The Branson Missouri Blog

Blogging Branson Missouri to Keep You Up To Date!

The Ozark Empire Fair

Just about everybody loves going to the fair. It is an event so full of excitement and fun and new things to see and do that you almost can’t help but love it! Most people have fair memories full of things like cotton candy, Ferris wheels, livestock shows, corndogs, concerts and more – and the Ozark Empire Fair, held annually in Springfield, Missouri, about an hour north of Branson, has all that and then some. If you happen to be visiting Branson during the fair season and are looking for something fun to do, you are in for a treat!

The Ozark Empire Fairgrounds are always a host site to a fun and interesting event – but the biggest and the best is, of course, the annual Ozark Empire Fair. For seventy-eight years, the fair has been bringing joy and excitement to the Ozarks community. Ozark Empire Fair (OEF) has grassroots beginnings in the early 1900s. What began as a traveling display of handwork and crafts that was always held somewhere in Springfield soon grew in popularity so that the fair needed a more permanent location. A location was found next to the grounds of the city zoo, and once it was approved, stock shares in the new endeavor were offered; thanks to the monetary funds from the stocks, along from many financial gifts from those in the community, construction was soon underway.

The first official Ozark Empire Fair held at the OEF Fairgrounds and Event center was held in October of 1937. The popularity of OEF continued to grow and today, the event attracts thousands through its gates each year. Visitors can enjoy a carnival put on by Wade Shows, where you can ride all those thrillers that only the fair can offer. Pig races, petting zoos and camel rides are also favorites – after all, who wouldn’t want to cheer on a pig or find out what it’s like to perch on a camel’s hump? Music, art displays, a local market, and plenty of kid activities are also on hand for your OEF enjoyment. Be sure to catch a livestock show while you are there – no fair is complete without seeing a few cute kids showing cows and sheep.

OEF is constantly adding new rides, exhibits and activities. You’ll want to come back year after year to continue making great fair memories with your family!

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Lambert's Cafe is an Ozarks Institution

There are a lot of good places to eat in the Ozarks, and many different types of cuisine showcased here. There are restaurants serving Mexican food, or cubbyhole sandwich shops, or fine dining Italian venues. You can find Chinese food (Springfield, Missouri, is actually the birthplace of cashew chicken!), Greek food, American food (think fried chicken or hamburgers and milkshakes!) and every sort of food in between. Many of the restaurants that serve food around here are quite well know and have been at it for some time. But none are as popular, or as famous, as Lambert’s Café in Ozark, Missouri. It’s well worth the drive if you are staying in Branson – so get ready to catch some throwed rolls, folks!

Lambert's Cafe, Ozark MO"We hope you come hungry, leave full, and hopefully have a laugh or two!" This is the motto of Lambert’s Café, the only home of throwed rolls. Folks who are from out of town and visiting Lambert’s for the first time are often amazed by the generous portion sizes of hearty, home cooked food – and of course, the fact that food is regularly thrown around the restaurant! Most people will agree that Lambert’s Café is certainly one of the most fun and filling places to eat in the Ozarks!

Lambert’s Café came about on March 13, 1942, when Earl and Agnes Lambert made a business transaction that would later make history as the home of throwed rolls. With a mere 14 cents between them both, they borrowed $1,500 from an acquaintance, hired 5 people to work from them, and opened for business in a small building on South Main Street in Sikeston Missouri. The café could seat a total of 41 people, and served meat, vegetables and sweet treats. The café was establishing a foothold during the difficult years of World War II, and rationing of supplies made for a tough break in the restaurant and food service industry. But through perseverance and dedication, Lambert’s Café came out on top and today, boasts three locations: one in Sikeston, Missouri, one in Ozark, Missouri, and one in Foley, Alabama.

