The Secrets and Tips You Won’t Find in Most Visitor Guides!
This isn’t your typical post on every exciting thing you need to see and do while visiting Branson, the home of hot live entertainment, amazing museums, exciting attractions, and unforgettable outdoor fun. You won’t find most of these “tips” in a destination guide or visitor’s publication, these are things that locals know, like navigating the area when its busy and you’re not the only car on the streets, or where to find that surprising little place that makes great sandwiches, or the restaurant that serves up excellent food and a stage for local performers and bands you won’t find in a theater...you get the idea, this is that rare article that you’ll want to save and keep with you on your next visit!
Without further ado…
1. Easiest Route to Branson Landing! Sure, Branson Landing is easy to find, but many people think that jumping in the long line of cars slowly making their way through downtown is the way to go. While we highly recommend you take time to enjoy Historic Downtown Branson, to visit Branson Landing, avoid taking Highway 76, which turns into Main Street, through the downtown area. Instead, from Highway 65, you’ll want to exit at Branson Landing Boulevard/Business 65 (also known as Highway 248 and Shepherd of the Hills Expressway.) You’ll travel East, go through a roundabout following directions to stay on Branson Landing Boulevard, and you’ll come upon the Landing on your left. There’s a pay parking lot entrance, but you can also park at either end of the Landing at no cost. It can get really busy around holidays and special events, so allow extra time to find a good place to park. If you park in the flat lots on either end, they usually have chauffeured golf carts picking people up.
2. Late Night Dining! If you were out playing until late in the evening, or went to a late show, and suddenly find yourself hungry, where can you grab a bite to eat? It’s good to know in advance where you’ll find 24-hour dining. Well, Branson has two famous name restaurants known for staying open 24 hours, as well as a popular burger joint chain; you’ll find Denny’s on Highway 76 (The Strip) right by the entrance to Tanger Outlets. Further down Highway 76 where it intersects with Shepherd of the Hills, which becomes 376 after crossing 76, you’ll find an IHOP on the corner, and if you keep going on 376, you’ll quickly come to a 24-hour Steak ‘n Shake.
3. Gettin’ Thrifty! Whatever you do, don’t miss out on all the incredible shopping centers and boutiques carrying brand name, custom, and one-of-a-kind new items. But to save a few bucks here and there, and maybe find a long ago, but not forgotten, treasure from your childhood, or a nice batch of second-hand books, or whatever strikes your fancy, Branson has a plethora of thrift shops! And like most shops of the “thrifty” kind, the money you spend in these stores will benefit a local charity, church, or other worthwhile project or program. This isn’t a complete list, but it’ll get you started and keep you busy huntin’ for a while:
Shepherd of the Hills Humane Society: 306 N Veterans Boulevard - 417.337.8702 (Downtown Branson)
Tantone Thrift Store: 1629 E State Highway 76 - 417.334.3770 (cross Taneycomo Bridge, follow roundabout toward Forsyth - it’ll be a couple miles up and on your left.)
The Salvation Army: 203 West Atlantic - 417.337.8269 (Downtown Branson)
Riley’s Treasures: 215 Veterans Boulevard - 417.334.3770 (Downtown Branson)
Taneyhills Community Library: 200 South 4th Street - 417.335.2223 (Downtown Branson)
4. Avoiding Navigation Frustration! Cruising The Strip can be a blast, or a tad frustrating if you’re trying to get to a specific place in a time crunch - you need to take another route! Branson still has the “color route” system - you don’t hear about it as much lately, but there are side routes called “time saver routes” that outline the roads to get you around town without spending your entire travel time on Highway 76. Stop by the Welcome Center at 2005 West Highway 76, Suite 206 (across from Walmart) and pick up a map that shows the color routes.
5. Excellent Food in Unexpected Locations! Of course, Branson’s brimming with restaurants, both those unique to Branson, and the brand names you know and love, but you can find great food in some not-so-obvious locations. Locals claim the very best Reuben Sandwich in town is at a mini-golf course - no joke! You’ll find it at Scooter’s Sports Grill in the Greatest Adventures Mini-Golf at 4800 North Gretna Road in Branson Meadows. Another great sandwich spot can be found in the Branson Craft Mall at the Pickin’ Porch Grill, where there’s even live music on select days (and good tacos, too!) The Craft Mall is at 694 State Highway 165. For a sweet treat, check out the gift shop at the Hughes Brothers Theatre - they offer incredible fudge made from a family recipe!
6. Quick & Fun Side Trips! For obvious reasons, media and marketing pros want to keep the focus on Branson, and we couldn’t agree more, but sometimes it’s fun to venture off the beaten path and discover what’s nearby, right? Just a couple of minutes from downtown Branson - you can hop across Lake Taneycomo (well, don’t really “hop,” drive your car across one of the two side-by-side bridges,) take the roundabout directions toward Hollister and take a peek at the Bavarian style buildings housing restaurants and shops along Downing Street. Or take that same roundabout toward Forsyth - there you can fish in Bull Shoals or Swan Creek, and visit even more thrift stores. Head away from Branson in the other direction, maybe take the five-mile-long and beautifully scenic (there are no billboards) Ozark Mountain Highroad, or take Highway 248 out to the west of Branson and you’ll discover tiny Reeds Spring (just north of Branson West.) You’ll find local art, some flea market shopping, and phenomenal pizza at the Reeds Spring Pizza Co.
