things to do in branson missouri

23 Best Things To Do in Branson, Missouri

Whether you’re well acquainted with Branson, Missouri or you’ve never heard of this larger-than-life city in the heart of the Ozark Mountains, you’re sure to find something calling your name in Branson.

While Branson is known for over-the-top shows and one-of-a-kind attractions meant to perfectly entertain, it’s also simultaneously a classic lake town, a gateway to some of the most gorgeous scenery in the midwest, and so much more.

This ultimate guide to the best things to do in Branson, Missouri has all of the city’s best attractions – from must-see shows and the best local spots for barbeque to the natural gems you won’t want to miss. So kick off your expectations; Branson is ready to wow you!

things to do in the ozarks

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Things To Do in Branson, Missouri

1. Watch The Haygoods

Now in their 31st year of performing in Branson, the six Haygood siblings form a family band that holds the title of Branson’s most popular show. And what a show it is! This multi-talented crew knows how to play every instrument under the sun, so expect classical harp performances of famous movie soundtracks, twangy banjo solos, and classic rock and roll… and that’s just before the intermission.

In classic Branson fashion, The Haygoods is quite over-the-top and wild, featuring everything from pyrotechnics and flying musicians to smoke, lasers, and instruments you won’t see elsewhere.

Don’t pigeonhole this classic Branson show: it’s somehow universally appealing. The night we attended, there happened to be several large groups of teenagers and a few more large groups of retirees in attendance, and I’m honestly not sure who was having more fun. The Haygoods had everyone out of their seats.

2. Explore Branson Landing

You can’t visit Branson, Missouri without exploring the revitalized waterfront area near the city’s historic downtown, known as Branson Landing. This buzzing pedestrian-only walkway stretches for several blocks, offering everything from ice cream shops and boutiques to restaurants and an impressive water and lights show every hour in the central plaza.

Don’t let the chain restaurants and stores distract you from the real gems here, which include locally-owned boutiques featuring products by some of the most talented artisans in the Ozarks. The Crystal Fish offers handmade home decor, gifts, and art as well as offering unique in-store demonstrations and even fun activities like “art a la carte” for kids.

Our trip to Branson coincided with the recent opening of locally-owned Bricktown Brewery, a new modern American eatery on Lake Taneycomo at the south end of Branson Landing. We loved everything we tried (barbeque and fried chicken sandwiches – YUM) as well as the delicious craft beer made in-house. The restaurant’s expansive dining terrace is by far the best spot to enjoy an evening in Branson.

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3. Eat Like A Celebrity Chef

If you’re a fan of Food Network, get over to Branson Landing to try some of the best dishes by your favorite Food Network stars yourself! Paula Deen and Guy Fieri both have restaurants located on Branson Landing, favorite spots whether you’re a die-hard fan or just want to see what all the fuss is about.

Head to Flavortown at Guy Fieri’s Branson Kitchen + Bar. Expect fun, playful dishes like Guy’s classic Trash Can Nachos, over-the-top burgers, and typical all-American fare with a twist. We were pleasantly surprised by the food and really recommend this spot. If you’re a true Guy Fieri fan, you can’t walk out without at least a little merch!

If Paula Deen’s Southern comfort food is more your style, head to Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen. This restaurant feels homey and bright from the second you walk in. The menu features favorites like fried chicken, chicken and dumplings, and Paula’s signature ooey gooey butter cake. It impressed even this skeptical northerner!

table rock lake

4. Spend the Day on Table Rock Lake

One of the best things to do in the Ozarks is spend time on the region’s many gorgeous lakes – though many are man-made, they’re among some of the most beautiful features of the Ozarks. One of the largest lakes in the region, Table Rock Lake is a favorite summertime destination and conveniently located to the rest of the sights and sounds of Branson.

Table Rock Lake tends to be more laid-back and low-key than other lakes in the region that are more well-known for being big party destinations. Here you’ll find a better spot for relaxing days on the lake with plenty of opportunities for kayaking, fishing, and other water sports. It makes for quite an idyllic getaway.

There are a number of campgrounds and RV parks surrounding the lakes, as well as cabins and cottages for rent. If you’re staying elsewhere but looking to enjoy a swim, Moonshine Beach next to the Dewey Short Visitor Center is a popular swimming spot. The State Park Marina is a convenient place to rent kayaks, canoes, and other water sports gear you’ll want to have on hand for a lake vacation.

For a proper getaway on Table Rock Lake, Chateau on the Lake is the best place to stay. With direct lake access and gorgeous lake and mountain views, it’s one of the best places to stay in Branson whether you’re looking forward to spending time on the lake or not.

