Does your family have diverse tastes? Are some thrill seekers while others prefer a more sedate pace? As I discovered on a recent trip to Branson, the city has a cornucopia of ideas for everyone in the family. Whether your taste runs from thrill rides to history, everyone from grandparents to kids can enjoy these Fun Family Attractions in Branson, Missouri.
I attended a trip hosted by the Branson CVB, but all opinions are my own.
For the Adventure Seekers
1. Silver Dollar City– If you saw my Dining Guide to Branson, Missouri you know I think Silver Dollar City is a food lovers paradise. You’ll be tempted to stop at all the restaurants and food vendors. In between the dining, be sure to check out all rides and attractions. The youngest members of the family will enjoy Farmer Wilson’s Milk Cow, a hands-on experience that allows kids the chance to “milk” a cow or the Firehouse Play Place, where junior firefighters can race through an obstacle course. Older kids and adults will enjoy Outlaw Run, a coaster with three upside-down twists, or coming in 2018, the Time Traveler, the World’s Fastest, Steepest & Tallest Spinning Roller Coaster. Plus, they have made a Time Traveler’s Ice Cream to celebrate. It’s a bit of ooey-gooey chocolate heaven. The history buffs in the family will enjoy McHaffie’s Homestead, an authentic 1800s hewn-log cabin. Inside the cabin, you can talk to historical reenactors who bring the past to life with demonstrations of common activities in the 1800s. Don’t miss the Homestead Animal Barn with a chance to see animals found on 19th-century farms.
Want even more fun? Check out their Festivals held throughout the year. We attended the National Crafts and Cowboy Festival and found over 125 craftsmen and all sorts of demos. I’m still trying to recreate recipes from the Chuck Wagon cooking! Silver Dollar City opens March 15th and closes January 1st. Be sure to check the website for hours as they change seasonally.
2. Marvel Cave– has a long and storied history. Originally found by the Osage Indians, they were afraid of the cave and avoided the area. It was opened to the public in 1894 by William Henry Lynch and his two daughters, Miriam and Genevieve. The story of Miriam and Genevieve is fascinating. They conducted tours of the cave until well into their seventies climbing down the ladder in the photograph below. Today Silver Dollar City has acquired Marvel Cave and guests no longer have to climb in and out by ladder. An experienced guide will conduct you through an informative one hour tour while explaining an in-depth history of the area. Note: The tour does have 600 steps and goes through some tight squeezes. Admission to the cave is included with a ticket to Silver Dollar City.
3. Bigfoot on The Strip– Have you ever wanted to hunt for the elusive Bigfoot? You can have your chance at Bigfoot on The Strip. On the Bigfoot Discovery Expedition™ guests will travel ten minutes outside of Branson to Bigfoot Farms. This approximately one hour and twenty-minute tour takes place in the natural beauty of the Ozark Mountains, allowing guests to experience nature while checking for Bigfoot sightings. On our tour, we were surprised to find some “big hairy beasts.” No, it wasn’t Bigfoot. Instead, we got close and personal with adorable Scottish Highland calves. They’re tame enough to walk up to the bus and allow passengers to feed them by hand.
After attempting to find Bigfoot, you’ll want to continue thrill seeking. It’s easy to do at the Attraction Center with rides like The Gravity Bomb, a 200-foot free fall ride, or the Super Sling which launches riders into the air and then brings them tumbling head over heels down. For the more sedate among us (or those who are afraid of heights, like me), try the Bigfoot Adventure Golf or the Bigfoot’s 8Di Action Ride, adventures with all the senses while you attempt to catch bad guys. When you get hungry, take a break and visit one of the Food Trucks on the property. We sampled all of them and I can’t pick a favorite, but the ice cream sandwiches can’t be missed. Bigfoot on the Strip is located at 3608 US Hwy 76 and is open daily from 10 AM until “late.”
For the Musical Family
4. Showboat Branson Belle– Designed exclusively for Table Lake, the Showboat Branson Belle offers a relaxing two-hour cruise complete with a three-course meal and a show. There are three levels of seating; General Seating on the floor, Lieutenant’s Row Seating, with preferred seating and an early boarding time, and Captain’s Club seating, with preferred seating, early boarding time, and special Captain’s Club menu. We enjoyed the Captain’s club menu and had a difficult time deciding between the four entree choices. I chose the Rib Eye Steak but admit I had Chicken envy when one of our party chose the Seared Chicken Breasts. And the Caramel Pecan Cheesecake! Thick, creamy cheesecake with a delicious caramel sauce. I could have gladly taken a few extra slices home with me.
