s an integral part of the College of the Ozarks Work education program. Full-time students work to help offset their college costs and can graduate debt-free.
The menu, inspired by the downhome flavors of Branson, is upscale and offers such mouthwatering dishes as smoked local trout, fried green tomatoes, intricate charcuterie boards, and cajun pork chops. You’ll definitely want to save room for dessert as the Keeter Center also has a full-time bakery and creamery. One of the most popular (and difficult) tickets to snag is a seat at their Thanksgiving dinner.
12. WonderWorks Branson
(image via WonderWorks Branson)
WonderWorks is a science-based experiential museum. Focused on STEM activities, you’ll have hands-on experience with over 100 exhibits that include meteorology, physics, light, sound, space, and elements. There’s even a Branson exhibit as well as a laser tag arena. Plus, you won’t be able to miss this building while driving down the road. It looks like it has been flipped upside down!
Admission is $23-32.
11. Explore Local Art & Artisans
(image via Branson Craft Mall)
There are fantastic artisans at Silver Dollar City, but that’s a separate entry on this list. The Branson Craft Mall features small boutique offerings by local artisans and basket makers. Peruse through crafted silver and stained glass, as well as thousands of handmade items that are unique to the Ozark Mountain region. Artisans create their merchandise on-site, allowing visitors a glimpse of working craftspeople.
Rose O’Neill’s Bonniebrook Gallery, Museum, & Homestead includes her famous artwork as well as the hundreds of Kewpie dolls she created. You may be there to see a show, but Andy Williams’ Moon River Theatre displays both sculpture and artwork, with a particular emphasis on folk art, collected by Williams throughout his life.
10. Beyond the Lens
(image via Beyond the Lens!)
If you’re looking for interactive indoor museum fun, look no further than Beyond the Lens, which features the best of pop culture infused with interactive games and amazing photo ops. You’ll find activities for children and adults alike—and experience something unique every single time. There is a fully immersive ride that will make you feel like you’re hang-gliding. And the exterior of the building is a giant camera with word bubbles surrounding it.
Admission is $25-$37.
9. See a Show!
(image via Branson.com Vacations & Travel)
If you’ve got a hankerin’ for some wholesome entertainment, you’ll find over 100 different shows/entertainment venues, including The Haygoods, Sight & Sound Theatre, Dolly Parton Stampede. Traveling acts also stop by from time to time, like the Oak Ridge Boys and Bellamy Brothers. Branson likes to put on a good show—and there’s magic, comedy, country, and other staples like The Baldknobbers and Presleys’ Country Jubilee. In fact, your biggest problem for a weekend in Branson will be narrowing down the list of who to see.
Admission varies based on performances. Book online and early to ensure the best seats.
8. Shepherd of the Hills
(image via The Shepherd of the Hills)
If you’re looking for something a little more extreme or challenging, Branson has you covered with Shepherd of the Hills. It boasts the highest zipline in Missouri (giving the phrase “Show Me State” a whole different meaning). Coasting at speeds of 55 mph, you’ll see the beauty of the Ozarks from a sky-high view. The adjoining adventure park includes a more toned-down zip line adventure plus an outdoor ropes course, Inspiration Mountain Tower, and Copperhead Mountain Coaster. The adjacent farm is the setting of the world-famous novel of the same name, allowing you hands-on experience with a petting zoo. There are even live shows to see here, too!
Admission varies based on the attraction.
7. The Track Family Fun Parks
(image via The Track Family Fun Parks)
As a go-kart enthusiast, you’ll find your thrill at The Track Family Fun Park where 5 separate tracks exist (plus some for the kiddies). You’ll also find a Ferris wheel that allows you to see all of the spectacular scenery of Branson. Still looking for more? The Track has you covered with bumper boats, laser tag, batting cages, kids’ rides, indoor and outdoor mini-golf, as well as an interactive laser maze.
The Track Unlimited Pass is $40-$50 for a single-day pass, or you can pay for attractions on an individual basis. The unlimited pass is one of the best deals in town. Multi-day passes are $100.
