Mar/Apr 2000

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That's Entertainment
Theme parks, golf, shopping and outdoor recreation join music shows in attracting 6 million visitors a year to Branson in southern Missouri

By Marge Peterson

“Are we finally going to hear some country music?" my friend asked as we were heading to our sixth Branson show.

As a country music fan, she had been looking forward to four days of boot-scootin’ rhythms, and she had heard everything but. A deluge of country-only music is one of the misconceptions shared by folks who have never been to Branson or who haven’t been there for years.

While country music still thrives in Branson–with shows like "Country Tonite," Buck Trent and Mickey Gilley–entertainers like Bobby Vinton, the Lennon Sisters and others offer a variety of musical experiences: pop, gospel, rock ’n’ roll and Broadway show tunes. Variety shows by legendary performers like the Baldknob-bers and the Presley Family have been packing them in for years.

Music is only part of the entertainment scene in Branson. Comedians Yakov and Jim Stafford, magician Kirby VanBurch, the Acrobats of China and the Spirit of the Dance (an Irish stepdancing troupe) are part of the mix.

At the Dixie Stampede, you can try your hand–and fingers–at eating a four-course dinner with no silverware, then cheer for your team in trick riding, whip-cracking and other western competitions. (Don’t miss the ostrich races.)

1880s theme park

Another popular spot, Silver Dollar City, offers more than a dozen rides. The park, with an 1880s theme, features 50 stage shows daily, 100 resident crafters who demonstrate their skills, and the world’s largest tree house with swinging bridges, skyscraping towers and an erupting geyser.

Another Branson misconception is that theaters are the only entertainment available. The area’s three lakes–Table Rock, Taneycomo and Bull Shoals–offer water-related activities. Ride the Ducks, another popular water activity, offers riders a tour of Branson and a cruise on Table Rock Lake aboard an amphibious military landing vehicle.

Visitors can learn the history of the area by attending The Shepherd of the Hills Outdoor Drama. Rollicking music, teams of horses and a cast of 80 tell the story of the lives, loves, hopes and dreams of the Ozark people.

Serious shoppers can visit Branson’s three outlet malls–Tanger Outlet Center, Factory Merchants Branson and Factory Shoppes at Branson Meadows–as well as Dick’s Oldtime 5 and 10 and Branson Mercantile in downtown Branson.

For upscale shopping, The Grand Village offers 26 specialty stores featuring fine art, Victorian jewelry, books and Christmas decorations.

Traveling The Strip

You’ve probably heard horror stories about traffic congestion on West Highway 76, otherwise known as "The Strip." But recently, Branson invested more than $37 million to build a new multiroute road system to improve traffic flow.

Music shows, ostrich races, parasailing, outlet malls and acrobats. It’s a strange mix of entertainment, but it works.

Marge Peterson is manager editor of "Home & Away" magazine.

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