12 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Branson, MO
Author Brad Lane enjoyed a reporting trip to Branson and other parts of Missouri for PlanetWare, and looks forward to catching a show on his next visit.
Branson, in the Ozark Mountains of southern Missouri, has a long history as the Live Entertainment Capital of the World. Several venues line its main entertainment district, Highway 76, with much of the excitement spilling out onto the streets below the marquees. This lively corridor also contains colorful storefronts and special tourist attractions.
The 100-year history of Branson is tied to its ability to draw tourists from across the nation. Alongside ample live music venues, Branson is brimming with other attractions and things to do, like museums, giant Ferris wheels, and water parks.
Ozark Mountain scenery is also abundant in Branson, both above and below ground. Places like Talking Rocks encourage underground adventure, while several nearby natural spaces offer countless sightseeing opportunities. Summer is the best time to go to Branson for the full range of things to do, but the spring and fall are slightly less busy.
Discover the best places to visit with our list of the top attractions in Branson, MO.
1. Live Shows and Musical Performances
The city of Branson is synonymous with live music performances. From acappella to musical theater and covering genres such as country, classical, and special Christmas performances, Branson delivers professional live entertainment. The downtown Entertainment District is alive with colorful marquees advertising these lively shows every night of the week throughout the summer.
A few of the most popular shows in Branson include the multi-ensemble Presley's Country Jubilee or the special effects show from The Haygoods. One of the most popular of Branson's live performances, Dolly Parton's Stampede, also provides dinner alongside live horse riding, music, and comedy. Shows often take place throughout the day and well into the night.
Other live performances include acrobats, illusionists, tribute shows, variety acts, and religious theater. The Christmas holiday season in Branson is jam-packed with professional shows that inspire, including the acclaimed Branson's Christmas Wonderland. For visiting during the peak summer season, it's recommended to browse online and purchase tickets ahead of any visit.
2. Silver Dollar City and Marvel Cave
Silver Dollar City is a massive amusement park and entertainment space located between Branson and West Branson. The park encompasses over 100 acres and features an intricate 1880s theme with over 40 different rides and attractions.
Silver Dollar City also encompasses restaurants, shows, and shopping opportunities. The park puts on different culinary classes and artisan demonstrations as well.
Able to facilitate large events, Silver Dollar City is also home to seven world-class festivals throughout the year, including the annual Harvest Festival.
Interest in the area first began with the discovery of what was quickly named Marvel Cave. The deep wonders of the cave eventually generated aboveground attractions as well, leading to a thematic mining town complete with costumed characters and amusement rides. As interest grew further, roller coasters and first-class facilities were added to the mix.
Today, with the cost of admission, guests are granted guided entry into Marvel Cave. Whether it's part of the fun at Silver Dollar City, or the reason to visit, Marvel Cave still stands as the cave that helped build Branson into what it is today.
Address: 399 Silver Dollar City Parkway, Branson, Missouri
3. Branson Landing
In Historic Downtown Branson, on the shores of Lake Taneycomo, Branson Landing is a one-stop spot for dining, entertainment, and shopping. This engaging public space is next to the Branson Scenic Railway Depot and features over 100 storefronts adjacent to a charming promenade.
The most eye-catching feature of Branson Landing is the Branson Landing Fountains near the shore of Lake Taneycomo. These 120-foot geysers combine with pyrotechnics and music to create a dazzling show. Also known as Branson Landing's Crown Jewel, these family favorite displays occur every day on the hour between noon and 10 pm.
4. Museums in Branson
Family friendly museums are stacked to the brim all along Highway 76 and Branson's Entertainment District. Ranging from a massive replica of a Titanic ship to a Hollywood-style Mount Rushmore, the different museum options in Branson go beyond the ordinary and appeal to everyone who visits.
The Veterans Memorial Museum is a must-see and features 10 show halls that cover 20th-century American combat. Less than three miles down the highway, the Ripley's Believe It or Not Branson Odditorium displays a different slice of life and features a wide array of hard-to-believe artifacts from across the world.
Other popular museums to visit in Branson's Entertainment District include the Titanic Museum, entered through an artificial iceberg, and the Hollywood Wax Museum, complete with a big collection of replica pop icons.
Other memorable museums in Branson include World's Largest Toy Museum, the Celebrity Car Museum, and the Ozark-related Ralph Foster Museum at Lookout Point.
