The Branson Missouri Blog

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Valentine’s Day at Thousand Hills

Still looking for the perfect Valentine’s Day getaway? Choose from a One Bedroom Cabin or King Suite at Cabins at Grand Mountain or Thousand Hills Golf Resort. Each with a Two-person Jacuzzi Tub, these intimate accommodations can be packaged to include almost any amenity to customize your stay unique only to you.

Valentines at Thousand HillsOptional amenities might include, rose petals, chocolate covered strawberries, sparkling wine with souvenir Thousand Hills wine glasses, chocolate truffles, roses or gift baskets. There are several entertainment options also available. On February 13th, choose IT for Valentine’s! IT offers a renewal of vows and a free memory portrait. An optional dinner is also available with candlelight, flowers and romantic music and a classic romance movie. Two nights in a condo-style king suite and IT tickets start at only $283.00 inclusive.

Add in a little TLC to round out your stay. Pure Tranquility is a local favorite. A short drive from Branson, but well worth it! They offer a variety of massages, therapies and treatments. Ask about their couples massages.

The one bedroom cabin at Cabins at Grand Mountain are studio style with a king bed and full kitchen. Cozy up to the warmth of the propane fireplace and let the bubbles of the Two-person Jacuzzi melt your stress away. Or, enjoy a condo-style king suite that is located around Thousand Hills Golf Course. This accommodation type has a private bedroom with king bed and mini-kitchen.

Located only minutes away from the heart of Branson, let your hearts reconnect for this very special occasion. If you decide to venture from your room, there are also complimentary on-site activities including tennis and an indoor pool. If you are a golfer, Thousand Hills Golf Course is the most popular course in Branson. Green fees are reduced for Thousand Hills Resort guests.

Whatever your perfect Valentine’s Day getaway looks like, The Thousand Hills Concierge will assist you in creating your unique experience. Accommodations only can be secured at 855-353-0886 or packages and entertainment at 888-693-4653. But, call well in advance for availability and for customized packages.

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Family Fun Centers on Your Vacation

Family vacations are all about the fun – and few places are as fun as Branson, Missouri, the Live Entertainment Capital of the Midwest! Branson family vacations have no shortage of awesome and entertaining venues to take your whole crew – there is a little something for everyone here in town. Young and old alike will have no trouble finding a fun activity they love here in this Ozarks vacation hotspot. So where can you take your family for some major fun they won’t forget anytime soon? Read on for some great Branson family fun locations!

The Track – Heavy Metal High Rise: The Track Family Fun Parks have several super go kart venues here in Branson – but one of the most popular is the Heavy Metal High Rise! Located just off of Highway 76 (known as The Strip around town), this incredible go kart track will give you a major adrenaline rush that will make you want to drive again and again! The Heavy Metal High Rise is a four story steel and concrete spiral track that features a thrilling three tiered slope that races you back to the bottom. Built in 2011, the Heavy Metal High Rise is 1,200 linear feet long and was built using 700 cubic yards of concrete and 200 tons of steel! Don’t miss a ride on this thrilling go kart track during your Branson family vacation.

Grand Country Fun Spot: Grand Country Inn is a fun location in itself – but what makes it even more fun is the arcade and other awesome activities located inside! The Arcade in the Grand Country Fun Spot (Fun Spot Arcade!) is guaranteed to provide hours of family fun. This state of the art and up to the minute video game facility has the hottest and most popular video and arcade games around. You and your family can play everything from Big Bass Wheel to Guitar Hero – but that’s not all! After an afternoon of gaming, you can take your tickets to the ticket redemption center and pick out some stellar prizes.

Lost Treasure Golf: Mini golf is an awesome way to have some Branson family fun while you are in town on vacation – and folks love the Lost Treasure mini golf course! This course follows the story of a fictional treasure hunter, Professor Hacker, in the 1920s – you’ll get a front row seat to the adventure! As the story goes, Professor Hacker was searching for lost treasure on the Fogclift Islands off the coast of South America, where he discovered a German mining train – a train that YOU ride on to get to the first hole on the course! The story continues through all 18 holes. You and your family won’t want to miss this fun and imaginative mini golf experience!

