I LOVE talking to people about Branson Mo! My first trip to Branson was when I was just a baby and I have been going there ever since. I’m quite a bit older now…quite a bit… and It’s become more difficult for my husband and our two sons to get out there as we live on the East coast now. However we have always made an effort to visit as much as possible over the years. The fact that we live so far from Branson, our visits are precisely planned. Our goal is to squeeze out as much fun as we possibly can during our stay in our beloved little town. While there is so much I could say about Branson and all the activities you will find within it’s borders, I must stay on task and share with you some of our favorite free things to do. These are tried and true family favorites that have stood the test of time, but most importantly they have no cost associated with them. How great is that? Here is my personal favorite list of free things to do, they are in no particular order.
- Shepherd of the Hill’s Fish Hatchery: FISH FOR DAYS! This hatchery raises thousands of pounds of trout each year…Thousands!! Did I mention there are a ton of fish here? It sits at the base of the dam and is a wonderful place to see the fish in their open air trout pens as well as get an exceptional view of the dam. In addition to the outside areas where you can view the swarms of fish, there is a free conservation center where you can take some time to learn about the local fish species and wildlife. There are some great hiking trails, designated fishing areas near Lake Taneycomo, and bird watching enthusiasts will want to visit and bring their binoculars. You will find all the information you need at their website: nature.mdc.mo.gov
- Table Rock Lake: What’s not to love about Table Rock Lake? With its backdrop of gently rolling hills and beautiful crystal waters, it’s a true treasure. Want to go for a swim? Try Moonshine Beach. It’s truly a wonderful place to bring a picnic lunch and enjoy their on site picnic facilities then spend the rest of the afternoon enjoying the large sandy beach and beautiful waters of Table Rock Lake. Moonshine beach offers many amenities, such as bathrooms, a playground and grills. The beach itself is free, however there is a $5.00 per vehicle parking fee. Check out mostateparks.com for more information.
- Dewey Short Visitor’s Center and walking path: So, I know I said this list was in no particular order, but I LOVE this place. This very well may be my number one “free fun” destination! Not only is there a new state of the art visitor’s center built on a beautiful piece of property with spectacular views of Table Rock Lake and the Dam, but there is a great 2 mile long lakeshore trail. This is a wonderful place for a leisurely walk, enjoying the lush natural landscape that offers seasonal beauty. Or bring your bikes and hop on the trail at the Visitor’s Center, the trail ends at Table Rock State Park Marina. (The marina offers bike rentals if you need it.) Want to just relax and let go of unwanted stress? Bring a blanket and find a shady spot to share a glass of wine and watch the sunset with your loved ones, maybe even try your hand at skipping rocks. This is a magical and lovely place where you will be immersed in nature and tranquility. It’s the perfect place to slow down and just take some time to breath in the beauty of the Ozarks!
- College of the Ozarks: Okay, so this little gem is actually in Point Lookout Mo. BUT, it’s just a few miles from Branson and very easily accessible off HWY 65. This is a very unique school of higher education founded in 1906 that is referred to as “Hard Work U”. Students work various jobs on campus to pay for their tuition, ultimately graduating debt free. The campus is immaculately landscaped and gorgeous. There are some attractions right on campus that are worth the short drive. Edwards Mill is a working mill powered by a water wheel where students grind whole grain meal and flour. You will also want to explore the stately Williams Memorial Chapel, marvel at the panoramic view of Lake Taneycomo from Point Lookout and pay your respects at Patriots Park, the Missouri Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The Ralph Foster Museum is also right on campus and is dedicated to all things “Ozarkian” and worth a trip in and of itself. There is a small fee to enter the museum but other than that, enjoying the campus of College of the Ozarks is a must do! You will find everything you need to know at cofo.edu.
- Branson Landing Fire and Water Show: Well, we have talked A LOT about nature. I do love nature, but there’s more to life than just flowers, wildlife and trees. I’m talking about shopping ya’ll!!! Sorry, I got a little carried away… Branson Landing is a great little waterside shopping district with eclectic shopping, including the Bass Pro Shop and wonderful dining options throughout this quaint outside mall area. For those of you not into shopping, never fear…there is something for you as well. Starting at noon each day and running every hour there is a fire, water, laser and music show right along the banks of Lake Taneycomo in the center of Branson Landing. It’s a phenomenal choreographed show that will delight all ages. You will want to see it again and again. Check out bransonlanding.com for fountain show schedules and shopping/dining information.
Whew! I’m exsausted! Who said you had to have money to have fun? Please, please, please take your family to Branson Mo. Can you tell I love this little town? You will not be disappointed and you won’t even have to spend any money…unless you want to, but that’s another story…until next time!!!