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Feasting on a menu of fun in Branson

Feasting on a menu of fun in Branson

BRANSON, MO — It was once said that visiting this oasis of fun in the Ozarks is like pulling up to a giant buffet table. The temptations are many … everything looks appetizing … overindulgence is expected … and your cravings are always satisfied.
Branson, you see, is a sweet treat — a blend of Las Vegas and Nashville with a dash of Disneyland that when mixed together creates a family-friendly destination that can’t be duplicated anywhere on the planet.
There’s so much to gorge yourself on in this potpourri of pleasure — amusement parks, a massive Ferris wheel that glitters in the dark, go-kart tracks, water parks, arcades, laser games — and that’s just the hors d'oeuvres.
Branson delights with main course features like world-class golf courses designed by the likes of Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and a guy named Tiger Woods, top notch entertainment venues where a Who’s Who of marquee performers strut their stuff, and the amazing Silver Dollar City amusement park that never fails to satisfy thrill seekers.
The side dishes here include the Hollywood Wax Museum, Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum, the fascinating Titanic Museum and an historic Old Town.

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Above: Branson's main Strip rivals the one in Vegas for glitter and it's attractions bring a smile to everyone's face.

For dessert, there’s trout fishing in Lake Taneycomo, a scenic railway ride through the glorious Ozark Mountains and nature walks in nearby Dogwood Canyon and Lost Canyon.
With so much on Branson’s menu, finding time to squeeze in a meal won’t be easy, but when you do, the dining options here are equal to anything you’ll find in the culinary capitals of the world.
Suffice it to say, Branson caters to every taste.
That’s probably why the New York Times placed Branson 21st on its “52 Places To Go” list in 2018, and Missouri’s fun capital, like a fine wine, has only gotten better with age.
The fun in Branson starts on the city’s famed Strip, a 5km-long section of Hwy 76 that runs through the heart of this compact city. It’s bordered by a plethora of entertainment venues, including the 46m-high Ferris wheel, from whose gondolas you get jaw-dropping views of the Strip and the surrounding Ozark Mountains.


Above:  The Vegas-style shows presented in Branson are top quality productions.

In the early days of Branson, country music was the toast of the town, but now the city features a diverse collection of entertainment options, including Broadway inspired theatres and Vegas-style shows. However, Dolly Parton’s Stampede Dinner Show, one of the earliest enticements to Branson, remains a must-see for most visitors. As does Silver Dollar City, an 1800s-themed amusement park that offers live music shows and plenty of thrill rides.
Speaking of thrills, Titanic buffs like me are excited to find in Branson a whole museum devoted to the doomed ocean liner that tragically sank on its maiden voyage in the North Atlantic in 1912, killing 1,517.  Branson’s ship shaped Titanic Museum features 400 artefacts from that era and they're displayed in 20 well-presented galleries. There’s even a replica of the great ship’s iconic grand staircase. On entry, visitors must walk through an iceberg and they get a boarding ticket with the name of an actual Titanic passenger.
Another must-see in Branson is the The Ralph Foster Museum, located on the College of the Ozarks campus. It’s lovingly known locally as the “Smithsonian of the Ozarks” and showcases some interesting exhibits, including the original truck from the hit 1970s TV series, The Beverly Hillbillies.

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Above: The golf courses in Branson are among America's best and includes the one right, which was designed by Tiger Woods.

Even though Branson is a relatively new entry in the entertainment destination field, the city has a rich history, dating back to the early 1900s. Much of the its early memorabilia — Victorian lampposts, nostalgic five & dime stores, old-time candy and vintage toy shops — are now showcased in the Historic Downtown district, which has a unique small-town feel.
In between shows, thrill rides and museum tours, visitors can stretch their legs along the many nature trails located just outside Branson or tee it up at one of the dozen or so golf courses that have been carved out of the majestic Ozark wilderness.
The latest addition is the Payne’s Valley Golf Course at Big Cedar Lodge, where the area's best courses are gathered. Payne's Valley is named in honour of PGA legend Payne Stewart, a native son of the Ozarks who tragically lost his life in a plane crash after winning the 1999 U.S. Open at legendary Pinehurst in North Carolina.
Payne’s Valley is the first public-access course created by Woods and his TGR Design team and it’s getting rave reviews from golf journals for its inviting layout, pristine water features, large fairways and spectacular greens.  And just like Stewart, Payne’s Valley has some unique traits — like a 19th hole. And we’re not talking the after-round bar here. Payne’s Valley’s 19th is a 140-yard, par-3 island hole that’s surrounded by “Linker Lake” which is stocked with trout and largemouth bass. No wonder so many players are hooked on this hole.

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Above: Train trip through the glorious Ozark Mountains and top-notch fishing await those who travel to Branson.

Not to be outdone, Big Cedar Lodge’s Top of the Rock course, designed by Nicklaus, proves good things come in small packages — it’s a par 3 layout that's decorated with some unique features, like a 150-year-old barn that was relocated from Arnold Palmer’s backyard in Latrobe, PA. Big Cedar Lodge is also home to a 13-hole short course designed by Player. It takes advantage of the fabulous natural terrain found in this area of Missouri, while testing players with some challenging holes.
Branson is an easy drive from major U.S. cities like Tulsa, Kansas City, Memphis, St. Louis and Oklahoma City and offers more than a dozen RV parks and campgrounds. All those cities are major air hubs, so getting to Branson from Canada is relatively easy.
Branson is also home to one of the most expensive properties in North America — the 28,000-sq-ft Evergreen Crystal Palace, formerly owned by an oil tycoon, which is currently valued at over $80 million (U.S.).
With all this to choose from, you'll always leave Branson feeling satisfied, but hungry for more. 






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