Flying in to the Springfield-Branson National Airport (SGF) on a bright sunny day, we quickly picked up our rental car – a must if like us you opted to fly to Branson. The drive from the airport to Branson was a pleasant 50 minutes that afforded us the opportunity to take in the sights of the area. Our route took us over undulating ridges part of the Ozark Mountains that offered beautiful views.
Pro Tip: When you are travelling to Branson keep in mind that one of the closest airports is the Springfield-Branson National Airport (SGF) which is 50 miles north of Branson itself, so driving arrangements to and from the airport are necessary. The Branson Airport (BBG/BKG) offers only a handful of flights to other cities. We arrived at the resort that would be our home for the next few days and were immediately in awe with the beauty of this place. The Lodges at Timber Ridge by Welk Resorts (Property ID: #WLK5) are the perfect backdrop for your Branson vacation. The lodges were spectacular and appointed perfectly with all the charms of a lodge and had all the amenities that everyone can appreciate. After a long day of travelling it was wonderful to be welcomed by accommodations that not only featured a huge soaker tub, but TWO fireplaces to rest in front of.
After recuperating from our travels we decided to head into Branson Landing. In our itinerary planning for this trip one thing kept popping up: the water and fire show. We decided early on that this would be the perfect inaugural activity for us in Branson.
Barely a five minute drive from our resort and we were in Branson Landing, and thank goodness we were. The autumn chill seemingly set in overnight and we were unprepared for just how cold it was quickly getting. Fortunately Branson Landing has become a hot-spot for shopping in recent years and we were able to pop into a shop a grab scarves and hats to outfit us for our stay. Freshly attired we sought out our first meal in Branson. Another great thing about the Landing is the great choices in restaurants. We decided to go for a Branson staple: BBQ! The menu at Dave’s Famous BBQ did not disappoint and I relished in my tri-tip sandwich which was doused in a perfect, tangy sauce.
Anxious to see the water and fire show, we finished our meal and made our way to the center of Branson Landing. The show runs at the top of every hour and we made it with a few minutes to spare. This spectacle was amazing! Huge plumes of water shoot out of the Taneycomo Lakefront to the beat of the music, with jets of fire interspersed throughout creating blasts of heat you can feel from the observation area. Each hourly show is themed and at 7 pm you can catch the Star-Spangled Banner.
With a magical experience at the water and fire show to close out our first day in Branson, it was at last time to curl up in our lodge and get some much needed rest.
Our first morning in Branson was simply beautiful. I woke up after a very restful sleep and turned on the fireplace in my room to make the morning a bit toastier. One of my favorite thing to do when staying in a new place is something I am sure everyone can relate to: checking out the view! While the accommodations alone get you into the Ozark Mountain lodge feel – the view, for me, was the show stopper. Drawing back the curtains and overlooking my ample balcony I was greeted with a view of gentle mists rolling through the low laying ridges that were covered in autumnal foliage. The bright morning sun illuminated the smoky tendrils and set the leaves bursting with color.
We sought out breakfast at the Sugar Leaf Café located off the main strip at the Grand Village Shops. Homemade biscuit sandwiches and fruit platters greeted us and fueled us for the day. Other diners had ordered huge steaming cups of hot cocoa with the largest homemade marshmallow you have ever seen. We vowed on the spot to come back tomorrow to try it for ourselves.
The charm of Branson continues practically everywhere you go. The Grand Village Shops was a quaint collection of shops and dining options. It was here that we found a great souvenir store and purchases some mementos from our visit. If you visit at the right time you may even be able to sample your choice of fudge at Dickens Gift Shoppe!
Our big excursion for the day was to Top of the Rock, only thirty minute drive from our resort. There are a lot of attractions at this one location including golfing, a nature trail, the Ancient Ozarks Natural History Museum and more. When we found out that we could do a self-guided golf-cart tour on the Lost Canyon Cave and Nature Trail we were hooked! Soon we were riding along a well-maintained paved path in our cart and were able to stop and go as we pleased. This was the optimal way to enjoy the natural beauty of the Ozarks since you could move along the trail at your own pace – perfect since I just had to stop at every waterfall to see it up close. At one point along the trail route you actually drive through a cave! I will admit this was a big draw for our choice in excursion and we were not disappointed!
Our time at Top of the Rock concluded with some drinks and snacks at Arnie’s Barn. The restaurant overlooks Table Rock Lake and offers up breathtaking views as well as some great food! We definitely recommend trying out the guacamole sampler where you get to pick three of the restaurants signature guacamole recipes, the bacon with roasted corn salsa was our favorite!
