Branson is a lively little city nestled in the heart of the picture-perfect Ozark Mountains of southern Missouri. An easy get by car, it’s just one day’s drive from most locations in Middle America, and there are plenty of options for flights in and out of its two commercial airports: Branson Airport and Branson National Airport. Boasting both indoor and outdoor adventure parks, any kind of shopping you can imagine, tours by boat and train, great food and drink, and best of all, friendly people, there are plenty of reasons to visit Branson in your lifetime.
Want a sweet way to start your day? Well, it doesn’t get any sweeter than having a grandma make you homemade cinnamon rolls from scratch. Yes, the popular Branson bakery’s namesake, Grandma Ruth, still comes in to make the pastries sometimes, but the recipe itself has been passed down in the Ruth Strauss Grueneich family for generations. Grandma Ruth's Old Fashioned Cinnamon Rolls is open every day of the week except for Sunday, so make sure to stop in some lovin’ from the oven.
At the Butterfly Palace and Rainforest Adventure, you’ll find a two-story butterfly aviary, where you can stroll amongst hundreds of exotic butterflies as they flutter by. You can take photos, feed them nectar flowers, and even sign up to release one. But these butterflies, as beautiful as they are, are just the beginning. Next up is the Living Rainforest Science Center, where you can walk amongst native wildlife, and navigate a simulation of a real jungle in the Emerald Forest Mirror Maze.
Fritz’s Adventure is all the proof you need that you’re never too old for jungle gyms. Safe and fun for the whole family, the indoor action park has 80,000 square feet of climbing walls, underground tunnels, giant treehouses, multi-story slides, and a four-story rope course. You’ll even find laser rooms, mazes made from stacks of repurposed railroad containers, and a vertical wind tunnel where you can literally fly. If you want an aerial view of all the attractions, you can climb into the cockpit of a suspended airplane and see them from above. Don’t let anyone tell you there’s nothing to do in Branson!
A beach in landlocked Branson? Sure, you won’t find big waves at Moonshine Beach on Table Rock Lake, but this sunny spot, where you can bury your toes in soft sand, is just as tranquil. The lake is crystal clear and perfect for wading in on a hot summer’s day. Play it safe, though, as there are no lifeguards on duty here.
The Branson Coaster is the country’s first and only double alpine rollercoaster. Besides its twists, turns and two breathtaking drops, this mountain coaster offers scenic views of the surrounding landscape that will stun you. Each coaster car fits two guests: one driver and one passenger. Bear in mind that you must be at least 58 inches tall to drive, and at least 38 inches tall to ride.
Hearkening back to a simpler time, when five and dimes were a dime a dozen, this old-fashioned general store will fill you with nostalgia. Dick’s 5 & 10 has an old school candy aisle with over a thousand varieties of sweets and snacks, and bottles of oddly flavored soft drinks, like sweet corn, butter, bacon, and cucumber. If you’re looking for souvenirs and quirky trinkets, Dick’s has no shortage of these either. Droll delights, such as Bob Ross socks, Bigfoot scarves, and a so-called “fun aisle,” prove that there are surprises around every corner in this six-decades-old shop.
Want to let someone else do the driving for a while as you soak in some scenery? For less than $30, you can board the Branson Scenic Railway, a 45-minute train ride that takes you over the rolling hills of the Ozarks from the comfort of your seat. Passengers can sit under the train’s glass-domed roof as Missouri’s beautiful countryside glides past. There are even dinner trips every Saturday, perfect for a leisurely date night.
If the idea of lounging on an inner tube down a 600-foot lazy river appeals, float on over to the 30,000 square foot Castle Rock Resort & Waterpark for a bit of year-round water-based relaxation. If you want to make more of a splash, there are mega corkscrew water slides with thirty-foot drops to zip down. This water park has something for everyone, whether you want to get your poolside fix in the middle of winter or cool off in the height of summer.
Even if you’re not a fan of Italian food, you should stop by Pasghetti’s just to catch a glimpse the massive 15-foot-tall meatball out front, speared with a gigantic fork that rises high above the restaurant’s roofline. This is one meatball they better hope doesn’t roll away. If you do decide to grab a bite here, you’ll be greeted by a high-ceilinged brick-lined interior with faux shopfronts, which gives you the illusion that you’re eating al fresco on a city street. If the meatball out front has given you an outsized craving, order the restaurant’s specialty, “pasghetti and meatball,” for a baseball-sized meatball of your own.
If you want to let your hair down in Branson, swing on over to Crazy Craig’s Cheeky Monkey Bar. The name alone is your first hint that you’re in for a wild night. With zebra-striped ceilings, cheetah-print walls, and a gargantuan bar, this jungle-themed bar, and restaurant closes late and offers live entertainment, a vast selection of beer, and a rainbow of handcrafted tropical drinks, including a 32-ounce rum bucket. If you get hungry, try the local favorite, a big pile of barbecue brisket nachos, or a pulled pork sandwich with agave nectar coleslaw.