It’s time for a 2019 update on everyone’s favorite thing to do while visiting their favorite destination...find ways to stretch the vacation budget by discovering fun things to do that are absolutely FREE! That’s right, we’re going to remind loyal guests, and let first-time visitors know, how to have a fantastic time without spending a dime! Of course, Branson can’t remain a great destination for long if folks don’t spend some money enjoying its multitude of sensational shows, amazing attractions and museums, world-class golf courses, delightful dining, and shopping you’ll write home about - and, in a later post, we’ll tell you about ideal ways to enjoy yourself while saving money on activities - but most of us would love to know about things we can do, especially with the family, that come without a price tag. (Find more helpful information for planning a visit and spending some of the money you’ll be saving! “Branson - 11 Good Things to Know Before You Go!” - “Branson Excels at “Dinner and a Show” - 13 Options for Mealtime Entertainment!” - “Branson - Where to Find Your 10 Best Photo Ops!”)
There are many more things to do in Branson without busting the vacation budget, but here are the 20 free things that top our list for 2019:
1. Adoration Parade: A Branson staple for more than 70 years, this is the holiday parade that truly honors the meaning of Christmas - it’s completely non-commercial, with floats free of advertising, area school marching bands, and loads of festive cheer!
Location: Historic Downtown Branson
Schedule: For 2019 - Sunday, December 1 at 5:00 p.m.
Helpful Hints/Extra Info: This event also celebrates the annual lighting of the giant Adoration Scene (nativity) atop Mt. Branson - just across from Branson Landing.
2. Autumn Daze Festival: This long-time festival favorite, held in Historic Downtown Branson, features vendors, a free live entertainment stage, and more.
Location: Historic Downtown Branson & Branson Landing
Schedule: For 2019 - Thursday, Friday, & Saturday - September 19 through September 21 - from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Thursday & Friday and 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Saturday
Helpful Hints/Extra Info: Save a little of your Branson shopping budget for the festival - several downtown stores will have sidewalk sales!
3. Branson Centennial Museum: Launched to celebrate Branson’s centennial in 2012, it was so popular, the doors have stayed open and in a larger location. Although admission continues to be free, donations are gladly accepted and put to good use!
Location: 120 South Commercial Street in Historic Downtown Branson
Schedule: Monday through Saturday - 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Helpful Hints/Extra Info: There’s a nice little gift shop.
4. Branson City Parks: There’s a very nice public park system in Branson, ranging from small neighborhood spots to the RecPlex, home to a large pool, basketball courts, picnic areas, and much more. There’s even a skate park!
Location: RecPlex: 1500 Branson Hills Parkway - North Beach Park: 50 N. Boardwalk (neighboring Branson Landing - Stockstill Park: 524 Stockstill Lane (Pavilions 2 & 3, Dog Park & Skate Park) and 200 Melody Penner Lane ( Pavilion 1 & Tennis Courts)
Schedule: All parks - 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.
Helpful Hints/Extra Info: There are a total of 16 city parks, we’ve provided addresses for those that visitors might enjoy most - we’re featuring one special park later in this post. Very minimal fees apply to some features at the RecPlex.
5. Branson City Sightseeing: Cruise along Branson Landing Boulevard, go up through charming Historic Downtown Branson, and then take Highway 76 - “The Strip” - to the intersection with Shepherd of the Hills (SOH) Expressway, and then a left and cruise along the Expressway. This is a really good way for first-timers to explore the city of Branson to discover the many shows, attractions, restaurants, and shopping areas.
Location: If you can find Branson, you can find everything we’ve mentioned!
Schedule: Any day, any time - make sure you cruise The Strip at night to enjoy the lights!
Helpful Hints/Extra Info: During the busier seasons, the Strip will have the least traffic early in the morning and later in the evening. And Andy’s Frozen Custard is open until at least midnight, so grab a treat while cruising!
6. Branson Landing Fountain Show: A beautiful water, fire, and light show set to music, it’s a multi-million dollar presentation that quickly became a Branson favorite when it comes to free things to do!
