by VICTORIA HENLEY
Branson, Mo. has been visited for many decades by visitors who have traveled from far and wide for the live music venues that pepper the famous Country Boulevard, also known as the “Branson Strip.”
However, Branson is also gaining notoriety as a destination for fun parks, museums, interactive games, arcades, mini golf courses, and restaurants/sports bars that offer unique and delicious food and drink options.
I scoured the best attractions, activities, and dining options, that you and your family will not want to miss on your next trip to Branson
WHERE TO EAT
GRAND COUNTRY BUFFET
Located onsite at the Grand Country Resort, the Grand Country Buffet offers a full breakfast, lunch and dinner bar, sure to satisfy the cravings of the entire family.
Start your day off right with assortments of fresh fruits, cereals, pastries, muffins, farm fresh eggs, crispy bacon, and more for breakfast, and come back for lunch to enjoy down home, traditional, country fare including fried chicken, slow roasted vegetables, salad and dessert.
I recommend visiting for the epic dinner buffet, reminiscent of dinner at Grandma’s house with hearty chicken noodle soup, ham, various mixed veggie dishes and casseroles, a large salad bar with tasty and unconventional options (such as butterscotch and peanut butter pudding) as well as freshly baked pies and cookies on the desert bar.
STANDOUT ITEM: The bread pudding, topped off with vanilla glaze and ice cream rivals anything you can find at a five star restaurant.
PAPPA GRANDS PIZZA
Pappa Grand’s Pizza offers the best value for some of the best pizza you’ll find in the Ozarks. The festive, music themed, decor creates a great atmosphere for a fun, casual dining experience. Types of pizza range from traditional (three cheese, meat lovers, and pepperoni are sure to be a hit with the kids ) to unique (Veggie Supreme, Taco Pizza, BBQ, and chicken Alfredo). They are featured on the sprawling Pappa Grands bar. You won’t want to miss the build- your-own pasta bar, where you can utilize various types of pasta, toppings (peppers, onions, mushrooms, olives, etc) and sauces (ranging from pesto, Alfredo , red sauce, and more) to create your own edible work of art.
Be sure to try the salad bar, which features a variety of healthy options to compliment your meal as well as two soups of the day.
Cheesy mozzarella breadsticks are offered on the pizza buffet.
Be sure to save room for dessert as you’ll definitely want to satisfy your sweet tooth with Pappa Grand’s famous, warm, chocolate chip cookie pie and some of the dessert pizza flavors, including apple and Bavarian, just to name a few.
Phone: (417) 336-6709
GLENN’S FROZEN CUSTARD
Located inside Pappa Grand’s Pizza Buffet, Glenn’s Frozen Custard offers a variety of sweet treats that are sure to satisfy all your sweets cravings and cool you off on a hot summers day. A wide variety of frozen custard flavors are offered. Guests are given the option to get creative by adding, mixing, and matching their own toppings, including assorted candies, granolas, chocolate, peanut butter, and caramel bites and fruits.
STANDOUT ITEMS: The fudge swirl sundae featured bits of fudge nestled in smooth creamy vanilla bean, shake-style custard , layered with ribbons of some of the richest, most flavorful fudge sauce we have ever tasted. You also must try the banana split, featuring vanilla custard, fresh fruits, diced nuts, all topped off with the fresh whipped cream and a cherry (definitely large enough to share.)
(*Note: items from Glenn’s Frozen Custard are not included with your Pappa Grand’s Pizza Buffet meal.)
Phone: (417) 336-6709
Beloved by locals and tourists alike for being one of the premier nightlife destinations in Branson, the hidden gem of SIPS are the chef prepared foods: artisan pizzas, expertly seasoned wings, and refreshing cocktails that set Sips apart from the average nightlife destination.
Alizabeth, the chef, prepared the following exclusively for our review of SIPS, and each item complimented each other so exquisitely, we highly recommended ordering them on your visit.
Wings with smoky chipotle BBQ dry rub, complimented with a side of mango molasses habanero and homemade buttermilk ranch and blue cheese dipping sauce. (Truthfully, I have never been a “wings person”, but the crispy batter, scrumptious sauce and lean meat could easily convert me. These are best wings I have ever tried, and you can’t miss the homemade sauce.)
Island tacos with teriyaki chicken, caramelized pineapple, with pepper jack and jicama slaw, complimented with a side of house made beer queso, topped with home-made chorizo and a side of fire-roasted chipotle salsa. (In true chef-fashion, Alizabeth allows each flavor and ingredient to shine; therefore, the food items are not overly spicy, unless you make a request.)
1/2 Greek Pizza, featuring marinara sauce, mozzarella, feta, homemade sausage, and Kalamata Olives.
