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Looking For A Great Vacation Destination? What's Wrong With Branson, Missouri?
On The Waterfront Of The Branson Landing
I have visited Branson, Missouri for decades, both with my family and without. I've always found it to be one of the most family friendly destinations you'll ever visit. Branson is probably the best of vacation ideas for a family as it without a doubt the most family friendly resort area in America. Parents can actually take their children out without worrying about liquor (it is served) obscene language, adult entertainment or whether it's one of the safe places to visit out there!
- On the December 8th, 1991 episode, the CBS show 60 Minutes, proclaimed Branson, Missouri, the “Live music show capital of the world.” There is no doubt that Branson’s is filled with some of the best musicians, singers, shows and stage productions to be found anywhere.
While I like Las Vegas and entertainment aimed strictly at adults, I find Branson to be a breath of fresh air. In fact, so much so, that I feel it is regularly singled out and made fun of, mostly by those who haven't been there. In spite of the "60 Minutes" proclamation, I think some of this lack of respect comes from the East Coast and maybe even the media(if they've even heard of it)! The friendliness and innocence of the activities in Branson just seem to bother many of those who seem to have a certain snobbish attitude about the midwest, friendly people, and entertainers who are still talented, but are well past their prime years of popularity.
Sometimes I wonder, if Branson was on the East Coast or West Coast, or it was just outside of New York, if remarks and attitudes might change. I actually believe it would be publicized and carried on about as if it were the most "in", retro place for those who wanted to re-visit the past.
Before we go on, here are few facts about Branson and the immediate area.
- Branson has a population of about 10,500. Their growth rate of approx. 73.9% in the last ten years, makes it one of the fastest growing cities in the country.
- With that small population, it attracts and serves up to 65,000 visitors daily, with an estimated 8 million visitors a year, as of 2010.
- The Branson area offers 50 theaters and more than 100 shows. Some of these theaters are run by major stars including Andy Williams, Dick Clark and Dolly Parton.
- Out of this small population, you'll find minorities have not seem to make it to Branson to live. They probably make up the equivalent of about a small high school gym crowd! But after all, it is the heart of the Ozarks. This is the area where Jed Clampett and Granny (you know, the Beverly Hillbillies) supposedly came from. If you don't know about the Beverly Hillbillies, ask someone over fifty.
- There are more than 30 lakeside resorts on Lake Taneycomo.
- Table Rock Lake is very close by and has more than 750 miles of shoreline.
- Branson placed number three on the Top 10 U.S. Destinations list.
Here are the reasons people go to Branson
(in case you've made some assumptions!) Obviously, most go for more more than one activity!
- 83.7% – Shopping
- 80.2% – Shows
- 51.6% – Lake/Outdoor Activities
- 31.0% – Theme Parks
- 4.8% – Golf
- 4.4% – Fishing
Oh yes . . . And there's traffic, on the main strip! The long line of cars that are slowly and constantly cruising up and down the main drag takes me back to the days when teenagers and young adults did it to be cool. In Branson, it is certainly a people watching experience, but it is also the most obvious and old time way of getting around Branson. But for those who read Branson maps or who are regulars; there's a number of ways around to beat most traffic. It's the rookies and those who love the long line of slow easy going cruising, that stay on the main strip!
- Speaking of maps, Branson is situated within a day's drive of 50% of the U.S. population!
The Branson Belle
Maybe The Jokes Come From
- The fact that Branson has become one of America's top motor coach vacation destinations with an estimated 4,000 buses arriving each year.
- All of the seemingly hundreds of breakfast, lunch and dinner buffets featuring basic home stick-to-your-ribs type food.
- The fact you may have a hard time buying drugs or finding rap music!
- The fact that Las Vegas isn't the only place that old stars go to die. (actually old stars go there to live, entertain and thrive with millions of fans entertained each year)
- More miniature golf courses and go-cart courses per square mile than any city around.
- Branson is a town that where there is no place for you to go, where you can get in trouble!
If these are your reasons for insults or flat out avoiding Branson, then you need to read on!