5. Try Local Spirits at Copper Run Distillery

One of the poorly-hidden secrets of the Ozark Mountains has long been that the hillsides have hidden clandestine moonshine stills. Accompanying the recent craft beer boom of recent years has been a similar explosion in craft alcohol, making it easier (and safer!) than ever to try the traditional moonshine recipes of the Ozarks.

One of the most well-known distilleries in the Ozarks is Copper Run Distillery in Branson. This was the first legal distillery in the Ozarks since prohibition, and now produces small-bath moonshine, rum, and whisky using traditional recipes. Visit the Copper Run tasting room for samples and pairings, as well as complimentary tours – it’s a huge highlight even if you’re not a big drinker.

sight and sound theatres
Courtesy of Sight & Sound Theatres

6. Visit Sight & Sound Theatres

While Branson has dozens of theaters and shows to choose from on any given night, Sight & Sound Theatres is unlike any other. Selling out nearly a dozen shows a week, this sprawling theater invites this entertainment-centric city to kick it up a notch, featuring incredible productions that make Branson’s other shows look bare-bones in comparison.

Debuting in 2008 and instantly becoming a Branson classic, Sight & Sound Theatres features new productions every year based on classic and familiar tales of figures like Noah, Moses, and Queen Esther.

It’s no wonder why guests return year after year for the latest productions. We were blown away by the scale of the production of Queen Esther, which boasts 45 actors, nearly one hundred crew members, and a multi-stage production that rivals the sets of Broadway. We heard audible gasps from the crowd when the curtain rose.

Even if you’re not familiar with the stories behind the shows on the schedule at Sight & Sounds Theatres in Branson, make sure to add one of these spectacular performances to your itinerary – taking in these productions is easily one of the best things to do in Branson.

7. Eat Barbeque at Gettin’ Basted

It’s clear from the second you step inside Gettin’ Basted that these guys know their stuff. It seems like there isn’t even a square inch of wall space that is not covered with placards and flags announcing their endless barbeque championship wins near and far; shelves around the restaurant bow under the weight of trophies.

Gettin’ Basted is a great example of traditional Ozarks barbeque – heavy on the smoke and unique sweet and sour sauces, pulling from nearby Kansas City and St. Louis but still entirely it’s own. Pork is the most popular variety of Ozarks barbeque, so go for a sandwich or a platter – their sides are delicious as well!

Gettin’ Basted is located in the heart of the theater district in Branson, making it a popular choice for pre-show meals. It can get busy prior to shows, so make sure to get here a little early for a table – you won’t want to miss out on some of the best barbeque in the Ozarks.

dogwood canyon nature park

8. Hike Through Dogwood Canyon Nature Park

Located about a half-hour south of Branson along Table Rock Lake, Dogwood Canyon Nature Park is a stunning nature reserve and protected area covering over 10,000 acres of rivers, meadows, and bluffs along the Arkansas state border. The second you arrive you’ll know you’re in for beauty: a stunning waterfall crashes over a rocky crag just behind the visitors’ center!

The park offers a variety of ways to enjoy the lovely scenery, including offering miles of well-maintained hiking trails and biking paths and plenty of spots for trout fishing. Bikes are available for rent at the entrance, and horseback riding tours are also available.

Plan your visit around the tram rides offered by the park, and make sure to book in advance; these tram rides offer an accessible way to explore the park and take visitors to an impressive meadow where elk and bison roam. It isn’t quite a safari, but it’s a memorable wildlife encounter you probably weren’t expecting!

While Dogwood Canyon Nature Park isn’t as “off-grid” as spots like the Mark Twain National Forest, it’s no less beautiful. Visiting Dogwood Canyon Nature Park is a lovely way and accessible way to enjoy some of the impressive natural highlights of a vacation in the Ozarks.

Read More: Ozark Mountains: Ultimate Traveler’s Guide to the Ozarks

9. Take in the View from the Branson Ferris Wheel

At the west end of Branson’s theater district, the Branson Ferris Wheel is a classic Branson attraction worth adding to your itinerary. Among a sea of attractions calling your name and demanding your attention, this one will remind you of the natural beauty that envelops this perfectly entertaining lake town.

For a truly magical Branson Ferris Wheel experience, make sure to time your visit for sunset! The rolling hills that surround Branson and the rest of the Ozark Mountains bathed in golden light are truly something special at this time of day.

silver dollar city

10. Visit Silver Dollar City

Offering a great mix of entertainment that everyone from little kids to grandparents love, Silver Dollar City is among the best amusement parks in the United States. With its array of festive celebrations, delicious local food, and award-winning rides, spending at least one fun-filled day at Silver Dollar City is among the best things to do in Branson.