This historically rich and tasty café does not accept credit cards, but instead prefers to deal in cash and checks. Chances are, if you arrive at meal time, you may have a long wait ahead of you! But don’t worry – this cool, old fashioned restaurant has plenty to look at while you pass the time. Once you’re seated, get ready to enjoy foods like fried okra, chicken and dumplings, taters, macaroni and tomatoes, black eyed peas, and of course, those throwed rolls. Save room to polish off your big meal with some tasty dessert! You can even order a few things to take home, like a cinnamon roll or some house BBQ sauce.

With such a long history and such a great eating experience, it’s no wonder that so many folks will go out of their way to visit Lambert’s Café. Be one of their next guests – you are sure to leave full and happy!

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One of the Original Shows in Branson - The Baldknobbers

The BaldknobbersIt is no secret that Branson has been around for a long time. It has a rich history behind it, one full of bluegrass and wooded hills and dreams. Branson was first made famous when author Harold Bell Wright wrote and published the book ‘The Shepherd of the Hills’ in 1907 – after the novel was released, everyone wanted to see this backwoods town. Branson’s fame and size of township continued to grow and today, Branson is home to world famous theme parks, fantastic lakes, and of course, those amazing shows. The shows are what draw people to Branson year after year – but how did the show circuit get started in Branson? The answer would be the Mabe Brothers, an old skating rink, and a show called The Baldknobbers – the show that started it all.

In 1959, Jim, Lyle, Bill and Bob Mabe decided to make history in the Ozarks with a show that would feature timeless country music and down home comedy that would help make the town of Branson famous. Using the name of the vigilante group of old, the Mabe brother’s show became known as ‘The Baldknobbers’ – and they were an almost instant hit. Locals, tourists, and fisherman who came to test the waters fell in love with The Baldknobbers musical, funny and authentic show. The Mabe brothers show grew so popular that they decided to relocate their production to an old skating rink in town – this rink became Branson’s first live entertainment theater.

In 1968, the now famous show expanded again, this time into The Baldknobbers Theater on Highway 76. The current theater has been renovated a whopping six times, and now proudly seats an audience of 1,500 guests who come to see the show. After the fame of The Baldknobbers, other shows began popping up in Branson and today, the town has more live theater sets than Broadway!

Second and third generation family of the original four Mabe brothers are proud to carry on their family traditions. They play music from modern hits to old country classics and back again, making sure to mix lots of side-splitting comedy in between! With a talented Christian cast (many of whom performed at other well-known venues before coming to rest at The Baldknobbers Theater) and great special effects, you will see why The Baldknobbers has always been a favorite in Branson.

Now that you know the history and the inspiration that still rings true today behind The Baldknobbers, the show that started it all, you won’t want to miss catching this great Branson show. Chances are, you will end up wanting to see it again and again! So book your tickets to see The Baldknobbers today.

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Geocaching in the Ozarks

Geocaching is all the rage these days. It’s all over social media, on TV, and there are even clubs for it. All across the United States, folks are catching geocaching fever. And Branson, Missouri, and the surrounding Ozarks areas, are no different. But what IS geocaching exactly? Who can participate? What are the rules and guidelines? And WHERE does geocaching take place? Read on for more information on Branson geocaching!

What Is Geocaching? Geocaching is referred to as ‘a real world treasure hunt.’ It takes place outdoors, and geocachers find a hidden container (the geocache) using a GPS enabled device (an app on a cell phone, or a real GPS). The geocache is hidden at a precise set of GPS coordinates. When geocaching participants find the cache after locating the GPS coordinates, they then enter their name and the date they found the cache in the logbook or logsheet inside the container. People can use the logbook to see how many other people have found the same cache, or how long ago! And that is not all – geocaches often have other items inside them too. Folks who have found the cache before you may have left any number of items for you to find – you never know what you’ll get!

What Are The Rules? Geocaching has few rules, but it makes the nation-wide treasure more fun for everybody when they are followed! Rule #1: If you remove an item from a geocache, leave something of equal or greater value behind (preferably in a plastic bag to protect it from the elements). Rule #2: Make sure you record your experience in the cache logbook. Rule #3: Log your geocaching experience at www.geocaching.com (This is the website you visit to get started on your geocaching adventure!)

