Top Things to Do on a Budget in Branson, Missouri
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), then runs every hour on the hour to the evening. Other special events including a farmers market are held at Branson Landing seasonally; check the website for details.
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 Dewey Short Visitor Center for interactive exhibits, a film about the area and the construction of the dam, and information that can help you make the most of your visit.
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.
College of the Ozarks
This scenic mountain campus provides a pretty backdrop for fresh-air hikes; download a campus map for a self-guided tour to spots like Point Lookout. But what really makes this school special is that 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, where you can purchases bags of flour and cornmeal; visit the Stained Glass and Candle Shop next door to see students at work and shop for student-made products; or see the on-campus Ralph Foster Museum or Hoge Greenhouses. More stops include the Campus Creamery for premium ice cream or Dobyns Dining Room in the Keeter Center for tasty country-style eats.
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.
Sugar Leaf Bakery and Cafe
Craving sweets? Make your way to the reasonably priced Sugar Leaf Bakery and Cafe in the cobblestoned Grand Village Shops on State-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.
The clean, well-maintained Branson KOA campground contains several shelter choices in a location close to, but just far enough away from, the Strip. On-site, you'll find a camp store, pool, playground, pontoon rentals and pancake breakfasts. Choose from RV sites, small cabins and cottages and one- or two-room lodges with full kitchens.
Branson Centennial Museum
Exhibits and a video tell the story of Branson, from the arrival of the first permanent residents in 1839 to the fire of 1912 to the development of shows that form the backbone of Branson's music scene today. The Branson Centennial Museum is free but donations are appreciated.
Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery
Six miles southwest of Branson, see the largest trout-rearing facility operated by the Missouri Department of Conservation. The hatchery raises both rainbow and brown trout, with 80 percent going into Lake Taneycomo. At a free conservation center, you can learn about trout, fishing, and aquatic resource management.