“Branson? Isn’t that just for older folk and those who love country-western?” That was my thought when I recently had an opportunity to be there. It was not a place I ever thought I would go to on my own, or with my family but, after spending some time, I realized my perception about it being for the senior population, or for country-western lovers, was all wrong.
If you decide to fly to Branson, you will be flying into Missouri’s Springfield-Branson Airport. It is a small regional airport and easy to get around.
You will need to rent a car, and then drive about an hour south to Branson. Along the way you will see beautiful rock outcroppings along the road, and have the opportunity to drive some very steep hills. Branson claims it is less than a day’s drive from half the country’s population, and many people do drive there.
There is one major road (Highway 76) going down the strip, and in summer you can spend a couple of hours of your vacation stuck in a car trying to get to the next stop down the road. By listening to the locals, you can learn to take the back roads of Branson known as the “Red, Blue, and Yellow Routes.” At local information booths they have maps showing the various loops, along with the Hwy. 76 strip.
There is a variety of accommodations in Branson, and you can stay on the strip or on one of the quieter loop roads. I was quite surprised how reasonably priced many of the hotels and motels were. Some of the lodging options even offer tickets to different shows with your stay.
I chose to spend the night at Best Western Music Capital Inn (417/334-8378;) on Shepherd of the Hills Expressway, and it was the nicest Best Western I have ever stayed at (I am usually not a fan of Best Westerns).
It was exceptionally clean, had an indoor pool, and offered a continental breakfast. There were lots of families staying there. My room was around $80, which I thought was a good value. Grand Country Inn offers fun for the family with an indoor and outdoor waterparks, a lazy river, toddler pool and even indoor mini golf.
So, what does Branson have to offer families? Plenty, and there is a lot more to do than just the country western music scene. There is a tremendous variety of shows including pop, 50’s rock and roll, magic, and slapstick comedy. Some of Branson’s more popular shows include the Shoji Tabuchi Family Show (get your tickets ahead of time), and Legends in Concert featuring impersonators of Elvis, Michael Jackson, Marilyn Monroe and the Blues Brothers.
At the Dixie Stampede you are entertained while you eat a feast with your fingers at the same time. The Kirby VanBurch Show offers exotic animals and magic, a popular show for families. And for those country western fans there is the well-known Country Tonite Show featuring music, comedy, dance and even rope tricks. Other shows include variety acts such as 50’s shows, and the acrobats from China. If your time is limited, some of the shows have matinees and a few even have breakfast shows.
Many families spend the day at Silver Dollar City. They are usually open daily March through September, then weekends the rest of the year (though this varies especially around the holidays). Two days, usually Mondays and Tuesdays, are their off-days. Silver Dollar City and its sister Celebration City are theme parks where one can experience traditional Ozark food, music and costumes along with thrilling state-of-the-art rides. Plan on going early and spending the entire day.
The Branson area has plenty of outdoor recreation. Missouri has more than 5000 caves including Marvel Cave in Silver Dollar City and Talking Rocks in Branson. Nearby are the Ozark Mountains with hiking, biking, horseback riding and camping.
Branson says it has five seasons: spring, summer, fall, winter, and the Ozark Mountain Christmas season. Whatever time of year you decide to visit Branson, your family will have plenty of options. I can’t wait to return with my family.
Jane Bertschinger is a family travel specialist from Wisconsin. She has been traveling the world with her family since her teenage sons were in diapers. Contact her at [email protected] or visit www.gosmartravel.com.
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