207 Hotels with 22,000 rooms. . .Yes, there are an abundance of the basic motor hotels of the Motel 6 ilk, but there are also a number of first class accommodations as well, including the 12 story Hilton Hotel adjoining the convention center. Regardless of what kind of accommodations suit you, I would say that they are hosted by people who are on average much friendlier and service oriented than many of their counterparts. Is this something to complain about or insult? Maybe it's the fact that you don't need to shell out $10.00-$20.00 to park in a parking garage.
For Those Who Don't Appreciate Branson
Here's an unfortunate example of some of the comments about Branson on the web. I'm sure the large majority of these people still think the police are out to persecute anyone and everyone. They also appreciate nothing that involves a violin!
- "Its the #!1*%ing black hole of the midwest. Stay away or you will be sucked into this backwater, conservative Christian cesspool that we all know and hate. This place reminds me of a washed out Vegas. Its where music literally comes to die. I want to stab my eyes out with hot forks . . . . I want out of here so badly. I have no car, and I am thoroughly convinced that Andy Williams is the Antichrist."
I expect some of this from some of the young immature folks that think culture is getting wasted on liquor whenever and wherever possible while listening to the rap that is filled with as many expletives as possible, but it does bother me when I hear it from someone who's never been there or who's been there once, 10 years ago! Sure it's not for everyone. Neither is the beach, Los Angeles, New York City or the Smoky Mountains. But I still don't understand the nasty demeaning remarks by many of those who look down on Branson with such a snobbish attitude.
If you're unhappy because you miss the gambling or the strip clubs, there are plenty out there to be found in other cities. That's what makes Branson different or special depending on your point of view. Still have problems with Branson?
- Are there too many people who are actually nice, considerate or love family?
- Are there too many senior citizens enjoying themselves in Branson?
- Do senior citizens not know what good talent or good music is? They only grew up with Frank Sinatra, Elvis, Dean Martin, The Platters, Bob Hope, Milton Berle, Andy Williams, Count Basie, Louie Armstrong, Ray Charles, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash and dozens more.
What's Wrong With The Music
Amidst all of the glitz, the buffets, show ticket stands, old time photo shops, miniature golf, go-cart courses and the overwhelmingly abundant gift shops, you can truly find some great entertainment
There are a 168 shows listed on the Official Branson.com website and if you're looking for country you certainly won't be disappointed! Branson is one of the best music destinations to be found anywhere. However, If you must be entertained by the latest hot pop act such as Lady Gaga,Kate Perry or Adele, you will definitely not be finding what your seeking. My question is, "why do you need to be entertained by the latest acts?" Does this make them more talented or the entertainers of the past less talented? I don't think so. Maybe no one wants to return home and admit they had a great time watching a person or an act that was popular 20-40 years ago. Why though? The odds are the entertainers in Branson have been around longer than most pop acts today could ever hope to be, based on the numbers of those who become yesterdays news or yesterdays self destructing icons.
Believe it or not, Branson is about more than country music shows, for those of you who can't get into "Yeeee Ha"! There is comedy, pop, nostalgia, impersonators and even history if you go to "Shepard Of The Hills" or the Titanic Museum. For fans of comedy there is Yakov Smirnoff, Jim Stafford, and many more who pass through here each year including Tim Conway, Phyllis Diller, Charo and Rich Little. No Yakov, and Jim Stafford aren't dead. They probably perform in front of more live audiences each year than the current popular comics do. Branson is also home to several world class impersonators.
Yes the acts over the years have tilted towards country. Acts have included country acts like the Gatlin Brothers, Debbie Boone, Oak Ridge Boys, Glenn Campbell. Ray Price, Ronnie Milsap, Brenda Lee, Barabara Mandrell, Lee Greenwood, Merle Haggard, Roy Clark, Mell Tillis and Kenny Rogers, and Mickey Gilley. But, if you do like country, you can't tell me there's no talent on this list.
If you're not into country; the pop side of performing artists has included the likes of Ray Stevens, Petula Clark, Ann Margaret, Englebert Humperdink, Wayne Newton, B. J. Thomas, Tony Orlando, Captain & Tenille, Rober Goulet, Andy Williams, Gladys Knight, Paul Revere & The Raiders, Bellamy Brothers, the Osmonds and many more!
