“Branson is one of the best vacation values in the country,” said Annette Wood, the Director of Sales and Marketing for the Branson Tourism Center. “It becomes even more so if the great value of its lodging, shows, and attractions is supplemented by one or more of the “free” activities available for visitors to enjoy,” she added.
From miles of trails, to a grist mill, scenic overlooks, and a $7.5 million synchronized fire; to water and music fountain show; a trout hatchery and much more, Branson has a variety of free activities for its visitors to enjoy. From among the many, here’s a list of three things selected especially for families with children:
1. Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery: The “Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery,” is located at the foot of Table Rock Dam. It is located just off State Highway 165, is operated by the Missouri Department of Conservation, and is part of a complex consisting of trails, a wild life refuge, 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. 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,” 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” used to produce them. The Visitor Center opens at 9:00 a.m. every day except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.
2. Historic Downtown Branson’s “Free Trolley:” The Free Trolley is a great way to get an overview and perspective of the historic downtown area, the Branson Convention Center, Branson Landing, and the Lake Taneycomo shoreline. It operates on a constant loop which passes 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 and the spot where the “Baldknobbers” performed Branson’s first live music show over half a century ago.
Although there are many places to board the trolley in historic downtown Branson, we would recommend boarding at Branson Landing, either at its southern end near Bass Pro Shops or its northern end by the Belk store. This avoids the two-hour parking limitations that cover most of the parking in the historic district. The trolley operates March-December daily, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. except on Thanksgiving and Christmas. In February, the schedule is Friday-Sunday, 11 a.m.to 5 p.m.
3. Feed the Lake Taneycomo Ducks and Geese: The “unofficial “duck feeding area, that most people coming to Branson never see, is located just south of Branson Landing in the shadow of Scotty’s Trout Dock, near the southeastern corner of the City of Branson’s Campground. Not only is it a lot of fun for the kids to feed the ducks and geese, it provides a unique one of a kind Branson photo opportunity.