5. Talking Rocks Cavern
Located in West Branson, 10 miles west of Branson's Entertainment District, Talking Rocks Cavern provides subterranean excitement. This popular family-friendly establishment also features plenty of above-ground things to do, too.
The absolute highlight of any visit to Talking Rocks Cavern is the one-hour tour of the namesake attraction offered throughout the day. The guided tours at Talking Rocks take patrons deep into the cavern, navigating stairs and exploring the ancient features that have defined the area for thousands of years. Tours cater to most members of the family, with no crawling of any kind.
Aboveground activities at Talking Rocks Cavern include mini-golf, gemstone mining, and nature trails. The facility also features two challenging "Spelio-Boxes," which are wooden-box mazes constructed to simulate the tight environments encountered while cave exploring.
Address: 423 Fairy Cave Lane, Branson West, Missouri
6. Family Fun in Branson's Entertainment District
In addition to the many live shows and museums to check out in Branson's Entertainment District, other family-friendly activities easily catch your attention. Whether you feel the need for some speed on a corkscrew go-kart track or you want to sink the winning putt on the 18th hole of a thematic mini-golf course, the Entertainment District of Branson offers endless days of activity.
Bigfoot on the Strip is easily seen from the street, including its 200-foot tower amusement ride. Across the highway, the White-Water waterpark is a popular destination during the summer, as well as the neighboring Track Family Fun Parks and their epic go-kart tracks. For a great view of everything Branson's Entertainment District has to offer, the giant Ferris wheel found off Highway 76 can give you a good sense of all there is to do.
7. Branson Scenic Railway
The Branson Scenic Railway takes patrons through the Ozark foothills and down the historic tracks of the transportation era. The Depot is located near the Historic Downtown District on the east side of the city. Traveling either north or south from this historic 1905 Depot, the Branson Scenic Railway navigates lush scenery complete with tunnels, trestles, and true Ozark wilderness.
The restored passenger cars are a part of the story of the Branson Scenic Railway. All ticketholders are encouraged to check out the connected collection of classic railcars during the nearly two-hour ride. The 40-mile round trip also comes with a friendly narration that points out the most scenic attractions along the way.
The Branson Scenic Railway offers special events throughout the year in addition to their regular rides, including a Polar Express Train Ride during the holidays. The railway also features a dinner train offered on Saturdays from April through October. Trains run daily from the depot, except select Sundays.
Address: 206 E. Main Street, Branson, Missouri
8. Visit the Aquarium at the Boardwalk
The Branson Aquarium, also known as the Aquarium at the Boardwalk, is a family-favorite place to visit in Branson's Entertainment District. And, like many of the facilities in this part of town, unique and eye-catching exhibits comprise this entire underwater educational space.
Among 250 different animal species swimming throughout its tanks, the aquarium also provides unique visiting experiences like a 5D submarine journey and a Jelly Infinite Room filled with floating jellyfish and visualizations. Other visitor attractions include water tunnels, a Mermaid Palace, and an interactive Kelp Forest play area.
9. Table Rock State Park
Table Rock State Park is a great natural getaway into the Ozarks. The state park is just south of the city and on the shores of Table Rock Lake. This expansive nature area features second-growth oak forests intertwined with multi-use trails, and plenty of access to the sprawling waters.
Mountain biking, fishing, and spending the night under the stars are popular activities at Table Rock State Park. The 2.25-mile Table Rock Lake Shore Trail is a great way to appreciate the lake from land, and thanks to the State Park Marina and a full line of boat rentals, appreciation can be found on top of the water as well.
To extend your stay at Table Rock, the state park also provides two campgrounds complete with non-electric and electric campsites, shower facilities, and flushing toilets. A two-night minimum is required when booking a weekend campsite in advance. Table Rock also features a premium yurt complete with two bedrooms, televisions, and a kitchen with an electric stove.
Address: 5272 MO-165, Branson, Missouri
10. Lakeside Forest Wilderness Area
Just south of Highway 76 and Branson's Entertainment District, Lakeside Forest Wilderness Area showcases the Ozark formations that define this region of southern Missouri. Lakeside Forest spans more than 140 acres, with hiking trails lining its interior, ranging from smooth pathways to extensive staircases. Many of these trails lead to small underground caves, which are fun and safe to explore.
