Big theaters...intimate theaters...live shows...lots of music...these are the key things that come to mind whenever someone thinks of Branson, Missouri. One of the first stats economic development and marketing professionals like to quote about Branson is the number of theaters, or theater seats, you’ll find here. For decades, that number has varied quite a bit from year to year - new venues are constructed, while others get repurposed and turned into new attractions or other community assets. But there are some that have become true Branson landmarks; either they’ve hosted a rotating list of artists and shows over the years, or they’ve had one show for years - or even decades, or a consistent roster of shows year after year. Regardless of what live entertainment has called these venues home, many have become Branson landmarks, iconic structures that loyal guests return to time and again with every visit. Let’s explore a few of these special places and the entertainment you can expect to see taking the stage now!
Andy Williams Performing Arts Center & Theater: From the time it opened in the early 90s until Andy Williams’ passing in 2012, this stunning venue carried his name and that of his trademark song - Andy Williams’ Moon River Theatre. But a name change, one that continues to honor the entertainment legend, didn’t change the theater’s mission to offer the kind of high quality entertainment of which Andy would be immensely proud - the current shows are: Illusionist Rick Thomas and Andy Williams Ozark Mountain Christmas Show. Throughout the year, the venue offers other Jimmy Osmond-produced shows (a personal friend of Williams, Osmond now owns the venue,) as well as concert headliners like Jim Brickman, Tanya Tucker, Frankie Avalon, and more. The venue itself is a vision - set in a naturally beautiful tree-filled landscape with a stream, its interior showcases artwork and offers a great gift shop - it’s the only structure in Branson that’s been featured in Architectural Digest. Location: 1 Andy Williams Boulevard (faces Highway 76)
Presleys’ Family Theater: The true definition of a Branson landmark, this venue hosts Presleys’ Country Jubilee, and is the only theater on Branson’s famous “Strip” built and occupied by the same family of entertainers for nearly 50 years. It’s been updated and renovated over the years, but it still retains the family-friendly Ozarks charm that has helped keep the Presley’s going strong decade after decade - they’ve been performing for more than 50 years! (Before they built a theater on Highway 76, the Presley family performed in several places, including a local cave!) Every attention to guest comfort has been maintained, from the comfortable and roomy seats, to the well-stocked gift shop and concessions. But it’s the great classic and contemporary country hits, as well as the family-friendly down-home humor, delivered by both multiple generations of Presley family members and extremely talented friends, that make the Presley’s a genuine Branson treasure. Location: 2920 West Highway 76
Grand Country Music Hall: Housed in the long-running and popular Grand Country Resort complex, the Music Hall is that perfect-sized venue, the type all entertainers love - big enough to welcome a sizable crowd, yet small enough to make any performance seem up-close-and-personal for every member of the audience. The theater welcomes new shows from time-to-time - most recently, Ozarks Country and Ozarks Gospel joined the lineup after the Bacon Family retired and left a couple of vacancies at the theater. But all the shows are “house shows” so-to-speak, and have been entertaining guests for many years - they are Grand Jubilee (recently named Best Of Branson* in the Variety category,) Comedy Jamboree, Amazing Pets, Branson Country USA, New South Gospel, and Down Home Country. This comprehensive resort facility also houses several dining spots, gift shops, a hotel with an indoor waterpark, and scores of attractions that include indoor and outdoor mini-golf courses. Location: 1945 West Highway 76
The Mansion Entertainment Center: Originally constructed for entertainer, Wayne Newton, this beautiful venue has become well known for hosting big-name concert headliners. Perched on a hill-top and approached via a circle drive that encloses beautiful bronze horses, this stately Southern mansion-style facility boasts one of Branson’s biggest stages (it may just be the biggest,) along with excellent acoustics, expansive seating that includes a large balcony, and an enormous and elegant lobby. It’s played host to music legends like the Oak Ridge Boys, Wynonna Judd, Neal McCoy, and Johnny Mathis. And the Mansion was recently named “Best Of Branson” in the concert venue category. Location: 189 Expressway Lane
Dolly Parton’s Stampede Theatre: One of those special Branson venues that still houses the show for which it was built, this is another theater that looks like an elegant mansion perched on a hilltop. Painted a cheery yellow, it’s surrounded by immaculate grounds, and features an enormous arena, as well as a large pre-show theater, and honest-to-goodness horse stables for the gorgeous creatures that are featured in every performance. (Guests can see the horses in the stables as they approach the entrance from the parking area.) This venue can get so busy, some seasons will see as many as three performances each day, and it’s especially popular during the Christmas holiday season. Obviously the live shows, often featuring as many as 32 stunning horses, are the star here, but the “fabulous 4-course family feast” comes in a close second! (Dolly Parton’s Stampede was named Best Of Branson in the Dinner Show category.) Location: 1525 West Highway 76
Hamners’ Variety Theatre: Home to headliner and long-running favorite, Hamners’ Unbelievable Variety Show, this lovely brick-front venue overlooks the Shepherd of the Hills district of Branson, another busy area that’s filled with entertainment that includes three additional live show venues, movie theaters, shopping, and more. This more intimately-sized theater is also home to Magnificent 7 Variety Show, Conway Remembered, Mike Walker Lasting Impressions, Thank You for the Music - A Modern Tribute to ABBA, Beach Boys California Dreamin’, and Hamners' Unbelievable Christmas. The theater’s namesake show stars two internationally acclaimed magicians, a friendly gorilla, a bevy of birds, and scores of other colorful and fun performers. Location: 3090 Shepherd of the Hills Expressway
King’s Castle: An impressive property holding court over Highway 76, this theater began its life as a home for pop music icon, Bobby Vinton. It’s been the King’s Castle for several years now, and delivering an excellent selection of shows for Branson audiences. Some shows have been at the Castle for several seasons, including Christmas Wonderland and Dublin’s Irish Tenors & The Celtic Ladies. Other mainstays are Broadway - The Greatest Hits and New Jersey Nights - the newest offering is Sinatra & Friends. With a roomy auditorium and pretty decor, the theater lives up to its grand name. Location: 2701 West Highway 76
Sight & Sound Theatres: The Branson location is the second theater opened by Sight & Sound - the first is in Lancaster, Pennsylvania - and it’s been a huge success since day one. Hosting elaborate productions based on stories from the bible, this stunningly beautiful facility is worth arriving very early for a performance just to look around! Like many of Branson’s theaters, it sits high and looks over a pretty Ozarks landscape. It has an enormous and gorgeous lobby, painted ceilings, stunning statuary, and so much more to see. Productions have included Joseph, Jonah, The Miracle of Christmas, and currently running, Samson. Location: 1001 Shepherd of the Hills Expressway.
There are obviously many more fascinating live show venues throughout the Branson area; watch for future posts where we’ll share even more. In the meantime, make sure every visit to Branson includes several incredible shows - you won’t just enjoy the live performances, you’ll have a good time seeing the theaters they call home! (For information on Christmas shows you can see now, check this out: “Christmas in Branson - 44 Exciting Shows with Extended Holiday Schedules!” If you want to save a little money to have more to spend on shows, check this out: “10 Free Things to Do in Branson, Missouri - Finding No-Cost Christmas-Time Fun!”
*Best Of Branson, a consumer voting competition, is operated by the Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette.