Branson's main drag proudly keeps it old-school with country music shows and kitschy shops. Nearby, there's a theme park beloved by generations. But recent additions like the Branson Landing shops and a classy new golf course are rounding out the southern Missouri experience.
A visit to Silver Dollar City’s theme park must begin with a cinnamon roll from Eva and Delilah’s Bakery.
The double-barrel wood coaster Outlaw Run and the water gun battles of Tom and Huck’s RiverBlast prove memorable. But what makes this park unique are its 60 Ozark crafts shops, such as Hazel’s Blown Glass Factory.
Round out your visit with a meal at one of the Ozark-theme restaurants and a cooking class at the Midwest Living Cuinary and Craft School.
When it’s time to call it a day, check into Still Waters Resort, with its three outdoor pools (from $189), or the Village at Indian Point for its fireplaces, private decks and great views of Table Rock Lake (from $160). (See "Stay to Remember" below for yet another option!)
Breakfasts at Big Cedar Lodge’s Devil’s Pool Restaurant are large enough to fuel a day of fishing or waterskiing on Table Rock Lake.
Rained off the lake? The Imax Entertainment Complex covers the history of the area in Ozarks Legacy and Legend. At the Titanic Museum, a fake iceberg punctures the bow of the replica ship emerging from the building, and items salvaged from the wreck fill the displays.
Freshly baked rolls fly through the air at Fall Creek Steak and Catfish House while guests lunch on hand-breaded and deep-fried catfish and blackberry cobbler a la mode.
Take in a Vegas-style fiddler show at Shoji Tabuchi Theatre, where the Japanese-born musician shares a mix of classical melodies and corny jokes, or watch a biblical story with spectacular staging at the Sight and Sound Theatres.
Let nature be part of the entertainment and end your day on the water with a dinner cruise on the paddle-wheeler Showboat Branson Belle.
Add a day
Pancakes flop over the edges of platter-size plates at Billy Gail’s Cafe.
Board a 1950s-era rail car on the Branson Scenic Railway for a narrated tour of the countryside (kids love meeting Santa during the Polar Express rides in November and December).
George Harrison’s sister created Branson's live Beatles tribute Liverpool Legends.
Upscale outdoor shopping center Branson Landing is known for its fire-and-water shows along Lake Taneycomo.
Dine on glazed pork chops with garlic mashed potatoes at Black Oak Grill or a juicy Kansas City strip steak at Level 2 Steakhouse in the Hilton Branson Convention Center across from the Landing.
More information: (800) 296-0463; explorebranson.com
Stay to Remember
Big Cedar Lodge feels a world away from Branson’s neon-infused energy, but the lush location at Table Rock Lake is only 10 miles south. The property includes a just-expanded spa, a Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course, and accommodations in hotel and lodge rooms or log cabins. Big Cedar caters to all outdoorsy activities, although it may be tough to leave your private balcony or wooden deck overlooking the water (from $189). (417) 335-2777; bigcedar.com
For a gourmet meal to remember, head to Osage Restaurant at Big Cedar Lodge. Views of a golf course, Table Rock Lake and the Ozark Mountains are the perfect backdrop to meals of tender filet and a creamy Yukon gold Parmesan bake. Save room for the Hazelnut German Chocolate Bomb smothered in house-made coconut ice cream. (800) 225-6343; bigcedar.com
Country entertainment fills an Old South-theme dinner show at Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede. As entertainers on horseback work the floor of the arena, servers in Confederate and Union uniforms dish rotisserie chicken, biscuits and fruit cobbler—and you eat it all with your hands. (417) 336-3000; dixiestampede.com
Discounts There’s no need to pay full price for fun! Discount packages include lodging, shows and attractions. Pick them up at the Branson Tourism Center. (800) 974-0411; bransontourismcenter.com