RipleysBuildingBranson is nestled in the beautiful Ozark Mountains of Southwestern Missouri and is a popular weekend getaway for residents of the 8 states that border Missouri, as well as people from across the U.S. and even the world.

My family is just one out of a million families that pick Branson every year as one of their family vacation choices. With the 2009 opening of the Branson Airport, there is now direct access from many popular cities. Last year (2012) Branson celebrated its 100th birthday and it continues to grow every year into one of the premier vacation destinations in the country. My family and I were lucky enough to say Happy Birthday to the Live Music Capital of the World last year. But music isn’t the only thing Branson has to offer.

Here are a few museums you don’t want to miss while in Branson:

Ripley’s Believe it or Not

TwoHeadCowIn 1812 an earthquake measuring more than 8.0 on the Richter Scale occurred at New Madrid, Missouri. This earthquake made the Mississippi River run backwards for three days and made Church bells ring in Philadelphia! The Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum building in Branson reflects the event and is considered the most photographed building in the town.

While a couple of the attractions scared my toddler (and even myself) … for the most part, he had a good time looking at all the odd strange different exhibits the museum has to offer. Exhibits like a two-headed calf, a human unicorn from Manchuria, genuine shrunken heads, statues of the world’s tallest man and the world’s heaviest man, and mice wearing clothes. There’s a certain place in the museum that was our absolute favorite. Let’s just call it “the tongue twisting” exhibit. But you’ll have to plan a visit to the museum to find out why.

Make sure to check their website for hours, location, and ticket info.

Hollywood Wax Museum

WaxMuseum2The Hollywood Wax Museum is a landmark on Highway 76 in Branson, Missouri and is the only wax museum in the country devoted entirely to celebrity figures. A recent multi-million dollar renovation has brought more star power and dynamic style to the attraction, located in the Hollywood Entertainment Center on the strip.

With the recent multi-million dollar renovation, adding a New York City skyline complete with the Midwest’s largest primate … it’s now become the most photographed attraction in Branson. Inside the museum, you’ll have the chance to rub elbows with stars like Johnny Depp and Gwyneth Paltrow. Swoon up close and personal with classic entertainers like Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe?

WaxMuseum3My toddler was a little frightened by the realness of the wax stars so unfortunately I didn’t get to take as many pictures as I wanted to. But it’s definitely something I can’t wait to check out once both my boys are a little older. My preschooler thoroughly enjoyed posing next to Nacho Libre and my oldest child (AKA: my husband) crossed off martial arts with Jackie Chan from his bucket list. All in all, the Hollywood Wax Museum in Branson is a must-see with the family. There are parts of the museum that may frighten younger children (i.e.: The Chamber of Horrors – an entire room full of classic and current movie monsters. However, there is a chicken exit to bypass the room). All in all, we had a good time and laughed at the ways you could pose with the stars.

Visit the website for hours, location, ticket info, and even steps on how the artists create the wax figures.

The Butterfly Palace and Rainforest Adventure

BFlyPalaceImagine walking among thousands of live, stunning, exotic butterflies fluttering all around you. The Butterfly Palace & Rainforest Adventure is a unique tropical experience for all ages. It’s an interactive, educational, and entertaining family expedition. This was, by far, our most favorite attraction in Branson.

Inside the palace’s aviary, we were immersed in a world of tropical butterflies, ladybugs, and some nectar-eating birds as well. There are several activities at the palace so we decided that the first thing we wanted to see was the live butterfly exhibit.

BFlyPalace3Before you enter the live exhibit you will want to check out the movie room that features a short film about the life of a butterfly and other insects. Inside the live butterfly exhibit you are allowed to just freely walk through and take everything in. Although you’re not allowed to actually touch or try to catch the butterflies, they are known to land on people … as one particular butterfly did to my husband. She loved him and never wanted him to leave. You even had to watch where you stepped as sometimes you’ll come across a butterfly that decided the ground was a much better view.

We were all in awe of the beautiful fluttering species. The boys were even able to borrow magnifying glasses and binoculars to get a really close look at the butterflies. After we were done in the butterfly room, my preschooler decided he really wanted to check out the interactive rain forest featuring some of the weirdest, creepiest, and most fascinating insects and reptiles. He was able to learn about the different animals as they went around the room – which to him … was “totally awesome”.

BFlyPalace2The next part of our visit was spent finding our way through the dark and mysterious Emerald Forest Mirror Maze. It was completely dark except for some trees and a path so it was really hard to see. This was probably one of the boys’ favorite parts (so they say). You could hear them laughing the entire time as they bumped into the walls several times trying to make their way out. They quickly learned to hold up their hands while walking through the maze. They loved it so much that I think they ended up going through the maze about 10 different times! This was just a fraction of what my boys were able to do and see at the Butterfly Palace. We all had such a great time and this will definitely be one of those places that the boys will remember forever. My only suggestion for you if you decide to visit is to plan to stay for at least a couple of hours because you won’t want to leave!

Check out their website to learn about tickets and admission, or see what adventure awaits at The Butterfly Palace in Branson. For the latest news and specials connect with The Butterfly Palace & Rainforest Adventure on Facebook!

Unfortunately our vacation wasn’t long enough to experience what all Branson has to offer. These were just a few of our favorites. But if you’re looking for a destination that is family (especially toddler) friendly with tons of attractions, then Branson is the place you need to be!

Curious on where to stay for your next family vacation in Branson? Check out my picks for family fun, relaxation, and luxury.

Disclaimer: My family was provided complimentary admission to these Branson attractions. However, this did not – in any way – influence my opinion of the area attractions. All opinions expressed in this article are my own and I was not compensated for this post.

Amanda is a freelance writer and blog owner of “The Procrastinating Mommy” – a PR friendly family blog. You can also follow her on Twitter at: @Amanda_aka_Mom or on Facebook at: The Procrastinating Mommy.