When people come to Branson, Missouri, they expect to smile. The entertainment mecca’s reputation for fun started over 50 years ago and then exploded in the 1990s when theaters and music shows popped up all over town. Branson’s attractions have grown over the years to go beyond performance shows to include premier golf courses, upscale hotels and outdoor adventure.
Even Branson’s classic attractions have been made new with renovations, rebranding and expansions. For example, the Famous Baldknobbers show opened 60 years ago and now boasts a revamped production. Another mainstay, Silver Dollar City, has grown beyond a simple theme park to include major expansions, high-quality food and cooking classes for adult groups.
Each of these time-honored Branson attractions still attract crowds with enduring appeal and new features.
Presleys’ Country Jubilee
What began as a family act that performed in caves has grown into one of the trademark productions in Branson. Presleys’ Country Jubilee started in the days before air conditioning was common in the Missouri town. The Presley family played concerts in the Ozark caverns so audience members could watch in a venue that stayed cool despite the summer heat.
Even from the beginning, the show stood out as one of the few family-friendly acts of the time. The Presley family sang gospel music, a tradition now carried on by the fourth generation of the family still performing.
The show grew enough that the family bought a simple venue in 1967, the first theater on Branson’s Highway 76. Now more than 50 years later, the show has evolved with the times. Producers work to make sure it changes periodically to include different musical styles, updated comedy routines and state-of-the-art theater production capabilities.
New red-leather premium seats give groups extra comfort to watch the legendary show. Another change took place outside the venue: The rehabbed streetscape along Branson’s section of Highway 76 now offers wider, landscaped walks for pedestrians.
All Presleys productions feature uplifting gospel and country tunes with eye-catching stage costumes and sets. Family members want to entertain and move hearts through their soulful songs. Before and after the show, attendees can also reflect on the family show’s beginnings with pictures and memorabilia in the theater’s lobby.
Branson’s Famous Baldknobbers
In the 1950s, Branson attracted serious anglers who liked winding down a day on the lake with a show. That’s when the Mabe family began entertaining playing washboards and banjos on the lakeshore.
Known as the first family of performers to create a show, the Mabe family started a tradition that has carried through the generations to its current iteration as Branson’s Famous Baldknobbers.
The country music and comedy variety show features funny skits interspersed throughout a show of high-caliber musical performance. The songs mix old-time gospel music with bluegrass classics and contemporary country. Military songs also feature prominently in the show.
Celebrating its 60th anniversary in 2019, the show recently moved to a new venue in 2017. The move coincides with a rebranding of the show for a fresh and fast-paced take on their outlaw image. The venue also welcomed the return of the “Buck Trent Country Music Show,” which runs in the mornings.
During November and December, the Mabe family offers a Christmas show that features the best of the standard show during the first half and then dedicates the second half to the Christmas holiday.
In 2011, the Mabe brothers’ original costumes, instruments and artifacts were added to the permanent collection of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.
Silver Dollar City
Most adult groups wouldn’t consider adding a theme park to their itinerary. But then, most theme parks aren’t Silver Dollar City. The park offers the traditional thrilling rides as well as historic attractions such as craft demonstrations.
The park maintains an 1880s theme throughout its 100 acres. Guests can watch woodworkers carve lifelike figures or see a glassblower create delicate works of art. Visitors can even use their sample sweets created by an on-site candy-maker.
Silver Dollar City’s new Culinary and Craft School invites visitor participation. Groups can book a culinary demonstration at a state-of-the-art demonstration kitchen with large flat-screen monitors. The kitchen’s casual farmhouse style combines the down-home feel of the park with contemporary culinary sophistication. The 60-minute classes end with samples for participants and take-home recipes.
Since 2010, the park has spent more than $100 million on new rides and experiences. Festivals like Pumpkin Nights and the Bluegrass and BBQ Festival were created to draw more crowds throughout the year. The popular Old Time Christmas event illuminates the park with over 6.5 million lights.
Groups can also visit the park’s live music shows, 18 restaurants and 60 shops. Part of the latest expansion due to open in the summer of 2020 includes a barbecue restaurant with seating for 450 people.
Table Rock Lake
Before Branson was an entertainment hot spot, the city’s Table Rock Lake was a beloved destination for outdoor enthusiasts. Today, visitors can still enjoy the lake with a growing number of activity options.
With a backdrop of the Ozark Mountains, Table Rock Lake’s pristine waters make a peaceful natural getaway. Table Rock State Park offers tree-lined shores, hiking trails and hidden beaches. Groups can rent boats, including kayaks, paddleboards and a 48-foot catamaran, for guided afternoon excursions.
The Showboat Branson Belle allows groups to explore the lake in style. Launched in 1995, the 278-foot vessel is propelled with two giant rear paddle wheels. On board, guests enjoy a two-hour variety show with a cast of talented performers, along with a three-course meal.