Branson, Missouri: Where East is West

Branson is as far east as you can get while still feeling like you are in the West. The "Live Entertainment Capital of the World," is sure to show you the ultimate western experience.
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Branson is as far east as you can get while still feeling like you are in the West. The "Live Entertainment Capital of the World," is sure to show you the ultimate western experience.
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Branson just may be the easternmost outpost for big-time Western entertainment—as well as just about any other kind of live entertainment you’re after. With 53 theaters offering more than 100 shows—most playing year-round—there are certainly no lack of options. In fact, the selfproclaimed “Live Entertainment Capital of the World” can boast more theater seats than all of Broadway.

The opening of the Springfield/Branson National Airport earlier this year, the only privately funded commercial airport in the country, gives travelers a convenient option for flying into Branson, especially those visiting from the West. Frontier airlines operates direct flights to Branson from Denver, and AirTran services the airport with direct flights from Atlanta.

Whether arriving by plane, bus, or by car (as most visitors do), you’ll find that, once in Branson, it’s easy to find your way. Most of the city’s numerous attractions are located along Hwy. 76, known locally as “The Strip.” Much like the larger Las Vegas version, Branson’s Strip has theaters and other attractions that compete for attention with elaborate facades and miles of glowing neon lights. Highlights for those in a Western frame of mind include Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede, a popular dinner show that features stunt riders, musical numbers, and even a stampeding herd of live buffalo. The nearby Grand Country Square and Music Hall is a destination unto itself. It includes a hotel, theater, restaurants, shopping, and an indoor water park. It’s also home to the world’s largest banjo.

Slightly removed from the Strip, Circle B Chuckwagon is a down-home dinner show that begins with a bang—literally. After reenactors stage an Old West shootout, hungry guests gather for a chuck wagon dinner while enjoying cowboy music and humor from the Riders of the Circle B. Back on trail, you might take in a show at one of the many theaters in the area, or head to the far Western end of the Strip to see the famed production of The Shepherd of the Hills. Its season ends in early October. Based on the 1907 book by Harold Bell Wright—a largely fictional work credited with first drawing visitors to Branson—the outdoor production tells the story of mountain life in the Ozarks.

RFD-TV The Theatre features shows to complement the popular rural network’s programming, including The Penny Gilley Showfeaturing Jeff Brandt, and Take It To The Limit—A Tribute To The Eagles. A few doors down, the IMAX Little Opry Theater features a mix of first-run IMAX movies and live entertainment.

The Oak Ridge Boys Theater is another popular attraction. The band performs a nightly show during its fall residency, and its big Christmas Show is not to be missed. Branson’s largest attraction—Silver Dollar City—is also not to be missed.

It’s easy to spend a full day or two just exploring this theme park, which is modeled after a 1880s-era town. The whole family will find something to enjoy, whether it’s thrill rides, water slides, stage shows, or one of the many festivals held throughout the year.

Of course Branson’s live shows and year-round attractions aren’t all this friendly city has to offer. With its prime location— situated in the heart of the Ozark Mountains near three scenic lakes and numerous golf courses—the area has nearly inexhaustible options for those who want to refresh and rejuvenate in the great outdoors.

Places to see near BRANSON, MO.

•Mark Twain’s Birthplace and the Mark Twain State Park

• Harry S. Truman Birthplace

• Nathan Boone Homestead, father of Daniel Boone

• Confederate Memorial State Historic Site

• Battle of Lexington State Historic Site

• Battle of Athens State Historic Site

• Marvel Cave

Contact: Branson Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce and Convention & Visitors Bureau

www.explorebranson.com; 1-800-296-0463