The show is a mix of comedy, classic songs, and dance acts. Christopher James, the host, is a fifth-generation magician, and his children, five-year-old twins, get into the act. During intermission patrons can walk along the deck and sometimes check out the wheelhouse to chat with the captain and crew.
If you are in the area during November and December, don’t miss out on Pancakes and PJS. Kids can visit activity stations around the boat, have a pancake breakfast, and meet Santa.
5. Raiding the Country Vault– Fans of country music will love this walk down memory lane with some of Country’s greatest hits. The talented cast is composed of performers who have worked with a variety of stars; everyone from George Jones to Dierks Bentley. Melody Hart, who plays the fiddle, does a rendition of The Devil Went Down to Georgia that will have your hands clapping and your toes tapping. While you watch the show, you’ll learn about the history of Country Music and fun facts about the Artists to whom the cast pays tribute. Fun fact: Did you know George Jones was nicknamed “The Possum” because people thought his nose and facial features resembled a possum? Stick around and meet the performers after the show. I left humming Michael Peterson’s Drink, Steal, Swear & Lie.
For the Nostalgics
6. Dick’s 5 & 10– Remember the shopping trips with Grandma when you were young? With the slogan “It’s just like old times,” you know you’re going to find everything you remember from when you were a child. More than twelve different departments include goodies ranging from a Candy Emporium to a Toys and Games section. Those hard to find candies from when you were a child? Dick’s probably has them. We spent an hour wandering through the store exclaiming, “Oh! Paper dolls! Remember those?” or “I had a set of Lincoln Logs just like these.” Dick’s doesn’t just sell goodies. They are also known for their collections. Dick Hartley, the original owner, wanted his store to stand apart from others in the area. He accomplished this by adding his own personal collections. Look up to see airplanes dangling from the ceiling. The walls are loaded with World War II Aviation Prints and a wall of Baseball memorabilia- filled with autographed prints. You never know what collections might be mounted around the corner. I was amazed to stumble across a collection of washing machines from the 1900’s to the 1940’s. Dick’s 5 & 10 has been a family owned business for fifty five years and they are still going strong. They are located at 103 West Main Street and are open daily.
7. Branson Ferris Wheel– Originally the Chicago Navy Pier Ferris Wheel, the Ferris Wheel was moved to Branson in 2016. At 150 feet tall, the Ferris Wheel provides spectacular views of the Ozark mountains during the day and the city of Branson at night. Be sure not to miss the nightly Electrify Sound Shows held at 8 PM, 9 PM and 10 PM. With hundreds of LED lights set in time with music, it’s a spectacular event. Each gondola is designed to carry up to six people so it can be a fun family attraction or a relaxing, romantic ride.
For the History Buffs
8. Titanic History Museum– The sinking of the “unsinkable” Titanic was a tragedy in 1910. But, what of the passengers and crew who lost their lives during the fatal voyage? The Titanic History Museum seeks to honor these victims, telling their stories in a compassionate and compelling narrative. Upon entering the museum you’ll be welcomed by a Crew Member, dressed in a replica uniform, and given a boarding pass with a name of an actual passenger or crew member. A truly interactive experience, guests can see over 400 exhibits from the ship or belonging to passengers, touch an iceberg and feel the 28-degree water that caused so many people to lose their lives. One of my favorite exhibits is the Grand Staircase, an exact replica of the staircase in First Class. I almost expected to see Jack walking down the steps, just like in the movie. This isn’t just a museum, it is an experience. You’ll leave feeling like you knew the victims. The tour is self-guided, but tour members are available to answer any questions. The museum is open daily except for Christmas and January 16th through 18th. Check the website for times.
Where to Stay
Hilton Branson Convention Center located across the street from the lovely Branson landing and within easy walking distance of historic downtown, the Hilton Branson Convention Center is the perfect place to be near the action. The hotel is decorated with a soothing river theme paying homage to the scenery and all rooms offer views of either Branson Landing, Lake Taneycomo, downtown or the Ozark Mountains. A personal favorite, complimentary wi-fi, is included in the room. Note: Parking is an additional charge of $13 per night for self-parking in the garage or Valet parking is available for $16.
Have you visited Branson with your family? Have you visited any of these attractions? Which were your favorites?