The 15 Best Things to do in Branson, Missouri – Wandering Wheatleys (2023)


Nestled in the rolling hills of the Ozark Mountains, Branson, Missouri, is renowned for its live music shows, picturesque lakes and scenery, and outdoor adventures. Cruise down Highway 76 Country Music Boulevard, and you’ll find theaters and live music venues offering entertainment for every taste, from country music shows to Broadway-style productions.

Beyond its live entertainment, the Ozarks and its two lakes offer a scenic backdrop for camping, hiking, and riding on thrilling mountainside roller coasters. Branson is also home to many family-friendly attractions, including the 1880s theme park Silver Dollar City and entertainment centers like Shepard of the Hills.

With so many things to see and do in this quaint Ozark town, it’s difficult to know where to begin. So, we’ve gathered a list of the best things to do in Branson for you. This Branson bucket list is full of outdoor recreational activities, quirky museums and stores, and must-see theme and adventure parks!

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1. Experience Pioneer Life at Silver Dollar City

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A visit to the 1880s-themed amusement park, Silver Dollar City, is one of the absolute must-do things in Branson. Plan to spend an entire day here because this park boasts over 40 thrilling rides and attractions and 40 live shows daily.

Sure, this family-friendly theme park has rides for every age, but what really sets it apart from other theme parks is the history found throughout. You’ll find over 100 craftsmen and artisans demonstrating what life was like in the 1880s. Plus, you can see glassblowers, genuine blacksmiths, pottery-makers, candy makers, and woodworkers create works of art right in front of your eyes.

There’s even a cave to explore. Take a guided tour of Marvel Cave and then ride a train 500 feet back to the surface. Check out the gravity-defying Grandfather’s Mansion and the authentic buildings built in the 1800s that were moved to the park.

Explore McHaffies Homestead & Barnyard and the Oak Trail School to get a peek into the one-room 1800s-style schoolhouse. Imagine what life was like as a pioneer as you listen to live music from the porch, tour the authentic cabin, and see all the farm animals that you would have seen in an old Ozarks village!

During the summer, head to the adjoining White Water theme park to cool off at the 13-acre water park. Ride the waves in the Surf’s Up Wave Pool, float on tubes down the lazy river, or get your adrenaline pumping on the 75-foot free-fall Kalani Towers Drop Slides to cool off from the Ozark heat.

2. Embark on a Historical Voyage at the Titanic Museum

When entering Branson’s Titanic Museum, you’ll be given a boarding pass, so you get the experience of what it was like for the passengers of the ill-fated ship. Known as one of the biggest museums to display Titanic-related exhibits, you’ll see over 400 genuine artifacts from the ship and its passengers.

Walk up the replica of the grand wooden staircase and through the parlors and cabins that are decorated with period pieces, artifacts, and furniture to make it feel like you are transported back in time. Here, you can touch an “iceberg,” feel 28-degree water, and sit in a lifeboat while you listen to actual stories from the survivors.

Plus, there are several other hands-on and interactive exhibits. Kids will love shoveling “coal” in the boiler room, stepping aboard the stern, and learning how to send a distress signal. There is a special child-friendly audio tour and a scavenger hunt that will keep them entertained.

At the end of your journey, you can visit the Memorial Wall to check the name on your boarding pass and learn the fate of the passenger that is written on your pass. If you’re looking for unique things to do in Branson, the Titanic Museum will not disappoint!

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3. Take in the Best Ozark Views from the Branson Mountain Coasters

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For thrill-seekers, Branson offers a few mountain coasters to choose from, where you can ride individually or with a friend. Built on the side of the Ozark Mountains, these coasters use the natural elevation and gravity for rides up to 30 miles per hour. But don’t worry, if that’s too fast for you, most of the carts have a braking system so you can determine the speed that you are most comfortable with.

Branson is full of exciting rides and amusement parks, but what makes these coasters unique is the beautiful panoramic views that you can get of the Ozarks while you cruise down.Some of the coasters even have a 100-foot stomach-dropping elevation loss, with a mechanical option at the end so you can get an even more free-falling, adrenaline-pumping experience.

Plus, some are even open at night, so you can snake through riveting loops and curves with the track lit up using LED lights for a memorable ride.

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4. Browse the Shops at Branson Landing

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For the ultimate shopping experience, a visit to Branson Landing is one of the top things to do in Branson. Stroll along the scenic 1.5-mile boardwalk along Lake Taneycomo. Here, you can shop in more than 100 stores that sell everything from specialty gifts to apparel.

