Are you planning to be in Branson to celebrate the holiday season, and your family is on a budget? How can you enjoy more without paying more? Branson is well-known for being an affordable family destination, but bringing along the kids, and maybe a few of their friends, means you’ll be looking to stretch every dollar as far as you can. If only you could find two or three price-tag-free things to do, you can have that few extra bucks you need to take everyone to a show, visit an interactive museum, or even buy a couple extra gifts for Christmas. We’re here to help you out!
We’ve talked about free stuff in past posts (check these out for even more information on free stuff: Top 20 Fun and Free Things to Do in Branson MO and Branson Fun for FREE - 20 “No Cost” Things To Do!) - now that we’re nearing the end of the year, a time when taking a dip in the lake or your hotel’s outdoor pool, for example, is gonna be a tad bit chilly, you might be concerned about the availability of free things to do. Well, there’s still plenty! We’ve rounded up 10 things you can do with the kids, or with your significant other, or maybe your other favorite person...you! And once you’ve taken advantage of a few fun free things, you can enjoy more of what Branson has to offer - including many of the things in these recent posts (most, but not all, are open year-round:) 14 Branson Attractions Under $20 - Wow! and 27 Kid-Friendly Branson MO Activities at Budget-Friendly Prices!
Now, for that FREE stuff...check out what you can do at no cost to you!
1. Do some Christmas sightseeing: When it comes to just “looking around,” Branson certainly has a lot to see! During this holiday season, it doesn’t cost a thing to gaze at all the theaters and other buildings dressed up for the holidays. We’ve noticed some venues that have gone the extra “mile of lights” to celebrate the season: Baldknobber’s, Motor Inn, Presleys’ Country Jubilee, Grand Village Shops, and Grand Country Resort, among many others. You’ll find both beautiful and unusual Christmas trees throughout Branson, too, including a new “Mayor’s Tree” in the Liberty Plaza in Historic Downtown Branson, another city-sponsored LED-lighted tree in the traffic roundabout on Branson Landing Boulevard near Cox Medical Center, a 25-foot go-kart tire tree in front of The Track, and a butterfly-adorned tree in front of the Butterfly Palace & Rainforest Adventure.
2. Discover unique photo opps: There are lots of ideal spots in Branson for taking incredible and memorable photos of your visit, and great ideas abound for creating your lasting image with a unique backdrop! Check out these spots on Highway 76 (a.k.a. The Strip): the big rocking chair in front of Half Price Tickets by the Outback Pub (across the street from Grand Country Resort,) the big fork-in-a-meatball in front of Pasghetti’s Italian Restaurant, the giant chicken at the entrance to Great American Steak & Chicken, the gigantic fiddle and banjo inside Grand Country Resort, the huge Branson Ferris Wheel at The Track, King Kong and the Empire State Building atop the Hollywood Wax Museum, and several unique and famous vehicles outside the Celebrity Car Museum in Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Theater. After exploring Highway 76, head over to Expressway Lane and get photos in a serene setting at the Shrine of the Holy Spirit next to The Mansion Entertainment Center. And, in Historic Downtown, enjoy a little nostalgia with a family photo in front of Dicks 5 & 10. In Branson, you won’t need to travel far to come across a lot of cool spots for photo opps!
3. Enjoy an entertaining history lesson: Today’s travelers have become more interested in the history of the destinations they visit - in 2012, the city’s centennial year, Branson opened the Centennial Museum to bring that history to life for guests and locals alike. Displays rotate to accommodate a plethora of items accumulated over the past few years - you’ll see everything from early items from local businesses to personal belongings of locally prominent residents. There’s a great video that takes a thorough look at how Branson came to be, as well as a gift shop offering everything from trinkets to locally-authored books on the area. The museum makes this list because admission is free, but it does operate on the goodness of people’s hearts, so donations are always welcome! You’ll find the Branson Centennial Museum at 140 Commercial Street in Historic Downtown Branson. Hours: 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday
4. See water, lights, and fire set to music: Another year-round free attraction, the fountains at Branson Landing is one of the most popular attractions found in this lakefront shopping, dining, and entertainment center. The multi-million dollar fountains feature water, light, and fire set to music, with a free show every hour. There is terraced seating facing the fountains, and you can expect to hear everything from Christmas music to rock ‘n’ roll! Branson Landing sits just downhill from the center of Historic Downtown Branson - parking is available on either end next to anchor stores Belk and Bass Pro, or in a fee-based parking garage on Branson Landing Boulevard.
