20 Fun Free Things In Branson lets you enjoy Branson, Missouri while saving a little money for the big stuff - like visiting Silver Dollar City, seeing lots of shows and attractions, and shopping ‘til you drop! This list doesn’t cover absolutely everything here that’s free, but at least it’s a start to experiencing Branson on a budget. For your convenience in referencing things to do, we’ve numbered the list, but we didn’t pick our favorites - we’ll let you decide what you enjoyed most without spending a dime!
1. Branson Centennial Museum
This free-admission museum contains rotating displays of nearly every aspect of the area’s history, as well as other items from the time period when Branson was incorporated. Created in 2012 to celebrate the city’s centennial, the museum found a new and larger home at 140 Commercial Street in downtown Branson - you’ll discover items here related to businesses previously housed in the location. In addition to artifacts connected to Branson’s long history as an entertainment destination, you’ll find displays related to other industries that once thrived here, including tomato canning and harvesting mussels from the White River for button-making. Other fascinating items tell the stories behind disasters that nearly wiped Branson off the map, including a devastating fire and flooding. A great resource for educational tourism travelers, and another reason to spend time in the Historic Downtown District!
2. Branson City Parks
The city of Branson is home to a whopping sixteen (16) public parks! You’ll find just about everything you’re looking for in a park, including basketball courts, picnic tables, walking paths and trails, dog parks, benches, restrooms, water features, playground facilities, and more. (Note: Two of these parks are unique enough that we’ve listed them separately - Lakeside Forest and Branson Skate Park.)
3. Branson Landing Concert Series
Beautiful Fountains set the backdrop for FREE concert performances! You can enjoy a variety of music genres, from variety to country - from rock to pop, and all family-friendly. Past performances have included a Journey tribute band, The Mark Chapman Band, Prince Ivan, SIX, and other exciting acts. (Note: More on the Branson Landing Fountains to come!)
4. Branson Skate Park
Located at Stockstill Park (625 Stockstill Lane,) Branson’s Skate Park is free to use, and specially designed for roller skates, skateboards, and inline skates (sorry, no bicycles.) Skaters will enjoy an exciting setup that includes a quarter pipe, grind box, jump ramp, grind rails, wedges, ramps, and a trick table. The park is open from 8:00 a.m. to sunset, weather permitting. There are public restrooms on-site, and a police callbox for emergencies.
5. College of the Ozarks’ Tours
Many guests have a hard time believing that young people can get a four-year advanced education without paying tuition, but that’s exactly what happens at College of the Ozarks! Students work on campus to “pay” for their education, and many of these working opportunities make for fascinating tours. You can see Edwards Mill, a real operating grist mill, and the Fruitcake & Jelly Kitchen, the college is famous for its fruitcake and ships orders around the world. Other interesting spots include the Hoge Greenhouses and the Stained Glass & Candle Shop - all of these student work areas offer products for purchase. And don’t miss Patriots Park, where the State of Missouri’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial resides, as well as the World War II Flag Plaza, the Korean War Memorial, and more, as well as the Lest We Forget 9/11 Memorial, where an actual steel column from the World Trade Center is on display. (Note: Since you’ve gotta eat anyway, check out the Keeter Center at College of the Ozarks, much of the food is produced right on campus and prepared by students of the culinary program.)
6. Dewey Short Visitor Center
This stunning structure gets its name from the US Representative who was instrumental in getting Table Rock Dam constructed. Designed to be environmentally friendly, the visitor center is LEED certified, and features a rain garden and bioswale that protect Table Rock Lake from the pollution of rainwater runoff. Outside from the observation deck and natural landscaping, the views of the lake and dam are incredible. Once inside, visitors enjoy a state-of-the-art center that features fascinating displays and wall murals, an interactive map, a replica of an Ozarks bluff, and an exhibit of Native American artifacts. There’s also a spacious meeting space with a kitchen area; contact the Center for information on holding gatherings. You’ll find the Dewey Short Visitor Center on Table Rock Lake at 4500 Missouri Highway 165, just off Table Rock Dam and neighboring offices for the US Army Corp of Engineers.
Several festivals are held throughout Branson with no-cost admission. Historic Downtown Branson offers Autumn Daze, Plumb Nellie Days, and other events, both annual and occasional. These festivals often feature free live music and other entertainment, and they’re held right in the Downtown area, another great place for strolling around, people watching, and more.
