The 15 Best Things to Do in Branson, Missouri (2024)

Branson’s natural beauty and effortless Ozark hospitality have welcomed travelers for more than a century, when visitors first arrived seeking to experience the peaceful scene described in Harold Bell Wright’s 1907 novel, "The Shepherd of the Hills." Much has changed since those early frontier days, as the city has grown into an entertainment destination that lays claim to famed amusem*nt parks, more than 100 live shows daily, and interactive museums around every corner.

Despite being the "Live Entertainment Capital of the World," Branson has managed to retain its Ozark charm and beauty, with the town's pristine backdrop of verdant hills and sparkling lakes promising adventure before and after the curtain calls.

From the family-friendly nightlife scene at Branson Landing that defies generational mores to heart-pounding adventures on Table Rock Lake—and yes, so many live shows—here are the best things to do in Branson, Missouri.

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Ride the Rollercoasters at Silver Dollar City

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Address

399 Silver Dollar City Pkwy, Branson, MO 65616, USA

Phone+1 417-336-7100

It’s not only thrill rides that attract visitors to this 100-acre park—although it is home to some truly great ones, including “The Time Traveler” (the world’s fastest, steepest, and tallest spinning coaster) and “Outlaw Run” (the world’s first and only wooden coaster to feature a double barrel roll). There are 100 resident craftsmen that set up shop throughout Silver Dollar City, demonstrating everything from glass blowing to candy making. Live performances are held on one of the 12 stage venues or on the streets, where the smell of roasting succotash fills the air. The holidays are particularly spectacular at this 1880s theme park, but seasonal festivals—like the Bluegrass and BBQ Festival—keep things exciting throughout the year.

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Get Out on At Least One of the Three Lakes

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Branson’s three sparkling lakes stay warm enough year-round to avoid a full freeze, meaning aquatic adventures take place on all three lakes throughout the entire year. Showboat Branson Belle offers the easiest way to get out on the water without a boating license; transforming into a floating stage on Table Rock Lake, it features live performances that take place during an elaborate three-course meal. Meanwhile, boat rentals (speed, fishing, pontoon, etc.) and guided services are offered on the commercial docks along Lake Taneycomo and Bull Shoals Lake, where local operators can help arrange fishing permits, provide fishing gear, and point out the best spots to try to land one of the region’s famed 50-pound stripers.

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Visit the Titanic Museum Attraction

Address

3235 W 76 Country Blvd, Branson, MO 65616, USA

Phone+1 800-381-7670

The immersive experience begins upon arrival at the Titanic Museum Attraction, when visitors are given a boarding pass with the name of a real passenger or crew member who sailed on the RMS Titanic. Throughout the roughly two-hour, self-guided tour, you'll stroll the replicated halls, galleys, and cabins, viewing the museum’s more than 400 artifacts before uncovering your passenger’s fate in the memorial room. Along the way, you'll have the chance to send an SOS signal, listen to stories while sitting in an actual size lifeboat, try to balance on the sloping decks of the ship’s descending stern, and even hold your hands beneath 28-degree water.

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See a Live Show

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There are upwards of 100 shows for visitors to choose from on any given day in Branson, which is exactly why it’s become known as the Live Entertainment Capital of the World. Shows at the Sight and Sound Theatre feature Biblical performances of epic proportions (i.e., trained animals take the stage alongside award-winning actors), while The Clay Cooper Theatre plays home to six incredibly skilled, Ozark-raised siblings—The Haygoods—who often perform to a sold-out crowd. There are shows for kids (Amazing Pets) and shows that serve food (Dolly Parton’s Stampede Dinner Attraction)—but no matter which one you check out, each is rated family-friendly, even Russian-born comedian Yakov Smirnoff’s hilarious standup-up comedy acts.