There are also a number of tribute shows including Neil Diamond, John Denver, Patsy Cline, Motown Review, Red Skelton, Rat Pack,, Four Seasons, and the Beach Boys . Looking for some culture? How about the 12 English Tenors?
For those of you in New York who may still look down on the level of entertainment, I guess you would have a problem with the Radio City Rockettes who have been performing each Christmas at Branson. Maybe you're assuming they will all be clad in country western boots!
Yes, certainly tastes in music vary. I happen to appreciate classical, jazz, pop and country. I love R & B, but have not learn to appreciate most Rap. This doesn't make any of it bad or worth trashing or insulting a town that's open to any and all tourists. I wouldn't be surprised if there isn't a theatre that ends up booking a rap act down the line, but right now based on the demographics, it would probably not fill the seats. However, I'm confident that Branson theatre owners would book whoever might fill their theatres. In earlier times they tried Def Leppard, REO Speedwagon, Steppenwolf, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and yes even Ozzy Osbourne!
Always A Beautiful "Drive" In The Fall
Got A Problem With The Miniature Golf Courses?
Maybe it is the overwhelming number of miniature golf courses. I don't know if they make people believe that there aren't any good 18 hole golf courses around or not. The fact is, that In recent years, Branson has become probably the best golf destination in the Midwest, and may be one of the top 10 golf destinations in the U. S., with the amazing amount of choice it offers for golfers. There are thirteen, 18 hole golf courses in Branson with 8 championship courses. For example, the Branson Creek Golf Club, featuring the natural beauty of the Ozark Mountains, can hold its own with any championship course in the country. It is the premiere golf course in the State of Missouri and has held the No. 1 Public Course rating in Missouri since 2001 for both Golf Digest and Golf Magazine. Another example of great Branson Golf is "LedgeStone, which was called "a masterpiece of mountain golf architecture" and awarded the 4-Star rating in the 2008/2009 Best Places to Play category. There is also the one of the newest entries, the Payne Stewart Golf Club which is a tribute course honoring the late Payne Stewart. It offers 18 holes of championship golf and also features a great collection of Payne Stewart memorabilia. Some have even call it a shrine to one of golf's most successful and lively players.
Maybe some people just don't like seeing families actually enjoying themselves in an outdoor activity. Is this supposed to be passe' or corny. If it is, then Branson is guilty!
- Have you found anything yet to dislike about Branson?
Culinary Students Serving First Rate Fare
Can't Find Gourmet Dining?
Eating out in Branson can be delicious, and it can be a little too dependent on gravy and fried chicken. However it won't be pricey. Branson offers a variety of restaurants and cafes that can meet almost any taste and budget, and you'll find plenty of local restaurants that aren't found back at home and still offer a good value! There are 247 restaurants with seating for 37, 048.
For the food snobs there is no reason to return home convinced that all there is in Branson to eat is fast food, grease and inexpensive buffets. Believe it or not, there IS some great food to be found in Branson, but you may need to get off the well lit and very visible locations along the strip, but they are there. The first place to try in my mind is the Dobyn's Dining Room in the Keener Center at the College of The Ozarks. Your meal will be prepared by students who are learning the restaurant business, and your gourmet meal will be served by students who are some of the most impressive young adults you'll ever find. All food preparation and service is done by students, and even quite a bit of the food is grown on the schools farm. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are offered daily, yet it's amazing to me how few people seem to know about this place with it's huge, rustic, but very tasteful dining room. They do offer a Sunday buffet, but this is NOT your typical buffet and it's at least a few steps up from the average Branson fare! By the way there's also a bakery offering tempting treats to take back to your motel room, not to mention a first rate historic hotel here as well!
NOTE: Branson turns 100 on April 1 and, as you might expect, the celebration will lasts all year with special and free events!
Inside Bass Pro
Bass Pro Outside!
Looking For Some Trout Fishing?
People come from all over the United States and the world to fish for rainbow trout, brown trout and more in the waters around Branson , MO.