This 95-acre waterfront area also has both casual and fine-dining restaurants, offering gourmet main courses and decadent desserts. To party, you won’t even have to leave the premises, thanks to the tasting rooms, breweries, and distilleries with their extensive wine, craft beer, and specialty drinks menus.

For the adventurous, head to the Main Street Marina, where you can rent boats, hydro-bikes, kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, and more. Some of the newest attractions include Amphicar Tours that will drive you through the shopping center right on the water in an aquatic amphicar. Or take a thrilling boat ride on Lake Taneycomo with Branson Jet Boats and prepare to get drenched with its full 360 spinouts.

For great views of the lake and downtown Branson, ride on the hot air balloon–themed amusement park ride called Parakeet Pete’s Steampunk Balloon.At noon, and every hour on the hour after that, you can watch the $7.5 million-made fountain show that synchronizes light and 120-foot water geysers with musical arrangements for an unforgettable experience.

In addition to the fountains, Branson Landing also hosts a number of events throughout the year like its summer concert series and farmers’ market that sells locally grown produce and unique, handmade products.

5. Take a Stroll Down Memory Lane at the World’s Largest Toy Museum

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Boasting more than one million toys dating from the early 1800s to today, the World’s Largest Toy Museum is actually home to several other museums within the complex. Set in two buildings covering over 30,000 square feet, you’ll feel a tingle of nostalgia when you find your favorite childhood toy! They have everything from hundreds of Barbie dolls and model trains to superhero figures and a giant Star Wars collection.

Most of the toys are in display cases, but there are also some fun interactive exhibits for those that want to get more hands-on with the toys. You can play checkers, tinker with Lincoln Logs, or spend your change on the coin-operated rides. There are also plenty of photo opportunities where you can step inside a life-size replica toy box of a superhero or Barbie doll to become your favorite figure.

The World’s Largest Toy Museum is the star of the show and is decorated with giant toy soldiers, vintage cars, and an old steam train, but be sure to leave time for the other museums.

Check out the BB Gun Museum, the Stearnsy Bear Museum, the World of Checkers Museum, and the Harold B. Wright Museum, which has the original manuscript of the book The Shepherd of the Hills. When it comes to unique things to do in Branson, a visit to the World’s Largest Toy Museum is tough to beat!

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6. Camp Out at Table Rock Lake

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Just 10 miles outside of the city, you’ll find one of the state’s best outdoor areas and state parks. With over 800 miles of shoreline, tons of hidden beaches, and plenty of activities to choose from, Table Rock Lake is the perfect spot for getting into nature or camping out under the stars.

Rent a jet ski or boat from one of the several rental places dotted around the lake and enjoy a day on the water, either waterskiing, sailing, or wakeboarding. The park also has premium fishing spots, paved hiking trails, mountain biking trails, and tons of picnic sites.

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Popular swimming holes and beaches include Cape Fair, the Beaver Area, and Indian Point Area. Moonshine Beach, which is near the Dewey Short Visitor Center Recreation Area, is one of the most widely used beaches.

For those that want to dip their toes in the sand, Moonshine Beach has the only sandy beach area. Here, you can swim, picnic, hike, play sand volleyball, or simply enjoy the sunshine sunbathing.

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Plus, many campgrounds, resorts, and rustic rental cabins found around the lake offer private swimming areas for their guests. If you’re not the outdoorsy type, consider a stay in the state park’s yurt, an upgrade from one of their basic electric campsites. Not only does this yurt have air conditioning, but there’s also a full-sized kitchen, an outdoor fire pit, as well as a wooden deck with panoramic lake views.

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7. Spend an Afternoon at Top of the Rock

Nestled 10 minutes south of Branson, Top of the Rock offers several attractions in one area for a great way to spend an afternoon out of the city. Start off by taking an electronic cart through the Lost Canyon Nature Trail, a 2.5-mile trail that takes you through the Lost Canyon Cave.

This four-story cave has cascading waterfalls and viewing balconies. There’s even a Bat Bar to enjoy your favorite beverage while enjoying some of the most breathtaking scenery of the Ozarks.

This ticket also gives you admission into the Ancient Ozarks Natural History Museum, which will give you a firsthand look into the history of the area. The museum features over 75,000 Native American and other historical artifacts, interactive exhibits, and historical memorabilia. You’ll see dioramas of prehistoric Ozarks, skeletons of dinosaurs, and items from the Civil War.

