Top 10 Things to Do on a Budget in Branson | Midwest Living

Top 10 Things to Do on a Budget in Branson

With plenty of free sights (both natural and manmade), it’s easy to pack your Midwest weekend getaway to Branson with fun activities that won’t put the hurt on your wallet.
Branson Landing fountains. Photo courtesy of Branson/Lakes Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.
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Table Rock Lake.
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Stone Hill Winery. Photo courtesy of Branson/Lakes Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.
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Dick's Old-Time 5 and 10. Photo courtesy of Branson/Lakes Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.
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1) Spirit of 76 project Wider sidewalks, new landscaping and public gathering spots are coming to historical downtown Branson. Check the progress with a walk around the area, or hop on the Discovery Trolley for a free 15-minute ride past the upscale Branson Landing outdoor shopping mecca and the throwback facades that line Main Street. (417) 334-2360;

2) Stone Hill Winery Established in 1847, Hermann-based Stone Hill is the oldest winery in Missouri; the 12,000-square-foot Branson outpost opened in 1986. Learn about Stone Hill's history during free tours, then sip some reds, whites, roses, sparkling Spumantes and dessert wines in one of six tasting rooms. (417) 334-1897;

3) Table Rock Dam and Lake Surrounded by oak and hickory trees, scenic Table Rock Lake is the centerpiece of Branson’s great outdoors, with hiking trails, water recreation, fishing, camping and picnic sites. Make sure to see the impressive dam, and stop by the visitor center for info that can help you make the most of your visit. (417) 334-4101;

4) Branson Cafe You’ll have to veer off the strip to find this old-fashioned diner. Not much has changed since it opened in 1910. The digs are homey and the food’s familiar (not to mention reasonably priced)—things your grandma might have made, like fried chicken, ham steaks, and plates of steaming hot biscuits and gravy. The house specialty? Fragrant, plate-size cinnamon rolls. (417) 334-3021

5) College of the Ozarks This scenic mountain campus provides a pretty backdrop for fresh-air hikes. Students devote 15 hours each week to maintaining the property in lieu of tuition. Reap the rewards of their efforts with free tours of a volunteer-run 1880s gristmill; purchase bags of flour and cornmeal to take home. While you’re here, pay the few bucks to check out the Ralph Foster Museum and dine on tasty country-style eats at Dobyns Dining Room in the Keeter Center. (417) 334-6411;

6) Branson Landing Shopping, dining and entertainment venues line Lake Taneycomo, but the showstopper is the 120-foot fountain show with fire cannons, special effects lighting and music. The free spectacle starts at noon each day (weather permitting), and shows run every hour on the hour. A concert series adds live music to the mix, and the Landing also hosts outdoor Monday Night Movies during summer. (417) 239-3002;

7) Hollywood Wax Museum Mix and mingle with Johnny Depp, Gwyneth Paltrow and other Hollywood stars; you don’t have to tell anyone they aren’t the genuine articles. Buy tickets online instead of at the door to save a couple bucks, or check out combo attraction deals. In any event, the photo ops you’ll get here are priceless. (417) 337-8277;

8) Dick’s Old-Time 5 and 10 At this retro variety store, the inventory’s a catch-all of goodies past and present: souvenirs, gifts, games, toys, candy, sundries, craft supplies, housewares, kitchen novelties. You name it, it’s here. World War II-theme aviation art hangs around the store, a 60-foot baseball wall of fame showcases autographs and photos of beloved players like Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, and two model trains chug around the ceiling. (417) 334-2410;

9) Sugar Leaf Bakery and Cafe Craving sweets? Make your way to this reasonably priced European-style cafe in the ritzy cobblestoned Grand Village Shops on Highway 76. Pick from gorgeous cupcakes, muffins, cookies, artisanal marshmallows and homemade cobblers. A short breakfast-lunch menu of quiche, fresh salads, paninis and soups balances out the sugar rush. (417) 336-6618;

10) Branson KOA This clean, well-maintained campground contains several shelter choices in a location close to, but just far enough away from, the Branson strip. On-site, you’ll find a camp store, pool, playground, pontoon rentals and pancake breakfasts. Reserve an RV site for as low as $27.86; small cabins and cottages start from $48.96; and one- or two-room lodges with full kitchens start at $93.97. (800) 562-4177;

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