A new family attraction

Branson has something for everyone to enjoy

By Glenda Winders // Photography by Branson Convention and Visitors Bureau

If you associate Branson, Missouri, with senior citizens arriving on buses to take in dinner shows and concerts by formerly popular performers, you’re in for a surprise. For the past several years, Branson residents have been sprucing up their offerings to make sure there is something for every member of the family to do. As a result, the visiting seniors are going to continue to have a blast there — and everyone else, too.

“Branson is one of the top family-vacation destinations in the country, according to TripAdvisor,” said Pamela Yancey, president and CEO of the Branson Chamber of Commerce & CVB. “The Branson-lakes area offers a vast array of different family-friendly activities and attractions that everyone in your whole family will love!”
How about this for starters? Ozark Nights, Branson’s newest attraction, invites visitors to extend their evenings through a nighttime encounter with natural and supernatural wonders during a walk along an illuminated path in the forest. The interactive journey takes place within an ancient mountain hollow, once home to the Owen family, some of the earliest settlers in the region. For generations, folktales have surrounded the old Owen homestead and the sudden disappearance of the family more than 100 years ago. Over the years, rumors of other worldly sounds, flashes of light and strange phenomena have captivated the imaginations of residents and visitors alike.
Another new attraction this year is Spanish illusionist El Mago Pop performing at the Branson Magic Theater. Inspired by the idea of challenging the limits of the impossible, El Mago Pop, whose real name is Antonio Diaz Cascajosa, puts on a show defined by surprise, fantasy, sensibility, rhythm and emotion. Guests can see him perform up-close magic and spectacular illusions.
The non-denominational “Where Jesus Walked” at the Dutton Family Theater is produced in 360-degree surround video and surround sound. The production incorporates images selected from thousands of photographs taken by Ken Duncan that cover the 100-mile area Jesus traversed in his lifetime.
Another biblical epic from the Sight & Sound Theatre is “Queen Esther.” Set in the opulent yet perilous Persian Empire, this is a captivating tale of beauty and bravery and how Esther’s life changed when she entered a new world of royalty and risk. The production features a 300-foot panoramic stage that engulfs the audience on three sides, lavish costumes, massive sets, stunning visuals and dozens of live animals.
At Beyond the Lens, taking a virtual FlyRide is another possibility. Thanks to technology, visitors sit in a theater, but are made to feel like they’re flying over 22 national monuments. Guests can also take a ride in virtual bumper cars, sit in a room with the Royal Family or become a real-life Barbie or GI Joe.
And that’s just the new stuff! Zip-lining, the Titanic Museum, the Copperhead Mountain Coaster at Shepherd’s Adventure Park, the Branson jet boats, go-karting, the upside-down house at WonderWorks, three stories of indoor fun at Fritz’s Adventure, Silver Dollar City, Bigfoot Fun Park, the Aquarium at the boardwalk and much more are still there, too. Nearby, Table Rock Lake, Lake Taneycomo and Bull Shoals Lake are pristine lakes where vacationers can swim, fish, boat and parasail, as well.
In Branson, dinner shows can also be enjoyed by all ages. Dolly Parton’s Stampede Dinner Show Attraction, for example, provides a tasty dinner along with the opportunity to watch riders perform on some 32 horses.
The Comedy Jamboree and Presleys’ Country Jubilee feature comics who will have the whole family laughing. The Amazing Acrobats of Shanghai, Amazing Pets and the Buckets and Boards Comedy Percussion Show are crafted especially with kids in mind.
Not to be outdone, you can’t beat dinner and a show as you cruise on Showboat Branson Belle, or the laughs you’ll have at the Funny Farm Dinner Feud. The Whodunit Hoedown Murder Mystery Dinner Show at The Shepherd of The Hills Historic Homestead & Old Mill Theatre is a comical murder mystery to also consider.
Those in your group who like to shop, especially when bargains are involved, will enjoy the Tanger Outlets and The Shoppes at Branson Meadows. Also, at Branson Landing, visitors can find boutiques and specialty stores, along with delicious dining options.
To no surprise, food is plentiful in Branson. In fact, there are more than200 restaurants in the city. You may want to start the day with a breakfast of 14-inch pancakes at Billy Gail’s Diner, and then for lunch or dinner, move on to Mel’s Hard Luck Diner. Their old-fashioned menu will please every palate with such favorites as chili dogs, burgers and root beer. Best of all, the servers will sing to you while you dine.
If you’re looking for a spaghetti dinner, it’s hard to miss Pasghetti’s Restaurant and Attraction. Just look for the easy-to-spot giant meatball with a fork stuck in it that beckons visitors from the outside. A game room and an indoor Ferris wheel will keep the younger set entertained while they wait for their meals to arrive.
McFarlain’s Family Restaurant is best known for its hearty, homestyle comfort food. Come here for pancakes in the morning, homemade soups at lunchtime and slow-cooked pot roast for dinner. For dessert, try the homemade cobblers or Branson traffic jam pie that is made from cherries, cranberries, rhubarb and strawberries.
Grand Country Buffet is another good option, and their onsite arcade might come in handy for the kids while they wait to be served. For pizza lovers, Papa’s Grand Pizza is just a few doors away from the buffet, or you can head for Mellow Mushroom, which provides stone-baked pizza of your choice with an option for vegan or gluten-free crust, as well.
Vacationers shouldn’t worry about finding accommodations in Branson with hotels, motels, lodges, condominiums, bed and breakfasts, log cabins and vacation rentals that total up to some 20,000
rooms. And that doesn’t include the 2,800 campsites.
The Ozarker Lodge is reminiscent of family road trips with vintage yet modern accommodations that include an outdoor pool, creek-side soaking tubs, coffee bar and mercantile shop. Children can romp at a natural playground, and then join their parents to roast s’mores around a firepit or enjoy popcorn during poolside movie nights. The staff helps curate year-round outdoor adventures.
Watermill Cove, a lakefront property near Silver Dollar City, is set up for families, too. Enjoy paddleboarding, canoeing and swimming, tree houses, volleyball and miniature golf. Directly on Table Rock Lake is Still Waters Resort, where guests have access to about everything they might need to play in the water – aqua cycles, paddleboats, kayaks and inner tubes – even cane fishing poles. If water sports aren’t your thing, try the hiking trails, mini-golf and basketball/volleyball courts.
Westgate Resort is closer to town but still offers a lot to keep everyone in the family occupied when sightseeing and planned activities are finished for the day. An arcade, foosball, ping pong, basketball court and fitness center top the list.
At the Hyatt Vacation Club at the Lodges at Timber Ridge, families will discover villas and suites for their
comfort, as well as a fitness center, the Splash-a-Torium water attraction and a game room.
Johnny Morris, owner of Bass Pro Shops, created Big Cedar Lodge to provide a place where visitors could connect with the outdoors. Two beaches, paved trails, a lazy river, kayaking, golf courses and much more are available to families who want to do just that.
Located in the heart of the entertainment district, Grand Country Resort and Waterpark puts you close to the attractions and the shows you want to see. You can even see country music entertainers at their Grand Country Music Hall.
Fun for the kids at this hotel involves black-light mini-golf, laser tag, an arcade and go-karts. Parents who would like a little privacy can book clubhouse rooms with bunkbeds the kids will love, especially since they’ll have their own TV.
Branson continues to evolve, but its ability to provide year-round entertainment to all ages never seems to change.