7. Star Gazing! We’re not talking about looking up into the night sky, we’re recommending that you keep your eyes open while you’re out and about anywhere in Branson. Most of the show headliners and other entertainers live here, so it’s not unusual to run into them at the grocery store or anywhere else for that matter. And lots of big name celebrities visit Branson just like you do...Neil Patrick Harris was seen catching the local magic shows...Michael Jordan has been spotting playing on a local golf course...Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel were here to attend a family wedding...and the Legends of Golf tournament held annually attracts big time professional golfers, as well as celebrity duffers - Mark Wahlburg and Kid Rock got in on the fun last year.
8. Fun Finds in Gift Shops! You’ll encounter a lot of shows advertising around town, online, and in publications - all talking about their fabulous shows, but you won’t hear about something special many of them offer - really neat gift shops. Most gift shops will have fun stuff that’s related to their shows, the kind of souvenirs you expect to find, but they’ll also have unexpected items - you’ll want to make sure you arrive early for your show time for browsing, and bring along some spending money! In addition to the yummy Hughes fudge we mentioned earlier, you’ll find beautiful Chinese items in the Grand Shanghai Theatre - and check in advance to make sure their artist is on hand to engrave your name, or a loved one’s, on the item in Chinese characters. The shop at Dick Clark’s has really cool retro music-related merchandise, and some of the prettiest jewelry can be found in several theater gift shops.
9. Branson’s “Natural” Side! It’s easy to be enchanted by all the glitz, glamour, neon, and non-stop entertainment of the Strip, but make sure you venture out - a big, beautiful lake is mere minutes from Highway 76 - Table Rock Lake offers great swimming, fishing, and other water fun. And there’s Lake Taneycomo that runs right along Historic Downtown Branson and the Landing - great for fishing, and for taking a scenic cruise at Main Street Marina. Branson’s also teeming with trails - there’s a system that branches out from just about every part of town - a favorite for hikers and nature lovers is the Lakeside Forest Wilderness Area, with the entrance right at the intersection of Highway 76 and Fall Creek Road. Make sure you pack good hiking boots or walking shoes so you don’t miss out on the beauty and adventure Branson has to offer!
10. More Time-Saving In-Town Travel Tips! It’s easy to find the entrance to Tanger Outlets on Highway 76, but you can access Tanger from either side, too. Follow Gretna Road to Wildwood Drive - White House Theatre will be across the street from Wildwood, the street that takes you to a side entrance to Tanger. On the other side, you can take Roark Road to Forsythe Street and come up to an access drive on the other side of Tanger. All of these roads are on the color route map we mentioned earlier. There’s also a little known street right behind Walmart/Price Chopper - Frank Rea Drive - you can access if Highway 76 is looking busy, it’ll take you downhill to Fall Creek Road. A left turn on Fall Creek will bring you right back to Highway 76 where the Dick Clark Theatre is located. Again, everything is on the map, but it’s good to hear about it in advance and be prepared to navigate Branson like a local!
11. Great Music Outside the Shows! We can’t stress enough how fantastic all the shows are in Branson’s theaters, but did you know that there’s a lot of great entertainment happening elsewhere in town? The stage at Branson’s Center Stage Grille & Bar hosts a lot of really good bands (and serves up incredible food,) and the Outback Pub also boasts really good music on select nights, usually talented duos or trios. Downtown at Main Street Marina’s Paddlewheel restaurant you’ll find fun DJs, vocalists, and “open mic” nights on their Rock the Dock schedule. You’ll even find live acoustic performances in a store - the 80s World shop at Highways 76 and 165 (diagonally across from Titanic,) a store filled with really cool 80s related merchandise; it often hosts well-known artists, including those who’ve played with world-famous rock bands. And you’ll find many of the amazing musicians who play for the shows entertaining folks at local clubs, restaurants, and events. So, save a little time in your itinerary to catch some of the “other” great live entertainment in Branson!
There are far more good “things to know” when putting together your next visit to Branson; watch for a future post! For now, check out the concerts headed this way in 2019: “Branson Welcomes 23 Big Name Acts to the Concert Stage for 2019!” and some of the incredible entertainment from Branson’s resident shows: “When Branson Missouri Pays Tribute, Everyone Pays Attention!” - “Branson “Pops” with Musical “Variety!” - “Branson Shows that Tell a Story - It’s Live Theater, Branson Style!” - “Branson - Where to Get Your Country On in the Home of Live Entertainment!” - “Branson Excels at “Dinner and a Show” - 13 Options for Mealtime Entertainment!”