What Do You Need? To get started geocaching, you’ll need a membership with geocaching.com, which is free, and a GPS or a GPS enabled mobile phone. Those are the basic necessities – but here are a few other items you might want to consider as well! Geocache locations are very diverse, and some are challenging to reach. You may want to consider wearing long pants, in case you need to hike through the woods, and bringing a sweatshirt or light jacket in case of rain or cooler temperatures. A backpack to carry water, snacks, and whatever goodies you intend to leave behind can be helpful as well!

Where Do You Start? You can start looking for geocaches anywhere you happen to be at – they are hidden all over the world! If you are a local person hoping to do some Branson geocaching, you are in luck – there are several caches hidden right in your backyard! Happy hunting!

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Getting to Branson Is Easy--Here's How!

Branson is a destination on everyone’s maps these days. Whether you are a champion bass fisherman, a fiddle playing fool or just someone looking for an awesome vacation hotspot, Branson is most certainly the place you want to be. But how do you get there? The Ozarks are known to be full of twisting, turning highways, and Branson sits right in the heart of them. But don’t worry – whether you drive, ride or fly, we’ve got you covered for how to get to Branson instructions!

Branson Airport

Luckily for travelers, Branson boasts its own airport. Located on Highway 65 past Hollister, the airport is one of the easiest ways in for those who are wondering how to get to Branson. To get to the Branson airport from wherever you are, you will need to choose from one of two great airlines: Frontier or Buzz Airlines. With nonstop destinations to Chicago, Denver and Houston, you can get to a lot of places FROM the Branson airport as well! Visit their website for more information.

Springfield Airport

The Springfield-Branson National Airport, located on Airport Boulevard in the northern end of Springfield, features non-stop flights to ten different U.S. cities, and boasts airlines such as American, Delta, and United. This airport is a great choice for travelers who may not have the option of flying directly to Branson. Once your plane hits the ground, follow these directions to get from the Springfield Airport to the Live Entertainment Capital of the Midwest (aka Branson!): Drive south on Airport Blvd from the airport to Highway 266. Turn left and go about one mile to I-44. Take I-44 east. Travel east on I-44 for 8.8 miles to Exit 82A/US-65 South to Branson. Drive south on US-65 to Branson for about 50 miles and take the Branson exit of your choice.

By Car

Chances are, you might a road trip traveler who prefers to get from A to B in a car. If that is the case, we’ve included some driving directions so you know how to get to Branson from some of the major U.S. cities.
St. Louis, Missouri: Take I-44 West for approximately 207 miles. Then merge onto US-65 S via EXIT 82A toward Branson. Take US-65 South for approximately 40 miles, and then take the Branson exit of your choice. Travel time is approximately 4 hours.
Houston, Texas: Take US-59 N via EXIT 770C on the left toward Cleveland. Follow US-59 North for approximately 121 miles. Continue on US-59 N through Nacogdoches, Texarkana, Carthage and Marshall. Merge onto I-30 E toward Little Rock/Ashdown (Crossing into Arkansas). Follow I-30 East for approximately 132 miles. Then merge onto I-40 W/US-65 N via EXIT 13B on the left toward Fort Smith. Continue on US-65 North until you reach Branson. Travel time is approximately 10 hours.
Tulsa, Oklahoma: Take US-412 E for approximately 15 miles. Then merge onto I-44 E toward Joplin (Crossing into Missouri). Next, merge onto MO-360 E/James River Fwy E via EXIT 69 toward Route 60. Stay straight to go onto US-60 E/MO-13 E/James River Fwy E. Continue to follow US-60 E/James River Fwy E. Take the exit toward US-65/Branson/Sedalia. Merge onto US-65 S toward Branson, and continue for approximately 33 miles. Then take the Branson exit of your choice. Travel time is approximately 4 hours.

