The history of Branson, Missouri dates back to the early 1800’s when what is now an ultimate tourist destination was no more than a riverboat stop with a general store. Branson is now home to over 40 live-music theaters, 23,000 hotel rooms, 5,000 camping spaces, nine golf courses, more than 350 restaurants, over 200 retail outlets, and enough attractions to keep a family entertained for as long as their stay will permit. As a fun fact, Branson has more theater seats than Broadway in NYC.
When World War II came to an end, serviceman, craftsman, artisans, and retirees began moving to the area as a place to relax and practice their various callings as an arts & crafts community began to sprout. The first live music show took place in 1959 with The Baldknobbers Hillbilly Jamboree Show, and in 1964 the show moved to a new location in downtown Branson. Other new music shows got in on the action as more theaters starring locals such as the Plummer family and the Presley family began to open. In 1971 the Foggy River Boys came to town, and 1981 saw the completion of the Hee-Haw, the Wilkerson Brothers, and the Starlight Theaters.
Now a far cry from an 1800’s riverboat stop, Branson, with a full-time population of only around 12,000, can see as many as 100,000 guests on any given day. Whether they come for outdoor activities at one of the three lakes, to do some hiking and exploring, or they show up for music and dining experiences, visitors keep coming and there are no signs of Branson’s healthy tourist business ever slowing down.
Here’s a peek at a few of the things visitors will find in the area.
Track Family Fun Park
What can be more fun than sitting low to the ground while speeding around a track on a go-kart? These aren’t just any old tracks though they do have those for the kiddos. These tracks go up and down steep hills, around hairpin turns, over bumps, all at what seems like the speed-of-sound, with each individual driver in control.
A rousing game of laser-tag can be played or guests can attempt weaving their way through a series of lasers without touching the beams of light. Bumper cars/boats and putt-putt golf are both fun for children and the Branson Ferris wheel is a thrill for the entire family. The Ferris wheel holds 240 passengers in 40 cars and it is adorned with 16,000 lights which light up the night sky.
The Vigilante Zip Line
There are zip lines, and then there are ZIP LINES. This one stretches out for a half a mile beginning at Southern Missouri’s highest point, Inspiration Tower. The views are magnificent and on a clear day, riders can see all the way to Arkansas, 90 miles away.
If zooming along while suspended 370 feet above ground from a cable sounds like a good time, going 50-mph at times should make the experience all that more thrilling. This particular ride has been classified as extreme zip lining.
Music, Music, and More Music
Branson has become known as the “live music capital of the world”, a name which it has justifiably earned. Branson has over 100 shows from which to choose. Have you ever wondered what happened to the 1960’s/1970’s group, Three Dog Night? They’re in Branson, still singing about Jeremiah the Bullfrog.
Crystal Gayle, BJ Thomas, the Beach Boys, Charlie Pride, Clay Cooper, Charlie Daniels, Wynonna Judd, Johnny Mathis and a wide range of time-honored music stars fill the stages of theaters all around town. Tributes to deceased or retired stars such as John Denver, George Strait, and Abba, are ongoing and every show in town tries to outdo the other ones. This can only equate to one thing. Guests will be highly entertained no matter which shows they choose.
With the number of visitors showing up for the music only, it’s highly advisable to find out who is playing when and where so reservations can be booked prior to rolling into town. When entertainers such as current country music stars Darryl Worley, Ty Herndon, or the ever-flamboyant Dolly Parton show up in Branson, seats go fast. Plan ahead. The further in advance the better.
If animals are anyone’s thing, Grand Country’s Amazing Pets uses mostly shelter animals and trained house cats in their amazing show. Sight and Sound Theater uses over 50 animals in their productions, and The Shepherd of the Hills uses over 20 donkeys, horses, mules, and sheep in their outdoor presentation. Variety and magic shows are also on the agenda in some theaters.
Table Rock Lake
For water activities, Table Rock Lake offers over 745 miles of shoreline. The lake was formed by the construction of Table Rock Dam. The dam is 6,423 feet long and 252 feet high and was originally constructed for flood control and to generate power but the residual effect of the lake formation has been a huge boost for tourism.
Water skiing, kayaking, canoeing, swimming, and sunbathing draw visitors to the lakes cool waters, but with it being so large it’s fairly easy to find a private spot on shore. There are also some excellent hiking trails around the lake for the more adventurous and they are certain to spot an abundance of wildlife in the natural, and thick, forest.
Branson has evolved quite nicely from its first few settlers. It makes one wonder if when they were stocking the general store’s shelves in the 1800’s, the few inhabitants had any inkling of how this deeply wooded area would one day develop. It’s doubtful they did, but the many visitors who frequently visit Branson today are certainly glad it happened, and with the way things are going, it isn’t done growing yet.