TRAVEL: 10 must see attractions in Branson, Mo.

Family, fun and adventure pretty much sums up a trip to Branson, Missouri. Set against the lush beauty of the Ozarks, Branson is prime for amateur photographers — like myself — with beautifully-crisp blue skies that frame the abundance of activities available in this Midwestern city. Seriously, I was convinced an artist woke every morning to paint the perfect shade of blue for the sky.

written by LaTria Garnigan
photography by LaTria Garnigan, Branson CVB and Sight & Sound Theatres

To help you navigate through the myriad of options for your weekend or week-filled getaway, here are 10 activities you’ll definitely want to check out:

IT’S SHOWTIME! >> I’ve never been to Las Vegas, but from what I know of it I can see Branson being the family-friendly version of the entertainment capital of the world. Along Highway 76 — or the Branson Strip — alone are several theatres whose quality and varied options wowed me. I was truly impressed by SIX, an acapella group made up of six of the Knudsen brothers. Absolutely no instruments or musical tracks were played in the show, yet there was no shortage of entertainment. Think “Glee,” but for a more mature crowd. |

What really gave me the Vegas-like feel was Illusionist Rick Thomas. Having performed in Vegas for years, he didn’t skip on anything in bringing the show to Branson. The Andy Williams Performing Arts Center turned into a magical place when Rick hit the stage. I’d never seen a magician in person and was a tad bit skeptical of the process, but to this day I wrack my brain trying to figure out how he did what he did on that stage. From levitation, to the appearance and disappearance of a helicopter AND motorcycle — he put on a show. You will be entertained! |

What I could bill as a Broadway-esque performance, “Moses” was perhaps the most involved show I saw and multi-layered. “Moses” gave a riveting mixture of live action, digital imagery and a stable of live animals including an appearance by some animatronics. Yes the staph turned into a serpent. Yes, there was a burning bush. And of course there were the carvings of the Ten Commandments. If you make it to Branson by Dec. 31, you’ll be able to catch this phenomenal production.

DINE & DAZZLE! >> Stunt riders, a friendly battle and lots, and I mean LOTS, of food is what you’ll find at Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede. Warning: Make sure you go on an empty stomach. This lively show featuring a stampede of live animals is full of audience participation along with a four-course dinner. This show can be enjoyed by kids and adults. |

28. Showboat Branson Belle.jpg

Want a beautiful, crystal clear view of Table Rock Lake with your dinner? Then Showboat Branson Belle is for you. This two-hour cruise features a multi-course menu with a chance to see a true variety show, as well as time to walk around the boat in search of the right backdrop for that perfect selfie. And just like with the Stampede, make sure to bring an empty stomach; Midwesterners know how to eat! |

FUN, FUN, FUN! >> With what began initially as a cave exploration park — Marvel Cave17-harlem-globetrotters-at-sdc-handles-hi-lite Silver Dollar City has blossomed into much more. The 100-acre amusement park has 12 stage venues, dozens of artisans making anything from hand-carved wooden mantles and figurines, hand-painted parasols, Cowboy hats, along with row after row of food vendors, a cooking school and of course rides. They are now also home to the world-famous Harlem Globetrotters, so families and especially children can enjoy The Globetrotter Experience. Their shows are full of the Globetrotters’ trademark basketball handling skills, audience participation and all-around fun. |

LET’S EXPLORE >> Don’t just bill Branson as a “show” town, this place is truly multi-faceted. There are several outdoor activities as well. If beautiful landscapes are your thing, I’d suggest the 40-mile ride on the Branson Scenic Railway. It’s a nice way to relax and get in some great photos of the Ozarks and you’ll get to learn a bit of history along with way from the conductor. Fun fact: During November and December, the train transforms into one of the many Polar Express trains for the holidays — including hot chocolate and pajamas — from around the country. The Scenic Railway has been ranked No. 1 for its décor out of the 50 trains across the U.S. that participate. |

Another scenic tour is the Tram tour at Dogwood Canyon Park, another great way to take in the expansive scenery with the ease of being driven around. There are stopping points along the way, which include a beautiful cabin that hosts wedding ceremonies, spectacular waterfalls, lush green landscapes and even a drive through the preserve with an opportunity to get up close and personal with bison, deer and longhorns. At the park, there’s also an option to take a more hands-on approach to exploring with bike rentals. |

11-sdc-marvel-cave-lbNever thought I would explore a deep, dark cave, but one cannot visit Branson without taking the half-mile trek into Marvel Cave. The 700-step adventure was steep at some points, but absolutely worth it. Once you get over the initial trepidation of venturing into a cave and talk of bats (eek!), you won’t want to leave. I could have stayed in the cave all day. And don’t think that you have to be some super athletic, adventure-type for this tour, there were people of all ages and walks of life. It’s just important that you wear comfortable, non-slippery shoes. So, go explore! |

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