Branson is full of fun venues like these where you and your family can have a good time. Chances are, you won’t be able to visit all of them in one trip, so you’ll have to return for more Branson family fun year after year!

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Great Places to Take Your Dog In and Around Branson

We’ve all heard it said before – a dog is man’s best friend. Dogs are companions, playmates, guardians, rescuers, helpers and so much more. From tiny dogs that can fit in a purse or bag, to giant dogs that can carry a child, we humans certainly love our four legged friends! A dog typically becomes part of the family, and you don’t want to leave Fido out of any family fun. If you live in Branson, Fido has nothing to worry about – there are great dog friendly venues all around town for you both to enjoy – and you can bring the rest of the family too!

Table Rock State Park: Most dogs love to swim, or at least have a merry romp at the water’s edge chasing the waves as they roll in! So the next time you and your family visit Table Rock State Park, located off of Highway 165 in Branson, for a day of picnicking, swimming or both, bring your dog along for the ride! There are numerous picnic spots that have access to the lake shore, where kids and dogs can jump right in. Swimming is excellent therapy for older dogs, and great exercise for younger ones. For a really hyper pup, playing fetch in the water is a great way to burn off excess energy – as everyone knows, a tired dog is a good dog! Just make sure you monitor your dog to make sure that they stay within a safe distance to the shore in case they get tired.

Branson Dog ParkElmo & Rosalea Marrs Memorial Dog Park: Located within Stockstill Park in Branson, the Elmo and Rosalea Marrs Memorial Dog Park provides an awesome opportunity to dogs to socialize, play and exercise off leash. The dog park is a fenced one and a half acre area that features agility equipment, concrete pathways for walking, a pavilion and picnic areas, and doggie play equipment. Members of the Branson community can purchase a day pass to the dog park, or an annual membership. Dogs must be current on all vaccinations. More information about the Branson dog park can be obtained at the Branson RecPlex.

Side Kick Dog Training: For a full service training, boarding and grooming venue that will really help build your relationship with your dog, check out Side Kick Dog Training in Springfield, MO! About 20 minutes north of Branson, Side Kick Dog Training offers training classes for puppies, adolescents and adults, plus specialty classes like agility, therapy and rally courses. Side Kick Dog Training also offers testing for the AKC Canine Good Citizen program, plus private lessons, boarding, daycare and grooming. The trainers at Side Kick can even do private in-home lessons with you and your dog! Dogs are given the opportunity to learn and socialize in a safe environment with AKC certified trainers. Visit their website, www.springfieldsidekickdogtraining.com, to enroll your dog today!

There are so many places that you can enjoy taking your dog for play and learning in and around Branson. Make sure you always bring a bag to clean up any accidents – those with or without dogs will thank you!

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Hard Work U – Character, Education and Country

Edwards Mill at College of the OzarksIf you have spent any time in or around Branson, Missouri, chances are that you have heard of a school known as College of the Ozarks, or Hard Work U. This unique four year college is one of the few schools in the country to have a work program, which means that students who attend are given the opportunity to work off their tuition and graduate debt free. The community takes real pride in this historic and innovative college – if you get the chance while you are in town, go see Hard Work U for yourself!

College of the Ozarks has been serving its community since the early 1900s, when the Reverend James Forsyth started a school for young men who showed real academic promise, but lacked the funds to attend school. From there, School of the Ozarks (as it was formerly known) blossomed into a college with a two year education program, then a four year education program, and today, College of the Ozarks boasts a unique program where students can attend the school from preschool, though elementary, middle and high school, and head right into college!

