Branson first began attracting visitors in the 1880’s with a unique attraction; descending into a cavern via a rope 200 feet below the Earth’s surface. For many years this was the main attraction in the city and several caves are open to visitors. When Harold Bell published his famous novel about the Ozarks, “The Shepherd of the Hills,” the area was merely farms and frontier. It wasn’t until the 1960’s that Branson really began to grow as an entertainment center and tourist destination. Today it’s a small town, with a permanent population of slightly over 10,000 people. Marvel Cave is the original cavern 19th century tourists visited, and when you purchase admission to Silver Dollar City, you also can enter the cavern for free. Fantastic Caverns was discovered in 1862 and is America’s only ride through cave. This cave isn’t in Branson but Springfield, a short drive away.
Silver Dollar City began in 1960 as a small village attraction paying homage to Ozark traditions. It offered a single 1880’s steam train ride, craftsmen, and music. The park grew in the following years and today is a family theme park and cultural center. Some of the onsite craftsmen include glassblowers, candle makers, and potters. There are also forty shows daily. Along with the main theme park, White Water waterpark, Showboat Branson Belle, and The Wilderness are additional parks that are a part of the Silver Dollar family. Presley’s Country Jamboree is another attraction that got its start in the 1960’s, and made history when they built the first music theatre on Highway 76. The family act combines the sounds of country, gospel, and bluegrass with comedy for an entertaining performance.
While not newcomers to the Branson scene (they played at Silver Dollar City for eight years before headlining their own shows), The Haygoods are a young act consisting of five brothers and one sister, each in their twenties. Their music is heavily influenced by traditional American folk sounds and combines rock and pop. With so many shows playing daily, it’s rare for them to completely sell out however, SIX is doing just that. A group of six brothers, they began singing at a young age and have been playing in Branson for seven years. The show is not only music but includes comedy and stories to keep audiences entertained.
New in 2014 is the Branson Auto Museum and Parakeet Pete’s Waterfront Zipline. These two activities are a departure from the performances that make up the bulk of Branson’s entertainment but are a good way to break up the day. With over 100 classic cars on display, and changing regularly the auto museum is a great activity for car enthusiasts. If you’d like more of a thrill, zipline across Lake Taneycomo to an observation deck on top of Mount Branson and get a clear view of the city.
Have you visited Branson in the past? What is your favorite attraction in Branson?