If you want to fish while your wife shops for her, you, the kids and the rest of your family, this is the place to do it. Your wife will definitely not get bored waiting around for you. She may not even notice your gone! Branson area fishing is full of action and excitement almost all year round. It just depends on how much of a true fisherman you are because Branson is home to three world class fisheries. There is Bulls Shoals and Table Rock Lake’s bass fishing, and then there is the cold waters of Lake Taneycomo’s amazing trout. In fact, you'll want to bring your camera and keep it handy, as the fishing activity can be fairly lively! At the very least you've got to be ready for the one that got away!
- Lake Taneycomo is the ideal place on earth to grow record sized trout (rainbow and brown). It is good for fly fishing as well as artificial lures.Thanks to the fantastic management of the Missouri Department of Conservation, Lake Taneycomo, offers an unparalleled trout fishing experience. For example, in the fall of 1998 a local resident caught a whopping world record 25-pound brown trout in this same lake! By the way, these are the same waters that run by the Branson Landing Mall.
211 Acre Fish Hatchery
- There is a large trout rearing hatchery operated by the Missouri Department Of Conservation. The Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery is located approximately 6 miles southwest of Branson. The hatchery itself is a tourist destination as it receives about 250,000 visitors annually and provides a vast amount of education to those who visit. The hatchery typically produces 1,125,000 catchable trout annually. Lake Taneycomo receives about 500,000 catchable trout per year from this hatchery and another with 225,000+ from another hatchery in Southwest Missouri. The remainder of the trout produced is stocked at other Missouri fishing areas. The primary role of this 211 acre hatchery is the production of rainbow and brown trout to meet the needs of fisherman.
Table Rock Lake
- The very nearby Table Rock Lake is a fisherman's dream whether you're a beginner or a pro. This popular lake is nationally recognized as a top bass fishing lake and there's plenty of activity for any fisherman. You'll find not only largemouth, smallmouth bass and whitemouth bass, you'll also find Kentucky spotted bass, large crappie, rock bass, channel and flathead catfish, not to mention the old reliable bluegill.
BULL SHOALS LAKE
- This warm water lake is known as a tournament lake and has a reputation for producing huge fish of a variety of sizes. It also provides excellent fishing all year long and has no closed season. In fact, the lake seldom freezes. Bull Shoals Lake has a surface area of 71,240 acres at its highest levels and offers some the best and most varied fresh water fishing anywhere in the country! Smallmouth bass, spotted bass, crappie, catfish and Walleye of all sizes can be found in this lake. As a note, this huge lake is located in both Missouri and Arkansas.
Grand Palace Shops
SHOPPING? . . . LAST, BUT CERTAINLY NOT LEAST!
Shopping Can't be The Reason For the Negative Remarks
There’s an awful lot of stores in Branson. Unfortunately, there are not as many as 4-5 years ago when the economy was still humming along. Yes, Branson has felt the recession as well. Regardless, you will no doubt find the treasure or bargain that you've been searching for, as Branson offers a wealth of shopping options at great prices all year. You just have to figure out where to look and what you’re looking for! Branson has everything from the national-brand outlet stores to unique boutique and specialty shops. You’ll also find master craft malls, flea markets, and antique shops, and you'll find these shops in a variety of locations around Branson.
A Free & Fun Surprise While Shopping!
One of the most fun things I've watched when in Branson is a team of guys called "Buckets N Boards" at the Branson Landing. The duo is free to anyone that walks the shops of the Branson Landing and was worth much, much more. This team has created an imaginative high energy show with a rhythmic fast paced percussion performance on anything that makes a sound (with and without a drumstick). There act is also combined with some comedic moves, tap dancing, and a couple of hilarious songs. Everyone, regardless of age loves watching these two guys. In my mind, they should be in a movie or on television. They're that good! And again, it's free! Other street entertainers can be found around the main promenade of the Branson Landing including Scottish bagpipes and country music.
Branson Landing At Night
"The Branson Landing" is the Latest Major Addition to Branson.
