Branson

If you’re a family with young kids living in the Midwest, you don’t need to look very far for a fun-filled vacation. Turns out, my family found the perfect getaway when we booked a trip to Branson, Missouri this summer.

Branson Road Trip with Kids #notyourgrandmasBranson! #

Branson Road Trip with Kids

I know what you’re thinking: “Branson, Missouri?! Isn’t that a senior citizen hot spot?”

Why yes, yes it is, but trust me, our trip was nothing like a seniors tour. This was #notyourgrandmasBranson! We had an amazing time, and I can definitely say that there really is something for everyone in this bustling little midwestern town. My family loves being outside in nature, finding lots of adventurous activities for the kids, and spending quality time together. We found all that and much more in Branson, and here, I’ll share all of our favorite recommendations with you.  

We can’t wait to go back!  

First things first: when you arrive in Branson, be sure to make the Branson Tourism Center (off Branson Hills Parkway exit) your very first stop. They have tons of information on tickets and local attractions, and local tour guides can help you plan an incredible trip. Or, if you’d like to plan your trip ahead of time, visit them at http://www.Branson.com or call (800) 785-1610.

For our family’s trip, I told them my boys love nature, adventure and animals. All of their agents live in the area and have great ideas!

Here’s what we did:

Wolfe Mountain Branson

It may not snow much in Branson, but that won’t stop your family from enjoying an amazing day of snow tubing at the Snowflex Tubing Hill. It’s the largest synthetic tubing hill in the world, and this was definitely one of the most exciting things we did—the kids absolutely loved it! According to my 7 year-old son, “it’s scary looking from the top, but once you go one time, you’ll want to go over and over again!”


Tickets are $35 for adults and $29 for kids, which gets you one hour of tubing, and there’s a conveyor belt that takes you to the top of the hill so you don’t have to climb each time.

This is a fun MUST.

Tubing at Wolfe Mountain in Branson #hosted #bransonzipline #snowflexmountain #tubing

The Track Family Fun Parks

What kid doesn’t love go-karts? I know mine do! And so do I, which is why we made sure to check out the Track Family Fun Park. Forget everything you know about go-karts, because this is a next-level experience! This park has several different go-kart tracks for every level of experience. They’ve got super-simple karts for kids as young as four, all the way up to a “wild woody” track that’s basically a wooden roller coaster for go-karts…and grown-ups! In addition to the tracks, they have bumper boats where you can spray the other boaters—that was Logan’s favorite, and of course, classic karts where little ones can ride alongside a driver—Mason’s personal favorite since he’s not quite ready to drive yet.

This popular Branson attraction made for a whole evening of family fun, so I definitely recommend that you add it to your Branson bucket list, especially if you bring your kids.

go-karting in Branson #hosted #Branson.com #gokarts

Shepherd of the Hills Inspiration Tower

If you want to see Branson from above, I recommend you check out Inspiration Tower, which as my kids aptly pointed out, looks like the “Paw Patrol tower”. For just $8, you can take the elevator to the top of this 230-foot concrete tower and take in sweeping views of Branson and the surrounding areas. And for those of you adventure-seekers with older kids, know that the tower is also the jumping-off point for the Vigilante Extreme Ziprider, a thrilling half-mile ride through the sky on the highest zipline in the state of Missouri. Bring on the adventure!  

Two boys looking out over Branson in Inspiration Tower #hosted #branson

Silver Dollar City Amusement Park

No family-centered vacation to Branson with kids can be complete without a trip to an amusement park, right? That’s why we took a whole day to hit the Silver Dollar City amusement park. It’s a theme park designed to be reminiscent of an 1880s silver mine. There’s lots of fun rides and attractions for kids of all ages, and you can even get discounted tickets if you take a 20-ounce bottle of any Coke product to the ticket window.

Here are some inside tips we learned that you can take advantage of when planning your trip to Silver Dollar City:

  • SDC has free parking! It’s one of the few theme parks in the country to offer this.
  • Download the Silver Dollar City app  

The app uses GPS to show you exactly where the nearest restrooms and restaurants are, along with up-to-the-minute wait times for all attractions. It also has a feature where you can create a wishlist of attractions you’re interested in. So handy!

