Known as the “live entertainment capital of the world” unsurprisingly there is PLENTY to see and do in Branson, Missouri. A smallish town, it caters to families in the summer months and snowbirds all winter long. Along with the shows and dining experiences that one simply MUST see and do while in town (which come at a cost) there is a plethora of clean family fun to be had that is completely complimentary! Read on for some of the best ways we found to experience the area for the bargain price of a little bit of your time and interest!
Branson, Missouri, at first glance feels a bit like Las Vegas. Once you dive into the culture of the area, you realize it is MUCH more wholesome than Vegas, even though the main street of attractions feels a tad like “the strip” and is referred to as such. We recently spent about a week exploring all over Branson and came up with a pile of family-friendly fun that is fantastically FREE of charge! I’ve also included some freebies at the end that you’ll want to consider too! Enjoy saving your money with these ideas!
Free Family Fun in Branson
Table Rock Lake Dam and State Park
Not far from the Branson (or Arkansas border) lies Table Rock State Park — part of the lake is actually claimed by both Missouri and Arkansas. Go to the Dewey Short Visitor’s Center at the dam and take in the short historical film as well as the many interactive exhibits inside the building — all free! The State Park boasts free admission and has plentiful camping and hiking opportunities.
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Stone Hill Winery
While we didn’t partake in the tasting fun while in town with kids in tow, it IS a kid-friendly atmosphere! Well, as kid friendly as libations can be — they serve Grape juice to the wee ones and those who do not wish to consume alcohol. This is one of a handful of wineries that can be found in the area — check out some of the “coupon books” for tour deals and more discounts for experiences like wine tastings.
Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery
We discovered this gem while in Branson quite by accident but it remains one of the simple pleasures of our trip. Our preschooler loved the displays inside the neat visitor’s center but the highlight was depositing a handful of quarters for “Fish Food” and walking along the runs to feed the various stages of trout housed within.
The sights and sounds here are all FREE but they are the perfect backdrop for making priceless memories! The water fountains and music are a delight for the eyes and ears and children of all ages love to go down to the water’s edge to partake. *Note: Lake Taneycomo flooded and as of March 2016 the fountains are still out of service. Make sure to check the website for the Branson Landing Fountains to see when you might be able to enjoy them again.
Bass Pro Shops
This Ozark Lodge-themed store has all sorts of scheduled FREE programming for kids and families — from Easter Bunny fun to
Christmas ornament-making, there’s something going on all the time in the store. It’s located on the shores of the White River/Lake Taneycomo, next to the White River Fish House (which is not free but is absolutely mouth-watering good and comes with this TMOM’s glowing recommendation!) Just like the rest of the chain of outdoors-inspired sporting goods stores, you’ll find there is plenty for families to do once inside the big front doors that say they welcome hunters, fishermen, and other liars! If you’ve ever told a fish story, you’re in good company in this store!
Branson Discovery Trolley
This free mode of transportation links Branson Landing and historic downtown Branson. The schedule is about every 15 minutes because the bus operates on a constant loop during operating hours. The area can be very congested for drivers, so when you can, take advantage of alternatives like the trolley that will save on your patience and keep the blood pressure down as well as trip costs!
World’s Largest Banjo
Located at the Grand Country Mall this gigantic instrument is, well, something to put down as achieved on your list of giant roadside attractions to see before you buy the farm. For my family, it was something that got a cursory glance as we went to Papa Grand’s for pizza. It was not until later that we realized we’d witnessed the record-holding statue, complete with neon strings to gleam at night. Sort of neat, really FREE!
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World’s Largest Rooster
There isn’t much to say about this BUT this guy stands 43-ft. tall fiberglass rooster at the Great American Steak and Chicken House wears a star-spangled vest and bow tie, and an American flag lapel pin
College of the Ozarks
There are gardens and greenhouses on property that house some world-class plants such as award-winning orchid collections in addition to the fountains and manicured paths! This pitstop isn’t for everyone, BUT it is utterly relaxing to amble around and take in the beautiful horticultural feats here. It’s also a great place to run off some steam if the kids have been “cooped up” in shows all day. There are tours of a Mill and for a small fee a museum tour — but staying outside on the walkways is totally FREE!
Notable Additional Freebies:
Arrive after 3 p.m. at Silver Dollar City and get in the next day for FREE and make sure to take advantage of the FREE tour of Marvel Cave included in your admission. This cave was the reason the entire theme park was built up around it and remains a unique part of every families’ visit to Silver Dollar City!
All Missouri State Parks are FREE — we recommend Ha Ha Tonka State Park, which is only a short drive from the Branson area (near Lake Ozark/Osage Beach) and there is another cave, Bridal Cave, that NEEDS to be on your to-see list as well! They are great with kids, the tour is short, and even our six month old infant was able to hang with the crew and partake in the underground fun. If you make it to this area, the Tan-Tar-A Resort is a home run for families!
Consider staying at the Welk Branson Resort while enjoying all the free fun in town! This is easily the best place for families to have a great time (and even though there IS a ton of FREE fun to be had in Branson, staying at this property means you don’t even need to leave to fill a whole vacation. So NOT going out on the town is also free fun!)