College of the Ozarks encourages students to work enthusiastically and build strong work ethic at their on campus work stations – students work 15 hours a week, plus two 40 hour work weeks each school year. Work stations range from serving food at the Keeter Center, to planting flowers in the landscaping department, to milking cows at the dairy, to secretary duties in the dean’s office! Everywhere you look around Hard Work U, it’s obvious that the students take pride in their campus and their work.

College of the Ozarks also takes pride in their country – students are taught courses in patriotism, and also invited to participate in many events honoring veterans, such as the school’s annual Honor America event. College of the Ozarks has also created many on campus memorials to veterans, such as the Veteran’s Grove next to the Keeter Center. They have also hosted four star general and alumni Terrance Dake, Former First Lady Laura Bush, and American patriot Ben Carson to speak at some of the college’s convocations.

Visitors and locals of the community surrounding College of the Ozarks are invited to come and experience the school for themselves! The Keeter Center features a fully functioning hotel, plus an outstanding in house restaurant that features dairy products, meat and produce all raised by students! You can also visit the College of the Ozarks Farmers Market to purchase vegetables grown in the school’s garden, pork and beef raised at the hog and cattle farm, stone ground flour from Edwards Mill, fruitcake from the Fruitcake and Jelly kitchen, and more! The college is also home to the Ralph Foster Museum, which has been dubbed ‘The Smithsonian of the Ozarks.’ You’ll find years of Ozarks history here, plus traveling exhibits! If you want to represent Hard Work U when you leave, visit the on campus apparel store and gift shop.

Hard Work U is, without a doubt, one of the most unique four year colleges in the country. With character building, education and patriotism, they plan to continue building strong values in their students for years to come!

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Branson Doesn’t Close at the End of Summer!

For many folks, they know Branson, Missouri, the Live Entertainment Capital of the Midwest, as a fantastic summer vacation destination – and it certainly is that! But if you don’t get vacation time in the warmer months, or don’t like crowds, or just prefer going against the grain, fear not – Branson doesn’t close at the end of the summer! This unique Ozarks town boasts many great activities that are open all the time - so whenever you decide to vacation in Branson, you and your family are sure to have a real blast! Read on for some great year round vacation ideas.

Scenic Drives: If you find yourself casting your vote for autumn being your favorite season, you will love Branson in the fall season! The Ozarks are known for their stunning fall colors, and a vacation in Branson during this time will earn you some stellar views. Taking a scenic drive is a great vacation activity; there are plenty of auto routes around Branson –including Sugar Camp National Forest Scenic Byway! This is a beautiful 28 mile drive through stunning Ozarks scenery. Featuring wooded hills, high up vistas with panoramic views and dazzling stream filled valleys, this Ozarks scenic drive is one you will want to put on your road trip map. The traffic on the Sugar Camp Scenic Byway is light, making it a literal ‘road less traveled by.’ Sugar Camp Scenic Byway leads you close to Table Rock Lake, and if you keep going, you will be rewarded with arrival at Roaring River State Park!

The Butterfly Palace: If you take a vacation in Branson in the winter, perhaps around holiday time, plan to take your family to the Butterfly Palace! The colorful tropical jewels that are the star residents here will most certainly brighten up any winter’s day! And if you do visit around Christmas, maybe to see family or just to create some new traditions, be sure you check out White Flight - White Flight is a special holiday exhibit featuring hundreds of white tropical butterflies floating about the tropical butterfly aviary like winged snowflakes. You and your family will watch in awe as these beautiful Christmas butterflies fly among Living Statues of Angels, and soar up to the top of an eighteen foot tall Poinsettia Christmas Tree, while Christmas carols play in the background.

Busiek State Park: Busiek State Forest and Wildlife Area, located off of Highway 65, just a few minutes north of Branson, provides a great family vacation recreational spot any time of year – but it is especially beautiful in the spring! With the redbuds and dogwoods just beginning to bloom, and migratory birds starting to return, you are sure to enjoy a hike with your family here through the Mark Twain National Forest. Wildlife is abundant here, and there are great spots to stop for a family picnic!

