Category Archives: Branson

Ozarks, history, fun and adventure at The Shepherd of the Hills!

Scene from the “Shepherd of the Hills Outdoor Drama” with the burning of the cabin. Notice the outline of the distinctive Balknobbers’ masks.

Harold Bell Wright’s bestselling 1907 novel, “The Shepherd of the Hills,” about love, forgiveness, and life in the late 1800’s Ozarks was the real beginning of tourism in the Branson area. Since the publishing of the novel, the Shepherd of the Hills Homestead and its surrounding environs, where Wright wrote his novel and whose people and life it was about, has been bringing tourists to the Ozarks and Branson.

It was made even more so when the spectacular outdoor production, The Shepherd of the Hills Outdoor Drama started performing in the Ole Mill Theatre in a hollow on the Homestead in 1960. The drama presents Wright’s novel in an exciting action packed production with a cast of more than 90 performers; dozens of animals including, horses, donkeys, mules, and sheep presented in an outdoor amphitheater, covered by the stars, and surrounded by the very hills Wright wrote about. This legendary tale of love, Ozarks life and heritage is something that inspires as it entertains and will be remembered for a lifetime.

Today, thanks to the innovation of its owners, both current and past, the Shepherd of the Hills Homestead is a multifaceted entertainment complex offering a variety of excitement entertainment from an adventure park to ziplines, historical tours, and more with something for every member of the family. These include:

The Shepherd of the Hills Historic Homestead Tour: A fantastic daytime activity touring the historic Homestead and set where one of Branson’s favorite nighttime shows happens! The tour sets the stage for the outdoor drama, The Shepherd of the Hills, and gives you a behind-the-scenes glimpse into this legendary production and much more. You’ll take a tram across the trail of the homestead with an experienced guide, learning interesting details about a number of different landmarks, including Old Matt’s Cabin, the original home of the story’s main characters. It visits Inspiration Point, the site is where Wright compiled the notes for his book, and see statues of the key characters in the story and a monument honoring Harold Bell Wright, the author of ” The Shepherd of the Hills.” The tour includes visits to the site of Old Matt’s Grist Mill, where the “Old Mill Theatre” was carved into its wooded setting, as well as a visit to Jenning’s Still for an authentic, and comical, look into the lost art of making moonshine! The Shepherd of the Hills Historic Homestead Tour is a great way to set the stage for seeing the spectacular outdoor production of The Shepherd of the Hills Outdoor Play and discover a bit about the historical past of the Ozark’s hill folk of the Branson Area.


Shepherd of the Hills ATV Adventure

Shepherd with the Hills ATV Adventures: An ATV experience like no other, with two different “adventures” from which to saelect. Beginners to ATV’s can take a single hour excursion. The first 30 minutes includes instruction, tips, and practice on how to operate the ATV on pavement. The last 30 minutes is fun and adventure into the backwoods trails of the Homestead. If one hour’s not enough there is an hour and a half excursion including one “hour of deep off-roading that’ll make the hair on the back of your neck stand on end.” All the off road trail rides, excursions, are a guided and led by Shepherd of the Hills staff.

Shepherd of the Hills Inspiration Tower: This iconic tower is 230 feet tall and sits on top of an Ozarks’ mountain high above beautiful Ozarks scenery and Branson. Constructed in 1989 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of famed author, Harold Bell Wright, the impressive structure incorporates more than 92,000 pounds of steel, can withstand a continual wind of 172 miles per hour or gusts of up to 224 miles per hour and includes more than 4,400 square feet of glass; enough to cover a third of a football field.

A glass elevator takes you up to the spacious, enclosed observation deck where you will see panoramic views that’ll leave you breathless! In any season, the view is spectacular, but there’s just something extra special about the spring and fall. On clear days you can see over 90 miles away! Its ground floor has a great gift shop filled with souvenirs and handy travel items, to a snack bar, and restrooms.


Shepherd of the Hills Adventure Park’s Rope Course.

The Shepherd of the Hills Adventure Park features a Zipline Canopy Tour, Rope Course, and Lil Pete’s Playland. They offer a choice of fun and adventure for every member of the family.

For more information on all the fun, excitement, adventure, and entertainment that the Shepherd of the Hills offers or any of Branson’s other shows and attractions, or for lodging arrangements, please contact the Branson Tourism Center (BTC), one of Branson’s largest and most respected vacation planning services. BTC has sold over 5 million Branson show and attraction tickets; is proudly located in Branson, and is a BBB A+ accredited business. It and may be contacted by calling 1-800-785-1550 or visiting

What’s an ideal family day in Branson?

“Amazing Pets!” is a great way for a family to start an ideal day in Branson!

For many, “an ideal family day in Branson would be one where the whole family had fun and made great memories together.” The great news is that with all the live shows, attractions, shopping, and other things that Branson has to see and do that’s not hard to have happen, but what would an ideal family day in Branson consist of, in terms of activities for the whole family to enjoy together?