Location: 100 Branson Landing Boulevard - downhill from Historic Downtown Branson
Schedule: Every hour on the hour from 12:00 noon until 10:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and until 9:00 p.m. on Sunday.
Helpful Hints/Extra Info: There’s tiered concrete seating so you can sit and enjoy the show. Inclement weather conditions can alter or delay the regular schedule.
7. Branson Landing Summer Concert Series: Featuring a variety of music, including popular local and touring acts, the Landing hosts exciting free concerts at the fountains during the warm weather months.
Location: Fountains - 100 Branson Landing Boulevard - downhill from Historic Downtown Branson
Schedule: Usually June, July, and August on Friday or Saturday from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Helpful Hints/Extra Info: The concert series is popular, so make plans to arrive early enough to find a good parking spot and a place to sit in the amphitheatre. When facing the stage, restrooms are behind you to your right (your left if you’re looking behind you) - between suites 229 and 225 (Victoria’s Secret is in suite 225.)
8. Capture a “Big” Memory: What kid, or kid-at-heart, doesn’t love being in a picture with something really, really big? In Branson, you’ll find the world’s largest banjo sticking out of Papa Grand’s Pizza - a ginormous fiddle in the Grand Country Resort building - an enormous adirondack chair at State Park Marina - a gigantic rooster serving as the entrance to Great American Steak & Chicken - a humongous fork stuck in a meatball in front of Pasghetti’s Italian Restaurant - and, of course, that unforgettable NYC skyline atop the Hollywood Wax Museum, complete with King Kong!
Location: Grand Country Resort/Papa Grand’s Pizza: 1945 West Highway 76 - State Park Marina: 380 State Park Marina Road south of Table Rock Dam - Great American Steak & Chicken House: 2421 West Highway 76 (at entrance to Tanger Outlets) - Pasghetti’s Italian Restaurant: 3129 West Highway 76 - Hollywood Wax Museum: 3030 West Highway 76
Schedule: You’ll find hours for indoor attractions by following the links - you can take photos of the rooster, meatball, and NYC skyline at any time.
Helpful Hints/Extra Info: You can take photos free-of-charge at any of the places we mentioned above, but always be considerate of guests staying at, or purchasing goods, food, or services, from any location.
9. College of the Ozarks Campus: Known as Hard Work U because students work on campus in exchange for their education, this small college has a working dairy, grist mill, greenhouse and gardens, bakery, and more. You can also learn about campus and local history in an excellent variety of displays at the Keeter Center. Tours of most facilities are free of charge and many have campus-made items for sale.
Location: 100 Opportunity Avenue, Point Lookout - it’s physically located in the city of Hollister, just a minute or two south of Branson off Highway 65.
Schedule: The Fruitcake & Jelly Kitchen is open to the public Monday through Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Check with staff on touring other facilities.
Helpful Hints/Extra Info: The Ralph Foster Museum, housing a huge inventory and wide variety of items, is one of the Ozarks’ best kept secrets! Youth 18 and under are free; adults pay a nominal fee to tour - it’s well worth it!
10. Dewey Short Visitor Center: A state-of-the-art visitor center offering interesting displays, an interactive map, an Ozarks bluff replica, fascinating wall murals, a Native American artifacts exhibit, and more. You’ll find up-close views of Table Rock Lake and the Dam and beautifully landscaped grounds.
Location: 4500 Missouri Highway 165 - neighbors Table Rock Dam and Table Rock Lake State Park
Schedule: 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily
Helpful Hints/Extra Info: The environmentally conscious center is LEED certified, and includes a rain garden and bioswale to protect the lake from rainwater runoff.
11. Greater Branson Area Trail System: The Branson area has an excellent trail system, both within the city limits and in outlying areas. A favorite is the 11.5 mile White River Valley Trail, as well as the perfect trail when your time is limited - it’s a 2.5 mile trek from State Park Marina to Dewey Short Visitor Center.
Location: There are trails everywhere - a good source for information on locating them is Dewey Short, but you’ll also find several trails by visiting the city parks.