From the second you arrive at Silver Dollar City, you’ll notice how special this amusement park is. Among the rolling hillsides of the Ozark Mountains, old-growth trees shade much of the park, and waterfalls, caves, and rivers add natural beauty to the entire property. No need for gimmicky theming here: Silver Dollar City highlights its storied past with everything from the naming of rides and special food offerings to tours of Marvel Cave hiding below the park’s entrance.

The abundant shade, family-friendly facilities, and a number of rides even little ones can enjoy make this park leaps and bounds more family-friendly than any other in the country. No overwhelming planning for parents here; Silver Dollar City’s installations and events invite leisurely exploring while offering something special for every member of the family.

While Silver Dollar City has a lot to offer families with small children, it also has an impressive array of thrill rides guaranteed to make for a memorable experience for even the most enthusiastic roller coaster fans. Powderkeg features a 110-foot drop and reaches speeds of 64 miles an hour, while Outlaw Run (our favorite!) is one of the world’s fastest wooden roller coasts with its famous 720-degree barrel roll

We were also really surprised by the delicious food at the park – make sure you try the skillets, which are by far the park’s most beloved dish! Inspired by local favorites, you’ll find barbeque smoked overnight, handmade pastries like cinnamon rolls and sticky buns, delicious okra, mac and cheese, and much more. Our meals at the park were actually some of the best we enjoyed while in Branson, so bring your appetite!

Even if you’ve visited Silver Dollar City recently, it’s time to plan another trip back to the park. Silver Dollar City recently purchased a huge swath of land stretching all the way to Table Rock Lake. While plans for this land remain under wraps, it promises an exciting new chapter with plenty to look forward to.

Plus, season passes to Silver Dollar City cost less than a one-day ticket at Disney, making this world-class amusement park a thrill that anyone can enjoy!

Read More: 5 Best Family-Friendly Amusement Parks in the USA

11. Enjoy Dolly Parton’s Stampede

Hailed as the world’s most-visited dinner attraction, Dolly Parton’s Stampede is a classic Branson event that is so over-the-top you have to experience it for yourself to believe it. Featuring incredible, high-speed horse stunts, musical and theatrical numbers, acrobatics, and a four-course meal, it’s the best way to do dinner and a show, Dolly-style.

This is certainly one of the best things to do in Branson with kids, who will love the incredible theatrics of the show while giving parents a moment to enjoy their own meals. However, even those traveling without the kids in tow will love this event – it’s loads of fun and food, and the show is quite impressive.

Read More: 21 Best Dollywood Theme Park Rides

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12. Visit the Butterfly Palace

If you’re looking to get up close with nature, but perhaps in a different way than you can throughout the rest of the Ozark Mountains, head to The Butterfly Palace and Rainforest Adventure on the hillside overlooking Branson.

This incredible butterfly aviary is filled with thousands of unique and exotic butterflies. It offers visitors a chance to see their life cycle in process and even feed them nectar by hand! Stand still and see how many colorful butterflies will land on you at once. Visitors can take part in releasing newly hatched butterflies throughout the day or spend time identifying the 45+ species in the exhibit.

Remember to dress in bright colors like red when visiting the Butterfly Palace, as these colors tend to attract more butterflies to land on you. Tickets also include a reptile area, mirror maze, banyan tree maze, and several information exhibits and videos on butterflies. It’s one of the best things to do in Branson!

13. Take the Branson Scenic Railway

Looking for a way to see the Ozark Mountains in style? Hop aboard the Branson Scenic Railway for a forty-mile excursion through the mountainside on a vintage train sure to inspire nostalgia. Taking passengers on scenic excursions to some of the most gorgeous areas around Branson, it’s a favorite way to spend an afternoon. Or, make a reservation for an evening dinner train ride on Saturdays.

Visiting Branson to take in the famous Christmas festivities at Silver Dollar City? Branson Scenic Railway also offers Polar Express rides around the festive season are a highlight for travelers familiar with this tale, making this a great addition to a winter itinerary in Branson.

The train departs from the old Branson train depot directly across the street from Branson Landing, so you might be able to catch a glimpse of it as you explore this lively area of Branson.

marvel cave
Marvel Cave – Silver Dollar City

14. Tour Branson’s Caves

One of the most popular things to do in the Ozarks? Explore some of the area’s incredible caves, one of the most memorable features of the unique topography of the Ozark Mountains. While you’ll find caves in all shapes in sizes around the Ozarks, there are a number of impressive, easy-to-visit caves right in the vicinity of Branson.