Visitors to Lakeside Forest often opt for the Owens Drive Trail, which leads to the remains of a historic homestead. Another option is the Lake Taneycomo Trail, which covers some elevation to reveal rock grottos, caves, and great views across the wide shores of Lake Taneycomo.
Lakeside Forest Wilderness Area is also popular for family picnics thanks to a large picnic shelter next to a nature-themed playground set.
Address: 412 Owen Ln, Branson, Missouri
11. Hit the Greens at a Local Golf Course
Stunning golf greens draw a lot of tourist traffic to Branson, and for good reason. Beautiful courses catering to a wide range of play punctuate the area, with many 18s taking full advantage of the Ozark Mountain scenery.
A few of the most sought-after 18-hole courses in the area include Thousand Hills Golf Resort and the Branson Hills Golf Club. Both of these courses offer public tee times and cater to most skill levels, with different sets of tees available. Booking a tee time at either of these courses in the height of summer might be challenging and worth planning ahead.
Top-of-the-Rock Golf Course at Big Cedar Lodge provides the most quintessential Branson golfing experience. This Jack Nicklaus Signature Course is the only par-3 course included in the PGA Tour and provides breathtaking views across Table Rock Lake.
Read More: Top-Rated Resorts in Branson, Missouri
12. The Butterfly Palace and Rainforest Adventure
The Butterfly Palace & Rainforest Adventure overlooks Branson's Entertainment District on the west side of the city. The facility opens a whole new world of excitement for the entire family.
It features a living Rainforest Science Center, exotic critter encounters, and thousands of live butterflies imported from across the world. The Butterfly Palace provides educational and fun adventures for all ages.
Patrons of The Butterfly Palace have many activities to choose from with each visit. An always favorite activity is the daily butterfly release events.
Visitors to the Butterfly Palace also have access to the interactive Great Banyan Tree Adventure and Emerald Forest Mirror Maze. No matter how you spend your time at this rainforest-inspired educational space, the Butterfly Atrium provides an experience found nowhere else in Branson.
Address: 4106 W. 76 Country Boulevard, Branson, Missouri
Where to Stay in Branson for Sightseeing
- Branson's most upscale hotel is the Chateau on the Lake Resort Spa & Convention Center, which is set atop a hill overlooking Table Rock Lake. The AAA Four Diamond resort features contemporary rooms and suites that are popular with families. There is a seasonal kids' club on-site, as well as a year-round nature trail, indoor swimming pool and hot tub, and multiple restaurants. In summer, a second outdoor pool and hot tub is open and there is also a marina.
- The Hilton Branson Convention Center is a 4-star property in the historic downtown. It is connected to the Branson Convention Center and just across the street from its sister property the Hilton Promenade at Branson Landing, where you'll also finding a retail and entertainment district. Rooms and suites are modern and colorful. The hotel is dog friendly and amenities include a restaurant, heated pool, hot tub, and a workout room.
- The Keeter Center at College of the Ozarks is a lovely mid-range choice right on the college campus. Located about 10 minutes from downtown Branson, it features 15 suites of varying sizes and styles. The Loft Suites have hewn-log vaulted ceilings, rich wood and leather furnishings, and a neutral color scheme. Amenities include an excellent restaurant with live music on weekends and at Sunday brunch.
- In a country setting just outside downtown, the Savannah House has pretty views of the Ozark Mountains. The rooms and suites are modern and comfortable and there are interconnected rooms available for families. A hot breakfast is served each morning and at night a dessert spread including hot cobblers and soft-serve ice cream is offered. There is also a swimming pool on-site.
- Branson's Best is a good value, family-owned and operated motel in a central location with easy access to downtown. Rooms and suites are clean and comfortable with crisp white linens and duvets. A hot breakfast is included, and kids stay free here. There is also a swimming pool on-site.
- The Shady Acre Inn & Suites is a top budget choice. The reasonably priced motel is family run and offers tidy and comfy rooms with microwaves, fridges, and coffee makers. The motel is located next to the Silver Dollar City theme park and just a few minutes away from Table Rock Lake. There is a swimming pool and BBQ facilities on-site. Kids stay free.
- In a central location just off the main strip, Seven Gables Inn is another good choice in this price bracket. Rooms were recently renovated and have pillow-top mattresses, microwaves, and fridges. A hot breakfast is served complimentary each morning. There is also a swimming pool and free parking.
Best Time to Visit Branson, MO - Historical Climate Averages
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