  • SDC allows outside coolers, food and beverages, so stock up to save!
  • There are phone charging stations at Fireman’s landing.  
  • Take advantage of smaller crowds immediately after the park opens by enjoying breakfast at Molly’s Mill restaurant, which opens at 8:30 AM.
  • Go to Grand Expo during lunchtime, since it’ll be much less crowded then.
  • Lie down on the bed in grandfather’s mansion to see a hidden message

Silver Dollar City Theme Park #silverdollarcity

The Amazing Pet Show

If your kids love animals (and honestly, what kid doesn’t?), be sure to stop by this fun pet show. It takes place in the Grand Country Music Hall, and tickets can be purchased at the Branson Travel Office website. You’ll find lots of cats, dogs and parrots performing cool tricks as part of the show, and here’s a fun fact – many of the pets in the show are rescue animals! During the show’s intermission, your kids can get a photo with a poodle, which Logan couldn’t wait to do. I’m personally excited to have this photo to show the first girlfriend Logan brings home.  My boys still talk about this show. It was one of their favorites.

Little boy with poodle at Amazing Pets in Branson

Fun Spot Farm Mini Golf

Experience life “down on the farm” at this fun, family-centered mini golf center right on the strip in downtown Branson. My boys love anything farm-related, so they were right at home here. The 18-hole course was fun and just challenging enough that the kids could enjoy the game without feeling frustrated.

If the afternoon sun gets a bit hot, there’s an adjoining game center that has lots of video and arcade-type games for kids. Load money onto game cards and let them play for as long as they want.

Mini golf in Branson, MO #hosted #minigolf

Top of the Rock, Lost Canyon Cave & Nature Trail

For a fantastic outdoor adventure, a tour through Lost Canyon Cave simply can’t be beat. This two-mile, golf cart tour leads you on a paved path through the amazing geological features of Lost Canyon in the Ozark mountains. You’ll see incredible rock formations and beautiful waterfalls. The tickets are a bit pricey ($28 for adults and $12 for kids) but trust me, it’s totally worth it! This was one of our favorite attractions of the entire trip.

 

Where we stayed:  

The Hilton Branson Convention Center

For this trip, we decided to stay at the Hilton Branson Convention Center. You’ll recognize it by the Welcome to Branson mural located directly outside the hotel. 

Branson Roadtrip with Kids

Aside from being a beautiful, well appointed hotel, the Hilton was fabulous for its convenient location. In fact, location is the name of the game here, with the hotel centrally located within walking distance to historic downtown Branson. There’s lots of great shows it’s also right across the street from Branson Landing, which boasts great shopping and dining. If you don’t feel like walking, you’re in luck, since the trolley drives right by the hotel and offers rides to all of these attractions.

There are two fabulous pools—one indoor and one outdoor—that are big enough for a large crowd, and cabanas can be reserved in advance for $75.

Lobby inside Hilton Branson, MO

Ride Sparky the Trolley

And speaking of trolleys, you can’t visit downtown Branson without taking a ride on Sparky, the town’s resident trolley. #RideSparky. Sparky’s free, and offers 13 stops that take you all around downtown Branson. My boys love trolleys, so this was a must-do for us!

The Branson Landing

Since our hotel was directly across the street from Branson Landing, we definitely had to spend some time there. There’s so much to see and do! There’s Parakeet Pete’s, which is a zipline that takes you up over the waterfront and allows you to get a birds-eye view of the entire downtown area. At night, the zipline lights up for a trippy, zippy ride in the dark.

Other fun Branson Landing attractions include Steampunk Balloons, where you can experience what it’s like riding in a hot air balloon without the dizzying heights, and Buster’s Old Time Photos, because who doesn’t love dressing up like an outlaw every now and again? We loved Branson Landing, and found something fun for the whole family here. They even have a  Bellagio-style Water Fountain Show, every hour on the hour.

Wondering where we ate on our kid-friendly Branson vacation? Here’s the lineup!