5. Use fun Downtown transportation: Not only is it free to take a ride on Sparky the trolley, it’s fun, too! Kids of all ages love Sparky - there’s just something that feels special about a trolley, and this one lets you enjoy the sights of Branson’s Historic Downtown District. Created as a way to help with parking on busy days and sloping walkways that might pose a challenge for some folks on foot, the trolley system now boasts several cars and can take folks to Branson Landing and “uphill” as far as Highway 65. You’ll find several designated stops throughout the Historic Downtown Area, including at Branson Landing and the Convention Center, and on Main, 4th, and Pacific Streets. Sparky runs seven days a week from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. from March through December. For January and February, the start time changes to 10:00 a.m. There are two holidays when the trolley system is closed - Thanksgiving day and Christmas day.
6. Learn the secret of successful fishing on Lake Taneycomo: And we’re not talking about fishing in chilly weather, although avid angling enthusiasts enjoy the lake year-round, we’re letting you know how the Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery gives Mother Nature a boost! The fascinating hatchery produces between 350 and 400 thousand pounds (really!) of Rainbow and Brown Trout annually - 80% of that production is released into Lake Taneycomo. You can learn more about it in the Hatchery’s museum, as well as other interesting stuff about the great outdoors in the Ozarks. The Fish Hatchery is located on Highway 165 just below Table Rock Dam - September through May, the center’s hours are 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
7. See a rare “no tuition” college at work: That’s right, students at the College of the Ozarks “work” rather than pay tuition, and you can tour many of the areas where they produce everything from world-famous fruitcake (which you can sample for free,) to produce and dairy products used at the popular on-site restaurant, Dobyn’s Dining Room at the Keeter Center. There’s a real operating grist mill and greenhouse on campus that you can visit, as well as memorials that honor those who defended our country during World War II, the Vietnam War, and the Korean War, as well as a memorial to those who lost their lives on 9/11. The College is located on Point Lookout just south of Branson near Hollister.
8. Do some Dewey - the Dewey Short Visitor Center, that is: Open year-round, this gorgeous center isn’t your typical brochure-rack-filled room! It was designed to be environmentally friendly, and affords fantastic views, fascinating displays and exhibits, wall murals, and an interactive area map. Beautiful inside and out, you’ll find this “crown jewel of Table Rock Lake” next to Table Rock Dam on Highway 165 - it’s open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
9. Take a refreshing winter stroll: Branson has lots of trails, the Downtown area was recently revitalized and made more walkable, and shopping centers like Tanger Outlets provide continuous walkways that make getting in your daily steps more fun, and have the added benefit of window shopping! Branson’s winter months tend to be pretty mild, so you won’t need to bundle up in snow suits to get out for some fresh air and exercise. Here’s your opportunity to just throw on a jacket, maybe don that cute knit cap and matching scarf you got last Christmas, and get everyone outside!
10. Do a little holiday window shopping: You can enjoy Branson’s retail offerings without spending simply by strolling through places like the Grand Village Shops (beautifully decorated for the holidays,) and Branson Landing. Take note of all the places you want to shop on your next trip to Branson...after you’ve saved up a few dollars by enjoying everything on this list!
See, you can spend time in Branson without spending all of your hard-earned dollars! And don’t forget to check out the two posts we’ve linked to above (second paragraph) for ways to make the money you do spend go a little further!