8. Fireworks, Fireworks, and More Fireworks!
When Independence Day rolls around, Branson Landing lights up the sky with a brilliant fireworks display; arrive early if you want to score a seat at the Fountains! You’ll also find free displays at Chateau on the Lake Resort, Big Cedar Lodge, College of the Ozarks, and in Branson’s neighbor on Table Rock Lake, Kimberling City. (Note: not all locations hold their displays on the 4th, so check dates in advance.) The Chateau on the Lake and Big Cedar Lodge also set off bangs, booms, and brilliant sparklers in the night sky for Memorial and Labor Days.
9. The Fountains at Branson Landing
This unique, multi-million dollar Fountain display combines water, lights, and fire set to music - it’s a truly gorgeous presentation that runs every hour, on the hour, from noon until 10:00 p.m. every day. And the good news for anyone who needs to “sit a spell,” there’s tiered concrete amphitheatre style seating so you can rest and enjoy the free show, too!
10. Historic Downtown Branson
It’s always free to sightsee, and Branson’s Historic Downtown is ideal for strolling around, especially now that’s it’s undergone a transformation to make it more foot-traffic-friendly! Wider walking areas, sitting areas, trash receptacles, and the new Liberty Plaza are just some of the updates. For historic buildings, check out one of the few structures to survive a massive fire in the early 1900’s - it now houses the Plum Bazaar, a jewelry and bead shop that’s open seven days a week, year-round (123 E. Main.) A must see for all Branson visitors is Dick’s 5 & 10, filled to the ceiling with everything you can imagine, and also open year-round (103 W. Main.) Another great - and free - way to see downtown? Sparky the Trolley! (More on Sparky to come.)
11. Lakes - Let’s Get Wet!
If you visit Branson and pretty much stick to The Strip and a couple of other areas laced with theaters and attractions, you might not realize what you’re missing - lakes! Lake Taneycomo, perfect for trout fishing, runs along Historic Downtown Branson, Bull Shoals Lake picks up below Powersite Dam in neighboring Forsyth, and then there’s the granddaddy of area lakes - Table Rock! Find yourself a local and they can tell you how to access the two warm-water lakes for swimming at no cost. There are several areas to swim at Table Rock State Park, in nearby Cape Fair, and multiple other areas. The Swan Creek portion of Bull Shoals Lake offers a beach in Forsyth in Shadowrock Park - there’s no cost to access the swimming area. (Note: You can fish in all three lakes at no cost if you have your own gear, but you’ll need to purchase a fishing license for the state of Missouri.)
12. Lakeside Forest Wilderness Area
Conveniently located, and visible from The Strip/Highway 76, this stunning slice of Branson’s countryside features 5.3 miles of trails. Hikers can experience the beauty of a waterfall and a cave along the way, and those up for the challenge can descend 315 stone steps to take in an unparalleled view of Lake Taneycomo. The entrance to the Wilderness Area can be found where 76 intersects with Fall Creek Drive. Parking is available right at the trailhead. As with all hiking adventures, make sure you bring plenty of water, sunscreen, bug repellent, and other necessary supplies to ensure an enjoyable experience for all!
Wow, does Branson know how to put on a parade! The huge Veterans Day Parade is held every year during one of the nation’s largest celebrations for our nation’s military heroes - Veterans Week. A unique Christmas parade is held the first week of every December; the Adoration Parade is a completely non-commercial event that’s purpose is to remind everyone of the “reason for the season.” Another holiday parade kicks off Branson’s popular Christmas season, which begins the first of November - the Most Wonderful Time of Year Parade highlights Branson’s live entertainment industry. The Veterans Day and Adoration parades follow a route through Historic Downtown Branson, while the Most Wonderful Time parade makes its way through Branson Landing.
14. Really Big Stuff!
Branson has a penchant for big things - from the enormous King Kong and Empire State Building atop the Hollywood Wax Museum (located at 3030 West Highway 76,) to great big chairs, like the rocking chair at Save On Branson’s Outback property location (at 1914 West Highway 76,) and the adirondack chair at State Park Marina (just south of Table Rock Dam,) Branson’s love for the oversized continues to grow - pun intended! And it doesn’t cost a thing for great picture ops in front of the world’s largest rooster at the Great American Chicken House (2421 West Highway 76,) next to the world’s largest banjo, sticking out of Papa Grand’s Pizza at the Grand Country Resort (1945 West Highway 76,) or in front of the world’s largest fork-in-a-meatball at Pasghetti’s Italian Restaurant (3129 West Highway 76.) If you subscribe to “bigger is better,” Branson’s got ya covered!