By Train
While there is not a railway that runs TO Branson, there is a railway that runs IN Branson. If you’d like to get a real good look at Branson once you get here, take a ride on the Branson Scenic Railway!

However you choose to get here, Branson is certainly worth the trip. Now that you know how to get here, what are you waiting for?

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Scenic Roadtripping Near Branson

Road trips and scenic drives are one of the most pleasurable things in life. Riding in a car or truck with the windows down, your choice of music playing, your favorite on the road snacks, and adventure around every bend in the road – scenic drives just don’t get any better! If you are fortunate enough to live in, or travel to, the part of the United States known as The Ozarks, this is where you can find some of the best scenic drives around. Natural beauty, fun stops and open roads await you – so what are you waiting for? Take a drive through the Ozarks today!

Route: Highway 165 in Branson
Dewey Short Visitors CenterFun Stops: Dewey Short Visitors Center, Moonshine Beach, Table Rock State Park
This scenic drive in and around Branson showcases some of the best natural beauty that the Midwest’s number one vacation stop has to offer. This twisting, turning highway will take you up through forested hills, and back down again so you can catch a glimpse of one of the most famous bodies of water in the Ozarks – Table Rock Lake! You’ll cruise past the docking site of the Showboat Branson Belle, and then drive across the landmark that holds the lake in – Table Rock Dam! Drive slow – you won’t want to miss the scenic beauty of this lakeside drive.

Route: Blue Buck Knob Scenic Byway
Fun Stops: Noblett Recreation Area
This gorgeous scenic drive through the Ozarks begins in Cabool, Missouri, and runs south for thirty miles until it intersects with MO Highway 14, taking you through some of the most beautiful country that south-central Missouri has to offer. Along the way you will see farmland, open, prairie-like meadows, and thickly wooded hills and hollers. Blue Buck Knob cuts through the Mark Twain National Forest, and travelers have the opportunity to explore side roads leading into the forest along the way. Noblett Recreation area also lies along this scenic drive – a lake, walking trails, picnic tables and fishing access all await you here! Be sure to watch for native wildlife along the way.

Route: Sugar Camp Scenic Byway
Fun Stops: Roaring River State Park Sugar Camp National Forest Scenic Byway 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! This breathtaking park features miles of hiking trails, a natural spring, an on-site trout hatchery, and much more. Pack your camera – it is well worth the drive!

These are just a few of the scenic drives awaiting you around the Ozarks. Head out exploring and find some more!

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Can't Find These Attractions Anywhere But Branson

Branson is full of things you won’t find anywhere else in a vacation hotspot. And not only is this number one tourist destination full of unique Branson attractions, there is a huge variety of attractions as well! Where else can you visit a jungle full of butterflies, then listen to some bluegrass one day, and catch a record breaking trout before riding the world’s fastest wooden roller coaster the next? Only in Branson, that’s where!

The Butterfly Palace

For a unique Branson attraction full of flying colors and jungle adventures, visit The Butterfly Palace! Located on the west end of Highway 76, this is one attraction you and your family will be talking about for months to come. The Butterfly Palace features an interactive science room, a mirror maze, a Banyan Tree bungee maze, a fun gift shop, and of course, the Butterfly Aviary! This breathtaking room is filled with hundreds of butterflies, who come from all over the world for you to enjoy! Monarchs, Green Malachites and Blue Mountain Swallowtails are just a few of the fluttering jewels you will find here at The Butterfly Palace. Get your admission tickets today!

The Petersen Family Bluegrass Band

For a unique family show that truly gives you a taste of what Branson is really like, visit the Little Opry Theater to experience The Petersen Family Bluegrass Band! This talented local family will wow you with their bluegrass show featuring fiddles, banjos, guitars, mandolins and vocals from a true blue, all American family. The musical group performs at many different community events and area venues such as Silver Dollar City and local cafes. Don’t miss your chance to hear this great Branson band!

