“From live shows, to great attractions, and other activities, Branson is just filled with wonderful ways for families to have the best vacation ever,” said Preston Garrison, the Director of Operations for the Branson Tourism Center, one of Branson’s largest providers of tourism services and information. “Although most of Branson’s great shows and exciting attractions involve a charge, there are many things that families can enjoy together that are free,” he added.
Here’s a list of five, from among many, free things available in Branson, that we have selected because they represent a broad variety of things that families can enjoy together, are multi-age inclusive, are fun, and are either of a short duration or permit the flexibility to easily fit in with other activities such as shows and attractions or the attention span of younger children. In addition, items 1 through 3 are within five minutes of each other as are items 4 and 5:
1. Feed the Lake Taneycomo Ducks and Geese: Located directly in front of Scotty’s Trout Dock & Marina, near the public boat loading ramp on the southeastern corner of the City of Branson’s Camp Ground, is the “unofficial” duck feeding area that most people coming to Branson never see. “Scotty,” Lamar Patton, the owner of Scotty’s, pointed out that depending on the season, there are about 50 to 200 Mallard ducks, Canada Geese and other water fowl swimming around between his dock and the shoreline waiting for an easy meal.
Scotty sells bags of corn to feed them, but he points out that they will also eat bread and crackers etc. The duck feeding area is located just feet from the parking area and provides, what in the old days was called “a Kodak moment;” a wonderful opportunity to get some great pictures of the family feeding the ducks.
2. Historic Downtown Branson’s “Discovery Trolley:” The Trolley ride is a great way to get an overview and perspective of the historic downtown area, the Branson Convention Center and Branson Landing. Along the way, among other things, you will pass a number of Branson landmarks including the grave site of the man the city of Branson is named after, Ruben S. Branson; the Owens Theatre, Branson’s first theatre; the Branson Convention Center; Branson Landing; Lake Taneycomo and the spot where the “Baldknobbers” performed Branson’s first live music show over 53 years ago.
Stop #2 in historic downtown Branson, located on Commercial Street at the east end of the public parking lot at the southwest corner of Commercial and Atlantic Street, is an excellent place to board the trolley. You will have three hours free parking and the trolley will drop you right back where it picked you up after completing its 15 to 20 minute loop.
3. Dicks Oldtime 5 & 10 and Historic Downtown Branson: Historic Downtown Branson is an authentic downtown that’s a Branson attraction of the best kind, with fine art, flea markets, antiques, clothing and jewelry boutiques, cafes, music shows, and more. No visitor to Branson should miss downtown’s retail centerpiece, Dick’s Oldtime 5 & 10! You’ll be launched back to your childhood of visiting the local variety store, complete with green and white tiled floors, everyday household goods, and fun Branson souvenirs. Locals will tell you “if you don’t find it at Dick’s, it just can’t be found!”
4. Shepherd of the Hills Trout Hatchery: The “Shepherd of the Hills Trout Hatchery,” is located less than about ten minutes from the famed Branson Strip at the foot of Table Rock Dam just off of State Highway 165. It is operated by the Missouri Department of Conservation and is part of a complex occupying 211 acres along with a “Conservation Center” consisting of trails, a wild life refuge, and a Visitor Center that is visited by a quarter of a million plus visitors annually.
The inside of 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. It also has a huge aquarium with some “lunker” Brown and Rainbow Trout showing the size that some of the trout in Lake Taneycomo can reach.
Guided tours of the hatchery depart the Visitors Center from Memorial Day to Labor Day on weekdays at 10 and 11 a.m. and 1 and 2 p.m. Visitors are welcome to tour the “race ways,” “trout runs,” by themselves during normal business hours. They will see thousands of trout in the various stages of development from the smallest of trout to the large “brood stock” that is used to produce them. The Visitor Center opens at 9:00 a.m. every day except, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.
A short, early morning walk along one of their extremely accessible lakeside trails, just five or ten minutes, can provide a unique sight that will not be soon forgotten. In the early morning, the fog rising off of lake Taneycomo, because of the difference in its cold temperature and the warm air, is a beautiful thing to see as it interacts with winds and the rising sun.
5. The Dewey Short Regional Visitors Center at Table Rock Dam: The new $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” and for good reason. It is one of only 11 Class A visitor centers in the U.S. and offers an unparalleled view of two of Branson’s lakes, Table Rock Lake and Lake Taneycomo that can be seen from the floor to ceiling glass windows on the Table Rock Lake side of the building. Among other things, 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.
And that’s just five of the many free activities available. From grist mills, to scenic overlooks, a giant Bass kids can stand in, a $7.5 million synchronized fire, water and music show, nature and hiking trails, parks and more, Branson has a wide choice of free activities that families can enjoy together. For more information on these activities, Branson shows, attractions and lodging, please feel free to call the Branson Tourism Center toll free at 1-800-785-1550.