Family Vacation to Branson: Shows to See, Attractions to Visit, and More

Branson, Missouri is known for its live theater shows, but there’s so much to do in this beautiful area of the Midwest! At 7.5 hours from Chicago, Branson makes for a great holiday break trip. Branson offers families a connection to the outdoors with boating, biking, golfing, hiking, fishing, cave exploring, and swimming. My family recently checked out Midwest gem for a family road-trip vacation!

Family Trip to Branson, Missouri… and All the Best Things to Do with Kids!

Amusement Park: Silver Dollar City

It’s impossible for me to list only one good thing about Silver Dollar City, because there are so many! This amusement park has plenty of rides to please all ages. My children range in age from 1 to 6, and admittedly I was concerned there would not be enough for them to do here. I was very wrong! There are plenty of rides for “all heights,” many “children only” rides, and quite a few “ride with adult” rides they could enjoy.

Silver Dollar City is not only an amusement park with rides, though. They feature crafters and artisans from the Ozark mountains dressed in traditional attire from the 1880s. You can watch taffy makers, blacksmiths, soap makers, bakers, candle makers, wood carvers, and so many more throughout the park. This was truly fascinating.

In addition to the artisans, there is entertainment galore! Everywhere you look there are more performers or shows to catch. You can hear some of the Ozarks best entertainers right there in the park.

Baker measures bread in Silver Dollar City

In addition to the rides, performances, and artisans in Silver Dollar City, you can also do the Marvel Cave tour right in the park! Your ticket includes this 60 minute tour down into the limestone cave, which dates back to exploration in the 16th century. This tour takes you deep beneath the surface to explore many of the natural limestone formations and waterfalls. The tour consists of 500 steps down, and approximately 200 steps up, which I truly had to think twice about with my young family… but we all made it! My children still talk about it being their favorite part of the trip.

Marvel Cave exploring stalagmites and stalactites

In addition to the amusement park and the cave, Silver Dollar City offers entertainment options of Showboat: Branson Belle, as well as Whitewater, the outdoor water park. While we did not explore these this trip, we plan to keep them in our “back pocket” for our next family vacation to Branson.

Live Theater Options for Families in Branson, MO

My daughter participating in the show at Grand Country!

We stopped at a Branson tourism center on our way into town to check out the live theater options for our family. Our eldest daughter loves animals and professes her desire to become a veterinarian regularly, so we chose to see the Amazing Pets show at Grand Country. This show and theater are very family-friendly. The show begins with a segment inviting any kids that have a joke to come up and tell their joke to the crowd. Very cute! Our kids thoroughly enjoyed seeing the house cats and dogs perform.

Other options for kids included the Amazing Acrobats of Shanghai, the Sights & Sounds Theater production (at the time, the show was Samson), or Dolly Parton’s Stampede Dinner Show.

Where to Eat in Branson, MO

There is no shortage of places to eat throughout the area. If you have a taste for something, I am sure you can find it, from pizza to barbecue to sushi! We received the recommendation to try Billy Bob’s Dairyland. This is a 1950s themed diner with your typical burgers, fries, and milkshakes, but boy were they yummy! Heads up if you do visit, it is cash only.

Where to Stay in the Area

Entryway to Big Cedar
One of the many shops at Big Cedar

We had the privilege of staying at Big Cedar Wilderness Club. The Wilderness Club is the vacation club portion of the larger Big Cedar Resort. This place is amazing! If you are looking for a wilderness resort type vacation, this is the spot!

The resort offers several pools and hot tubs, lazy river, water slides, lake access with a small marina and beach, campfires, health club, kids club, shopping, dining, golfing, Fun Mountain (a kid’s dream come true), playgrounds, and plenty of resort activities. Each day, there is a listing of the activities at the resort. You can participate in as many or as little as you would like! There are resort shuttles throughout the grounds to take you from place to place – no need to park or walk. Our kids’ favorites were the many pools, Fun Mountain, and the bonfire.

One of the playgrounds at Big Cedar

Fun Mountain on the grounds of Big Cedar features an indoor ropes course (for the littles), and outdoor ropes course (with live gators below), bumper cars, go carts, slides, kids club, restaurant, virtual climbing wall, arcade, video golf, bowling, and laser tag. My kids could have spent all day here!

Fun Mountain indoor ropes course with slides from overhead
Outdoor ropes course with gator enclosure below

Top of the Rock

Lost Canyon Nature Trail

Situated just inside the grounds of Big Cedar is Johnny Morris’ Top of the Rock Ozarks Heritage Preserve. This is a beautiful area situated at the highest point in the Branson area. Top of the Rock features the Ozark Natural History Museum, Lost Canyon Cave, golfing and amazing dining.

On our last night, we took the Lost Canyon Nature Trail, which is a scenic tour of the area, 2.5 miles, via an electric golf cart. The tour takes you past waterfalls and through a cave — make sure to stop at the Bat Bar for a drink!

We culminated this adventure with dinner at Buffalo Bar. The food and service was wonderful. Nightly, there is a sunset ceremony which features a bagpipe performance and firing of a Civil War cannon. This ceremony honors the Scottish golfing tradition.

Sunset ceremony with bagpipe performance

If you are looking for more ideas of family road trips, check out our travel section for more ideas!

About the Author

Kristen Sheehan
Kristen is a Burbank native who settled with her family in New Lenox in 2016. She loves her new neighborhood and could not be happier with her new home. Kristen and her husband have three amazing children – two daughters, ages six years and twelve months, and a three year-old son. She also has a furry shih-tzu baby, who is 10 years old. The kids are active and energetic, but Kristen enjoys providing a mix of structured play/activities and downtime at home. She is passionate about keeping her family healthy and happy. During the winter, Kristen likes to go sledding and skating – as well as experiencing indoor play spaces. During the summer, she loves getting outside with her family – playgrounds, festivals, fairs, picnicking, bike riding, and trips to the zoo. Her kids love helping in the kitchen, and Kristen enjoys cooking and baking with them!

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