There obviously is no one right answer because of the variables that could come into play such as weather, age of children, budget limitations, etc. Although there’s many different ways to plan an ideal family day in Branson, here’s one approach; dividing the day into three time periods Morning, Afternoon, and Evening with suggestions for an Attraction and one or more Shows for each time period.


Attraction: Fun Spot Farm Mini Golf is a unique course offering fun for everyone in the family. It hass “two different 18 hole courses featuring life size whimsical and animated farm animals, a milk shed, water tower, horse barn, ponds, windmill, outhouse and a chicken coop. Sensors bring this outdoor course to life by setting off sound effects and animations throughout the game. It’s the first course in Branson to feature a championship style layout. Dependent upon skill levels, players putt into one of two cups, making the course playable for beginners and small children, while creating a challenge for the most advanced players.”

Show: Amazing Pets features dogs, cats, and beautiful flying birds delighting the audience with their performance. Trainer Valery Tsoraev has combined the antics of his well-trained cats and dogs, with costuming, and choreography into a unique unbeatable entertainment experience that kids, as well as the adults who brought them, just love. The interaction between the show’s host, the affable “Apple Jack,” played “from the heart” by Shannon Thomason, and the audience is filled with fun and keeps things moving along between the animal acts. It’s a show made even more special because over 80% of the dogs and cats in it were recused by Valery and his family from shelters.


Attraction: Main Street Lake Cruises Lake Queen is a 140 passenger riverboat replica offering a one of a kind sightseeing cruise on Branson’s beautiful Lake Taneycomo. Your well-informed, extensively trained, and certified boat captain guides you safely along the flowing waters of the river-like lake, while sharing stories about the lake, landmarks you’ll encounter along the way, and the wildlife that make their home on this unique lake. You will see birds, water fowel, and other wildlife that abound on Lake Taneycomo and its shoreline; these sightings may include deer, River Otters, the Great Blue Heron, and Bald Eagles, among others. Amazing natural bluffs dating back eons of time, and the spectacular majesty of Ozark vistas, not seen by the vast majority of the millions of visitors who come to Branson each year, will also be seen, along with a view of Branson Landing and its water and fire fountain show that’s as unique as it is beautiful and inspiring.

“Reza, Edge of Illusion” gives a fresh cutting edge to magic and illusions.

Show: Reza Edge of Illusion will bewitch your sense of reality with unbelievable magic. You’ll see some of “the old-style tricks; the disappearing birds, or the beautiful assistant being sawed in half, but don’t expect the just the predictable . “Reza’s fresh, cutting edge, and out to change the world’s perception of the centuries-old art of magic.” The whole family will be entertained and amazed by this show!


Attraction: See the night time lights and splendor of the Branson Strip and surrounding Ozarks from lofty heights of The Branson Ferris Wheel. Chicago’s iconic “Navy Pier Ferris Wheel” now resides at its new home, at Track 4 of The Track Family Fun Parks along with the four story 1,200 foot long “Heavy Metal” Go Kart Track and many other rides and amusements. The Branson Ferris Wheel has 40 gondolas, holds 240 riders, is 150 feet tall, and illuminates the night time Ozark’s sky with “Electify,” a 16,000 LED music and light spectacular.


One of Branson’s hottest shows, the “Million Dollar Quartet.”


In its 4th smash-hit season, the MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET has been one of Branson’s hottest shows for over three seasons. It’s an incredible musical and entertainment experience based on the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical and the amazing true story of a unique one time recording session that took place in the storefront studio of Sun Records on December 4, 1956. Sam Phillips, the owner of Sun Records and the “Father of Rock ‘n’ Roll,” brought together icons Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins in what turned out to be an impromptu night of unforgettable music. Add great sets, a talented energetic cast, a touch of drama and romance, music that everyone knows and loves, and the result is an unforgettable night of entertainment for the whole family.

Amazing Acrobats of Shanghai features acrobatic feats so phenomenal; you won’t believe your eyes! This cast is a troupe of China’s finest and most elegant athletes performing acrobatic feats requiring an amazing array of skills. The stunning costumes, the beautiful backdrops, and an entire theater, custom-designed for the acrobats, from the stage, to the sound to the lighting, provides the perfect showcase for their talents.

In our discussion of an ideal family day in Branson we did not mention Branson’s oldest and most popular attraction, the 1880s themed amusement park, Silver Dollar City. With its combination of more than 40 rides and attractions, its new coaster “Time Traveler,” the world’s tallest, steepest and fastest complete-circuit spinning roller coaster; 100 resident craftsmen; Marvel Cave; shows; and festival related activities; this award winning amusement park is in and of itself the place for an ideal family day in Branson and should not be missed!