Here you can also take up a round of golf or improve your swing at the practice ranges and putting courses. They also offer two full-sized golf courses.

End your evening at one of the four restaurants and also try out the elegant End of the Trail All-American Wine Cellar. Be sure to stay for the sunset to watch a small reenactment of the Civil War and hear a cannon erupt.

8. Hop aboard the Branson Scenic Railway

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For a unique way to see the Ozark Mountains, book a ride on the Branson Scenic Railway passenger train. You’ll ride on the Ozark Zephyr, a diesel-powered train with beautifully restored vintage cars from the late 1930s through the 1960s. Not only will you see the beautiful scenery, but a narrator will tell you the history of the area, point out old railroad communities, and describe the railroad history tied to the city.

Begin your journey downtown in the historic train depot built in the early 1900s. There are two routes, each a scenic 40-mile trip through the foothills and railway tunnels. There is no assigned seating, so you can move freely throughout the cabins. Be sure to arrive early to get a seat on one of the three dome cabins that offer panoramic views of the outside.

Plus, special railway excursions are held throughout the year. From April to October, they offer a Dinner Train where you’ll be provided a delicious four-course meal. Book early to catch a ride on the popular, and often sold out, Polar Express. This Christmas-themed train takes you to the North Pole, where you can enjoy holiday carols, a special gift, and treats like hot cocoa.

9. Catch a Show in Branson’s Entertainment District

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For the most iconic and quintessential Branson attractions, just head down to the city’s entertainment district on Country Boulevard. Since the first show in the late 1950s, the city has been a favorite travel destination because of its range of live entertainment options that cover just about every genre of music.

One of the first shows was the Baldknobbers, a quirky live country music and variety show with a side of wholesome slapstick comedy. Today, you can choose from over 100 live shows, from bluegrass, murder mystery dinner shows, tribute bands, and hysterical comedies to music from certain eras like the golden oldies.

Country Boulevard is Branson’s take on the Vegas Strip, with its own kitschy and country twist, so it wouldn’t be a trip to the Ozarks without catching a live show. Whatever your interests are, you’ll be sure to find family-friendly entertainment that performs from the morning to late at night, so be sure to fit one entertaining night into your Branson itinerary!

Watch the Famous Baldknobbers Show

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10. Explore the Caverns of the Talking Rocks

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With more than 6,000 caves, Missouri is known as the Cave State, so it’s no surprise that Branson is home to some impressive caves that you should definitely add to your Branson bucket list.

Located about 13 miles west of Branson near Silver Dollar City, check out the natural limestone cavern called the Talking Rocks. On the hour-long guided tour, you’ll learn all about geology as you go down about 100 feet on a series of concrete paths and stairways. Plus, if you’re visiting in the summer, the cave is a nice way to escape the heat since it stays around 70 degrees year-round.

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The fun isn’t just underground. Nearby, there’s also a mini-golf course to play a few rounds. They also have four nature trails to explore, which vary in length and difficulty, including one that leads to a lookout tower for great views of the mountainscape. Kids will love playing on winding, twisting passages of the wooden SpeleoBox crawl mazes that simulate crawling through a cave.

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To top it all off, when you purchase a ticket to the cave, you also get access to the Family Games Area, with its giant oversized games like checkers, chess, Jenga, Connect 4, cornhole, ring toss, and a rock wall.If you’re looking for fun things to do in Branson, you’ll love spending the day at Talking Rocks.

11. Pack a Picnic for the Lakeside Forest Wilderness Area

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For a little escape from the city, take a trip to the serene Lakeside Forest Wilderness Area, which is located in the heart of the city. The 140-acre park has over five miles of trails, each with different levels of difficulty, each offering different overlooks of the lake and the hill country.

Experienced hikers and outdoorsy types will love both the Bluff Trail and Ridge Top Trail. These moderate-level but beautiful hikes wind past a grotto waterfall area and two caves, the most popular being Old Soldier’s Cave, which was used as a hideout spot during the Civil War. To get to the lake, hike the Lake Taneycomo Trail, which takes you down rougher terrain down more than 300 stone steps, right along the shoreline.

To save some cash, pack a lunch and picnic at the recreational area. There’s a covered porch area with a porch swing, a pavilion area that includes a few picnic tables, and a recently-added nature-themed playground to keep everyone in the family entertained.