Rocco’s pizza –fantastic New York-style pizza which tons of different recipes.

Cantina Laredo, Landing – easily the best queso and fresh guacamole made right at your table!

Mr B’s Ice cream parlor – a cute 50’s-style ice cream parlor within walking distance from the hotel.  

Cakes-n-Creams 50’s Diner – another retro spot, serving delicious burgers and shakes, with authentic juke boxes at each table.

Billy Gail’s Cafe – Wonderful, country-style breakfast joint on the way to Silver Dollar City with pancakes larger than a plate.

hot air ballon in Branson, MO
Steampunk Balloons
Two boys eating cookies #bransonlanding
Cookies at the Hilton!

 

 

 

 

 

Roadtrip part 2.  We started off our trip in Bentonville AR and are now at Big Cedar Lodge.

Big Cedar Lodge– was created by Bass Pro Shop founder Johnny Morris when he purchased the existing property in the area, known as Big Cedar Hollow, in 1987.  Since then, it’s grown into one of the best wilderness resorts in the U.S.  It covers 800 acres that overlooks Table Rock Lake in the Ozark Mountains just outside Branson, Missouri.

If you like being surrounded by gorgeous natural scenery while still enjoying premium facilities and amenities, this is a wonderful destination.  This is one of my favorite places in Missouri.

Big Cedar Lodge offers plenty of outdoor activities for all ages.  Having two very active little boys, this is music to many parents’ ears.

The main lobby is tastefully decorated in a rustic theme.  While I checked in, my boys played with the Lincoln Logs on a game table, which would’ve kept them busy for hours.

For dinner we ordered some pizza from a local place, while playing some of the board games you can check out.

For dessert, we headed to the campfire area for s’mores.  They had several fires going and each family got a s’mores kit.  The weather was fantastic, and we were serenaded by the sound of hundreds of tree frogs croaking.  To cap off our evening, we hit the links at the fishing-themed mini golf course located next to the campfire area.

When we returned to our room, the “cookie lady” had left us some treats: “wishing” maple leaf cookies.  They’re gingerbread in the shape of a maple leaf.  They get their name because when you hold one in your hand, you make a wish and then tap the cookie’s center.  If it breaks into three pieces, your wish will come true.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 2-

When I woke up the next morning, I headed to Big Cedar’s fitness gym.  This facility has a lot of machines of all kinds..  After lifting weights, I went outside to get some cardio in.  I quickly found the 5K walking/ running trail on site.  Well-marked and paved, it took me all around the amazing property, where I was surrounded by the sounds of nature (waterfalls, frogs, birds, etc.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The lodge had organized a kids fishing rodeo, so we hopped on the shuttle and headed to the lake.  Just like at the s’mores night, don’t worry about bringing your own supplies to Big Cedar, you’re already covered.  The staff gave my boys fishing, rods, showed them how to put a worm on the hook, and off they went!

After fishing, we headed over to the marina for the paddle boats.  We toured the lake and cove, where there’s a beautiful waterfall.  They boys enjoyed spotting ducks and turtles that were out sunning.  When we got back to the marina, we headed to the outdoor café for lunch, where we saw even more turtles on the banks.  There were several turtle families with babies, so the boys were very excited to see them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Top of the Rock

The only time we left Big Cedar Lodge, was to go to The Top of the Rock, which is a short drive north on Hwy 65 from Big Cedar.

They give you a golf cart, which an adult drives around the property on very scenic paved trails.  Waterfalls, bridges and other breathtaking nature scenes surround you during your journey.  The highlight of the drive comes when you drive into a cave with a gigantic waterfall.  After leaving the cave, we drove over several covered bridges and saw more waterfalls.  The drive lasts between 45 mins and a hour, but when done, we all wanted to go around again!  It was AMAZING!!!  Tickets are($25 for adults/ $12.50 for kids), but we all thought it was well worth it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I just read this week that Big Cedar opened a new activity center called Fun Mountain on property.  It looks amazing.

Overall I would describe our trip to Big Cedar Lodge magical.  If you love being outdoors I would highly recommend this place to anyone.

Happy Travels to you.  Sarah