A vacation in Branson is great any time of the year – so if you don’t get the opportunity to make it out during the summertime, you can plan a great family getaway no matter what the season!

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Fun for the Whole Family – The Track

The Branson TrackThe Track Family Fun Parks is out to help families have fun – their motto is ‘Don't act your age...Just Drive! Go-karts make kids feel like grown-ups, and grown-ups act like kids!’ That sure does sound like a recipe for family vacation memories. The Track features 14 – yes, you read that number right! – go kart tracks, geared for little ones on up. Everyone can feel included when you drive The Track Branson go karts!

One of the popular go kart tracks featured in Branson is the new Heavy Metal High Rise – a crazy thrilling track that is four stories high. You can see this track for miles around when driving down The Strip in town. Fashioned from steel and concrete, this go kart ride will leave you breathless as you hurtle down the raceway. This track is 1,200 feet long and features a four story spiral followed by a three tiered slope back to ground level. It took 700 cubic yards of concrete and 200 tons of steel to build this crazy fun track.

Another popular Branson go kart track is the Wild Woody – if you like old school wooden roller coasters, this is the track for you! This cool wooden track has become a landmark in Branson – it’s hard to miss. At four stories tall and featuring two mini spirals, one full spiral and a blind peak, this rattling roller ride will thrill your senses!

And don’t forget The Lumberjack –this was the Track Branson’s original go kart track and it is still a huge favorite to this day. Three stories tall with a blind peak, two full spirals and a logging theme, this high rise wooden track is one you won’t want to skip the drive on.

If go karts aren’t your thing, or if you want to try something a little different after your high speed driving experience, check out some of the other great activities that The Track Branson as to offer you and your family! Batting cages where you can practice your swing might appeal to dad and older kids, while mom and the little ones can have fun playing mini golf or checking out the bumper cars. For those in your family who are feeling brave, take a dive on the Skycoaster! Or, take is easy and play in the arcades. You can also get snacks, cold drinks and food at The Track Branson locations – it’s all the ingredients you need for the perfect family fun!

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The Rose O’Neill Museum at Bonniebrook

Rose ONeill's Home of BonniebrookBranson, Missouri, one of the top vacation destinations in the entire United States of America, has no shortage of unique and interesting attractions. After all, where else can you visit a room full of tropical butterflies in the morning, a museum full of wax celebrities in the afternoon, and catch a magic show in the evening? Only in Branson! If you are looking for a unique attraction off the beaten trail, make sure you plan a visit to the Rose O’Neill Museum at Bonniebrook just north of Branson off of Highway 65!

Who was Rose O’Neill? She was the creator of the famed cartoon characters (and later, dolls) the Kewpies. She wanted to draw a character than would bring more laughter into the world, and was once quoted as saying "Do good deeds in a funny way. The world needs to laugh or at least smile more than it does." The inspiration for the Kewpies came from one of Rose’s siblings, a beloved baby brother. She would make drawings of the baby while she played with him, and told people that it was all his faces and gestures coming out in the Kewpies. Rose O’Neill was not only known for Kewpies, though – she was an outstanding artist in every way and started her rise to fame in the artistic community at the age of 14, when she won a $5 gold piece in a contest for the best drawing by a school child in her current town of Omaha, Nebraska.

Rose and her family eventually ended up in the Missouri Ozarks, on a beautiful property that Rose named ‘Bonniebrook,’ after the bubbling little creek than ran near the house. She continued her artistic career, which skyrocketed after creating the Kewpies (a play on the spelling of Cupid), and continued to help and encourage other artists until the day she died.

When you visit Bonniebrook, you will not only experience a recreation of the O’Neill’s fourteen room mansion (the original was destroyed in a fire after Rose’s death), but also stroll through Rose’s art gallery, which features everything from illustrations to sculptures, and the Kewpie Museum, where you can find Kewpie memorabilia reminiscent of the Kewpie craze that swept the nation in the 20th century. You’ll also enjoy a walk around the beautiful wooded grounds of Bonniebrook, which feature a garden pathway through the front lawn, access to the namesake creek, and a quaint bridge that leads to the peaceful O’Neill family cemetery. There is also an on-site gift shop at Bonniebrook, where you can shop a variety of merchandise including Kewpie dolls, apparel, mugs, postcards, books and more. And for the real history buff, take a quick peek inside the Bonniebrook research library!