12. Surround Yourself with Nature at the Butterfly Palace

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If you’re looking for unique Branson attractions, why not immerse yourself in a tropical paradise without even leaving Branson? The rainforest-esque attraction has over a thousand live exotic butterflies in a natural environment with lush plants, greenery, and flowers. The Butterfly Palace has over 50 butterfly species, with butterflies native to South America to Southeast Asia.

You won’t just meet these fascinating creatures, you’ll also get close to colorful frogs, slimy salamanders, cute geckos, and the over 20 other live reptiles and amphibians that live in the Rainforest Science Center.

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Step into the rainforest and imagine thousands of delicate butterflies flying around you. You’ll get nectar to feed them, and if you’re lucky, one will morph from a caterpillar to a butterfly, and you can release it to let it fly.

Explore the interactive, hands-on activities as you work your way out of the Emerald Forest Mirror Maze, or test your skills at the Banyan Tree Adventure as you climb the tangled ropes that act as the roots of a tree.

To end your adventure, relax in the theater to watch a 3D movie to learn about the migration and life cycle of these beautiful insects. Plus, once you pay the entrance fee, the wristband that acts as your ticket is good for three consecutive days, so you can always come back again and view more butterflies.

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13. Cruise the Lake in Style on the Branson Belle

Modeled after the grand steamboats of the 1800s, a ride on the Branson Belle is a great way to enjoy Table Rock Lake without renting a boat or owning a boating license. For two hours, you can cruise on the giant three-floor boat that fits up to 700 passengers.

Plus, tickets include a three-course dinner, with your choice of delicious ribeye steaks, trout, chicken, or vegetarian options. During the meal, sit back and relax while you are entertained by one of the boat’s live shows that include live music, dancing, comedy, or a magician. Talented singers and a four-piece band play music from the 1960s to today.

For intermission, you can take in the scenic views of one of the four decks of the boat. You can also visit the captain of the boat in the pilot-house before departing at the dock, White River Landing. For souvenirs, stop by one of the specialty shops, where you will find an assortment of Branson-themed gifts.

14. Watch a Novel Come to Life at Shepherd of the Hills

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One of Branson’s most famous dinner shows is held at Shepherd of the Hills, a drama inspired by Harold Bell Wright’s novel about the early lives of settlers in the Ozarks. Now, they’ve expanded the entertainment with a historic farm, an adventure park, and other live shows all rolled into one.

Enjoy outdoor activities like the zipline, mountain coaster, rope course, and lookout tower. Plus, you’ll never hear “but I’m bored” at Lil’ Pete’s Playland, which includes the American Ninja Warrior Course, a rope-bridge linked treehouses, a mini-golf course, a petting zoo, and more.

If the historical drama show doesn’t entertain you, one of their other indoor shows will. They have everything from bluegrass morning shows to live comedies. But if you are going to choose one, the Shepherd of the Hills should be your first choice, and you should book in advance since it’s one of the most popular Branson attractions.

It’s one of the oldest running outdoor drama shows in the country, and quite an epic performance, with over 90 actors, horses, and other animals, and even pyrotechnics like an actual cabin fire.

15. Get Your Candy Fix at Dick’s 5 & 10

For a fun souvenir stop on the main drag, head to Dick’s 5 & 10. Step inside this retro-style stop for a bit of old-fashioned candy and old-school toys.

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This authentic five-and-dime store is a 10,000-square-foot space that is jammed-packed from floor to ceiling. Full of houseware items, home decor, Branson souvenirs, kitschy items, and quirky prank toys, like whoopee cushions for your practical jokes, it’s easy to spend an hour or two wandering the aisles.

First opened in 1961, this whimsical variety store is still run by the same family. With its array of items, it’s more fun to browse this store than a chain store, thanks to its unique products that other stores don’t carry.

Keep your change handy for the 10-cent candy that Dick’s has available. At the candy emporium section, they have a wide range of affordable candy that’s sold individually and hard to find anywhere else, like Bit-O-Honey and Peanut Butter Bars.

They offer more than 60 flavors of taffy candies and over 100 different kinds of sodas! The variety store actually has more than 1,100 different kinds of candy and snacks, so this one-stop shop will satisfy all your sweet tooth cravings.If you’re looking for delicious things to do in Branson, this place is a must-visit!

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There you have it! The 15 best things to do in Branson. What’s your favorite thing to do in Branson?

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