6. Johnny Morris’ Big Cedar Lodge & Top of the Rock
(image via Big Cedar Lodge)
Johnny Morris’ Big Cedar Lodge, located near the shores of Table Rock Lake, is truly an experience, even if you aren’t staying on the property. There are outdoor and indoor activities to match whatever you’re in the mood for. Want to talk a walk through the forested acreage? Paved walking and biking trails are in abundance. If you love golf, you’ll love the challenging 9 holes of Top of the Rock.
Through the Top of the Rock nature excursions, you can experience the beauty of canyons, trails, and even the Ancient Ozark Natural History Museum. There is a luxury spa and plenty of dining options from casual to fine dining with wine pairings. You can’t be bored or even bothered by such amazing surroundings. There are rooms to fit every accommodation and ensure that your stay is wonderful.
5. Branson Scenic Railway
(image via Branson Scenic Railway)
Take a trip on a vintage passenger train that travels through the foothills of the Ozark Mountains. Each trip of the Ozark Zephyr along the Branson Scenic Railway lasts just under two hours and takes you through tunnels, over trestle bridges, and through the incredible natural beauty found in the wilderness of this magical place.
For an experience the kids won’t soon forget, make plans to have them ride “The Polar Express” during the holidays (pajama attire is welcome). Tickets sell out quickly, so make reservations early. As the website notes, this is not a sightseeing excursion. This is a ride to the North Pole to pick up Santa Claus. It does not operate on the same route as the regular daytime excursions.
Admission is between $18.50-$29 for regular tours.
4. The Titanic Museum
(image via Titanic Museum)
If you’re enthralled with the story of the Titanic or even just a superfan of the movie, you’ll definitely want to make plans to visit the Titanic Museum. Billed as the world’s largest museum attraction, it’s an enormous one-of-a-kind replica of the ship that allows “passengers” to experience what it was like to walk down those iconic hallways, stay in cabins, and descend the grand staircase. On view are more than 400 artifacts from the sunken ship, some in interactive exhibits. Children and adults will enjoy learning about this timelessly fascinating piece of history.
Admission is $15-$28.
3. Branson Landing
(image via Branson Landing)
Situated on the banks of Lake Taneycomo waterfront, Branson Landing is an incredible mixture of shopping, dining, entertainment, and lodging divided into 6 distinct districts and serviced by their own transportation system. Anchored by Bass Pro Shops and Belk, you’ll find over 100 stores in addition to incredible places to eat that range from fast food to luxury sit-down restaurants. The area is adjacent to the Hilton Promenade Hotel and Convention Center—a wonderful place to stop and catch your breath.
Branson Landing also has a water and fire show on the lakeside of the center—a perfect setting to take some amazing pictures. Additional attractions located at Branson Landing include waterfront ziplining, a full marina, jet boats, jet ski rentals, and boutique bowling. Wear your comfortable shoes and plan to spend the day.
2. Aquarium at the Boardwalk
(image via Branson Aquarium)
Newly opened in 2020, the Branson Aquarium will both mesmerize and thrill you with all things underseas—from coral reefs to underwater tunnels, with all the fish you can think of in between. There is a Jelly Infinity Room that offers an engaging and relaxing atmosphere and even a fun submarine ride inside, as well as a live-action play area. You’ll want to schedule in advance as the aquarium has already proven to be very popular. Tickets are available online. To save even more money, explore the FIVE’r pass (available on the ticketing page) offering entrance to five attractions in the area (including the aquarium).
Admission ranges from $16-$36. FIVE’r Passes run from $20-$65.
1. Silver Dollar City & White Water
Originally named for the five shops that once originated here, the land is home to an amusement park based on the 1880s Branson experience with some down-home charm. Silver Dollar City has plenty of roller coasters, incredible rides, and amazing craftsmen demonstrating how life was conducted in the 1880s—with blacksmiths, candy making, blown glass, and pottery.
White Water is the adjoining water park with over 13-acres of water fun—open during summer only. SDC also offers a great campsite that includes both cabins and freestanding camping spots with several amenities and a free shuttle as part of the camping experience.
Admission is $64-$75 depending on age/type of pass.
As you can see, Branson has a lot to offer everyone. As a vacation destination, you could spend your entire time in Branson and find plenty to do. If you are looking for more activities or suggestions in the surrounding area, check out our list of possible getaways within driving distance of Branson.