1/2 Veggie Pizza, highlighting garlic oil, pesto sauce, mozzarella, black olives, roasted mushrooms, roasted garlic, fresh roasted red bell peppers, and caramelized onions. (Note: we recommend splitting up your pizza order as we did so you can sample a variety of flavors Sips has to offer, and you can create your very own pizza as well by mixing and matching your own toppings.
We recommend complimenting your meal with a grilled pineapple margarita: bursting with enough flavor to transport you to a tropical island and topped with a juicy grilled pineapple wedge, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better margarita in the Ozarks.
JACKIE B. GOODE’S UPTOWN CAFE AND DINNER THEATER
Arguably one of the most unique and one of a kind dining experiences in Branson, Jackie B. Goode’s is a classic, ’50’s themed diner with its very own recipes cooked to order.
Assorted music memorabilia and photos of iconic music stars pepper the walls of the beautifully decorated café. Live entertainment is featured onstage for breakfast, lunch, dinner. and late night dining. No matter when you eat with Jackie B. Goode’s, you are guaranteed to get a free show with your meal.
During our visit, we enjoyed incredible live country music from The Melody Hart Band (be sure to also look out for this talented family band performing all over town at some of the top venues in Branson) while we enjoyed hearty potato soup, crispy fried shrimp with a garden salad and thick-cut fries, then we topped off our dining experience with the restaurant’s signature, world famous milkshakes (we recommend the Oreo cookie and strawberry ) followed by Citavo Coffee.
(*Note: Be sure to ask about getting tickets for Jackie B. Goode’s two terrific dinner shows: “A Tribute to George Strait” and “Country Legends”, both starring multi-award winning duo, Gordy and Debby. )
Phone: (417)336- 3535
SCOOTERS SPORTS BAR AND GRILL
A fast, casual, no-frills restaurant offering sandwiches, beer, wings, and traditional sports bar fare, there is far more to Scooter’s Sports Bar and Grill than initially meets the eye. Locals and tourist from far and wide visit Scooter’s for their famous burgers (voted “Best Burger in Branson”), and their Pastrami Rueben was voted by customers as “#1 Anywhere.”
Made with secret ingredients and inspired by pregnancy cravings by his wife, Dawn, owner Scott (known as Scooter) created “Dragon Eggs.” They were our personal favorite and are one of the top requested menu items. They feature various cheeses and mild roasted jalapeño peppers nestled inside thick pizza dough balls, wrapped in thick-cut hickory smoked bacon.
We also recommend the Chicken Philly Sandwich, featuring roasted chicken, peppers and caramelized onions with a side of onion rings, as well as the pecan chicken salad, with thick cut slices of grilled chicken, diced pecans, crisp lettuce, fresh tomatoes, cheese and your choice of dressings.
The fried avocado bites are absolutely delicious and another unique, one of a kind appetizer option.
Both indoor and patio seating is available.
(*Note: Scooters creates its own all purpose seasonings as well, which you can use for all of your cooking needs…be sure to pick up a bottle of your own in the merchandise shop.)
After dining at Scooters, you won’t want to miss the GREATEST ADVENTURES MINI GOLF, located just outside of the sports grill, featuring 36 holes of mini golf fun.
Two themed courses are featured: 18 holes of Medieval theme and 18 holes of Jungle/Egyptian theme; however, keep in mind that you can save money by playing all 36 holes.
If you don’t get enough tee time during your visit, no worries; Scooter’s has you covered as season passes are also available for purchase.
Featuring lifelike statues, interesting themes and fun, challenging , courses, it is no wonder that Scooters has served as the site of numerous celebrity miniature golf tournaments.
Phone: (417) 332-0888
ABBY’S TOURIST TRAP (a one-stop shop for Branson souvenirs, snacking, and more.)
Owned and operated by Abby Dutton of the Duttons, Abby’s Tourist Trap is the premier one stop shop for Branson Souvenirs (including hats, t-shirts, and Dutton merchandise) as well as various refreshments and beverages.
A main draw to Abby’s Tourist Trap is perhaps their made primarily by Jessica Dutton. The Duttons’ fudge is available for purchase by the piece or in specialty gift boxes. Flavors include chocolate caramel, chocolate pecan, orange cream swirl, maple walnut, chocolate mint and white chocolate. You absolutely must try the Duttons’ fudge when you visit their theater. It’s some of the most scrumptious fudge you will find anywhere for the best value.
WHERE TO STAY
THE DUTTON INN
Owned and operated by the Dutton family (Yes, those Duttons), the Dutton Inn is a laid back, cozy hotel, offering a free breakfast buffet (with the best hand cut sausage and made-from scratch pancakes you will find in Branson) and easy access to the Dutton show and Tourist Trap. The hotel is located directly behind the theater. Awarded Trip Advisor’s Certificate of Excellence for top notch hospitality and a clean, relaxing lodging experience, The Dutton Inn offers group rates and huge discounts for shows at the Dutton Family Theater.
