I consider myself to be a professional Branson traveler. I might as well pay taxes in the town since I am there so much. As a child, my family traveled to this exciting destination almost every year. I did go on a Branson fast for a few years during college, but for the last seven years I have indulged in a Branson Buffet.
From memory, I can recite the names of almost every show in town. I can direct you to any theatre, regardless of its’ location. And you had better believe I have a strong opinion on every show and attraction in town. Yes, I am a 28-year old Branson fanatic.
If you have never traveled to Branson you might be asking yourself what it is that makes Branson, Missouri so special. It is in the middle of nowhere and yet it is one of the most popular vacation destinations in the country.
Actually Branson is special for many reasons. While Branson may seem to be in the middle of nowhere, it is actually in the middle of everywhere. Branson is one of America’s most popular driving destinations. Since it is in almost the geographic center of the United States it is a convenient location for most of the country. Though there are a few people who fly into the Springfield/Branson Regional Airport, most of the millions of visitors will drive to town.
That actually sets up one of the most frustrating situations in Branson. Traffic can be a nightmare. Branson was not designed for major traffic. The town had a major growth spurt in the 1980’s and literally outgrew its road system. At least 75% of the tourist sites are directly connected to HWY 76. This is the major artery that runs, or should I say crawls, through town. The city has tried to alleviate some of the traffic through well-marked alternative routes. Most of the traffic still uses 76 exclusively. If it is your first time in Branson, I would encourage you to drive the “strip” (HWY 76) a couple times to generally learn the area, then get a Free map from any brochure display and learn the alternate routes. You will save time and it may be the only way to get to a show on time.
It is almost impossible to believe until you have experienced it, but the traffic congestion in Branson starting in the mid-afternoon is worse than rush hour in any city in the country. Movement is measured in inches rather than feet.
To give you a good idea, I would like to share one experience I had in July of 2004. My wife and I were staying in Old Downtown Branson, which is on the far east end of HWY 76, near the intersection of HWY 65 and HWY 76. We had plans to see Spirit of the Dance at the Branson Variety Theatre. The BV Theatre is right in the heart of the strip, but was less than 4 miles from our hotel. The show started at 8:00 p.m. We decided to leave at 5:00 p.m. so we would have time to grab dinner along the way and still get to the show on time. At 7:15 p.m. we had not eaten dinner and we were still at least a mile from the theatre. Traffic was not moving. To make a very long story short, at 8:05 p.m. we finally pulled into the theatre parking lot and entered the show after it had already started. We had to eat after the show, no time before.
The next evening we saw Cirque at the Remington Theatre, which is completely across town. We still left at 5:00 p.m. for this 8:00 p.m. show, but this time we used the alternate routes and arrived at the theatre well before 6:00 p.m. We had plenty time to walk around to the neighboring shops and have dinner before the show.
Tip #1: Don’t waste valuable vacation time – Use the alternate routes!
Don’t let the traffic keep you away from Branson though. Honestly, it is just part of the fun. There are still plenty reasons to come to Branson.
The Ozark Hills and Mountains are another reason to visit Branson. No, you will not see the height and grandeur of the Rockies, but you are still surrounded by beautiful scenery. The Ozarks is pride of its country charm and slower pace. You can come to Branson expecting the shows and attractions and end up enjoying the nature trails of Mark Twain National Forest or playing in the waters of one of the two pristine lakes that surround the city. The Ozarks are a nature lover’s dream.
Tip #2: Take time to enjoy the Ozarks – they are the FREE attraction!
There is honestly something for everyone in Branson. Lots of cities will say that, but Branson can back up that claim. The adults and seniors are certain to find several shows they will like. With over 100 shows to select from there will be one for each person in the group. But there are many of high-energy music, magic and comedy shows in town that keep the kids and teens hooked. There are also several amusement parks and water parks including Silver Dollar City and White Water. I will get more into the actual attractions in the next part of the column, so look for more information in the other parts of the column.
Branson Shows, Theatre & Tickets
Lets take a look at what made Branson famous–shows and theatres
You will arrive in Branson to an overload of media. There are more than 50 different theatres in Branson. Most theatres have several different shows performing throughout the day. The biggest entertainers will perform the 8:00 p.m. shows, but that does not mean that the morning and afternoon shows are second rate. They are just as good in most cases. Whether you are looking for a headliner or not, there are more than 100 shows to keep you busy while in town.
The whole Branson craze started with just a couple shows. The Presley’s Country Jubilee and the Baldknobbers Jamboree. Both of these country variety and comedy shows are still going strong today, 40-50 years later. They are among the most popular shows in town for good reason. They put on a quality show every night and their fans return year after year.
