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Now here’s a place that just gets better with age. Branson celebrated its centennial last year, but the festivities still haven’t ended. Storied theaters, hair-raising thrill rides, and serious shopping make this Missouri city one you’ve just got to see.
By Amanda Gleason
Big Cedar Lodge At this luxe lakefront spread, you can cast your way to relaxation then wind down in a log cabin complete with a bubbling whirlpool tub.
The Branson Hotel At Branson’s oldest bed-and-breakfast, cozy up to the outdoor fireplace with a complimentary glass of wine.
Hilton Promenade at Branson Landing Situated in downtown’s shopping dis-trict, this stately hotel sports a heated indoor pool that’s ideal for a post-spree soak.
If fishing strikes your fancy…
Reel One In
Where do some of Branson’s biggest celebs hang out? Betcha wouldn’t guess that they’re cruising around Table Rock Lake, one of the country’s top spots for bass fishing. Anglers pour into these waters in search of all varieties of bass, including largemouth, smallmouth, white, and Kentucky spotted. Join the quest during a half- or full-day charter, offered daily at Big Cedar Lodge for groups of up to six. A knowledgeable guide will take you up to a half-mile offshore, where you’ll cast your line. To avoid tales of the one that got away, visit between March and May when this serene sport is at its peak. “Fishing is different every day, depending on weather, seasonal patterns, and the way the fish move,” says Tim Paige, a guide. “One thing is consistent though—patience is key.” We guess it’s true what they say: Good things come to those who bait.
Titanic Museum Explore more than 400 artifacts related to the ill-fated ship’s passengers and crew, ranging from letters and news clippings to life vests and elaborate dresses.
Veterans Memorial Museum The bronze sculpture of 50 life-sized soldiers is the centerpiece of this military tribute, home to uniforms, medals, and weapons that span from World War I to the Gulf War.
Then strap yourself in and…
Give It a Whirl
Step right up to Silver Dollar City , the frontier-themed amusement park that’s been Branson’s No. 1 attraction for more than 50 years. When the season kicks off on March 15, thrill seekers will have one thing on their minds: Outlaw Run, the new ride scheduled to launch on opening day. With the world’s steepest wood coaster drop (81 degrees), the towering attraction tops out at 68 mph. Prefer to stay grounded? Watch some of the park’s 100 resident craftspeople—including woodcarvers, glassblowers, and more—at work, or browse the slew of specialty shops. And since you’re in Branson, ending your park visit with a show is imperative. We suggest Street Troupe, an act whose mischief-creating characters seek out audience volunteers. Ready to step into the limelight?
Make time for a stop-in at…
Dixie Stampede Feast upon a whole roasted chicken at this dinner show, where opposite sides of the arena cheer for their team of horses and riders.
Dobyns Dining Room Smoked tomato soup is a specialty at this restaurant located at College of the Ozarks, a school where in lieu of tuition students are required to work on campus.
Cruise with the Stars Book a special ticket on Branson.com for a stage performance by Tony Orlando, or other local favorites, and included is an afternoon cruise with that star aboard a luxury yacht.
Hop aboard a downtown train and…
Blast to the Past
Flash back in time with a visit to historic downtown Branson , a lively section of Main Street lined with brick sidewalks, Victorian lampposts, and mom-and-pop shops. In the center of it all, you’ll find the century-old Branson Depot, which runs sightseeing tours through the Ozarks aboard restored luxury railcars from the 1950s. If you’d rather stay close to the action, hitch a free trolley ride to Dick’s 5 & 10, a variety store whose narrow aisles overflow with antique and modern finds that range from meat grinders and Elvis collectibles to checkerboards and wind chimes. (Warning: If you’re a serious browser, block off a few hours.) And since all this exploring will undoubtedly require some refueling, wander over to The Farmhouse, an old-fashioned café known for its blackberry cobbler—and repeat visits.
Set your sights on…
Branson Ballknocker Kiddos jump at the chance to roll inside a 12-foot-tall clear ball down a massive hill. (Parents, fear not: An interior air cushion softens the spins.)
Copper Run Distillery Take a free tour of this facility, where moonshine, rum, and whiskey are handcrafted using pre-Prohibition methods.
Gone with the Wind Museum Be blown away by this downtown museum’s extensive collection of memorabilia from the famed film, including original costumes, props, and scripts.
Sing, dance, and stand in awe when you…
Catch an Act
All the world’s a stage in Branson. With 53 theaters showcasing everything from bluegrass to comedy to acrobatics, it’s no wonder more than 7 million visitors flock to the “Las Vegas of the Ozarks” each year. To hear twin fiddles and a steel guitar, do-si-do to Presleys’ Country Jubilee , where four generations of one musically inclined family crank out country classics. For pop hits old and new, Mickey Gilley Theatre is the place: Don’t miss SIX , a singing sextet of brothers who harmonize on tunes from The Temptations to the Black Eyed Peas. When your eardrums need a rest, settle in at New Shanghai Theatre and let the Acrobats of China wow you with plate spinning, body contortions, and feats of strength and balance. Now that’s what we call a mind-bending experience.
Getting There Fly into Branson Airport (BKG ), about 10 miles south of downtown.
Getting Around To see all Branson has to offer, renting a car is your best bet. For a complete list of transportation options, visit the city’s tourism website .
Getting Out Welcome spring by perfecting your swing at one of the city’s 10 public golf courses .
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