Bonniebrook is one of those quaint Branson attractions that you won’t want to miss out on – and your visit can help support the Bonniebrook Historical Society for future generations!

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The Branson Butterfly Palace

Branson's Butterfly PalaceBranson is full of unique attractions that are almost magical in their appeal. The Butterfly Palace, located at the intersection of Highway 76 and Shepherd of the Hills Expressway, is without a doubt one of those attractions. Where else can you enjoy a room full of fluttering jewels from the tropics that pose for the camera, and sometimes even land on your shoulder? For a truly magical experience, make plans to visit the Branson Butterfly Palace with your family.

The Butterfly Palace and Rainforest Adventure is your one stop location for all things butterflies – and a few other critters as well! The Butterfly Palace is some unique Ozarks nature at its finest, with a little tropical flair. The butterfly room, the main attraction at the Butterfly Palace, is an 80 degree, lush, green tropical oasis filled with hundreds upon hundreds of beautiful butterflies. As you explore the butterfly room and its fluttering occupants, you’ll see butterfly varieties such as the black and white Paper Kite, the stunning Emperor Swallowtail and the shimmering Blue Morpho. Some of the butterflies with hover near your face as you explore – and they may even land on your clothing!

You’ll also see some tiny tropical birds – like the Honeycreeper – flying about and sipping nectar from the orchids and other tropical flowers. If you are a photography buff, there are great photo opportunities to be had in the butterfly room. And for little explorers, binoculars, magnifying glasses and pith helmets are provided! The Butterfly Palace also features a science room full of frogs, lizards, giant cockroaches and piranhas, an informational movie viewing theater, the Emerald Mirror Maze, the Banyan Tree Bungee Adventure, and a gift shop full of butterfly and nature themed clothing, jewelry, children’s toys and more.

The Butterfly Palace is already pretty unique – but for an even more unique holiday adventure, make plans to visit this tropical paradise around Christmastime to take part in White Flight! White Flight is a special holiday exhibit featuring hundreds of white tropical butterflies floating about the tropical butterfly aviary like winged snowflakes. You and your family will watch in awe as these beautiful Christmas butterflies fly among Living Statues of Angels, and soar up to the top of an eighteen foot tall Poinsettia Christmas Tree, while Christmas carols play in the background. Your family will want to come back year after year!

You won’t regret spending a day among the butterflies with your family – so be sure the add The Butterfly Palace to your list of must-see Branson attractions!

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Bicycling Near Branson

Dogwood Canyon for BicyclingBicycling has always had an appeal to people of all ages – something about cycling down the street, or biking down a shady lane, or even to the grocery store or library, is a wonderful way to get some exercise and fresh air, and also to cut back on the pollutants that cars put out into the environment. Bicycles range from sturdy mountain bikes with heavily treaded tires, to sleek, light framed street cycles with baskets, to toddler bikes with training wheels and streamers from the handlebars. If you are in or around Branson, there are some great places for you to take your bike and get some Branson cycling in!

White River Valley Trail System: This rugged and scenic trail system is designed specifically for hikers and mountain bikers, and won’t disappoint those who are seeking a stimulating, fast paced mountain bike ride! Several miles long and located in Branson near Table Rock Lake State Park, this trail system in comprised of several different loops, all color coded and all with varying degrees of difficulty. Bikers will encounter old farmstead sites, glades, rocky terrains, lakeside views, a variety of wildlife and of course, hikers – be sure to be aware and share the trail to avoid accidents!