WHERE TO PLAY…
BIGFOOT ADVENTURE PARK
BigFoot Adventure park is a one of a kind adventure park, featuring a variety of high thrill rides and attractions (including The Big Foot Gravity Bomb, Action Tower, Super Sling, Mini Golf and arcade) sure to please any fan of all things BigFoot.
One of the most buzzed about attractions at BigFoot Adventure Park is the Ozark Expedition Tour: choose your own adventure package, ranging from Mild to Wild, with three available tours, each offering completely different experiences. We recommend the BigFoot Discovery Expedition Tour, an interactive, themed adventure, with original music, a fascinating story line, a completely “in character” tour guide, an up close and personal feeding encounter with live hairy beasts (Scottish Highland Cattle) and a surprising twist ending that will leave you breathless (Note: While family friendly, the Ozark Expedition Tour does feature rides along bumpy terrain, steep inclines, black outs, and some thematic elements that may not be suitable for the faint of heart.)
No visit to the BigFoot Adventure Park is complete without a trip to the Arcade, a great indoor activity to enjoy with the family during a rainy day. Classic favorites such as Skee-Ball, Air Hockey and (the world’s largest ) PacMan are available, as well as Sink-It, basketball challenge, interactive motorcycle race games and a moving 3-D theater. No tokens are required at the BigFoot Arcade…just come on in, purchase a game card, and let the games begin.
SHIPWRECKED TREASURE MUSEUM
Over 500 authentic artifacts from real shipwrecks from around the world are on display at this interactive and educational museum. In addition to viewing shipwreck treasures, you cannot find anywhere else. You can also learn stories about what you see by watching excerpts from various films and documentaries, interact with numerous touch screens and experience a hurricane simulator.
Our extremely knowledgeable guide Zack gave us a personalized tour of the museum, complete with dates of infamous shipwrecks, details of the notorious pirates who called the seas home and details on how these rare items were acquired by the museum.
Another unique element of this museum is that several one of a kind shipwreck “treasures “ including glass bottles and gemstone rough are available for purchase in the gift shop.
(*Note: The Shipwrecked Museum is perfect for field trips and bus tours, but due to distancing, spaces are limited, so you’ll want to book your tickets well in advance.)
Phone: (417) 635-5041
PARAKEET PETE’S STEAMPUNK BALLOON
One of two Parakeet Pete’s attractions located at the Branson Landings Shopping Center, Parakeet Pete’s Steampunk Balloon allows visitors to experience the thrill of a vintage carnival balloon ride, sailing 188 feet in the air. A ride on the Steampunk Balloon will allow you to survey the beautiful river and the lovely historic downtown Branson from an angle like no other.
PARAKEET PETE’S WATERFRONT ZIPLINE
Let your adventurous side soar as you fly high over the chilly waters of Lake Taneycomo on an action-packed ride that feels like an adrenaline -pumping hybrid of parasailing and ziplining. Hop aboard a comfy seat and enjoy the views of the beautiful Branson Landing as you zip up to an impressive height.
Phone: (417) 337-0611
BRANSON ZIPLINE AT WOLFE MOUNTAIN
If you are looking for a high thrill, action-packed, and safety conscious zipline with gorgeous views of the Ozark Mountains, look no further than Branson Zipline at Wolfe Mountain. Featuring seven ziplines, 10 suspension bridges, a Dynamite Drop (optional), which is an exhilarating 40 foot free fall, Branson Ziplines also offers a free photo service, where a helpful and friendly tour guide will take photos of you and your party throughout the 1-2 hour tour.
Phone: (417) 561-0699
SNOWFLEX TUBING HILL AT WOLFE MOUNTAIN
Wolfe Mountain partnered with Briton Engineering to design and build the largest synthetic tubing run in the United States, using the high-performance sports snow surface, Snoxflex. The 400 by 60 foot tubing slope has been specifically designed to offer optimal thrills to people of all ages, and each ticket offers an hour of unlimited snow tube rides down a high speed slope through the breathtaking Ozark Mountains.
GRAND COUNTRY FUN SPOT
Located onsite at the Grand Country Resort, the Grand Country Fun Spot offers high-energy, year-round fun for the whole family. Open to guests and non-guests alike, the Fun Spot offers activities such as Mountain Ridge Racer Indoor Go-Carts, an immersive Virtual Reality Center where guests can step into an alternative universe to stop an alien invasion, a 3-D moving theater (our favorite was Carn-Evil, a haunted circus-themed experience), mini bowling and a full arcade.