If you enjoy country and gospel music served along side hilarious comedy, then you will find your fill in Branson. Beside the two shows already mentioned there are many more of these genres all over town. Some of the other popular ones include Pierce Arrow, Grand Jubilee, and the Braschlers.
Another large category of shows in town can be grouped as family shows. That is not to say they are designed for the whole family to enjoy, because that would describe almost every show in Branson. By family show, I mean most of the cast and sometimes the crew comes from the same family. The Duttons, Haygoods, Lowes, Hughes, and the Brett Family, just to mention a few. All these families blend their amazing harmonies to create some of the best and most touching shows in town.
The impersonators are yet another major group of shows in town. Toni Roi is one of the most noted Elvis impersonators in the world. He has his own show and he also occasionally performs with The Legends Live in Concert, who also has a popular show in town. You will also find a Hank Williams and Patsy Cline show. One that I personally highly recommend is a full comedy show called A Tribute to Red Skelton.
There are a few Broadway style shows that prove Branson has it all. You can see Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Cirque, Spirit of the Dance and even off-Broadway shows like the touching and funny, Smoke On The Mountain.
Then Branson is also famous for a broad category of shows that are designed with your family in mind. These shows are designed to mesmerize the kids and astonish the adults. This group includes everything from comedians to magicians. Starting with magicians you will find several huge shows with large illusions at Grand Illusion, Darren Romeo and The Hamner Barber Variety Show. If magic is not your thing what about the Chinese Acrobats, Comedy Pet Theatre, Bounce the Basketball Show or even a live family game show called Hot Seat.
If you remember the 20’s & 30’s, 50’s, 60’s or 70’s – really any decade, you will be able to take a trip down memory lane. You can spend the 50’s At The Hop or get Stuck In The 70’s. You might even choose to drive to Motown.
By this time you are probably getting hungry. We can’t forget the dinner shows. Of course Dixie Stampede with it’s horses and a stampede of buffalo is the biggest show in town, but you can also enjoy a ribeye steak while watching lumberjacks compete at the Tall Timber Lumberjack Show. If you would like to take a cruise on Table Rock Lake, the Prime Rib Dinner Show on the Showboat Branson Belle is unbeatable. You can also enjoy a delicious western BBQ meal at the Circle B Chuckwagon Dinner Show. If you like music while you eat, try the White House Theatre or catch Bob Anderson’s Show. You will not leave hungry, and you get a show to boot.
Last but not least, the headliners. In the mid 1980’s there were many well-known performers who moved to Branson and opened theatres. A few of them are still here and performing amazing shows. If you remember Andy Williams, Ray Stevens, Jim Stafford, Mickey Gilley, Mel Tillis, The Gatlin Brothers, Pam Tillis or Roy Clark you will love seeing them live in Branson. The Grand Palace brings in the hottest performers on tour today. It is not uncommon for Tim McGraw to be on stage one week and Jeff Foxworthy to be appearing the next week.
Branson has also created it’s own headliners. The fiddle-playing Shoji Tabuchi is one of the most popular performers in Branson, and he, without a doubt, has the most ornate theatre bathrooms in Branson. Other performers like Moe Bandy, Doug Gabriel and Paul Harris have made a name for themselves in this tough town.
I did not even try to mention all the shows in Branson. As a matter of fact, I did not even begin to scratch the surface. The performers and venues change all the time, so some of the shows mentioned may be gone by the time this article is up.
I encourage you to use sites like Branson Critic and the Branson Lake Area Chamber of Commerce website to find the shows that your family will enjoy. Branson Critic has plenty reviews of area shows. Normal people like you write all the reviews. They saw the show and wrote a review. This is a great way to decide which shows to see.
Another great way to find a good show while in town is to ask the front desk clerk at your hotel or the waitress that served your lunch. Locals know which shows are a must-see and which show to avoid. You might even strike up a conversation with the person sitting next to you at a show. Find out what they have seen and what they thought. You might even make a friend.
Tip #3: Brochures do not tell the whole story – ask a locals for the truth about which shows are a must-see.
This would be a good time to talk about ticket prices. Branson shows are not cheap. If you look very hard you will find a couple shows with an admission price under $15. There are a few more in the $18-$22 range, but most show tickets are at least $25 per adult ticket. Dinner shows are even more.
You will find coupons in free magazines all over town. With these you are able to save a couple dollars per ticket. Check the brochure racks for the coupons.
You might even have a timeshare company offer you free tickets. That is an option worth considering, but I will discuss in a latter article
There is still one more way to save on tickets. You can check on eBay for Branson show tickets. I have bought them there before. I paid less than half price. This way takes a little more effort, but can save you lots of money.
I hope that some of these basic tips on traveling to Branson Will benefit you and your family.