With all the shows, attractions, free things Branson has to offer there is almost an infinite number of ways to plan an ideal day for your family in Branson. Please feel to contact one of the Branson Tourism Center’s Branson-based Vacation Specialists, who will be delighted to help you plan the ideal Branson vacation, by calling 1-800-785-1550 or through their website

Six reasons why you should visit Branson during Christmas Week in Branson

Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer leads the “Holly Jolly Christmas Light Parade” during Silver Dollar City’s “Old Time Christmas.”

“Many think there’s not much to do in Branson during Christmas Week, the week between Christmas and New Year Day,” said Preston Garrison, Director of Operations for the Branson Tourism Center. “Not the case at all. Although many of Branson’s shows are closed, many of its most popular shows are open; as is Silver Dollar City with its Old Time Christmas; and most of Branson’s attractions. From butterflies and tigers, to drive through Christmas lighting displays, acrobats, museums, world class shopping, New Year’s Eve celebrations second to none, and so much more; if you’re looking for excitement, fun, and entertainment during your Christmas vacation then Christmas Week in Branson is the place for you!” he added.

1.  Branson Shows – Although many of Branson’s shows are closed for the season, some of Branson’s most popular shows will be open during Branson’s Christmas Week presenting the live entertainment Branson is noted for. This includes, in alphabetical order, The Acrobats of China, Amazing Pets, Clay Cooper’s Country Music Express, Comedy Jamboree, Dixie Stampede, Grand Jubilee, Hamner’s Unbelievable Variety, Million Dollar Quartet, The Haygoods, Hughes Brothers Christmas Show, Legends in Concert, Pierce Arrow, The Miracle of Christmas, and the Showboat Branson Belle, and others.

2.  Silver Dollar City’s Old Time Christmas Festival: Silver Dollar City’s Old Time Christmas Festival is one of the Nation’s top Christmas events. Its spectacular display of millions of Christmas lights throughout the park, entertainment, parade, Broadway style shows, and much more has been recognized and featured nationally by USA Today, CNN Travel, The Travel Channel, Good Morning America and many others.

The award winning 1880s styled theme park glitters against the Ozarks sky with over 6.5 million sparkling Christ lights, including 1.5 million added just this year for its new light spectacular “Christmas in Midtown” and is filled with shows; crafts; unique shopping; food; weather permitting, dozens of exciting rides and demonstrating craftsmen; and other activities. At dusk, each evening, something special begins to happen in the Square on Main Street. First, the 5-Story Special Effects Christmas Tree comes to life, with its 350,000 colorful sparkling LED lights, choreographed to Christmas music, and making over 100 light changes per second. “The most famous reindeer of all” leads Rudolph’s Holly Jolly™ Christmas Light Parade with its nine musical floats, illuminated with 200,000 ultra-bright LED lights; 33 colorful costumed characters, including Bumble the Abominable Snow Monster, 14-foot moose characters, 12-foot tall elves and 10-foot candy canes, plus penguins, elves and a troupe of marching wooden soldiers.”

3.  Spectacular Christmas Lighting Displays: Although Christmas Day is past, the major drive through Christmas lighting displays will remain open through December 31. This includes the Shepherd of the Hills Trail of Lights, Branson’s Gift of Lights and the giant 30 foot nativity scene on top of Mount Branson overlooking Lake Taneycomo and historic downtown Branson.

4.  Branson Attractions – The vast majority of Branson’s attractions will be open. This includes its oldest and most popular paid attraction, the international award winning Silver Dollar City presenting its “Old Time Christmas;” the Titanic Museum Attraction decked out for its beautiful “Edwardian Christmas;” the unique White Flight exhibit at the Butterfly Palace & Rainforest Adventure; National Tiger Sanctuary; Promised Land Zoo and others.

5.  Branson Shopping – Branson’s legendary shopping is “always” open and Branson’s Christmas Week is no exception. From the unique “Branson Landing,” with its 100 retail stores, to the shops of Historic Downtown Branson, featuring “Dicks 5 & 10;” outlet malls such as “Tanger Outlet” and “The Meadows” and specialty shops offering arts and crafts and one of a kind items, Branson’s Christmas week shopping should not only satisfy the most avid shopper, but just might have a few “after Christmas sales” to boot.

6.  New Years Eve – In addition to other New Years Eve celebrations, among other, the following shows will have special New Year’s Eve celebrations:

Dec 30:  Hughes Brothers New Years Eve Party
Dec 31:  Main Street Lake Cruises Landing Princess
Dec 31:  Legends in Concert
Dec 31:  Bill Anderson & Friends New Years Eve Show
Dec 31:  Americana New Year’s Eve Show
Dec 31:  Clay-Goods Jambor-Eve
Dec 31:  Hamners’ Unbelievable Variety (New Year’s Eve Fiesta)
Dec 31:  Pierce Arrow

BTC’s Garrison points out that the off season scheduling of shows, limited seating and the fact that some Branson lodging facilities are closed requires some advance planning. He suggests that an easy way to avoid problems, save time and, in many cases money, is by simply calling the Branson Tourism Center, toll free at 1-800-785-1550 and talking with one of their Branson based Travel Planners who will be delighted to answer any questions and assist in making any show or lodging reservations. There is absolutely no charge for this service.