Nothing like the new 1 1/2 mile long Branson Landing that sets on Lake Taneycomo has ever been built anywhere in the Midwest, unless you want to say that all shopping malls are the same. It was designed and built to combine the down home feeling of Branson with excellent dining, entertainment, condos, and a bit of the luxury of Palm Beach Florida.The outdoor Mall is one of the new state of the art lifestyle malls. Built at a cost $400 million dollars and opened in 2006 this wonderful complex has something for everyone. It truly is a great dining, shopping, and entertainment experience for everyone including dad and the kids. To me, it's a self-contained city with a unique town square that boast a $7.5 million water fountain, sychronized to light, music, fire and a great sound system! Even the jaded and midwest snobs are impressed by the dazzling water fountains which can shoot 120-foot geysers right alongside real fire cannons, all blasting at the same time. This water and fire spectacular is a creation of the same people who created the world famous shows for Downtown Disney in Orlando, Universal City Walk in California and the Bellagio in Las Vegas. And best of all, it’s free! This area of the mall can hold up to five thousand guests and is overlooked by the luxury condos which top most of the mall and also offer spectacular views of the Branson, The Landing, and Lake Taneycomo.
It features stores like Build-A-Bear, Charlott Russe, Coldwater Creek, Aeropostale, Devo Olive Oil, Pendleton, C. J. Banks, The Disney Store, Belk Department store and dozens more. in other words, there are plenty of nice places to spend your money, before you even go anywhere else. There’s even a Bass Pro Shop anchoring the mall and sitting right on Lake Taneycomo.
Dining includes everything from the expected BBQ fare to gourmet popcorn, a candy emporium, fudge shop, frozen yogurt, seafood, steaks, Irish Pub and a floating restaurant right on the lake! If walking the mile and a half long mall is making your feet sore, you can even hop aboard one of the special trolleys that carry guests between 4 stops without charge. Yes, I said “Without Charge”. Try that East Coast or West Coast!
Branson Landing is easy to find, as it is adjacent to historic downtown Branson and parking is not a problem. It is estimated that the Branson Landing has added millions of visitors every year to the area.
In the Grand Village, right on the strip, you’ll find a group of 26 specialty shops amid a setting reminiscent of old town Charleston, South Carolina, including beautiful flower beds, sparkling fountains, and trees lining the cobblestone walkways. The stores are imaginative and filled with first quality merchandise, handcrafted sculptures and gift items displayed in unique very attractive takes displays. This perfect sized group of shops offers a wonderfully relaxing and uniquely interesting shopping adventure. The Christmas shop is unbelievable! First class!
Don’t forget to stop by the "Hard Luck Cafe" where they offer great food and your waitress or waiter sings pop and country tunes while you eat. Some of them have even been on American Idol.
Old historic downtown Branson is near the Branson Landing and is filled block-to-block with traditional and quaint old time shops and cafes. One in particular, is the Branson Café which dates back to 1915. Many regulars have been eating here for generations, and it is all within walking distance from anywhere in the Historic District.
The Tanger Outlet Mall with 73 stores is located just off the strip. All the stores are located on one level and are primarily made up of clothing and accessory stores, although you'll also find a number stores such as the Black & Decker and Disney outlet stores as well.
The Factory Merchant’s stores offer savings ranging from 25%-70% at a number of different outlet stores. The Factory Merchant's stores include designer clothing and sportswear, accessories stores, home furnishings and gift shops.
The Factory Shoppes At Branson Meadows has a number of vacancies, but still includes The eleven-screen Branson Meadows Cinema, Golf USA and BonWorth.
The Amish Country Store is worth mentioning as it sets just off the west end of the main strip and is without a doubt a one-of-a-kind shop.
- Shopping in Branson includes all types of retailers serving any number of pocketbook requirements. You’ll need more than one or two days to cover it all.
Then There's Christmas At Branson
This town is decked out like no other town in the U.S. for Christmas! It has been listed as one of the top 10 Christmas destinations. There's plenty going on and don't forget the Christmas shows!
By the way, I never even mentioned Silver Dollar City, the Branson Scenic Railway, Zip-lining, the I-max theatre, the wineries, Riding The Ducks, The Water Park
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