Marvel Cave

Branson’s own Silver Dollar City is home to one of the largest caves in the Ozarks and is an absolute must-visit destination if you’re visiting the theme park. Marvel Cave’s entry room – called the Cathedral Room – is known as one of the largest cave entry rooms in all of North America. Marvel Cave is known as one of the most important and beloved attractions in the Ozarks region, and it’s easy to see why.

This stunning natural wonder is a fascinating contrast to the theme park just outside the cave and makes for a memorable addition to your time at Silver Dollar City. It’s just one of the reasons to love this family-friendly amusement park.

Make sure to know what a visit to Marvel Cave entails before your embark on the excursion. Tours last a little over an hour and include descending 500+ stairs and ascending 100+ more, as well as plenty of crouching and navigating over slippery steps. If you can manage these logistical details, add it to your itinerary; exploring Marvel Cave is hands down one of the best things to do in Branson, Missouri.

Talking Rocks Cavern

Located just outside of Branson West, Talking Rocks Cavern is another impressive cave system that makes for a favorite place to visit in Branson. Tours of the cave last for about an hour and explore among stalactites and stalagmites of this wet cave. Come prepare for drips and wet surfaces; though you aren’t likely to get too wet during your visit, sturdy shoes are a must.

Lost Canyon Cave

One of the most impressive caves you’ll find in the Ozarks is easier than ever to access. Visit Lost Canyon Cave and Nature Trail, adjacent to Big Cedar Lodge with its world-class golf courses to enjoy a 2.5-mile scenic golf cart ride among some of Branson’s most stunning scenery.

The highlight of the tour is driving through Lost Canyon Cave, a massive four-story cave with a plunging waterfall inside – it’s just as impressive as it sounds! This is one of the best things to do in Branson if you’re looking to get up close and personal with nature, accessible even for families and those who can’t hike through surrounding caves.

15. Climb Aboard the Showboat Branson Belle

Harkening back to generations past of majestic showboats cruising the waters, the Showboat Branson Belle is a mix of Branson’s iconic entertainment and the natural beauty of Table Rock Lake, offering one of the most unique things to do in Branson.

An expansive theater at the heart of the ship welcomes guests with a varied menu before kicking off the show and pushing off from the dock for a grand cruise around the lake. If you don’t have plans to rent a boat or get out on the water while in Branson, this is one of the best ways to see the lake.

The show is a surprising if somewhat confusing mix of music, magic, and comedy, though it’s nothing if not entertaining. A long intermission gives you the chance to enjoy the cruise, getting up on top of the ship to enjoy lawn games and a look around this massive paddleboat, thought to be the largest ship on a landlocked lake in the country.

16. Go Ziplining

The Ozarks are well known for their outdoor adventures, but have you considered ziplining? Soar above the forests of the Ozarks by adding ziplining to your Branson itinerary.

Located just a few minutes from the heart of Branson, Adventure Zipline is a popular choice. This zipline course includes seven different lines ranging in distance from 200 to up to 2,000 feet in length. Instructors are great and even novices can enjoy the adventure.

However, Branson is actually home to a number of zipline courses, so if you’re looking forward to flying through the sky, you’ll have plenty of opportunities. For a particularly thrilling time, take Parakeet Pete’s zipline from Branson Landing over Lake Taneycomo for gorgeous lake views!

17. Sip Local Wine at St. James Winery

The Ozarks may be better known for their moonshine than their wine, but Branson is home to the largest, most award-winning winery in Missouri, St. James Winery, making it a great destination if you’re in the mood for a wine flight or sampling.

St. James Winery also offers a full restaurant on-site with really good wood-fired pizza and a full menu of appetizers, entrees, and desserts. Even kids will love this spot, with lawn games to pass the time and plenty of space to spread out.

branson landing
Branson Landing and Lake Taneycomo

18. Go Fishing on Lake Taneycomo

The long, skinny Lake Taneycomo winds its way through downtown Branson, providing more than just a dose of beauty to this favorite Ozarks city. Annually stocked by the Missouri Department of Conservation with around 600,000 brown and rainbow trout, this impressive lake is considered among the best destinations for trout fishing in the country.

The lake is home to a number of marinas and fishing shops if you need to rent a boat, canoe, or fishing gear. It’s one of the best things to do in Branson, a destination not to skip if you love to get out on the water and among the best things to do in the Ozarks.

Just make sure you have a license to fish (even if you don’t end up catching anything)! Daily fishing licenses in Missouri cost $8 while annual licenses for non-Missouri residents cost $49.

Travel Essential

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19. Ride the Runaway Mountain Coaster

Take in the stunning Ozark Mountains from a whole new point of view. Branson’s Runaway Mountain Coaster is an incredible thrill ride among the trees of the forest, twisting along ridges and revealing impressive views of gorgeous mountain scenery. It’s an instant classic attraction and one of the best things to do in Branson, Missouri.

