Find the “Free” in Branson, Missouri! When you’re choosing a vacation destination, you always plan for how much you want to spend, especially when it comes to entertainment, and when you’re traveling as a family, planning for entertainment can be the most important plans you make! In Branson, you’ll find plenty of affordable shows, attractions, and other activities, and you’ll want to fit as many into your schedule as possible. But even in a destination as affordable as Branson, you want to make your vacation budget stretch as far as possible, and that means supplementing your paid activities with free things.
Branson is full of free activities! Everything from the simple, like sightseeing, to the in-depth and educational, like a visit to the Dewey Short Visitor Center or College of the Ozarks, can be found in the area. When it comes to entertainment without a price tag, here are 20 of our favorites, in alphabetical order:
1. Adoration Parade: To recognize what Christmas is really all about, Branson holds the annual Adoration Parade, and marks the official start of the holiday season by lighting the giant nativity, or adoration, scene atop Mount Branson. This special celebration winds its way through Historic Downtown Branson and includes a wide variety of floats, marching bands, and more, all free of commercial advertising. December 2 at 5:30 p.m.
2. Branson Centennial Museum: A joint project of the City of Branson, the Downtown Branson Betterment Association, and the local Chamber of Commerce, the museum opened its doors during Branson’s centennial year - 2012. Currently located at 120 South Commercial Street in space donated by the Reish Family, displays feature everything from the history of the downtown area to the story behind Branson’s earliest live music shows. Admission is free, but there is a nice gift shop, and donations are appreciated and will help keep the museum open for future generations to enjoy.
3. Branson City Parks: Sixteen parks can be found throughout the greater Branson area. These parks range from small, neighborhood gathering spots, to comprehensive facilities with ball fields and courts, as well as pavilions, walking paths, and trails. You’ll discover creeks and streams, extensive and challenging trails, and some gorgeous views. In addition to these sixteen parks, there’s a free skate park. It’s a daytime only park, with no lighting, but it does include conveniences like public restrooms and a water fountain.
4. Branson Landing Fountain: Branson Landing’s multi-million dollar fountain show can be seen on the hour, every hour, from noon until 10 p.m. each day. It’s not only free, there’s tiered concrete step-style seating where you can relax and enjoy the first-ever water, fire, and light show set to music!
5. Branson Landing Free Concert Series: During warm weather months, the Landing holds several free concerts in front of the fountain, they feature a variety of music, from rock to gospel, as well as other special events and performances. (Now that you’ve saved a little money seeing a free performance at the Landing, give us a call at 877-688-3179 for big savings on Branson show tickets!)
6. City Sightseeing: Driving along Branson Landing Boulevard, up through Historic Downtown Branson, and from the Highway 65 intersection of “The Strip” to the intersection with Shepherd of the Hills (SOH) Expressway, and then along the SOH expressway itself, is a great “first day” thing to do in Branson. Drive along The Strip at night just to enjoy the lights!
7. College of the Ozarks Campus: This small, but increasingly famous, college is fondly known as Hard Work U because students work on the campus in exchange for their education. The college has a working dairy, grist mill, greenhouse and gardens, bakery, and more - all are free to visit and tour. You can also learn about campus and local history in an excellent variety of displays at the Keeter Center. Since you’ll surely have to eat on the day of your visit, spend your lunch or dinner dollars at Keeter Center’s amazing restaurant - it’s staffed by working students, and many of the vegetables, dairy products, jams and spreads, as well as meats, on the menu are produced right on campus. It’s “the” definition of the growing desire for farm-to-table dining that families seek out when it’s time to eat out!
8. Dewey Short Visitor Center: Named for the US Representative who helped get Table Rock Dam constructed, the state-of-the-art visitor center includes interesting displays, an interactive map, gorgeous wall murals, an Ozark's bluff replica, and even a Native American artifact exhibit. Everyone loves the beautiful views of Table Rock Lake and the Dam from its observation deck and grounds. The environmentally conscious center is LEED certified, and includes a rain garden and bioswale to protect the lake from rainwater runoff.
9. Greater Branson Area Trail System: In addition to the trails within the city limits, Branson has several in the outlying areas, including a wonderful 2.5-mile trail that connects from Dewey Short Visitor Center to the State Park Marina. Serious trail hikers should try the 11.5 mile White River Valley Trail System that includes four loops; bikes are also welcome on this trail, but be prepared for potential obstacles along the way.