Is Mother Nature’s “Fall Foliage Show” Branson’s greatest show?

View from Taney County 165 Lookout looking up Lake Taneycomo toward Table Rock Dam.

“Don’t know about that; Branson has some awesome live shows,” said Preston Garrison, Director of Operations for the Branson Tourism Center, with a big grin. “But it’s a spectacular sight as ‘Mother Nature’ turns the foliage surrounding Branson into a kaleidoscope of beautiful colors.”

One of the most common questions we’re asked is, “When does the Fall foliage season start and end?” “It generally starts in the middle of September and peaks during the last two weeks of October,” said Greg Cassell, Research Forester, with the Missouri Department of Conservation. He points out that the leaves will turn and fall during that period, but that their color depends on the type of tree and, most of all, the weather.

Cassell feels like the moisture we have been getting throughout the summer is setting the Ozarks up for a great fall foliage season. If that continues through the middle of September, without a lot of persistently hot dry weather, all that’s left is some warm sunny days followed by cool nights to bring out those beautiful fall colors everyone delights in seeing.

He said that, assuming Mother Nature cooperates, the colors people will see will vary with the type of trees currently changing color. Typically, the Sassafras, and Sumac are the first to start changing color. They’re followed the Black Gum, Bittersweet, and Dogwood with the Ashes, Oaks, Hickories, and Maples later in the season. He said the best color will be in the older more mature trees with the colors on the Maple being particularly vibrant and beautiful.

Another question commonly asked is, “Where’s the best place to view the fall foliage?” “Simply put, wherever you are!” Sure, there’s many scenic vistas where you see large areas of color, but chances are you are within sight of beautiful fall foliage just about anywhere in Branson. The fall foliage in and around Silver Dollar City, the bluffs across from Branson Landing, and just driving around Branson are beautiful. That said, here are some specific suggestions for viewing and enjoying Branson’s fall foliage:

Main Street Lake Cruises Lake Queen – A sightseeing cruise aboard Lake Queen is a great experience any time of the year. As you relax aboard the paddle-wheel river boat replica, Lake Queen, and cruise beautiful Lake Taneycomo, opportunities will abound to see Bald Eagles, Blue Herons, and wildlife; amazing natural bluffs carved out by the White River over the eons of time; and spectacular Ozarks’ vistas that the vast majority of the millions of visitors who come to Branson each year never get to see. Each trip is a show produced by Mother Nature that’s unlike anything else available in Branson. That’s even more so when you factor in the spectacular vibrancy and beauty of the fall foliage. The narrowness of Lake Taneycomo lets you see it up close, while at the same time providing scenic panoramic views around just about every “bend.”

Scenic Lookouts – Many “Scenic Lookouts” provide superb panoramic views of the Ozark’s fall foliage. These include the Lookouts on Taney County Route 165, about a mile south of its intersection with State Route 265; the Table Rock Dam Overlook, located on the south end of Table Rock Dam across the road from the Visitors Center, and the Henning Conservation Area Lookout located about a mile west of the junction of State Route 76 and State Route 376 on the north side of the road.

Point Lookout – Located on the campus of the College of the Ozarks on top of a bluff overlooking Lake Taneycomo, “Point Lookout” provides a breath taking and unique view of Branson’s fall foliage with Lake Taneycomo winding through it. It also has a number of mature Maples that are really spectacular. While at the college you might want to plan to eat at the Keeter Center and visit the “Edwards Grist Mill” and the Ralph Foster Museum.

Ozark Mountain Highroad – Greg Cassell suggests that the entire length of the Ozark Mountain Highroad, State Route 465, is an excellent way to experience the beauty of our Ozarks’ fall foliage. That experience can be extended if you exit west off the Highroad onto Highway 76, follow it west and turn south onto Highway 265, and follow it across Table Rock Dam to the Table Rock Dam Overlook.

Branson Tourism Center’s Garrison also points out that a cruise on the Showboat Branson Belle, on Table Rock Lake, or a ride on the Branson Scenic Railway also provide unique views of Branson’s fall foliage. He says that the fall foliage season, coupled with Silver Dollar City’s National Craft & Cowboy Festival, is a busy time and recommends that advanced reservations be made for shows, attractions and lodging.

