Situated in the beautiful Ozark Mountains, Branson, Missouri, has been one of America’s most popular group travel destinations for generations.
Highway 76, famously known as “The Strip,” cuts right through the heart of the city and offers more than three miles of theaters offering dozens of shows and entertainment options. But shows are only the start of the fun in Branson.
Also on the strip is Titanic Museum Attraction, a massive building shaped liked the famous ship that went down in the Atlantic Ocean in 1912. The museum celebrates the ship, its passengers and crew members with utmost respect. It is a fascinating and touching place to visit.
Many groups visiting the area spend some time at Silver Dollar City, an 1880s-themed amusement park that is anything but old fashioned. The park features fast roller coasters, treetop adventures (such as zip lining and mountain coasters) and a water park. There is also a village full of craftsmen performing their trades.
Many visitors take in the beauty, adventure, and variety of the Ozarks with gorgeous lakes and heavily wooded hills and valleys. Wineries are everywhere and a popular stop for tourists. Branson’s golf scene is rated among best in the Midwest. The Branson Scenic Railway is another fun way to see the sites.
There are other rich museums and cultural centers to explore in Branson, as well as spas and resorts and hundreds of boutiques, galleries and outlets that shoppers love. And sitting high above it all is the 150-foot-tall Branson Ferris Wheel, ideal for taking in the whole scene.
Branson will be on full display for travel planners to explore when the next Select Traveler Conference is presented March 27-29 at Chateau on the Lake Resort Spa and Convention Center. These upscale planners represent banks, chambers of commerce, and college and alumni travel clubs. They will see the area and decide whether their coveted travel groups should see the place for themselves.
“I have been attending various conferences staged by Group Travel Family [conference organizer] for 25 years,” said Lenni Neimeyer, director of leisure group sales for the Branson/Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce and Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Whenever they pick a city to host the conference, that city is highlighted as a very suitable place for planners to bring groups.
Hosting a Select Traveler Conference will expose travel planners to the hundreds of things to do in Branson “which cannot help but bring us new business in the future,” Neimeyer said.
Branson attracted national and international attention in 1907 with the publication of a novel about the Ozarks called “The Shepherd of the Hills.” People flocked to the area to see in person the kinds of people and locations depicted in the book. A local organization began an outdoor drama based on the book in 1960. Then a couple of live music shows sprang up. In 1967, the Presley family became the first to move their show, Presley’s Country Jubilee, to the Highway 76 Strip.
In 1983, organizers began bringing in acts like Jim Stafford, Tony Orlando, Louise Mandrell, Glen Campbell, Charley Pride, Mel Tillis, Roy Clark and many more top performers. In 1987, Boxcar Willie became the first internationally known entertainer to buy a theater and have a permanent show scheduled there. Eventually, more than 50 theaters would appear along the Strip where stars operated venues with their names on them.
“They kind of branded Branson in those days,” said Neimeyer. “I have been here since 1974, and it has been amazing to watch the transformation and growth.”
Today, Branson keeps up with modern musical trends by offering entertainment of all genres such as country and Bluegrass, hard and soft rock, oldies from different eras, Broadway-style shows, musical comedy, music originating from Ireland and Liverpool, England, birthplace of the Beatles and even patriotic music. There are also illusions and magic, as well as comedy to keep people laughing.
Other interesting things to do in Branson include climbing aboard the Showboat Branson Belle, which is a classic riverboat offering cruises, three-course meals and currently a two-hour live show called “Made in the USA,” which can be viewed from the three balconies of seating in the spacious theater. Outside, before and after the dinner and show, the deck provides beautiful views of Branson’s Table Rock Lake.
A 95-acre complex called Branson Landing draws diners, shoppers and folks who seek out entertainment in a pleasant atmosphere. A one-and-a-half-mile long boardwalk on the Taneycomo Lakefront is fun to stroll on. A vibrant town square is at the heart of Branson Landing and offers more than 100 retail shops. Nearby is a spectacular and choreographed water, light, fire and music feature. There is also a full calendar of events and festivals scheduled at Branson Landing.
Branson has a Ripley’s Believe it or Not, the famed museum of science, illusion, wax figures, artifacts, themed areas like a jungle and a graveyard with special effects that make this quirky place a delight. Right next door is a new attraction: Aquarium at the Boardwalk, where you can see the wonders of the sea and 7,200 individual sea creatures.
Even a city with nonstop entertainment would not be worth the time and trouble if it did not know how to take care of its guests. Branson does.
“We are a destination of so many wonderful attractions, live music shows and outdoor adventures,” said Neimeyer. “But we are also a community that extends great hospitality to our groups. You can talk to any of the planners who have been here, and they will verify that.”