Schedule: Varies by trail
Helpful Hints/Extra Info: Although some park areas have drinking fountains, make sure you take water along with you to every trail. Facilities vary by trail, so if nearby restrooms are important, make sure you check in advance about availability at your trail of choice. Several area resorts have trails right on site!
12. Historic Downtown Branson: In addition to the great shopping, dining, and attractions, just strolling around the downtown area can be entertaining! With the new streetscaping, you’ll find nice sitting areas on street corners, as well as wastebaskets. At the beautiful Liberty Plaza, you’ll find clean, modern public restrooms, a unique waterfall feature, and picnic tables. The plaza also pays tribute to our nation’s veterans with an inspiring statue and medallions.
Location: Historic Downtown Branson can be found by “going the other way” on Highway 76 (rather than venturing down the section known as “The Strip”.) It’s relatively small and easily walkable. Liberty Plaza is located at Business 65/Veterans Boulevard where it intersects with Pacific Street - City Hall is right across the street, and it features a picture-worthy water feature and landscaping.
Schedule: open 24/7
Helpful Hints/Extra Info: You may discover occasional free concert events on the outdoor stage here. It’s remained a best-kept-secret for a while now, so you’ll find it to be relatively quiet and private, perfect for relaxing and enjoying a snack, or just some conversation at a picnic table!
13. Independence Day Fireworks: The 4th of July brings fireworks and fun! You’ll find displays at Branson Landing, Chateau on the Lake Resort, Big Cedar Lodge, College of the Ozarks, Rockaway Beach, and at the bridge in Kimberling City on Table Rock Lake.
Location: Branson Landing: 100 Branson Landing Boulevard - Chateau on the Lake: 415 North State Highway 165 - Big Cedar Lodge: 190 Top of the Rock, Ridgedale - College of the Ozarks: 100 Opportunity Avenue - Rockaway Beach can be reached from Highway 65, exit F Highway to Highway 160 - Kimberling City can be found by travelling Highway 76 beyond Silver Dollar City and following signs to Highway 13 through Branson West.
Schedule: For 2019 - June 30: College of the Ozarks - July 3: Branson Landing, Kimberling City - July 4: Chateau on the Lake, Rockaway Beach, Big Cedar Lodge
Helpful Hints/Extra Info: 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.
14. Labor Day Fireworks: Fireworks to celebrate the holiday can be enjoyed at both Big Cedar Lodge and Chateau on the Lake. (Other areas and venues hold Labor Day events, including sidewalk sales at Tanger Outlets and Branson Landing.)
Location: Chateau on the Lake: 415 North State Highway 165 - Big Cedar Lodge: 190 Top of the Rock, Ridgedale - Branson Landing: 100 Branson Landing Boulevard - Tanger Outlets: 300 Tanger Boulevard just off Highway 76
Schedule: Fireworks displays are both on the actual holiday - both sidewalk sales will be held throughout Labor Day weekend.
Helpful Hints/Extra Info: As mentioned above, although these displays are open to the general public, please be courteous and don’t use parking spaces designated for their paying guests.
15. Lakeside Forest Wilderness Area: It’s in both the City of Branson park system and a key location in the area’s trail system, but we think it’s so special, it deserves its own mention! We’d like to say, just as in real estate, it’s best feature is location - right in the heart of Branson and accessible right from Highway 76 - but it’s the gorgeous topography and absolutely stunning views that make this 140 acre parcel with 5.3 miles of hiking trails a must for your top-of-the-heap list of trails to conquer!
Location: 412 Owen Lane - right at the intersection of Highway 76 and Fall Creek Road.
Schedule: 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. during the summer, and 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. during the winter - due to the challenging terrain in some areas, the park closes before nightfall.
Helpful Hints/Extra Info: Features include a cave, waterfall, and 315 stone steps that take you to a breathtaking view of Lake Taneycomo and the Ozarks’ countryside. There are also picnic tables and restrooms available.
16. Memorial Day Fireworks: Fireworks to celebrate the holiday can be enjoyed at both Big Cedar Lodge and Chateau on the Lake.