For more information on the fall foliage in Branson or assistance with information or tickets for any of Branson’s shows and attractions or for lodging arrangements, please contact the Branson Tourism Center by calling 1-800-785-1550 or through its website,


Presleys’ next generations carry on 50 years of entertainment passion

They’ve come a long way! Third generation Presleys: Eric, Scott, and Greg, performing as “Herkimer” with their dad, in one of their earliest show performances.

From their first performance in Branson’s first show on the now famous Branson Strip, on June 30, 1967, generations of Presleys have been entertaining Branson audiences with their one of a kind show. Over the past 50 years, millions of Branson visitors have enjoyed Presleys’ Country Jubilee and the talents of the Presley family, making it one of Branson’s most popular shows and a Branson icon.

That first show featured first and second generation Presleys, Lloyd Presley, his two sons, Gary and Steve, and his two daughters Deanna and Janice. As they start their second 50 years in Branson, the show still features two of performers performing in that first show, comedian Gary “Herkimer” Presley and drummer, Steve Presley. As important, if not more so, is the addition of third and fourth generation Presleys which has enabled the show to evolve and maintain its iconic status and popularity.

The shows two main elements are comedy and music, and no show in Branson does them better than Presleys’ Country Jubilee. For over 50 years and counting, the linchpin of the comedy has been Gary Presley as “Herkimer.” His son Eric, has been part of the act playing “Little Herkimer” since he was three years old and later developing his own character named “Cecil.” Through the years they have entertained audiences with a familial comedic synergy and humor that is as funny as it is unduplicatable. Along the way, Eric has integrated some of his own unique comedy and routines. Most recently, they have been joined by Eric’s son “Ben” insuring the continuation of that one of a kind Presley comedy for generations to come.

It was a tradition of Presley family musical talent that got the Presleys into the entertainment business. That talent can be traced directly back to Lloyd Presley’s mother, Mamie, who loved the harmonica. Lloyd began his musical career with the “Ozark Playboys,” and his kids, growing up in that musical environment, began playing of their own volition. In 1962, they started performing with their dad every Saturday night in Springfield’s Fantastic Caverns.

Gary Presley, is an accomplished guitar player. When he first started with his dad in 1962, he did it playing the guitar. His comedy career as “Herkimer” was to start a short while later. His son, Scott, following in the footsteps of his dad and grandfather, delights audiences nightly as the lead guitar player in the show. Greg, reflecting the passion his great grandmother Mamie had for the harmonica, consistently amazes audiences with what he can do with the harmonica.

Ten year old John Presley, in one of his earliest show performances.

The Presley tradition and passion for music continues with John, Steve’s son. He is the pianist and keyboard player in Presleys’ Country Jubilee and does many of the shows musical arrangements. John’s wife, the lovely and extremely talented, Ambrus Presley, is one of the shows featured vocalists and one of the finest female vocalists on any stage anywhere.

Although Gary and Steve Presley are listed as producers of the show, they both quickly admit that their sons are a big reason the show continues to be successful. The third generation’s innovations and blending of technology, music and comedy, helps keep the show relevant and on the cutting edge of today’s musical entertainment.

Fourth generation Presleys continue the family’s musical tradition of performing in the show. Joining their cousin Ben performing on stage each night Scott’s sons, Brett, 17, plays the bass and Zach, 15, plays, drums for the finale of the show.

There have never been any “stars” featured in Presleys’ Country Jubilee. For four generations, and over 50 years, it’s just been “the Presleys” sharing their talent, love for each other, and their passion for comedy and music with Branson audiences. What a great tradition and way to start the next 50 years of “the Presleys” and the phenomenal Presleys’ Country Jubilee!


Steve Presley – 50-year Branson journey starts on a log drum stool playing a snare drum

Steve Presley, age 10, playing snare drum while sitting on a log seat.

When you are watching Presleys’ Country Jubilee you probably won’t notice the drummer any more than any other instrumentalist on the stage. When you do notice him, the first thing you will see is his smile which, along with playing drums, is what Steve Presley has done on stage since he was ten years old.”

Well maybe in the beginning, the word “drums” would be a slight exaggeration. Oh, he was still the “drummer,” it’s just that the drummer was playing a single snare drum while sitting on a tree log with a piece of wood nailed on top for a drum stool. It was even a little more challenging than that.

In 1967, at age ten he left his friends in Springfield to move to an isolated spot on Highway 76, where his family was building Branson’s first live music theatre. At this point, Steve’s life was changed forever.

He went to school days, helped in the theatre, drummed in the show, and discovered the Ozarks outdoors and squirrels. In his free time, he hunted squirrels and other small game in “tick-heavy brush” near the theatre on the family’s property. He remembers walking across, the usually untraveled, Highway 76, to one of the few businesses in the area, “Jones Hardware Store” to buy BBs for his Daisy BB gun.

From the very first performance of the Presleys in their new theatre, Steve has been the drummer and so much more. Like his older brother and sisters, he did whatever was necessary to help the show succeed.