Lake Taneycomo

For a fishing experience like no other, get your fishing pole and tackle box and head down to Lake Taneycomo to catch some trout! This lake holds cooler waters than Table Rock Lake, making it perfect for trout fishing AND for supplying power to the surrounding areas by way of hydropower. Lots of folks like to fish just below the Table Rock Dam on the Taneycomo side – perhaps because the Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery is located just up the bank! The Power Site Dam in Forsyth and Lilley’s Landing, across the lake from the College of the Ozarks campus, are also great spots to try your luck at trout fishing!

Outlaw Run

Outlaw Run Wooden Roller Coaster Track Outlaw Run is not a roller coaster for the faint of heart. It is a unique Branson attraction that requires an adventurous spirit! This world famous, record breaking wooden roller coaster has drawn thousands of thrill seekers from around the world to the heart of the Midwest – Branson! Outlaw Run, the second fastest wooden coaster in the world, features a double barrel roll and is the world’s steepest wood coaster with a first drop of 162 feet (more than 16 stories) at 81 degrees! Hold onto your stomachs!

These are just a few of the unique Branson attractions that this awesome town has to offer. Do some exploring, and find some more to add to your list!

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Get the Best Selfie Opportunities With These Branson Landmarks

Branson, Missouri, the Live Entertainment Capitol of the Midwest, is a pretty memorable town. There are lots of places, people and things in and around Branson that really stand out in your mind. They are the kind of things that locals will refer to when they give you directions around town, and the type of things that you want to get your picture taken in front of. They are some of Branson’s best landmarks and photo stops! Read on to know what to look for when you’re cruising around town during your next Branson trip.

The Inspiration Tower at Shepherd of the Hills
The Inspiration Tower at Shepherd of the Hills is by far the tallest of the Branson landmarks, and one that you can see from all over town. This 230 foot tall tower was built at Inspiration Point, which was the first campsite of Harold Bell Wright, author of the book that made Branson famous: The Shepherd of the Hills. At the very top of the Inspiration Tower, you will find an inspiring 360 degree view of the beautiful Ozark hills. If you don’t want to take the elevator back down, ride down the Vigilante Extreme ZipRider – you will get your picture taken by a staff photographer of you soaring down the ZipRider – what a great photo opportunity!

Table Rock Dam
Table Rock Dam, built by the Army Corps of Engineers in the 1950s, is a landmark and photo opportunity that is as famous as it is functional! A brainchild of Congressman Dewey Short, the Table Rock Dam was built as a means of flood control along the White River. Today, it is the technology that controls the lake levels of both Table Rock Lake and Lake Taneycomo. This is one Branson landmark that you will want to take some photos of – the view from the top is amazing, and even better if you are lucky enough to catch the water being released! If you would like to tour the inside of the dam, tickets for tours can be purchased inside the Dewey Short Visitors Center, just a stone’s throw away from the dam.

Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum
Ripleys Believe it or Not RobotLocated on Highway 76 (The Strip) in Branson, the Ripley’s Believe It or Not museum is full of odd things worth taking a photo of. Shrunken heads, vortex tunnels, and transformers made from car parts are just a few of the fun and unique things you will find inside. Photo opportunities abound here, but what makes the museum one of the Branson landmarks is the building itself! The structure appears to have massive cracks going through it, and looks like pieces have tumbled to the ground. Don’t worry though – it’s supposed to look that way! This already unique museum is modeled after the 1812 Earthquake that hit Missouri and really did tumble buildings!

These are a few Branson landmarks and photo hotspots to get you around town – but don’t limit yourself to just what is listed above. Get out there and discover your own landmarks – and snap a few pictures while you are at it!

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Top Five Vacation Safety Tips

Vacations are great. They provide some time for folks to recharge and refresh after long periods of time spent at work, they make some great family memories that everyone will remember for years to come, and they make for a little adventure that everyone needs now and again. But vacations can also be stressful – you and your family are in a new place, away from home, and some safety concerns can arise. So what is a vacationing family to do? Read through these five travel tips for a safe vacation for both you, and your family!

