Shopping in BransonLoads of people come to Branson to shop, and it's easy to see why: with a historic downtown that could almost double for Mayberry, a new waterfront shopping and dining complex at downtown's doorstep and specialty stores and centers practically everywhere you turn, the opportunities are legion.
Branson Landing , a shopping “village” with lovely Lake Taneycomo as a backdrop, is divided into six different districts, each with its own style of architecture. Branson Landing's blue-and-silver shuttle runs up and down the promenade back and forth to the parking lots. Anchors Belk Department Store and Bass Pro Shops are augmented by more than 100 additional stores and shops, including national retailers like Brookstone, Chico's, Jos. A. Bank and White House/Black Market. Eateries include both fast-food outlets and popular franchises like Famous Dave's Bar-B-Q, Joe's Crab Shack and gourmet Mexican at Cantina Laredo.
Branson's Bass Pro Shops outlet isn't as large as the flagship store in Springfield but the atmosphere is similar, right down to the beautifully done nature dioramas and freshwater trout aquarium. Be sure to look up as you wander around; some of the most interesting things are above eye level. There's also a floating restaurant and a marina where boats and fishing equipment can be tested.
The town square at the center of the Landing is an open space with terraces that slope down to a waterfront boardwalk where free concerts take place throughout the year. The square also is the site of hourly shows incorporating 186 water jet fountains and 15 cannons blasting fireballs, choreographed to special lighting and a variety of music. The dancing water display is most impressive in the evening, especially when seen from the vantage point of the boardwalk. And since Branson is famous for live performances, the Landing also features street entertainment in the form of jugglers, dancers, clowns, musicians, and singers from country and bluegrass to jazz and gospel.
Branson Landing is a stone's throw from historic downtown Branson, which offers a much more down-home experience. Streets are lined with brick sidewalks and adorned with Victorian-style lampposts, all maintained by the Downtown Branson Betterment Association . Strolling the streets here does seem like taking a step back in time.
Browsers will love Dick's 5 & 10 , at 103 W. Main St. The narrow aisles of this classic “dime store” are crammed with thousands of nostalgic items. You'll see more miniature figurines and key chains than you ever thought possible, but Dick's also carries practical items like kitchen dish towels and jars of homemade jam. Plum Bazaar , 123 E. Main St., is located in what is reputedly downtown's oldest building. For elegant girls' and women's clothing as well as home accessories and Victorian-style furnishings, wander through Victorian House , 101 W. Main St.
All sorts of specialty shopping complexes are along SR 76. If you love Christmas, by all means visit The Grand Village Shops , 2800 SR 76W, which offers a collection of clothing, craft and specialty stores. A must-browse here is Kringles Christmas Store, where you can search for angels, collectibles, ornaments, stockings, nutcrackers, candleholders, fiber-optic Christmas trees and a host of other seasonal decorations. There also are shops specializing in art, woodcrafts and hand-blown glass, all in an open-air setting of winding cobblestone paths accented with fountains and flowers.
Victorian Village , on Shepherd of the Hills Expressway next to the Hamners' Variety Theater, offers a variety of collectibles, including candles, gifts, jewelry, quilts and dolls, along with circus memorabilia and reproductions of paintings by inspirational artist Thomas Kinkade. About a mile west are the shops in Branson's IMAX Entertainment Complex, where you can grab a bite to eat at the food court while hunting for toys, jewelry, collectibles and souvenirs.
The Branson Mill Craft Village on North Gretna Road is a combination specialty retail shopping center and working craft village where luthiers, silversmiths, wood carvers, scrimshaw crafters, stained- and etched-glass makers and other artisans demonstrate their skills. You'll find everything from wind chimes, pottery, gift baskets and custom picture frames to pewter items, carved walking sticks and hand-painted gourds.
flickr/Branson Convention and Visitors Bureau
Tanger Outlets Branson, off SR 76 in the middle of the Strip, offers discounted bargains on men's, women's and children's clothing from retailers like Polo Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger and Gap, plus shoes, housewares and fashion accessories. The Shoppes at Branson Meadows , 4562 Gretna Rd. near the Branson Mill Craft Village, has a Victorian-style look and discount retailers like Consignment Clothing Exchange, Hush Puppies and V.F. Factory Outlet. There are other stores here as well, and a movie multiplex will keep restless kids happy.
If you don't like crowds, shop the outlet malls in January and February. The weekend following Thanksgiving, when holiday specials go on sale, is the year's busiest.
Last but certainly not least are the ubiquitous gift shops at the music theaters. Every theater has one, and some are ostentatious indeed. The Shoji Tabuchi Theatre has several separate shops in an ornate lobby filled with potted palms and Art Deco furniture, while the gift shop at the Andy Williams Performing Arts Center & Theatre is notable because it is so discreet (more like a boutique).
Show DVDs, performer CDs and cast posters are all big sellers, but you also can purchase such keepsakes as a Baldknobbers ball cap. The most personal, of course, is an autograph, so if you happen to own an old Lennon Sisters, Righteous Brothers or Mickey Gilley album, bring it along for a personal signature—Branson's stars are very obliging of their fans.
In-person hotel evaluations are unscheduled to ensure the inspector has an experience similar to that of members. All hotels must meet the same basic requirements for cleanliness, comfort and hospitality to be AAA Approved. A rating of one to five AAA Diamonds tells members what type of experience to expect, from no-frills to highly personalized.
The Branson/Lakes area levies general retail sales, tourism sales and food and beverage sales taxes based on three different jurisdictions: Branson Landing/downtown, citywide and Branson Hills. General retail sales taxes range from 8.6 to 9.6 percent; sales that include a tourism sales tax range from 11.6 to 12.6 percent; food and beverage sales taxes range from 8.975 to 9.975 percent.
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Skaggs Regional Medical Center, (417) 335-7000; CoxHealth Cox North (Springfield, Mo.), (417) 269-3000; CoxHealth Cox South (Springfield, Mo.), (417) 269-6000; Mercy Hospital (Springfield, Mo.), (417) 820-2000.
269 SR 248 Branson, MO 65615. Phone:(417)334-4084 or (800)214-3661
(BKG), 1 mile south of the Hollister exit off US 65, east on Branson Creek Boulevard, then following signs to 4000 Branson Airport Blvd., is served by Buzz Airways and Frontier and handles commercial and general aviation; phone (417) 334-7813.
Hertz, which only operates out of Springfield-Branson National Airport, offers discounts to AAA members; phone (417) 597-5313, (800) 654-3131 or (800) 654-3080. Rental cars are available at Branson Airport.
Gray Line Branson
Cab companies include Jerry’s Shuttle, (417) 348-1419; and Checker Cab, City Cabs and Yellow Cab, all of which can be reached at (417) 332-2227 (Branson Cab Service).
Unless you're part of a motor coach tour, getting around Branson is much easier if you have your own vehicle. One convenient alternative to driving is a free ride aboard the Downtown Trolley. The red-and-gold, hop-on and hop-off trolley makes 12 stops in the historic downtown area, including two stops at Branson Landing. It operates daily 9-6, Mar.-Dec.; closed Thanksgiving and Christmas. Trolley maps are available at downtown retail locations and at the Downtown Branson Betterment Association, 112 W. College St.; phone (417) 334-1548 or (866) 523-1190.