Branson, MO  - Vacation Travel Guide

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Branson Area Features

Getting Back to Nature

Covered with dense forestry and dotted with caves and a few waterfalls, the gentle hills of the Ozarks are indeed a national treasure. Nearby, mirror-like lakes complement the hillside scenery, providing places where both active watersports and peaceful retreats can be enjoyed. After you've seen the shows and experienced the excitement of Branson, we encourage you to backpack through the hills or paddle on the waterways. After all, nature’s splendor is one of the many top attractions of the region.

Look Up to the Hills

The Ozarks are a breathtaking sight. The rolling hills and deep rocky canyons on this large plateau create heavenly “mountainous” scenes that draw spectators from around the world. Anytime is a great time to visit this region. However, if you want to spend a considerable amount of time in the Ozarks, spring and fall are perhaps the best times to visit. In the spring, you’ll find tiny cascading brooks as new plant and animal life emerge from the bleak winter. If you’re visiting in the fall, the colorful foliage is a thing of beauty.  Whenever you visit, we recommend booking a seat on the Bigfoot Discovery Expedition. This safari-style tour of the rugged terrain takes place in the beautiful Ozarks. You’ll see Scottish Highland Cattle and extraordinary natural settings along this 1.5-hour journey.

Visitors can also go on their own explorations of nature. Hiking, biking and simply walking outdoors are favorite activities in the Ozarks. There are many trails in the area that are made for whichever activity you choose. The Drury-Mincy Conservation Area lies southeast of Branson and is a wonderful place to see animals in nature and hike the available trails throughout the reserve. It began as a deer sanctuary when populations were low in the early 1900s but also served to protect wild turkeys. You could also go about 25 miles west of Branson to explore Big Sugar Creek State Park. Take your bike or grab your hiking boots and trek along the Ozark Chinquapin Trail in the Elk River Breaks Natural Area. This trail is just over 3 miles and takes its hikers through the hills and past a babbling stream. A little southwest of Branson near the Arkansas border is Dogwood Canyon—one of the most popular parks in the Ozarks. Contained within its boundaries are over 10,000 acres of forest, clear blue lakes and picturesque waterfalls. With the purchase of admission and activity passes, visitors can see the park on foot, bike, horseback, on a tram or maybe even on a Segway tour. Along the way, animals such as elk and bison may be seen. Be sure to visit the mill, the Nature and Conservation Center, and the tree house while you’re there!

Discover Beauty in the Earth

Many of the most awe-inspiring sights are underground. The caves in the region are part of what began drawing tourists to Branson. When the Marvel Cave (now part of Silver Dollar City) opened to the public in 1894, people were delighted to walk inside its passageways among the stalactites and stalagmites that have been forming for millennia. Since then, other caves including those at Talking Rocks Cavern, Fantastic Caverns, and the Smallin Civil War Cave have opened to explorers who wish to do some amateur spelunking in safety.

Unwind on Glistening Lakes

The rolling hills aren’t the only natural feature that entices people to the region. The lakes attract water worshipers who love to explore the coastlines by canoe, kayak, or paddleboard. Even the beaches that grace the shorelines beckon sunseekers for a relaxing day by the water. Formed by the Table Rock Dam, Table Rock Lake offers over 800 miles of shoreline and a paved hiking trail through the neighboring state park and along the river. There are many family-fun activities to do on the eastern side of the lake near the dam such as taking a showboat cruise, swimming at Moonshine Beach, or renting a boat and dropping a fishing line in the water. Another lake that was formed by the same dam and is actually fed by Table Rock Lake is Lake Taneycomo. Along its shores that border southeastern Branson, visitors can participate in water sports, unwind on Rockaway Beach, or just sit by the water at Branson Landing. Lastly, Bull Shoals Lake (which begins as part of Lake Taneycomo) flows past the Drury-Mincy Conservation Area and into Arkansas. It is renowned for its steep cliffs, clean beautiful water to swim in, and exceptional fishing. As one of the less visited lakes in the region, it is highly recommended to those in search of a peaceful day on the water.

Be Among the Animals

While you’re out and about in nature, you’re bound to see some wildlife that is native to the region. However, there are also places where varying species can be seen up close and (if needed) in safety. Giraffes, kangaroos, sloths and so many other animals can be viewed at the Promised Land Zoo. With two locations (Branson and in nearby Eagle Rock), the zoo invites patrons to interact with a few of its animals. Maybe bottle-feed a camel or pet an armadillo. Birds will be happy to see you at the Parakeet Paradise exhibit where you can go into the enclosure with some food to hand-feed the hungry birds. There’s even a drive-thru safari where animals can be observed in a natural environment.

There are additional places with animals you wouldn’t normally expect to see in Missouri such as the National Tiger Sanctuary and the Butterfly Palace. At the sanctuary, it’s not just tigers that can be found—this non-profit group rescues everything from panthers to puppies and the public can visit to see them all. You can even book a tour where you have the opportunity to feed the big cats yourself—if you dare. And a trip to Branson would not be complete without a visit to the Butterfly Palace and Rainforest Adventure. Visit the aviary where these delicate and beautiful creatures fly all around you. There is also a Living Rainforest Science Center full of frogs, insects, lizards and more. Afterwards, make your way around the Banyan Tree Adventure. It’s an exhilarating obstacle course based on a rainforest expedition!

These are just a few of the places around Branson where natural settings can be enjoyed and wild animals can be observed. Have a great time finding your little slice of this Midwestern paradise!

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