“There’s more live shows and attractions for families to enjoy in Branson than ever before,” said Preston Garrison, Director of Operations for the Branson Tourism Center. “Their prices, and the price of lodging in Branson, are among the most reasonable anywhere, making Branson one of the greatest vacation values in America,” he added.
He said that value is even more evident when families take advantage of some of the unique free things there are to do in Branson. The natural scenic beauty of the Ozark Mountains is a major attraction for millions of Branson visitors. These three free outings, are all located near Table Rock Dam, feature the natural beauty of the Ozarks, and are readily accessible for families to safely and conveniently enjoy together:
1. Table Rock Lake Shore Trail: Spending time on the typical trail through the woods might not be at the top of the list of activities for a lot of reasons. This trail however, is different. The 2.2 mile trail is asphalt, wide, very level and is ideal for just about everyone, including families with small children.
It’s accessible to wheel chairs, motorized and non-motorized; carriages, bikes, and is intended for non-motorized activities including hiking, jogging and more. The trail is a great way for families to experience the outdoor wonder of the Ozarks surrounded by nature without having to deal with the challenges of the typical “trail.”
As the name “Table Rock Lake Shore Trail ” implies, it follows the shore line of Table Rock Lake. Starting at its Trailhead in the Dewey Short Visitor Center parking lot, it proceeds south .6 miles to the Showboat Branson Belle. From there it goes 1.4 miles to the Table Rock State Park and 2.2 miles to its ending near the “Table Rock State Park Marina.”
A nice excursion would be to walk from the Dewey Short Trailhead to the Showboat Branson Belle. Enjoy the beautiful grounds, see the Showboat up close, have some refreshments, shop its shops, and then return to your starting point.
2. The Dewey Short Regional Visitors Center at Table Rock Dam: The $7.9 million, 15,000 square foot U.S. Army Corps of Engineers visitor center has been called “the crown jewel of Table Rock Lake.” It’s one of only 11 Class A visitor centers in the U.S. and is located at the opposite end of the parking lot from the Table Rock Lakeshore Trailhead.
Its floor to ceiling glass windows, on the Table Rock Lake side of the building, offer an unparalleled view of Table Rock Lake and Lake Taneycomo. The Center features interactive activities, displays on area history, nature and the inner workings of Table Rock Dam, movies, a gift shop with unique merchandise, and an interesting film on the construction of Table Rock Dam.
3. Shepherd of the Hills Trout Hatchery: The “Shepherd of the Hills Trout Hatchery,” is less than ten minutes from the famed Branson Strip at the foot of Table Rock Dam. The hatchery itself is part of a 211 acre “Conservation Center” with a wild life refuge, trails, boat launching ramp, picnic areas, and a Visitor Center.
It’s operated by the Missouri Department of Conservation and is visited by over a quarter of a million people annually. The hatchery itself is just part of the 211 acre “Conservation Center” with a wild life refuge, trails, boat launching ramp, and a Visitor Center.
The Visitor Center features an interesting nature display and a short video on the hatchery and the process involved with producing the trout that makes Lake Taneycomo one of the premier trout fisheries in the nation. There’s a huge aquarium with “lunker” Brown and Rainbow Trout.
Visitors are welcome to take self-guided tours of the “race ways,” by themselves during normal business hours. They will see thousands of trout in the various stages of development from the smallest to the large “brood stock” used to produce Lake Taneycomo’s trout.
The Visitor Center opens at 9:00 a.m. every day except, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.
These are just the free activities in one area of Branson! From grist mills, to scenic overlooks, feeding ducks and geese, “Dicks 5 & 10,” a free downtown trolley, and so much more, Branson has a wide range of free activities that families can enjoy together.