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Look Out from Inspiration Tower at Shepherd of the Hills

Address

5585 W 76 Country Blvd, Branson, MO 65616, USA

Phone+1 417-334-4191

This 230-foot tower rises above the same soil that inspired Harold Bell Wright’s 1907 novel, The "Shepherd of the Hills" (which became the first novel to sell one million copies in the U.S.). The Shepherd of the Hills today is a family entertainment park with an adventure park, historic farm, and live performance venue all rolled into one stunning destination. Visitors board a glass elevator to reach the top of Inspiration Tower, where they can gaze out on the raw beauty of the Ozarks before having the option of taking the Vigilante Extreme ZipRider zipline to get back down to ground level. Dinner theater shows run throughout the year, but guests should book at least five months in advance to score tickets to the popular holiday shows.

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Eat Blackberry Cobbler

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In pure Ozark tradition, the best blackberry cobblers are made with local berries that stew and bubble in their pot over an open fire, just like the early settlers used to make it. Today, visitors to Branson will find countless renditions of this Ozark staple—check out the scratch-made cobbler at Gettin’ Basted or the free nightly cobbler for guests of the Savannah House Hotel. But it’s the cobbler at The Farmhouse Restaurant that holds the reputation—and the awards—as the best in town. The restaurant's version is near perfection as it is, but when served à la mode with either cinnamon or vanilla ice cream, it’s easy to see why visitors travel for miles just for a scoop of this sweet treat.

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Walk the Branson Landing Boardwalk

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Address

100 Branson Landing Blvd, Branson, MO 65616, USA

Phone+1 417-239-3002

Branson Landing is a one-stop shop for dining, shopping, and entertainment, and it’s become a family-friendly nightlife location, where distilleries and breweries share pedestrian traffic with candy shops and toy stores. The paved boardwalk extends 1.5 miles from the shops along Lake Taneycomo, offering a natural escape from the storefronts and restaurants. Guests can catch views of Canadian geese, ducks, or even bald eagles on the short urban hike, with plenty of time to make it back in time for the spectacular fountain show back at Branson Landing.

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Spend the Night at The Keeter Center

Address

1 Opportunity Ave, Point Lookout, MO 65726, USA

Phone+1 417-239-1900

This 15-suite hotel is set on the campus of College of the Ozarks (a.k.a. Hard Work U), where a tuition-free policy allows students to work for their education at any of the more than 100 campus jobs or industries. The lodge provides onsite training for College of the Ozarks students who handle the experience from check-in to check-out. In-room amenities include complimentary treats and beverages, like fresh milk from the W. Alton Jones Campus Dairy and homemade cookies at turndown (baked fresh by the culinary arts students). Check out the gift shop to bring home more Hard Work U finds—think handmade candles or freshly milled and mixed waffle mix—and support these students on their path toward higher education.

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Take the Lantern Tour at Marvel Cave

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Address

399 Silver Dollar City Pkwy, Branson, MO 65616, USA

Phone+1 417-336-7100

Marvel Cave has been welcoming visitors into its cavernous limestone halls since 1894, when it opened as the first tourist attraction in Branson. In fact, it was the cave that eventually led to the inception of Silver Dollar City, as long lines of visitors needed entertainment during their wait to enter the cave. Marvel Cave today lies beneath the theme park and remains one of the deepest caves in the state. Admission during the day is complimentary with admission to Silver Dollar City, except for the last tour of the day (The Lantern Light Tour), which costs an additional $16 per person. The tour books up quickly, and guests are guided by the light of a lantern throughout this 90-minute experience, during which you'll hear stories and see rooms only told and displayed on this tour.

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Ride the Ozark Zephyr

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Address

206 E Main St, Branson, MO 65616-2716, USA

Phone+1 417-334-6110

The Branson Scenic Railway dates back to 1902 when the first spike was placed. Over the years, the railroad has brought in both goods and tourists to Branson, but today it operates as a leisure journey through the Ozark Mountains. Guests boarding the Ozark Zephyr step back in time on the vintage passenger train for daytime excursions (March through November), dinner train experiences (Saturdays from April through October), and “The Polar Express” (after dark during the months of November and December). The Polar Express journey sells out almost immediately after tickets are released at midnight in April of the same year, but the lucky ticket holders will be in for a truly memorable hour-and-a-half experience.