Location: Chateau on the Lake: 415 North State Highway 165
Schedule: Usually the last weekend in May
Helpful Hints/Extra Info: As previously mentioned, be mindful of guest parking. Other celebrations are held in a variety of ways, including at College of the Ozarks, Branson Landing, Silver Dollar City, Tanger Outlets, and other locations and venues.
17. Scenic Sightseeing: For a pretty drive outside the city, just stay on Highway 76 past the intersection with Shepherd of the Hills Expressway and head to the High Road exit. The Ozark Mountain High Road (aka Route 465) is a seven mile stretch of beautiful valleys, abundant trees and plant life, and hills. This stretch of highway is one of the few roadways that’s free of roadside advertising.
Location: Begins at Highway 65 and F Highway north of Branson and ends at West Highway 76.
Helpful Hints/Extra Info: It’s a beautiful trip on a motorcycle; great for bicycles, too, but only for the fit and well-trained given the hilly terrain. It’s especially gorgeous in the Fall!
18. Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery: Fishing fanatics from everywhere love to visit Branson for the brown and rainbow trout that heavily populate Lake Taneycomo. All those fish come from the Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery located just below Table Rock Dam. You can watch the fish in the outdoor runs, and visit an interesting and educational museum inside - both are free of charge.
Location: 483 Hatchery Road - off Highway 165
Schedule: 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily
Helpful Hints/Extra Info: On occasion, guests can purchase feed for the fish in the runs. The Hatchery property connects to the area trail system.
19. Sparky the Trolley: The most fun way to get around downtown Branson? Take a ride on Sparky! This free transportation service features several downtown area stops, including Branson Landing, the City campground on Lake Taneycomo, and next to the burger joints uphill from downtown. Ever hear the expression “there’s no such thing as a free ride?” Well, that’s not always true in Branson!
Location: The Orange Route makes eight (8) stops: Lakeside RV Park - Branson Landing South - Branson Convention Center - Price Street & Veterans Boulevard - Main & Commercial Streets - Branson Landing North - Awberry Parking Lot - Liberty Plaza/Green Transfer The Green Route makes six (6) stops: Liberty Plaza/Orange Transfer - 4th & Main Streets - Loyd Road/Upper Main Street - Pacific & 6th Streets - Taneycomo Landing Resort
Schedule: 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. daily from March through December - 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. on weekends during January and February.
Helpful Hints/Extra Info: Sparky doesn’t run on Thanksgiving day or Christmas day. The service is free, but you’re welcome to tip your friendly and helpful driver! And kids love riding Sparky - it’s more than just convenient transportation, it’s a fun way to keep the kids occupied.
20. Veterans Day Parade: We like to remind our guests that, for Branson, patriotism isn’t a sales pitch, it’s a character trait, and Branson’s biggest annual parade is one more way of showing Branson’s sincere respect and genuine love for our nation’s most precious treasures - our veterans.
Location: Historic Downtown Branson
Schedule: For 2019 - Monday, November 11 at 11:00 a.m.
Helpful Hints/Extra Info: This is a very popular event - arrive early to secure parking and a good place to view the parade.
There you have it, our 2019 reminder and update on things to do in Branson that’ll help you stretch your vacation budget! Now, since we’ve saved you some money, catch a show: “Branson’s Legends In Concert Delivers Legendary Tributes!” - “Branson, Where Live Entertainment Variety Will Spice Up Your Vacation!” - “Branson’s Hughes Family - One Big Family, Lots of Big Talent!” - “What’s “New” in Branson with Guitar Great Leroy New? His Best Show Yet!”
If you’d like to spend a little money shopping: “Your Branson Shopping Center List of Stores & More!” And maybe visit some great attractions: “Branson’s Best Attractions - Dolly Parton’s Stampede - Top 10 Things to Know!” - “Branson’s Best Attractions - Shepherd of the Hills - Top 10 Things to Know!” - “Branson’s Best Attractions - Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! - Top 10 Things to Know!”