Thank you Branson Visitor’s Bureau for partnering with us and giving us an opportunity to #ExploreBranson
When you hear Branson you may think shows (I know I did!) but it’s so much more. I visited for the first time with my kids this summer and here’s seven ways we had an amazing time exploring Branson.
Ride the Ducks
We started off our Branson exploration with Ride the Ducks and it started off with a bang- or should I say quack?! Ride the Ducks is a fun family friendly land and water adventure conveniently located right off the Branson strip (also at Branson landing) that will have you laughing and learning about Branson on the 70 minute ride. The Duck is built to resemble the WWII DUKW land water vehicles but have enough modern power to climb the Ozarks. This ride is fun from the moment you step on with your quacker. Then you’re off with the knowledgeable captain cracking jokes, getting the whole boat involved in the ride all while sharing the history and must visit spots of Branson. It’s such a fun interactive ride with just the right songs being played at just the right times and the kids even get to drive the duck! I think my son’s face says what he thought of that! After cruising the Branson strip you will take the plunge into Table Rock late for some beautiful views and more Branson tid bits. The Duck runs approximately 9 AM – 5 PM at two locations and tickets run from $25 to $14 but if you present your ticket at various Branson stops you will receive discounts!
The Track Family Fun Parks
Next we were off to the aptly named The Tracks Family Fun Parks! Tracks has 3 locations along the main strip in Branson all with different exciting attractions that are just plain family fun! There are tracks and tracks galore for your littlest driver all the way up to those looking for adventure. The kids had a blast at their first turn at real go garts (Moms of littles FYI these carts scoot!) and there is even a 4 story track, a Road Course, and The Lumberjack and Wild Woody for the more experienced driver to test their skills!
We celebrated summer and I let the kids stay up later than they ever have (I also let them sleep in the next day.) having a blast with everything to do at Tracks. They have multiple arcades with games for all ages and you can conveniently use a card to swipe and the games let the kids earn tickets for prizes. We also tried our hand at their Ozark themed mini golf course. The bumper boats hit the spot on a warm summer evening! Tracks also has lazer tag and a bungee jump!
In the parking lot of the main Tracks location you will find what is arguably the jewel of Branson. Towering 150 feet in the air is the beautiful Branson Ferris Wheel that once graced Chicago’s Navy Pier. Take a leisurely ride in a roomy enclosed car and enjoy the breath taking view as you go up, up, up and away!
Confession: I’m pretty afraid of heights but I decided to show my kids it’s okay to punch fear in the face and I wanted to enjoy our trip to the fullest so with the company of a sweet Ferris Wheel employee we rode (drenched from the bumper boats :-))! It’s slow and steady and the cart is enclosed so we did just fine and the view is so worth it!
At night the Ferris Wheel gets even better with breathtaking vibrant light shows that are synchronized to music! Take a spin, play some games, ride the Ferris Wheel- there’s fun for all ages at Tracks Family Fun Parks.
Branson Scenic Railway
All aboard for beautiful views of the Ozarks! The Branson Scenic Railway is a family friendly and relaxing way to take in the breathtaking valleys and mountains of the Branson area. The beautiful well maintained vintage train the Ozark Zephyr takes you across hundred year old bridges and through what is left of towns of days gone by. We boarded at the depot dating back to 1905 conveniently located in the heart of Branson (Allow yourself ample time to park. ) and were able to snag a table in one of the cars. There are no assigned seats but boarding numbers are issued in order of tickets purchased so be sure and buy your tickets and get there early. We had trouble parking and by the time we got there the awesome dome car with the glass ceiling was full. As you can see below we still had great views.
There’s concessions available aboard the train (as are restrooms) so we got drinks and snacks and settled into our table for the one hour and 40 minute ride. During the ride the conductor shares the history and points of interest. You are also free to get up and roam about the train for different points of view. Ticket prices range from $17-27.
The Dixie Stampede
After the ride on the Branson Scenic Railway we headed over to the world’s most visited dinner attraction, Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede, for some great food (No utensils, y’all!) and a spectacular good time. Branson has more show seats than Broadway and amazing performances to choose from, but I highly recommend the Dixie Stampede. Miss Dolly (My personal hero. True story.) has put together a phenomenal production with a mouthwatering menu for the whole family to enjoy!
Be sure and arrive 50 minutes early for the preshow so you don’t miss a thing! The show features 32 magnificent horses in a 35, 000 square foot arena and everything from singing to trick riding to comedy and more. It’s a feast for all your senses as well because The Dixie Stampede also includes a delicious 4 course meal that even without the show I would have been happy to be served at a restaurant. (Vegetarian options available upon request.)
