Branson is a small city in Missouri (resident population about 10,000) with a big heart; they aim to please and often do—but it’s not for everyone. Cosmopolitan, sophisticated or diversified it is not. But handicapped accessible, family friendly and affordable it reigns.
Recently returned from Branson’s Ozark Mountain Christmas where the city wide festival (which began November first) runs through mid-December. Look carefully at show schedules from December 15-31st. Many of the performers take time off for their personal holidays.
Branson is not afraid to flaunt its Christian philosophy, patriotism or hillbilly roots. Tourism began to develop in the 1940’s when the book The Shepherd of the Hills was made into a movie starring John Wayne. Visitors flocked to the area wanting to see the Ozarks for themselves. Over the years, more and more families were attracted and the city boomed by adding country music performances. The shows expanded and Branson now hosts eight million visitors each year.
Main Street bustles with a variety of retailers like Dick’s Oldtime 5 & 10, craft shops, boutique fashions and restaurants. Route 76 passes most of the 50 plus theatres- ranging from small one-man shows to the over-powering Sight and Sound stage. To accommodate customer needs, some shows start as early as 10 am and give multiple performances throughout the day.
Beyond live entertainment, the activity options change with the season, as does the crowd. College students arrive on Spring break, families descend in the summer, and mature visitors come by the busload favoring the fall and holiday season.
Dogwood Canyon Nature Park
In summer, the lakes provide excellent fishing grounds, water sports, boating (including a double wheeled paddleboat) and relaxation. Golfers choose among half a dozen courses while hikers and bikers find paved walking paths in Dogwood Canyon to woodsy nature trails. Horseback and ATV trails are also popular.
Thrill seekers venture up the 200 foot Shepherd of the Hills Tower for the Vigilante Ziprider. The riders zoom half a mile down at speeds reaching 50 miles per hour. (I tried this attraction and found it to be a blast!)
Fall foliage rightfully brings out shutterbugs and those who enjoy the beautiful mountains in full color. The town slows down only in January and February when most of the venues work behind the scenes to produce new shows.
For entertainment value and Christmas spirit, head to Branson. It’s not too late to revel in some holiday magic.
Explore Branson: www.explorebranson.com.