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Shop at Dicks 5 & 10

Address

103 W Main St, Branson, MO 65616-2765, USA

Phone+1 417-334-2410

If it feels like stepping back in time when entering this family-owned shop, it’s because that’s exactly what’s happening. Dick’s 5 & 10 is one of the last remaining five-and-dime stores in operation, which opened in 1961 by Dick Hartley and is currently run by his son and son-in-law. The duo keeps the old-timey experience authentic with nostalgic toys, sodas, and candies, as well as kitschy gifts and practical home goods. Plan at least an hour to wander through the well-stocked aisles of this downtown shop, and, in true five-and-dime fashion, make sure to pick up a few items that you never knew you needed.

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Embrace Your Inner Child at the World’s Largest Toy Museum

Address

3609 W 76 Country Blvd, Branson, MO 65616-3555, USA

Phone+1 417-332-1499

There are actually eight separate museums throughout the two buildings that comprise this expansive complex. Guests are greeted by two life-sized toy soldiers upon arrival, and then encouraged to explore and, yes, play among the interactive exhibits within the museum (i.e., Hot Wheels track, Lincoln Logs, etc.). Walls of Barbie dolls and Pez dispensers guide the self-guided pathways through the museum’s treasures, which include no less than one million toys. Don’t miss the collection of McDonald’s happy meal toys that range from the 19th century to the present day.

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Have Some Barbecue

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Like most things in Branson, barbecue in this entertaining town is all about the experience. Branson barbecue is a mix of Southern styles that come together on one heaping tray of flavor, with sauces and rubs sitting side-by-side. Big D’s BBQ has the awards to prove it’s the local favorite; it's best-known for its Texas-style brisket and Memphis-style ribs, seasoned in a house-made blend of dry rubs which you can bring home from the gift shop. Gettin’ Basted claims to have pioneered Ozark-style barbecue, which is cooked hot and fast over live wood coals in 55-gallon barrels. The pulled pork is tender and smoky (and especially good on the barbecue nachos), and the poblano creamed corn brulée tastes every bit as exciting as it sounds.

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Play a Round of Mini-Golf

Mini-golf is far from a pastime in Branson: it’s a big deal in this entertainment-crazed town. There are plenty of options, from glow-in-the-dark courses open late into the evening to a Big Foot-themed course that traverses frozen tundra and a research lab. The animatronics at Grand Country’s Farm Mini Golf course immerses putters in the daily life of a whimsical farm, while the Cave Country Mini Golf Course at Talking Rocks Cavern puts an educational spin on the sport as visitors navigate sinkholes and waterfalls.

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Ride the Branson Wheel

The 15 Best Things to Do in Branson, Missouri (10)

Address

3335 W 76 Country Blvd, Branson, MO 65616-3552, USA

Phone+1 417-334-1612

This 240-passenger Ferris wheel arrived in The Track Family Fun Park in 2016 after a very successful stint on Chicago’s Navy Pier. From the top of the wheel, passengers can see the whole town below and take in the sights of the lush Ozark landscape. At night, the Ferris wheel illuminates the sky with more than 16,000 LED lights that dance and move along to a five-minute choreographed musical routine (played throughout Track 4, and also on 90.9 FM) on the hour every hour after dark. Pro tip: Book your ride just before dusk to see the lights flicker on throughout town, and then make your way to the Fuel Fresh American Grill to sit back with a funnel cake or a cold beer and watch the wheel’s spectacular performance.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the best month to go to Branson, Missouri?

    Branson shines brightest during the holidays, when the entire town goes crazy for Christmas. Whether you celebrate or not, it’s hard to pass up the ingenuity and the sheer number of sparkling lights that go into making the holidays magical in the Ozarks.

  • What is Branson, Missouri best known for?

    Even though the landscape is raw and inviting for outdoor enthusiasts, Branson will always be best known for its live entertainment.

  • Do you need a car to get around Branson?

    Many visitors come to Branson by tour bus, and, although the free Downtown Trolley and shuttles/taxis make it possible to navigate the town sans car, there is definitely more freedom for exploration if you have your own set of wheels.

The 15 Best Things to Do in Branson, Missouri (2024)

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