Imagine a miniature Vegas without the gambling or showgirls, a G-rated destination where families outnumber swinging singles 10-to-1. Cue up the banjo-picking ambiance of the Grand Ole Opry, throw in mini-golf, assorted wax museums and theme parks, and you have Branson, Missouri, as unpretentious a place as any you'll find in the good ol' U.S.A. Now a century removed from its small-town roots as a general store/post office, Branson has mushroomed into a tourist-filled, flag-waving, live-entertainment center in the heart of Arkansas's Ozark Plateau.
Things to Do
Fasten your seatbelts: Branson is an amusement-park-lover's paradise. Silver Dollar City is the thrill junkie's mecca, replete with a hair-raising roller coaster, the PowderKeg, and a barnyard full of rides. Break the summer heat with a drenching on the slides, sprays, geysers and wave pools at White Water water park.
Nightlife and Entertainment
Entertainment here is strictly mainstream and emphatically red-white-and-blue. Think light dinner theater, not Wagnerian opera. Expect toe-tapping bluegrass, gospel sing-a-longs, and Neil Diamond and John Denver tributes. At Presley's Country Jubilee, Branson's "First Family of Entertainment" pulls out all the stops with country-music classics and cornball gags.
Restaurants and Dining
Prepare for a real schooling in quintessential down-home Southern cuisine. Loosen your belt -- the breaded and fried abound. The Branson Cafe is a greet-the-regulars-by-their-first name place -- and one bite of the fried chicken will put you in a swoon. The breakfast at McFarlain's Family Restaurant is monumental -- scrambled eggs with bacon, sausage and cheese topped with an avalanche of gravy. The down-homes sides include supple cornbread and tangy fried green tomatoes.
Take in the limestone cliffs, lush forests and tumbling meadows of the Ozark region. Unearth your inner frontiersman: Dig a coonskin cap out of your closet and take a canoe trip down the James River. Trout and bass abound in nearby waters: Hire a guide to take you to Bull Shoals, Table Rock and Taneycomo lakes for an afternoon of meditative fishing.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.