Driving back to Branson we took the route that would bring us past the main “strip,” as it is most often referred to as. There are countless theaters in Branson and shows fit for everyone’s taste. There are family focused variety shows, musical headliners, we even saw advertised several tribute shows with acts by cover artists including Fankie Valli and Four Seasons, Elton John, and the Beach Boys! There are also plenty of other attraction like miniature golf, go-karting, zip-lining and an outdoor flying adventure at Fritz’s Aerodium. For a less thrill-seeking option there are several museums including the Celebrity Car Museum where you can get up close and personal with over 100 iconic movie and T.V. show vehicles including a DeLorean and the Mystery Machine.
Juliet and I decided to explore the Titanic Museum. The building which houses the museum is nearly as impressive as the collection itself. Shaped like the bow of the ill-fated iconic luxury liner, complete with two of the vessel’s four smoke stacks, this impressive replica looms over the intersection of the main strip and is hard to miss. Inside you get to experience what it was like to walk the hallways, parlors, cabins and Grand Staircase of the Titanic while surrounded by more than 400 artifacts directly from the ship and its passengers. Your time in the museum is self-guided and will certainly leave an impression.
We returned to the Grand Village Shops to experience Mel’s Hard Luck Diner. This is definitely a dining extravaganza you do not want to miss when you come to Branson. Bringing a whole new definition to the expression: dinner and a show, the staff at Mel’s will in one minute be taking your order and the next grabbing the open mic to croon a song to the entire dining room! The diner, set up like a classic soda fountain shop offers delicious meals and even better entertainment. Oh, and did we mention the dessert!? Be sure to try their signature soda malts complete with a scoop of ice cream on top – your taste-buds will thank you.
To end our day we headed back to our resort – but the fun does not end there! Part of property at The Lodges at Timber Ridge is home to one of the largest theaters in Branson with seating for over 2,000 audience members! For the last three seasons The Welk Theater has presented the smash-hit, MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET, based on the Tony Award winning musical. Tonight was our chance to follow along with the events of one night that brought Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins under the same roof. This show will treat you to an experience that will have you dancing in the aisles and singing the songs of these musical legends long after the curtain falls.
As promised we started our day with a huge mug filled with hot cocoa and homemade marshmallows at the ever so sweet Sugar Leaf Café. A round of breakfast sandwiches completed our meal for the morning and we were sufficiently fueled for the day ahead.
In Branson, especially in the fall when the foliage is a riot of color, the draw to be outdoors is felt by everyone. With options like Top of the Rock and the scenic Table Rock Lake it is not hard to guess why people love to be in nature when they come to Branson. With that in mind we made plans to check out Dogwood Canyon Nature Preserve. It was as if everyone in the area was out this morning and all seemingly heading the same direction us. From cars with fishing poles to vans with a family of bicycles strapped to their rooves everyone was enjoying the perfect fall day at Dogwood Canyon.
Pro tip: Dogwood Canyon offers you many ways to explore their vast 10,000 acre park including bike rentals, horseback riding, Segway tours, and tram tours. If you know you are going to be in the area and plan on visiting Dogwood Canyon be sure to book your adventures before you get to the park as space is limited and will fill up quickly!
We opted to take the path on foot so we could stop and go as we pleased. The total length on the trail is about 3.5 miles in one direction – meaning that you will have to walk 7 miles total (there & back) if you plan on reaching the end of the trail! When you enter the park you will be presented with a map which outlines the course of the trail as well as indicators of highlights along the way including the [Emerald Pool & Turtle Rock Bridge]. If you make it far enough at around the 2.9 mile marker you will cross over the Arkansas State Line! At the end of the 3.5 southward meandering trail you will reach the elk & bison pasture where you can witness these beautiful creatures first hand.
After working up a bit of an appetite at the nature park we were in for a treat with our dinner plans. Driving back towards Branson we made our way to Table Rock Lake. Here we were set to depart for our dinner reservations: on a riverboat! This unique experience can only be brought to you by Branson, and includes a sun set cruise around Table Rock Lake as you are served a three course meal and entertained with the musical and dancing talents of an ensemble of very talented cast members. The Showboat Branson Belle sets off from the lake’s shore and you are escorted to your table. Before the show begins you are free to walk around the boat. One of my favorite parts of this experience was being able to see the churning of the twin paddle wheels at the back of the boat, which are an astonishing 16 feet wide and 24 feet in diameter. After exploring the boat and taking in the sights of the lake, you are invited to return your table for dinner and, of course, the main event! The show put on by the Branson Belle includes everything from magic and comedy to singing and dancing, and is guaranteed to have something that everyone in your group will love!
The perfect end to our first visit to Branson! With our trip drawing to a close it was time for Juliet and I to head out; with a quick stop at a favorite local doughnut shop we were fueled up and ready to travel back home.
In Branson we felt like we could reconnect with nature as well as a simpler time. The shows we were able to see filled us with nostalgia and transported us back through time. Branson promises a good time where families can create new traditions and relish in shared memories from vacations past. With all that Branson offers you would be hard pressed to fit in every activity over the course of one visit – and we definitely want to return to try out those things we missed!