He sold tickets from the screened in back porch of the family home and a little “outhouse” looking ticket booth, in the front of the theatre; helped his dad and sister, Janice, clean the theatre after shows; and got his first job in marketing, walking through the campgrounds in the Branson area handing out Presleys’ brochures. Another “marketing” job was putting paper bumper stickers on the cars at intermission with masking tape. It took keen hearing, timing and quickness however. When he’d hear the bass guitar start playing for the second half of the show he’d run back into the theatre and start playing the drum again.

Over 50 years later, the drums have changed, but not his love of playing them or his smile.

Over the last 50 years a lot has changed. Jones Hardware is long gone and Highway 76, filled with theatres, attractions, businesses, and non-stop traffic, has become the famous “Branson Strip.” His single snare drum and log drum seat have been replaced by a high tech electronic drum set atop a platform at center stage. One thing has not changed however, his love for playing the drums, which he has been doing continuously in Presleys’ Country Jubilee for over 50 years.

In 1976, he made one of the best decisions of his life when he married his long-time sweetheart, Raeanne Miller. While both were attending Branson High School, Raeanne worked as an usher at “Presleys’ Theatre.” Together, in addition to raising a family, their involvement at the theatre and with the show, they have unstintingly given of themselves in serving the Branson community and its entertainment industry. Among other things, Steve was the volunteer chairman of the Advertising Committee for the Branson CVB for over 20 years, retiring from that role about four years ago. Raeanne served in many public service positions, most recently as the Mayor of Branson.

Oh, and that smile you see while he’s playing. It’s the genuine smile of a man reflecting his love for what he is doing and being able to do it with his family.

Highway 65 construction impact on travel between I-44 and Branson this summer

“The announced renovation of Highway 65 in Springfield is scheduled to start on July 10,” said Preston Garrison, Director of Operations for the Branson Tourism Center. “The southbound Highway 65 exits, from both the east and west are scheduled to be closed the weeks of July 10 and July 17. There will be no impact on the northbound lanes during that period, he added.

Angela Eden, Senior Communications Specialist for the Southwest District of the Missouri Department of Transportation said that it’s a major $10.8 million project. It includes rebuilding the outside two lanes in each direction between Kearney and Sunshine Streets and other work.

In addition to the southbound exit closures, Highway 65 will be closed, one direction and location at a time, at various times, between Kearney and Sunshine Streets in Springfield. The northbound lanes will be open through the Week of July 31while the southbound lanes are being worked on. The southbound lanes will be open after the Week of July 31 while the northbound lanes are worked.

The official “signed detour” is I-44 to Route 360/60 (James River Freeway) at Exit #69. Once on the James River Freeway, follow it east and exit onto Highway 65 south. Reverse the process when traveling to I-44 from Branson. Garrison expects no impact for those traveling to and from the west on I-44. For them, ‘The James River Freeway,’ at Exit 69, is an ideal route,” he said. He points out that those traveling from and to the east will have about 15 to 20 minutes added to their trip using the “signed detour.”

Although there are alternative routes to the official “signed detour,” he advises their use only by those familiar with the area. It provides a clean shot to and from and to I-44 with no stop lights or exposure to local Springfield’s traffic which will also be detouring around the construction.

Here’s the specific closure dates and segments of Highway 65 impacted by the construction during those dates:

Week of July 10 into Week of July 31- Southbound Lanes:

Week of July 10– The westbound I-44-to-southbound Route 65 ramp and the eastbound I-44-to-southbound Route 65 ramp will be closed as well southbound Route 65 between Kearney Street and Division Street.

Week of July 17– The westbound I-44-to-southbound Route 65 ramp and the eastbound I-44-to-southbound Route 65 ramp will be closed as well southbound Route 65 Division Street and the Chestnut Expressway.

Week of July 24 into the Week of July 31– Southbound Route 65 will be closed between Chestnut Expressway and Sunshine Street.

Week of July 10 through Week of July 31- Northbound Lanes: There will be no impact on northbound travel on Highway 65 between Branson and I-44

Week of August 7 into Week of August 28- Northbound Lanes

Week of August 7– Northbound Route 65 will be closed between Sunshine Street and Chestnut Expressway.

Week of August 14– Northbound Route 65 will be closed between Chestnut Expressway and Division Street.

Week of August 21 into the Week of August 28- Northbound Route 65 will be closed between Division Street and Kearney Street.

Week of August 7 into the Week of August 28- South Bound Lanes: There will be no impact on south bound travel on Highway 65 between Branson and I-44.

For more information, please feel free to call one of Branson Tourism Center’s Branson based Travel Planners at 1-866-593-9740. They’ll also answer questions about Branson including its shows, hotels, and attractions as well as assist with reservations. There is no charge for this service and they are available daily, except Christmas Day, from 9:00 AM to 8.00 PM.