Tip for my fellow special needs mamas: Bring your kiddos headphones if they use them. I forgot my little guy’s and he loved the show but spent the whole time with his hands on his ears. I saw the Stampede at its Pigeon Forge location years ago right after I got married and so it was neat to come full circle and bring my kids and have them also love it!
The Butterfly Palace
High atop the hill at the west end of the strip in Branson there is one of the best butterfly gardens I’ve ever been to, The Butterfly Palace and Rainforest Adventure. It’s educational fun for all ages! People from all over the world come to see the 50-60 different species of beautiful butterflies. My favorite was the bright blue butterflies which I have not seen at any other butterfly garden.
The Butterfly Palace also provides tubes of nectar as you enter the butterfly garden. If you are very still the butterflies will land on you which Caitlin loved. (Ethan not so much if you have any special needs kiddos that might be afraid.) Be sure and go for the butterfly release to witness nature at its finest. You can find the release times on The Butterfly Palace’s website.
The Butterfly Palace also features a fun maze of mirrors, a rain forest adventure, and beautiful face painting. They also have a wonderful gift shop. Mama picked up a gorgeous butterfly wind chime for the back porch.
Hollywood Wax Museum
No need to go to Hollywood to see the stars! Right on Route 76 in Branson you can see Vin Diesel, Taylor Swift, Brad and Angelina and on and on…..in wax! We had a blast at The Hollywood Wax Museum with all of their props and photo opps with the kids trying to out do each other.
The Hollywood Wax Museum has recently underwent a multi-million dollar renovation to bring the latest stars and still have the classics like John Wayne and Marilyn Monroe. The statues were good quality and many were so amazingly life like and the “sets” let you be in the movie with them.
At Hollywood Wax Museum there is tons of fun in one place. With an All Access Pass you can access the Wax Museum, The Castle of Chaos, Hannah’s Maze of Mirrors, and Shoot For The Stars Mini Golf. This maze of mirrors is more elaborate than the one at The Butterfly Palace (which was still fun!) and it was quite an adventure to navigate! Moms, keep your little close because it could be very confusing but we had a great time making funny faces in the mirror and finding our way out.
Shoot for the Stars is a fun mini golf course part of the Hollywood Wax Museum Complex and part of your All Access Pass or can be purchased separately. It has a fun Hollywood theme. As you play each hole you complete another step to becoming a star finishing off at the red carpet and The Oscars. When you’re in Branson look for the King Cong sized sign and get ready for big fun!
Silver Dollar City
Our final stop exploring Branson could have been a vacation on its own there is so much to do. And for a few of my friends they love Silver Dollar City so much it’s an annual pilgrimage and I could see why on our first visit there!
Silver Dollar City is an award winning 1880’s Ozark themed amusement park with food, rides for all ages, musicians and shows, and craftsmen demonstrating their artisan work. This place is big y’all. (It does offer valet parking which I found worth every penny!) It was also beautiful, clean, and well maintained. This Disney nerd does not say this lightly: I found the cleanliness and quality of rides and structures to be on par with the Disney parks I’ve visited.
Mom loved the celebration of the Ozark heritage like this beautiful 1843 cabin with musicians on the porch. Silver Dollar City features glass blowers, wood workers, candy making, black smith and more. There are bluegrass and gospel musicians, shows, and even culinary classes! It’s a true celebration of the skills and culture of the Ozarks.
Silver Dollar City is also one of the top ten amusement parks in America according to Fobor’s Travel so you know there’s going to be rides. They have rides from towering coasters to those wanting to get wet to tons of whimsical rides like they balloons for the littles. You can see all of their rides here. They also have White Water for those looking for water park fun and the Branson Bealle Riverboat for a show, dinner, and a cruise. Not wanting to leave the fun? You can stay on site with Silver Dollar City’s Wilderness Cabins, RV Park, and camping. We were only able to do a small fraction of the huge amount of things to do at Silver Dollar City but it was enough to know we want to go back.
Our Branson adventure was one of the highlights of our summer. There is so much to do and see and explore all set against the beautiful back drop of the Ozarks. We can see ourselves being one of those people I mentioned making it an annual or at least semi annual visit. We are already talking about visiting again for spring break or summer! Whether you love the outdoors, are a foodie, love a good show, or looking for some family fun, there’s something for all ages in Branson and these are only seven of the thousands of ways to explore beautiful fun Branson.