My grandparents took me to Branson, Missouri back in 1984. That Branson was a very different place than the Branson that exists today. Although the amusement park Silver Dollar City did exist, Branson was mostly focused on live entertainment – music venues, stage shows and such. Many big name country stars had theaters there, or would have later.
Today, most of the big name celebrities that were once there have passed on. While there are a few namesake theaters (Dick Clark has one), others have been torn down. No more Mickey Gilley, no more Jim Stafford.
BUT, the tourist traps are alive and well. We recently drove down to Branson and took a look at some of them. Over 2300 photos will be added to my “Other Places” photo gallery, covering spots such as…
- Beyond the Lens – a mish-mash of photo ops (selfie spots), odd displays (Bigfoot and the JFK assasination?), freeplay games, and VR. It also featured the FlyRide which was such a ripodd of Disney’s Soarin’ over California that it even used yellow straps on the seatbelts, and the movie contained scenes with hot air baloons, hang gliders, an animal jumping in to the water and a number of scenes copied from the Disney original.
- Butterfly Palace – larger zoos have places like this, but I had never been to one that let me “feed” the butterflies. There was also a 3-D movie, a small animal display, a rope/forest and, for some reason, a mirror maze.
- Dolly Parton’s Stampede – No longer called the Dixie Stampede, this dinner show was in its 29th season (I believe). Dinner was served while you watched a horse/comedy/stunt show. The show was great, but there were some things that really seemed bad for an entity that’s been doing this for almost three decades.
- Fantastic Caverns – not actually in Branson, but about an hour away. This drive-through cavern experience was one of the best entertainment things I have ever done. It was brilliantly done and operated.
- Hollywood Was Museum – An excellent was museum. The last time I visited one (in Dallas), you looked at the figures from behind ropes. This one had them on the floor and you could stand next to them to get photos. They even had props you could use (such as putting on a red silk robe or bunny earts to lay in bed next to Hugh Hefner). This place also had the Castle of Chaos which was a moving seat 3-D shooter game, and Hanna’s Maze of Mirrors which was an evolution of mirror mazes that surprised me – it even had a storyline.
- Retromania – An 80’s-themed bar/cafe on one side, then an attraction on the other. While it is mostly just 80’s stuff on display on walls, there were some arcade games on freeplay, some cimena seats where you could sit and watch an 80s movie, a small 80’s-themed haunted house, an 80’s music blacklight minigolf course, and several escape rooms. Paying to do an escape room allowed access to all the rest.
- Ripley’s Believe it or Not – I have visited Ripley’s locations in Dallas and Wisconsin Dells, so it was nice to see another variation.
- Titanic Museum – even though it may look like a tourist trap from the outside, with a building that looks like the Titanic hitting an ice berg, inside was a serious and well-done museum. Truly one of the most enjoyable museum experiences I have ever had.
- …and side trips to restaurants like Starvin’ Marvins, Crazy Craigs Treehouse and the “original” Outback Steak and Oyster Bar (with signs everywhere explaining it has nothing to do with the Outback many of us have down the street back home).
As time permits, I’ll share some photo essays on the experience, with pros and cons of doing a weekend at Branson versus a theme park trip to an expensive Disney or Universal park.