15. Ruth and Paul Henning Conservation Area
A 1,500+ acre expanse in the Branson area Ozarks, this breathtakingly beautiful conservation area was preserved largely through the generosity of Ruth and Paul Henning. Missouri native, Paul Henning, is best known as the creator of popular 60s-era television programs like “The Beverly Hillbillies,” “Petticoat Junction,” and “Green Acres.” (Fun side note: One of the original “Hillbillies” cars is on display at Branson’s Ralph Foster Museum, and three episodes of the show were shot at Silver Dollar City!) The trails here are ideal for hiking, and include a waterfall, striking outcroppings, crystal clear streams, and benches along the way for sitting.
Scenic Drives, Roadway Overlooks, City Sights...Enjoying Branson’s Beauty
16. The Strip! Take a drive along Branson’s world-famous Strip, especially at night, and enjoy the glitz of glamour of the theaters, the glow of neon, and the many interesting fronts on attractions, restaurants, and more. The Titanic Museum Attraction, Hollywood Wax Museum, Pasghetti’s Italian Restaurant, Grand Country Resort, Presleys’ theatre, the World’s Largest Toy Museum, Great American Steak & Chicken, Lost Treasure Mini-Golf, and the seemingly earthquake-damaged Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Odditorium are just a few of the places that make for entertaining sightseeing!
17. Scenic Drives! Take Highway 76 west toward Silver Dollar City; before you get to the theme park, you’ll encounter the entrance to the Ozark Mountain High Road. Travel the five mile stretch of the High Road for beautiful views of hills, trees, valleys, and more of Mother Nature’s treats along this roadway that’s been protected from roadside advertising. Travel Highway 165 for stunning views of the lake and mountains. Head south toward Arkansas for other gorgeous Ozarks’ hills and countryside. Head out in any direction and you’ll be treated to a lovely landscape! You’ll also find several roadside overlooks in the area, making it easy to pull over and capture the scenery in photographs to share with everyone back home!
18. Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery
Branson is home to an honest-to-goodness fish hatchery, and it’s great free entertainment for the family! Sitting just below majestic Table Rock Dam, the hatchery produces nearly 400,000 pounds of brown and rainbow trout each year, with 80 percent of the fish released into Lake Taneycomo below the dam. Kids love to watch the fish in the “runs” outside, and inside, you’ll discover a free-admission museum/conservation center. The Hatchery also has nearby trails, great for hiking and seeing area wildlife, and allows access to Lake Taneycomo for fishing. (Interesting side note: When the dam was constructed to control flooding of the White River, it created beautiful Table Rock Lake above, ideal for warm water sports, recreation, and bass fishing, and Lake Taneycomo below, a cold water lake with a river-like appearance, perfect for trout to thrive.)
19. The Shrine of the Holy Spirit
You’ll find this tranquil spot on the same property occupied by The Mansion Entertainment Center, located at 189 Expressway Lane near Branson’s Shepherd of the Hills District. The Mansion’s owner had the Shrine constructed to fulfill a spiritual vision, and guests are welcome to enjoy the peaceful landscape for meditation, prayer, or simply to relax and reflect. There are lovely gardens and a fountain, and ample seating that allows for enjoying the beautiful Ozarks’ scenery. (Note: The primary structure on the property can be rented for weddings and other small events - it accommodates approximately 80 people.)
20. Sparky the Trolley
One of the best things about the Historic Downtown District of Branson is that you can leave the driving and navigation to Sparky! Made to resemble vintage cable cars (think San Francisco,) there are several trolleys in Branson’s fleet, all making a nice circuit through Downtown, along Branson Landing Boulevard, and up Hamburger Hill (a.k.a. Highway 76/Main Street - it got the meaty moniker from locals due to the three fast-food burger establishments that call it home!) There are several stops to board and deboard, including one at either end of Branson Landing. There’s no charge to ride Sparky, but feel free to tip your helpful driver.
Now that you’ve saved all that money, make sure you see some of Branson's excellent shows and attractions while you're here!