Believe it or not, this small Ozark town seems to have outgrown its “live music capital of the world” moniker.
Each year, around 9 million visitors flock to Branson — population 11,430, about four hours southwest of St. Louis — for its live music and comedy shows, outdoor adventures and other family-friendly attractions.
And though the area got its tourism start with wholesome, hillbilly-themed fare — Silver Dollar City, the Baldknobbers Jamboree, the Presleys’ Country Jubilee — the options these days skew a bit younger.
New additions include Bigfoot on the Strip, which offers an array of Sasquatch-themed attractions; Runaway Mountain Coaster, an alpine coaster that riders can help control; Fritz’s Family Adventure, a hands-on park filled with zip lines, tunnels and climbing walls; and the Branson Ferris Wheel, which formerly sat on Chicago’s iconic Navy Pier.
A Branson Convention and Visitors Bureau spokesperson told the Post-Dispatch last year that the area saw its largest amount of investment last year, more than $300 million, and that the average age of visitors is trending downward.
Branson also has embarked on an ambitious project known as Spirit of 76, a multimillion-dollar revitalization of a five-mile stretch of Highway 76, the bustling strip lined with hotels and attractions. In addition to enhancements such as lighting and landscaping, the project will improve traffic flow and parking and make the area more walkable.
I first visited Branson as a kid. I returned a couple of years ago and barely recognized the place. And I’m looking forward to going back again soon to see how Branson has grown.
More info • explorebranson.com
— Gabe Hartwig
The Trailblazer Pass at Silver Dollar City in Branson, Mo. on Sunday, May 14, 2017. Photo by Cristina M. Fletes, email@example.com