Be sure to check out the three3 miniature golf courses onsite at the Grand Country Fun Spot including black light golf (featuring state of the art, computer generated special effects and all the sights and sounds of a riverboat fishing experience), indoor golf (featuring 36 total holes on a beautifully decorated, fun and challenging course that was named one of the top ten mini golf courses in the United States by USA Today) and outdoor mini golf, featuring farm themed props and fun photo ops throughout the 36 hole courses.
America’s only ride through cave, Fantastic Caverns was discovered in 1862, by an Ozarks farmers dog, who crawled through a small entrance on a hillside. Five years later, an official expedition took place, executed by 12 women from Springfield, Mo. who answered a newspaper ad seeking cave explorers. The fact that the cave was originally explored by women in a time when women were allowed very few freedoms, is one of the many things that adds to this cave’s intriguing history. Their names remain carved into the cave walls today.
Since then, Fantastic Caverns has become a “Must See” destination for tourists to the Ozarks area. The images of the staggeringly beautiful formations you will see in the cave including stalactites, stalagmites, columns, soda straws, flowstones, cave pearls and draperies will stay burned in your memory long after you depart.
Phone: (417) 833-2010
BRANSON AMPHICAR TOURS
Ride the Taneycomo rRver in style in an authentic vintage automobile that converts into a boat, or “Amphicar,” right before your eyes. Specially constructed for optimal comfort and safety, guests can hop aboard a red car (Sergeant Pepper) or the white car (Pretty Woman) to explore the beautiful sights of the river and experience the best seats in the house of the famous Branson Landing Fountain show (which features synchronized water and fire set to the tune of top hits through the decades). Our captain, Tyler, who also co owns the company and built the boats with his dad, was an extremely informative and amiable tour guide. There is no feeling like rolling off the ramp and splashing into the waters as you embark on your Amphicar Tour.
Phone: (417) 641-0225
WORLD’S LARGEST TOY MUSEUM COMPLEX
Sure to delight the kids and the inner child in all of us, the World’s Largest Toy Museum Complex displays a vast array of toys: ranging from vintage to modern Barbie Dolls, teddy bears, army men, porcelain dolls, interactive arcade style games, board games and stations where kids (and kids at heart ) can step into a “toy box” to utilize various provided props and become a real life “toy” for some fun social media photo ops.
Videos and various reading materials are available at certain portions of the museum, and an adjacent portion of the complex features a railroad display, various toy cars and even collectible toy car models you can purchase and take home for yourself.
Phone: (417) 332-1499
BRANSON CELEBRITY CAR MUSEUM
Hollywood meets Branson at the Celebrity Car Museum, which features an exciting rotating line up of instantly recognizable vehicles from top Hollywood films and television shows, including “Stranger Things,” “Fast and Furious, “Dumb and Dumber,” The “Pizza Thrower” from “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” and the Batmobile.
Over 100 cars are always on display and the vehicles featured are constantly changing, so you are sure to get a unique and different experience during each visit to the museum.
Earn instant bragging rights to all your friends and family by posing in the very cars that A-List celebrities have driven in your favorite films. Unlike many attractions where guests are not allowed to touch the exhibits, the Celebrity Car Museum offers car enthusiasts the opportunity to book passes for photos in their vehicles of choice, and you can also utilize various props to enhance your photo experience.
Phone: (417) 239-1644
VETERANS MEMORIAL MUSEUM
A visit to the Veterans Memorial Museum is a powerful and emotional experience with photos, videos and assorted memorabilia that pays tribute to the brave, heroic men and women who fought and defended our liberties during the 20th century.
Uniforms and garments donned by our service men and women are displayed amidst a sea of names of the people who sacrificed their lives on the front lines.
Bronze sculptor, Fred Hoppe, researched and traveled the world collecting over 2,000 items and exhibits to be collected and displayed in this wonderfully and carefully curated 18,000 square foot museum.
The Veterans Memorial Museum should certainly be on the “Must See” list of any veteran or active duty service member. The museum continually strives to serve as both an education center and aesthetic memorial, enduring for centuries to come and educating generations about these global wars that defeated totalitarianism.
Phone: (417) 336-2300
AQUARIUM AT THE BOARDWALK
One of the newest attractions in Branson, the Branson Aquarium is a superbly designed structure, featuring a massive, glistening giant octopus, which greets guests upon entry.
Inside, you can stroll part of the Branson Boardwalk and explore the 10 zones of fish and creatures from seas around the world, all the while learning about their unique characteristics at educational stations located at each tank.
Play zones are available for the kids’ enjoyment as well as a nautical themed 3-D moving theater and a “Pet the Sting Rays” interactive exhibit.
Be sure to check out the Branson Aquarium at The Boardwalk for yourself and see why it is quickly gaining notoriety as one of the hottest tickets in town.
Victoria Henley, a former contestant on “America’s Next Top Model,” hosts Backstage Pass on FCB/IHeart Radio.