Branson, Missouri Part 1 – Planning Your Trip

https://www.flickr.com/photos/missouridivisionoftourism/7950851294/sizes/z/

Photo Credit: Missouri Division of Tourism CC Lic.

Perhaps I am more familiar with this destination than any other.  By my best estimate, we have been there probably 35-40 times.  (No Exaggeration)   We’ve stayed in many of the hotels, gone to a significant number of the shows and attractions, and shopped the outlet malls until we know them like the back of our hand.  🙂

Branson has fast become a ‘year-round’ destination though Summer is definitely the busiest time.  (We rarely go then as we don’t like crowds and lines…and bottle-neck traffic.)  OUR favorite time to visit is during the Fall. (It’s our weekend getaway of choice).  The weather is mild, the leaf color palette is absolutely MAGNIFICENT…and the outlet mall isn’t crowded.  ‘Back to school’ shoppers have left and the Christmas shoppers haven’t yet arrived (I start my Christmas shopping early) At any time of year though, it’s a great family vacation – or getaway if you live close enough.

Branson is very family friendly.  Our family would often split up while shopping, then meet back at a designated time and place.  Shopping in Branson has changed over the years though.  There is now only one outlet mall open – Tanger.  Branson Landing (Great shopping but NOT outlet shopping) is the new ‘in’ place go.

When To Visit The busiest times in Branson are the summer months (June-Aug) and Christmas season with the shows & shoppers. This is when traffic on “76” creeps.  NOTE:  Christmas season and Christmas shows begin the first week of November and continue through Christmas though exact schedules vary as each performer or family determines their own break for the Holiday.)   🙂

The Fall (Sept/Oct) is probably the second busiest time with the fall festival at Silver Dollar City.

Other than our visits in the Fall and Christmas seasons  we actually enjoy visits in Jan/Feb. (or March).  There aren’t a lot of shows during this time, but the shopping is GREAT, and the restaurants are open as well as things like miniature golf and museums such as The Titanic and Hollywood Wax Museum.  We’ve never been bored on a visit during Jan or Feb.  Just be aware that during this time, there are not as many options for entertainment/shows.  You WILL, however, find GREAT rates on accommodations.

Accommodations:   Though chain hotels now line the landscape in Branson, for years, the only establishments in town were the privately owned ‘mom-n-pop’ motels  (restriction from the City of Branson).  Honestly, though,  many of these locally and privately owned places (I’m referring to the ones that look nice on the outside, not the ones that are run down) are simple motel rooms, clean, safe and meet the needs of the frugal traveler, with rates WAY below the chains as they compete for business.  Over the last 20 years, we’ve stayed at a number of these and have no bad stories to tell.  There is usually a swimming pool and a continental breakfast in the morning.  Don’t be afraid of them.  🙂

Though reservations are a good idea 99% of the time in order to ‘shop’ for bargains, Branson is the ONE location where that is not necessarily the case.  In fact, you can often find VERY good rates by driving into town and looking at the signs outside the ‘mom-n-pop’ motels.  Many offer 2 nights for 79.99 or specials of a room for 1 night and 2 show tickets for $99.  I don’t know if those require attendance at a time share presentation or not…but those signs were outside multiple locally owned motels recently.  🙂

Photo Credit: Valerie on Flickr CC Lic.

Getting There:  Branson now sports its own airport, however, I’m not really familiar with it. It’s very small.  🙂  If you find fares to Branson too expensive, there is the option of flying into Springfield, MO.  It’s about 45 min. north – not a bad drive at all.  Traffic can be heavy on Hwy 65-S during the busy summer months, but it moves along without stopping.  Larger airports further away include Tulsa, St. Louis or Kansas City but they’re all over 200 miles away….

Getting Around:  Walking is the favored mode of transportation down “76” (the main highway with shows, hotels, restaurants, etc…)  as traffic is extremely heavy – especially at dinnertime and before/after shows.  While most visitors have a car, many find it easier to leave it parked and just walk to shows, activities, etc…  That’s where it becomes advantageous to KNOW what shows you’re interested in – and choose a hotel fairly close.  Weather is pleasant and temps tend to go down in the summer evenings (advantage of the mountains) so walking is actually quite pleasant.

Photo Courtesy of Branson Chamber of Commerce

Now…for those days of things were you MUST drive, Branson has planned the city in such a way that you can avoid “76” especially during the ‘busy times’.  “Busy times” are from the dinner hour through the opening of shows (typically 5 – 8 pm).  Allow 30-45 min. to drive that 1 mile section during these times.  Of course, restaurants are also very busy during this time so if we want to eat out on a night when we’re NOT seeing a show, (we usually eat in our condo….), we don’t even attempt to enter a restaurant until after 7:00.

Branson has built ‘traffic relief’ routes to help with the traffic….The map above shows the yellow, blue and red routes – They’re true ‘life-savers’!!  🙂

Shows:  They’re all good…and family friendly.  You will have NO concerns about taking  children to any Branson show.  Coupons are available for some shows in the the magazines or brochures located in the lobbies of hotels, mall lounges or the entrance to most restaurants or shopping areas. There are also Family Passes available that will save some money over individual ticket prices.  However, even with these, plan to spend $75-100 to take a family of four to an evening show.  Matinee performances are a little less expensive.

Photo Credit Ron Jones on Flickr CC Lic.

Silver Dollar City: www.SilverDollarCity.com   LOVE IT!!!  There are discounts for admission to SDC;  just look for them.   If you enter the park after 3 pm, the next day is free.  Not only is that a great deal, but with small children, it’s a wonderful way to enjoy your time in the park…2 ‘partial’ days.   The added advantage to a day in Silver Dollar City is the number of shows there in the park – all as part of your admission ticket.

Branson Landing Photo Credit Louis CR Artist CC Lic.

Outlet Shopping:  Shopping is a big attraction in Branson. There are several places–Tanger Outlet Mall and Branson Landing.  Branson Landing is the newest location – built along the river front with shops on the ground floor and hotel rooms and apartments for residents on the upper floors –  It’s quite beautiful – especially at night or during the Christmas season.  Both of these areas can be very busy (parking at a premium) during the back to school shopping season and Christmas.

Time Share Presentations:  These are a dime a dozen in Branson.  You can earn free show tickets, IMAX tickets, accommodations (sometimes in a condo), free meals, and sometimes Silver Dollar City tickets (if you bargain for them).  Of course, it requires your attendance at a 90-120 min. TimeShare presentation.  For more information on this read here: TimeShares    but NOTE:  ONLY attend if you have the will power to say an emphatic NO!!  (imho)   Purchasing a timeshare is only a good idea for those with money to burn.   🙂   However, if you can say ‘no’ and you have the time for it, the Timeshare PRESENTATION is a way to save some money on your Branson trip.

Next: Branson Part 2: What To Do – Shows Shopping and More

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