Best Branson Insider Highlights for July 2017

Families will enjoy the spectacular magic of “Illusionist Rick Thomas.”

“One of the greatest joys of July in Branson is to see so many families creating wonderful vacation memories. Branson overflows with the vibrancy of families together, experiencing the unique fun, excitement, and spirit of Branson,” said Annette Wood, Director of Sales and Marketing for the Branson Tourism Center. “From spectacular firework displays, to lakes, over 120 live shows, rides, water parks, golf, and more, there’s just so much to see and do in Branson.” She added.

Along with our Highlight List, containing some of the best of what’s going on in Branson during July, here’s our Featured Show, Limited Engagement, and Event of the Month:

Featured Show of the Month: If your family wants to have a great time together, enjoys magic, stunning illusions and spectacular beauty, you don’t want to miss the Illusionist Rick Thomas Show. With headline shows in Las Vegas, years of successful tours around the world, and the honor of the Academy of Magical Arts awarding him its “Stage Magician of the Year Award,” he’s at the top of the magic game. His unique ability to keep audiences of all ages and walks of life simultaneously spellbound throughout his performance is “magical.”

Hit Las Vegas show, “Raiding the Rock Vault,” comes to Branson for a limited engagement.

Featured Limited Engagement of the Month: Raiding the Rock Vault goes back in time on a magical musical journey. That journey takes you from 1960 to 1990, with classics from The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Doors, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, The Eagles, Queen, AC/DC, Deep Purple, Van Halen, Journey, Heart, Free, Aerosmith and others. Experience history of rock ‘n’ roll as it comes to life in this live rock and roll concert featuring a stunning light show, video screen, dancers and high-quality concert sound production.

Featured Event of the Month: Silver Dollar City’s Star-Spangled Summer Festival offers family fun and entertainment you won’t find anywhere else. See the world famous Harlem Globetrotters perform their one of a kind show for their final season at Silver Dollar City, your favorite cartoon characters, Chris Perondi’s Stunt Dog Experience, and much more! And that’s beside everything else Silver Dollar City offers. The 1880s styled them park has over 40 thrilling rides and attractions including “The World’s Most Daring Wood Coaster,” Outlaw Run, demonstrating craftsmen, shows, and other activities.

Limited Engagement Highlights (Sorted by starting date)

Jul 5: T. G. Sheppard & Kelly Lang
Jul 6-22: Raiding the Rock Vault

Special Event Highlights (Sorted by starting date.)

Jul 1-Sep 4: Branson Landing’s Annual School Shoes For Kids
Jul 1-16: Silver Dollar City Star-Spangled Summer
Jul 1: Rockaway Beach Centennial Car & Bike Show
Jul 1: 30th Annual Fireburst Fireworks Celebration
Jul 1-4: Tanger 4th of July Weekend Sale
Jul 1-7: Ballparks of America – Week 6 Independence Day Boomer 10U-13U
Jul 1-3: Rockaway Beach 4th of July Weekend
Jul 2: Independence Day Celebration – Galena, MO
Jul 2: Chateau on the Lake Fourth of July Celebration
Jul 3: Branson Landing’s Annual Liberty Light Up Fireworks Show
Jul 3-4:
Main Street Lake Cruises – July 3rd & 4th Fireworks Cruises
Jul 4: Rockin’ Rockaway Beach 4th of July Celebration
Jul 4: Firecracker 5000 Run
Jul 4: Hollister’s Annual 4th of July Celebration
Jul 4: 4th of July Celebration at Branson Auto & Farm Museum
Jul 6-22: Limited Engagement – Raiding the Rock Vault
Jul 8-14: Ballparks of America – Week 7 Mid-Summer Classic 10U-13U
Jul 14: The Dan Benton Band – Live in Concert
Jul 15-21: Ballparks of America – Week 8 The 76 Strip Sizzle 10U-13U
Jul 15-Jul 30: Silver Dollar City Moonlight Madness
Jul 22-Jul 23: Branson in July! Antique Festival of the Ozarks
Jul 22-Jul 28: Ballparks of America – Week 9 Missouri Heat Classic 10U-13U
Jul 28: The Mark Chapman Band – Live in Concert
Jul 28-Aug 12: Summer Movies in the Park at the Branson RecPlex
Jul 29-Aug 4: Ballparks of America – Week 10 Back to School Bash 12U-13U

For additional information on these events, Branson’s shows and attractions, or lodging please contact the Branson Tourism Center by visiting, or calling 1-800-785-1550 and talking with a Branson-based vacation planning specialist. They will be delighted to answer any questions, and assist you with show or lodging reservations and there’s absolutely no charge for this service.


Three free Branson outings for families to enjoy!

Table Rock Lake’s Dewey Short Visitors Center on south end of Table Rock Dam.

