Off the Beaten Path in Branson

Courtesy of Silver Dollar City Attractions
By AAA Travel Editor Laurie Sterbens
August 06, 2018
With around 8 million tourists descending on Branson each year, mostly by car or bus, the main attraction area around 76 Country Boulevard is bumper-to-bumper at times. If you’re ready to break away from the crowd, here are a few suggestions for attractions, hotels and restaurants that are off the beaten path.
Tiger at National Tiger Sanctuary in Chestnutridge, Missouri
Courtesy of National Tiger Sanctuary
National Tiger Sanctuary
518 CR BB
Chestnutridge, Missouri
(417) 587-3633
Get up close and personal with tigers, lions, leopards and mountain lions at this nonprofit rescue organization a half-hour drive from Branson. Guided tours allow you to learn more about these big cats, feed them yourself and even spend a day alongside the sanctuary director, where you’ll get a behind-the-scenes look into the animals’ care.
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stuffed bear taxidermy
iStockphoto.com / kevdog818
Ralph Foster Museum
100 Opportunity Ave.
Point Lookout, Missouri
(417) 690-3407
You’ll find a quirky collection of items in this Ozarks-themed museum ranging from stuffed wild animals to the original truck used in the television series “The Beverly Hillbillies.” The Children’s Discovery Room offers hands-on activities for kids ages 4 to 9.
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Fish Hatchery
iStockphoto.com / JLFCapture
Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery
483 Hatchery Rd.
(417) 334-4865
Pack a picnic and escape to the outdoors at the Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery, just southwest of downtown Branson. You can tour the hatchery, which raises brown and rainbow trout, take in exhibits and aquarium displays in the visitor center and explore the hiking trails in the wooded area near the Table Rock Lake shoreline. A waterfowl pool offers excellent bird-watching opportunities.
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Showboat Branson Belle paddle wheeler at Table Rock Lake in Branson, Missouri
Courtesy of Silver Dollar City Attractions
Showboat Branson Belle
4800 SR 165
(417) 336-7171
Board this turn-of-the-20th-century-style paddle wheeler and enjoy spectacular views of Table Rock Lake and the Ozark Mountains. The two-hour lake cruises include a three-course lunch or dinner and live entertainment with comedy, magic and music.
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Steam Train Ride at Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri
Silver Dollar City Attractions
Silver Dollar City
399 Silver Dollar City Pkwy.
(417) 336-7100
While not exactly an escape from the crowd, this AAA GEM® is outside the fray of the theater district and is a don’t-miss attraction for all ages. The park, themed as an 1880s Ozarks mining town, offers thrilling rides such as Outlaw Run, billed as “the world’s most daring wood coaster,” and the shirt-soaking American Plunge, a float trip with a five-story drop. Artisans demonstrate woodworking, glass blowing, candy making and other crafts throughout the park, and a variety of musical and comedy shows will keep you entertained. The park evolved around the entrance to Marvel Cave, another AAA GEM attraction not to be missed.
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Table Rock State Park in Branson Missouri
Courtesy of Missouri State Parks
Table Rock State Park
5272 SR 165
(417) 334-4704
Whether you’re up for an outdoor activity such as mountain biking or kayaking or simply seeking a relaxing setting for a family picnic, Table Rock State Park offers something for everyone. Spot a bald eagle as you stroll along the Lakeshore Trail or tackle the more rugged White River Valley Trail, where you’ll be rewarded with views of small waterfalls. Explore the lake on a pontoon boat or a catamaran excursion, take a scuba lesson or try your luck at landing a brag-worthy bass.
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Cavern
iStockphoto.com / Brandon Alm
Talking Rocks Cavern
423 Fairy Cave Ln.
(417) 272-3366
If you’re visiting in the summer, there’s no better way to escape the heat than exploring the underground landscape of sparkling crystals known as Talking Rocks Cavern. See formations such as “cave bacon” and the 100-foot-tall Cathedral. After your tour, you can mine for semi-precious gems and minerals in the sluicing area, walk nature trails, play miniature golf and crawl through two crawl mazes.
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Swimming Pool Generic
iStockphoto.com / OGphoto
Best Western Branson Inn & Conference Center
8514 State Hwy 76
AAA Inspector Rating
(417) 338-2141
While this AAA Two Diamond hotel is on the same highway as many of the shows and tourist attractions, it's a scenic 10-minute drive from downtown. You'll pass Inspiration Tower, which offers stunning panoramas of the Ozarks, and will find the hotel just steps away from Silver Dollar City and conveniently near Table Rock Lake. The hotel features an indoor pool and game room and accommodations with private balconies overlooking the mountains.
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Chateau on the Lake Resort and Spa and views of Table Rock Lake near Branson, Missouri
Courtesy of Chateau on the Lake Resort and Spa
Chateau on the Lake Resort & Spa
415 N. State Hwy 265
AAA Inspector Rating
(417) 334-1161
Looking out over Table Rock Lake from your private balcony at this AAA Four Diamond resort, you’ll forget you’re only 10 miles from Branson’s bustling downtown. With its scenic outdoor pool, elegant spa and fine dining, this Ozarks oasis is the perfect place to unwind after a day of attractions, shows and shopping.
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Chateau on the Lake Resort and Spa and views of Table Rock Lake near Branson, Missouri
Courtesy of Chateau on the Lake Resort and Spa
Chateau Grille at Chateau on the Lake
415 N. State Hwy 265
AAA Inspector Rating
(417) 243-1777
Treat yourself to locally caught fish or an aged steak at this AAA Three Diamond restaurant overlooking Table Rock Lake. A piano player entertains on weekends. Reserve the Chef's Table for a custom-created, five-course meal with wine pairings. This restaurant is a popular spot for special occasions, so call ahead for reservations.
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Barbecue Generic
iStockphoto.com / Michael Phillips
Danna's Bar-B-Que & Burger Shop
15 Hope Way (SR 13 business route)
AAA Inspector Rating
(417) 272-1945
Whether you choose the Branson West location near Silver Dollar City or the one south of the busy strip, the draw here is barbecue: pork or beef that is marinated, coated in a secret rub and slow-smoked to perfection. Burgers, fried catfish, sandwiches and salads round out the menu, and you can top it all off with a frosty root beer float.
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