#1. Communicate! Communication is key for a safe family vacation. Make sure that each member of your family knows the day’s agenda before you leave your hotel for the morning, and establish a check in point and time. Be sure each family member has a cell phone to communicate with one another. Let everyone know in advance if there has been a change of plans such as time or meeting place.

#2. Stay hydrated! No matter what time of the year you take your vacation, it is extremely important to drink plenty of water. Make sure each of your family members has a sturdy, reusable water bottle (remember to be green!) that they can fill up at any available water fountains. It is especially important to keep little ones hydrated – be sure to take a drink break every hour or so.

#3. Make sure your little ones stay close! It’s important to keep young children within close reach, to make sure they stay out of harm’s reach, and to keep them from being picked up by someone else. Teach your little ones to look for a police officer, or an employee at an attraction (the people dressed in old fashioned clothes at Silver Dollar City). Always be sure that your child has a bracelet, ticket, etc. on their person that has their name, your name, and your phone number on it in case they get separated from you and go for help.

#4. Pay attention! Many vacation accidents happen because folks get too excited or become unobservant to their surroundings. No matter how much fun you’re having, be observant to potential hazards that could cause harm. Is it raining? Is there heavy traffic? Are there large crowds? Observing the situation BEFORE you put you and your loved ones in it can go a long way towards keeping everyone safe.

#5. Know your emergency numbers! Everyone knows to call 911 in case of an emergency, but it is also beneficial to know the numbers for the county sheriff where you are vacationing, the front desk number of your hotel, and the local hospital phone number.

Vacations are a ton of fun, and by using these travel tips and doing a little planning ahead, your next trip can be both memorable AND safe!

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Top 5 Tips To Improve Your Branson Vacation

Branson, Missouri, the Live Entertainment Capitol of the Midwest, is the perfect place to take a vacation. This unique town has everything the perfect vacation needs – lakes, forests, beaches, a huge variety of shopping venues, hotels for any budget, great restaurants, fantastic shows, theme parks, thrill rides, historical sites and more! You could stay in Branson for weeks and still not do it all – which is why many people come back year after year! So here are five tips to make your Branson vacation the one you’ve been dreaming about – plan your trip today!

#1. Beat the traffic! If you have ever spent any time in or around Branson, you know that the traffic around town can be awful – especially if you take your Branson vacation in the summer! So what can you do to get to your shows and attractions on time, and make sure you don’t run out of gas while sitting in your car in the middle of The Strip? Familiarize yourself with the back roads that the locals call ‘The Routes!’ There are three color coded, time saving routes in Branson that will make your life easier – after all, that is what vacationing is about! Look for the signs for the Blue Route, the Yellow Route and the Red Route, and mark them on your travel map too – you will be able to bypass Highway 76 while still getting to all of your destinations!

#2. Make a list! By now, you probably know that you may not be able to cram all of Branson into a one week vacation. So take a moment to sit down with your family and decide what you REALLY want to do. Maybe the kids want to go to the Promised Land Zoo, and Mom and Dad want to go to The Landing, and the whole family wants to go to Moonshine Beach. Make an agenda and stick to it – but be sure to schedule in some time for resting!

#3. Choose your Branson hotel! There are dozens of great places to stay around town – but one of the best is Thousand Hills Hotel and Golf Resort. They have some great stay options for you to choose from – from hotel rooms to cabins to lakeside condos! And when you stay with Thousand Hills, you have access to all of their great amenities – like their award winning golf course, exercise facilities, and more!

#4. Get your Branson vacation guide! Thousand Hills Hotel and Golf Resort offers their guests the ultimate vacation guide, with all the information that Branson visitors could ever want – where to eat, where to shop, the best shows, it’s all there!

#5. Have fun! The best part about taking a Branson vacation is how much fun you can have. So pack the camera to capture the memories and the laughs, and get ready for the best Branson vacation ever!

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