“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.

Raceways at the Shepherd of the Hills Hatchery contain hundreds of thousand Rainbow and Brown Trout.

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.

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.

Wouldn’t your family enjoy Memorial Day Weekend in Branson?

Silver Dollar City’s “Wildfire”, the Branson Ferris Wheel, Ride the Ducks, and the Million Dollar Quartet are just a few of the many ways to have fun in Branson.

“Memorial Day Weekend in Branson is a unique exciting experience,” said Preston Garrison, Director of Operations for the Branson Tourism Center. “Oh, there’s other places with world-class theme parks, natural outdoor beauty, lakes, live shows, and attractions, but there’s few, if any, that have them all so conveniently located. Branson does!” he added.

Garrison says that not only is it the first “long summer weekend,” but it’s the “official” beginning of Branson’s summer outdoor season. Its spectacular lakes and natural outdoor beauty are in their full splendor. All Branson’s live shows and attractions are open, and ready to provide its visitors with a special experience not available anywhere else.

The proof’s in the pudding! From its oldest and most popular attraction, the 1880s styled Silver Dollar City, to its world-class live shows, and lakeside shopping and entertainment venue, Branson Landing, Branson is unique. What other tourist destination offers everything Branson does? All amid the natural wonder and beauty of a place like the Ozarks, and less than five minutes from a pristine 43,000 acre lake?

All of Branson’s most popular live shows are performing over the Memorial Day Weekend. * These include:

Acrobats of China
Amazing Pets
Broadway’s Greatest Hits
Clay Cooper’s Country Express
Comedy Jamboree
Dublin’s Irish Tenors and The Celtic Ladies
Grand Jubilee
The Haygoods
Illusionist Rick Thomas
it starring the Hughes Brothers
Legends in Concert
Main Street Lake Cruises Landing Princess
Main Street Lake Cruises Lake Queen
Million Dollar Quartet
New Jersey Nights
Ozarks Country
Ozarks Gospel
Pierce Arrow
Presleys’ Country Jubilee
Puttin On The Ritz
Raiding the Country Vault
Shoji Tabuchi

“Few world-class theme parks in the world have become part of the natural beauty surrounding them,” said Garrison. “Silver Dollar City has!” The view from the top of the loops of its world class coaster “Wildfire” spectacularly illustrates this remarkable achievement.

Silver Dollar City’s Bluegrass and BBQ Festival, features over 50 Bluegrass bands and groups. These groups present hundreds of performances throughout the park. Performers appearing over the Memorial Day Weekend include 14-time Grammy Award-winner Ricky Skaggs; Blue Highway; and many more.* The festival’s House of BBQ and Pitmaster’s Court offer a variety of mouthwatering BBQ. There’s demonstrations from grilling experts and an impressive selection of BBQ sauces, and more, to browse. As well as the Festival, Silver Dollar City offers all the shows, rides, craft demonstrations, and more, that makes it one of the top theme parks in the nation.

Table Rock Lake offers 43,000 surface acres of potential aquatic fun, excitement, and adventure. Memorial Day Weekend is the unofficial kick off a summer of fun on the lake including sunbathing, swimming, boating, water skiing, scuba diving, and just about any other summer water activity a person would want.

Branson’s biggest water park, White Water, opens for its 2017 season on May 27. Its 12 acres and over 7,000 feet of water slides, offer more than two million gallons of water excitement and fun to enjoy. There’s an adventure for every member of the family. There’s “Splashaway Cay” and “Coconut Grove” for the smaller children and toddlers. The more adventurous will enjoy the seven story “Kalani Towers and ” the drops and speed of rides such as “KaPau Plummet,” “Pipeline Plunge” or the “Raging River Rapids.”

“If it’s outdoors, golfing, ziplines, hiking, boating, fishing, biking and more, the chances are that Branson has it,” Branson Tourism Center’s Garrison said.  “It’s really neat how all the outdoor activities conveniently combine with Branson’s live shows, attractions, and everything else into a virtually seamless vacation experience.

There’s two major firework displays at dusk on Sunday evening, May 28. One is at the Chateau on the Lake, as part of its Memorial Day Celebration, and the other at Big Cedar Lodge, as part of its Patriotic Picnic and Fireworks event. The public is invited to both; with the best views from Table Rock Lake, the property’s grounds or, in the case of the Chateau on the Lake, the peninsula area located just north of the Table Rock Dam to the west of its auxiliary spillways on State Highway 165.

Garrison stresses that Memorial Day Weekend is one of Branson’s busiest. He suggests advance reservations to ensure availability of the best lodging and show seating. For more information or tickets for any of Branson’s shows and attractions, or for lodging arrangements, please contact the Branson Tourism Center by either calling their toll-free number 1-800-785-1550 or through their website

* Schedules subject to change and not all artists are appearing every day.