10. Independence Day Fireworks: On the 4th of July, you’ll find several fabulous - and free - displays of fireworks in the Branson area, including at Branson Landing, Chateau on the Lake Resort, Spa & Convention Center, Big Cedar Lodge, College of the Ozarks, and at the bridge in Kimberling City on Table Rock Lake. Fireworks at the Chateau and Big Cedar are primarily intended for folks staying in these hotels, however, the public is welcome, but please keep parking spaces open for their paying guests.
11. Labor Day Fireworks: Big Cedar Lodge and Chateau on the Lake also blast off fireworks big time to celebrate Labor Day! These displays are free for everyone, just be courteous and don’t use parking spaces designated for their paying guests.
12. Lakeside Forest Wilderness Area: Although it’s part of the city park system already mentioned, this wonderful piece of Branson’s great outdoors is worth its own mention. Located right in the heart of Branson at the corner of Highway 76 and Fall Creek Road, the park encompasses 140 acres of beautiful topography, including 5.3 miles of trails. You can even make your way down 315 stone steps to a stunning view of Lake Taneycomo - you’ll also encounter a waterfall and cave among many other incredible features. There are restrooms and picnic tables on site.
13. Liberty Plaza Concert Series: The newest addition to the city’s park system, Liberty Plaza, is a true showpiece in Historic Downtown Branson. This beautiful outdoor venue hosts events, including a special, free concert series. There’s a nice stage area, unique waterfall feature behind the stage, picnic tables located throughout the park, and public restrooms. The plaza also pays tribute to our nation’s veterans with an inspiring statue and medallions.
14. Memorial Day Fireworks: Chateau on the Lake and Big Cedar Lodge bring out the fantastic fireworks once again for Memorial Day! These displays are free for everyone, just remember that the marked parking areas are for hotel guests.
15. Scenic Sightseeing: Start by staying on Highway 76 past the SOH intersection and heading down to the High Road exit. The Ozark Mountain High Road is a five-mile stretch of hills, valleys, and abundant trees and plant life that’s beautiful year-round, and one of the few roadways you’ll find in the state that’s delightfully free of roadside advertising! You can head out in any direction from Branson and find beautiful scenic routes to enjoy for miles upon miles.
16. Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery: Lake Taneycomo is famous for its excellent stock of both brown and rainbow trout, thanks to the Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery just below Table Rock Dam. Kids love seeing the fish in the runs outside, and visiting the small, but fascinating and educational museum on site.
17. Sparky the Trolley: Historic Downtown Branson is home to the delightful Sparky the Trolley! Reminiscent of a vintage cable car, Sparky is a free transportation service that covers an area extending beyond the immediate downtown - it includes Branson Landing on one end, and what locals affectionately call “Hamburger Hill” on the other. A special tax district pays for the trolley service, something businesses in the district are happy to provide for Branson’s guests!
18. Veterans Day Parade: Recognizing veterans is second nature to Branson...patriotism isn’t a sales pitch here, it’s a character trait, and the huge annual Veterans Day Parade is an excellent example of Branson’s love for veterans. It’s held in Historic Downtown Branson on November 11 at 11 a.m.
19. Window Shopping & People Watching: Historic Downtown Branson, Branson Landing, the Grand Village Shops, The Shoppes at Branson Meadows, and Tanger Outlets are all great, walkable shopping districts, ideal for both peeking at window displays and watching the people who bustle about and stroll along the sidewalks and walkways. Public restrooms are available in each shopping area, too. If you can’t locate their online directories, give us a call...we know where all the restrooms can be found!
20. Winery & Distillery Tours & Tastings: Branson is home to several wineries and distilleries offering free tours or tastings, or both. Some will show you moonshine being made right on site, and some have everything from gift shops to live music. Those in the area include St. James Winery & Restaurant, Crown Valley Distillery, Smith Creek Moonshine, Copper Run Distillery, Bear Creek Wine Company, Curling Vine Winery, Mt. Pleasant Winery, and Lindwedel Wine Garden.
Saving money during your visit to Branson can be as easy as one, two, FREE! Entertaining the family with no-cost activities is important when you’re on a budget, and it lets you save money for the really special things in Branson, like seeing lots of shows, visiting Silver Dollar City and the Titanic Museum Attraction, or whoopin’ it up at Dolly Parton’s Stampede Dinner Show!
Now that we’ve helped you stretch your vacation budget, give us a call at 877-688-3179 - reservation specialists are standing by to reserve your passes for attractions, find you the best seats available at every show, and make sure you save money on everything you do!