While the ride is certain to be an adventure, it’s one that the whole family will love – passengers need to be only 3 years old and 36 inches tall to ride along with parents to get in on the fun with parents and older siblings. Add this new mountain coaster to your Branson itinerary – it’s the perfect way to spend an afternoon before taking in a show or to break up a week at the lake.

20. Enjoy World Class Golf Courses

If you’re a golfer, Branson is calling your name. Located just south of Branson, Big Cedar Lodge is home to five incredible public golf courses, each designed by world-famous golfers whose names you’ll recognize even if you’re not a golf fan.

Among them is Payne’s Valley Golf Course, the first public-access golf course designed by Tiger Woods and his TGR Design firm. If Payne’s Valley is booked, play at Top of the Rock designed by Jack Nicklaus, Mountain Top designed by Gary Player, Buffalo Ridge Springs designed by Tom Fazio, and Ozarks National designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw.

Whether you stay at Big Cedar Lodge and enjoy several days of golfing at these illustrious courses or just drive in for a round as part of your stay in Branson, it’s without a doubt one of the best things to do in Branson for golfers.

Read More: 13 Golf Courses in the U.S. Women Will Love

freshwater designz
Fresh Water Designz in Historic Downtown Branson

21. Explore Historic Downtown Branson

Peel yourself away from the bright lights of Branson’s Theater District and you’ll discover that historic downtown Branson has plenty to offer as well! Shops, cafes, and restaurants line the streets of this quaint neighborhood, making this one of the best places to stay in Branson (the Hilton Branson Convention Center is a convenient and comfortable choice!).

Even if you’re not staying in the area, exploring this neighborhood is one of the best things to do in Branson. Locally-owned shops like Fresh Water Designz and Peter Engler Designs specialize in hand-made, one-of-a-kind items and highlight local artisans, bringing character and heart to the entire city.

If you love antique shops and vintage stores, you’ve hit the jackpot in Branson. Several shops in Branson’s historic downtown sell everything from vintage clothes to furniture, home decor, glassware, and jewelry.

For nostalgic bites, Clocker’s Cafe is a favorite spot with nostalgic decor and friendly service, and The Pie Safe has a great selection of sweets sure to make you visit more than just once. Steamy Joe Cafe is another favorite with basic yet classic all-American dishes and an all-day breakfast that reminds you of home.

22. Shop at Dicks 5 & 10

Worth a special mention on our list of the best things to do in Branson is the historic Dicks 5 & 10. One of the last remaining 5 & 10 stores in America, this family-owned business has a long history of being a cornerstone of downtown Branson and a favorite with visitors and locals alike.

Here you’ll find everything from vintage candy brands and Branson souvenirs to home goods and decor. Make sure to take a look around and explore the store’s aisles to get a feel for old Branson – it’s one of those must-do things to do in Branson that you can’t leave off your itinerary.

23. Take a Day Trip to Eureka Springs

While Branson is a fun-filled and energetic destination you’ll love, there is a whole other side of the Ozarks to discover. Head south of the state line for a day trip to Eureka Springs, Arkansas to bask in some of the rich history of the region.

Eureka Springs is known for its beautiful, Victorian-era historic center, filled with charming shops and bed and breakfasts. The town takes its name from the area’s many cool mineral springs; while you can no longer visit these springs in nature, make sure to visit Palace Hotel & Bath House for relaxing treatments using the area’s healing waters.

Just over an hour from Branson, Eureka Springs makes for a great day trip to see a totally different side of the Ozark Mountains. Whether you’re looking forward to touring the town’s charming historic heart or kicking back and relaxing at the spa, it’s a great addition to your Branson itinerary.

Things To Do in Branson MO

Branson, Missouri might be a small town, but it’s packed with things to do. Whether you’re looking to take in a show, enjoy the stunning natural surrounding of the Ozarks with a few days on the lake, or enjoy any of the other countless things to do in Branson, Missouri, you’re in for a real treat. Get ready to be surprised by all that Branson has to offer!

carley rojas avila

Carley Rojas Avila is a bilingual New York-based travel writer, editor, content marketer, and the founder of the digital travel publications Explorers Away and Home to Havana. Carley is an expert on all things Latin America, the Caribbean, and Cuba, having lived and worked in four different countries in the region. Her writing has appeared on the Associated Press wires and in Travel + Leisure, Yahoo, MSN, Euronews, The Weather Channel, and more. When she's not writing about her travels, find her front row at a Bad Bunny concert, befriending street cats, and taste-testing every pizza in Havana.