Galloway Trail: For a stimulating bike ride through some of the prettiest parts of Springfield, Missouri, take your bike to the Galloway Trail (part of the Greenways Trail System) and enjoy your ride! The trail is 5 miles one way, and can be started ot the Greenways trailhead off of Highway 60, or at Pershing Middle School in town. The Galloway Trail follows Galloway Creek for the whole ride, and you will pass by the Galloway Grill (cyclists welcome!), Sequiota Park (features a large pond with lots of waterfowl, picnic areas, playground equipment, and some beautiful caves!), and more. The trail takes you through tunnels underneath traffic, across small waterways, and through forested paths. And the best part – it is all paved!

Trailspring: Trailspring is a multi-use outdoor recreational park geared towards connecting the community with the beauty of the Ozarks – and cyclists are welcome! According to the Trailspring website, “A purpose-built, multi-use trail system, Two Rivers Bike Park (part of Trailspring) boasts 8.5 miles of near-pristine Ozarks terrain for mountain bikers, runners, and hikers. The nearly 400-acre park sits just off the scenic Finley and James River confluence. Its trails feature mostly natural surfaces and offer the thrills of climbing and drop sections, rock features, built-in curved walls, and other optional stunts.”

So tune up your brakes, grab your helmet, and get ready to ride!

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Bird Watching Near Branson

Busiek State Forest for BirdwatchingBranson appeals to folks with all kinds of interests. Those who love history will adore Branson’s historical pride in their town, and will enjoy attractions like Shepherd of the Hills Historic Homestead and Old Mill Theater, or the museum at the Dewey Short Visitor Center that chronicles the history of the Table Rock Dam. If your interest lies in classic cars, Branson is home to great summer car shows, not to mention an auto and farm museum, plus several classic diners that feature old school car memorabilia. If you are one of those who have an interest in bird watching, you are in luck! There are numerous Branson birdwatching opportunities in and around town.

Table Rock Lake: Table Rock Lake can be a great place to get in some Branson birdwatching. Not only is it a beautiful place to visit anyway, but you can get the chance to view some shorebirds and water loving birds to add to your life list! The Greater Ozarks Audubon Society says that grebes, ducks, loons and Bald Eagles are just a few of the species that you can see when you are down on Table Rock Lake!

Busiek State Park: Busiek State Park, located just north of Branson off of Highway 65, is hundreds of acres of Branson birdwatching paradise. Not only can you hike, mountain bike or ride horseback on Busiek’s miles of beautiful trails, but you can view some great birds while you are there. Bluebirds, cardinals, goldfinches and other songbirds are almost always present in the woods, and oftentimes different species of hawks can be seen flying over the creek. Busiek State Park is also prime warbler territory during their migration.

Roaring River State Park: Roaring River is one of the most beautiful parks in the Ozarks – and it is great for birdwatchers too! Located south of Branson, Roaring River State Park has loads of hiking trails, picnic areas, cabins for rent, plus an on-site trout hatchery that makes for great fishing! The Greater Ozarks Audubon Society notes that “Roaring River State Park resides in one of southwest Missouri’s Important Bird Areas, where migrating warblers, thrushes, empid flycatchers, grosbeaks, and vireos are abundant. Many species nest here too, including Wood Thrush and two Tanager species.”

Springfield Conservation Nature Center: Located about twenty minutes north of Branson on just off of Highway 65, the Springfield Conservation Nature Center, operated by the Missouri Department of Conservation, is a wildlife paradise on the edge of town – perfect for birds, and birdwatchers! According to the Greater Ozarks Audubon Society, “The center has 3 miles of trails that offer bottom land, forest, and glade-savannah habitat, and a bird feeding area where birds are fed year-round. Turkey and Black Vultures and a variety of waterfowl are found in winter, while Cooper's, Red-shouldered, and Red-tailed Hawks nest in summer. Many neotropicals use the area during spring migration, while Prothonotary, Northern Parula, Black and White Warblers, and Louisiana Waterthrushes are just a sampling of the summer breeding species.”

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