Branson is about an 8 hour drive from Louisville. We stayed at a condo that allowed our dog, had a full kitchen with everything but food, and sleeping accommodations for up to 8 people. That was a good fit for our family, but there are a ton of hotels that offer indoor pools, free breakfast, or discounts on nearby food and events. There is also a waterpark resort that is pricey, but comes with a lot of perks and packages for area events.
There are two different times of year you should consider going to Branson: when it's warm/hot out, or at Christmas time (November thru New Year's). Branson has a lot to offer during both times, but it's best to plan ahead to prevent everything you want to see being sold out, or spending too much. We booked our trip about 3 months prior with good seats at almost all of the events.
Branson has a main strip (76) with several parallel roads with other activities and some outlying activities all just a short drive away. One of the great things about Branson is how close everything is, but during busy times, it's faster to walk a mile on 76 than to drive.
There are some main, expensive things to do and lower cost/free things. We planned so we had 1 big cost event and 1 big/medium expense restaurant (at lunch to cut costs) each day mixed with free or low cost locations and food (we packed breakfast food to save money too). Pick up a coupon book at one of the discount ticket locations, check Groupon, and be sure to check the website for each item on the list below - especially if you're there during a holiday. The hours and events change as the weather cools and the holiday ends.
- Silver Dollar City - Expensive, but full day and night amusement park. Great Christmas light program at night, but you can't buy a separate night time ticket for just the light program. Check the website for all of the special events throughout the year.
- Sight and Sound Theatres - excellent broadway type show. Small pre-show in the lobby, but worth getting there early for parking, gift shop, and refreshments purchases (I packed a purse of snacks!). Don't expect to make it out of the parking lot quickly.
- Dixie Stampede - Excellent dinner and rodeo show. You MUST see the amazing pre-show, so get there at least an hour before show time for good pre-show seats and look at all the horses in their stalls. Don't forget to bring cash for the hefty 15% tip for your server!
- Butterfly Palace - Tickets are pricey for what it is, however the wrist bands get you in for 3 DAYS! (great to have a "free" filler on 2 other days), and the ticket money is helping this non-profit location save the rainforests! Check the website for program schedules, and wear a bright colored shirt!
- Branson's Wild World and Aquarium - This park was a little run down, but we LOVED all of the animal interactions available. You have to pay extra for shark, eel, and stingray food, as well as playing with the dingos. But we thought it was worth it. There are lots of things to touch and pet including sea creatures and porcupines. The only thing the VIP ticket adds is free mini golf, but it was a neat course with a few more reptiles you wouldn't see on the regular ticket.
- Titanic Museum - Well done attraction with fun and educational aspects. We ALL enjoyed this - it was totally worth the cost! If you know what time you will be there you can pre-order tickets with a small discount and specific tour time.
- Talking Rock Caverns - hour long walking tour through the cavern with a nature trail, playground, mining, and gift shop. It's pricey, but we thought the cave tour and extras on site were worth it, and spent half the day there!
- Castle of Chaos - you can buy an all activity ticket with a discount, or just buy the activity you want. It wasn't my thing, and my 6 year old got scared in the mirror maze, but older kids/teens would appreciate it more.
- Ripley's Believe It Or Not - better for older kids/teens
- Hollywood Wax Museum - better for older kids/teens
- Legends in Concert - Impersonator show that was done well, but not my thing. Young kids wouldn't know the stars being impersonated.
- Table Rock Dam - (free) View from above and below.
- Shepherd of the Valley Fish Hatchery - (free) My kids LOVED watching the fish eat the 25 cent fish food!
- Shepherd Inspiration Tower - not worth the money to go up unless you're going to zip line.
- Tanger Outlets (free unless you buy something)
- Grand Village (free unless you buy something) The stores connect inside - don't loose your kids! Really delicious coffee and bakery shop at the back!
- Grand Country Music Hall (shops, food, indoor mini golf).
- The Track Go Carts (a few tracks open at Christmas - wear hat and gloves!)
- Lots of mini golf locations outdoors
- Fun Spot (can get pricey - laser tag, mini bowling, black light indoor mini golf, arcade)
- Historic Downtown Branson (free unless you buy something)
- Branson Landing with Bass Pro (free unless you buy something or do the expensive-but-very- fun zip-line)
- Stone Hill Winery (free tour and tastings include grape juice for the kids!)
- Dixie Stampede (fantastic dinner show)
- Outback Steak and Oyster Bar (delicious but pricey)
- Fall Creek Steak and Catfish House (throw warm rolls at you)
- Pasghetti's Italian Restaurant (ferris wheel and arcade inside, giant fork and meatball outside)
- McFarlain's Family Restaurant (in a shopping and IMAX complex)
- Great American Steak and Chicken House (giant chicken outside)
- Grand Country Buffet (great value, selection, and service)
- Cookies N Cream 50's Diner (slow service, excellent funnel cake!)
Places we will see next time:
- Promised Land Zoo
- National Tiger Sanctuary (Wed-Sat)
- Branson Zipline and Canopy Tour
- Fantastic Caverns
- White Water Branson
- Castle Rock Resort and Water Park
- Segway Tours
- Imax theaters
- Creation Experience Museum
By Guest Contributor: Caryn