It’s been just over two decades since television’s 60 Minutes anointed Branson the "live music capital of the universe" and catapulted this southern Missouri town into the star attraction it is today.
And while now everyone knows Branson offers a constellation of classic country stars, it has branched out to offer a full menu of activity, hotel and F&B options.
“Many people are surprised by Branson,” says Deborah Cohen, CMP, director of meetings and convention sales for the Branson/Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce and CVB. “They may have a perception that we’re old-fashioned and in the backwoods, but what they find here are sophisticated hotels, great chefs and all genres of music. And yes, we still do country. It’s our roots, but there’s so much else.”
Golf courses, lakeside resorts and Branson Landing—the upscale riverfront development project that’s added fine-dining restaurants, the 220,000-square-foot Hilton Branson Convention Center and upscale shopping—are now in the local mix, and excursion companies offer zipline and Segway adventures amid spectacular mountain and lake scenery.
“We are certainly about much more than fried chicken and moonshine,” Cohen jokes, “but some groups with an interest in our traditional mountain culture love the new Copper Run Distillery and Tasting Room. It’s there they sample legal moonshine, whiskey and rum, and it’s run by a guy who really made moonshine during Prohibition.”
Local heritage and nostalgia also meld with contemporary thrills and surprises in the unique Silver Dollar City theme park. Its natural Marvel Cave spawned the park’s birth decades ago and still welcomes visitors to its subterranean world. But the cave today shares billing with a re-created Ozarks village, where blacksmithing and glassmaking continue in the shadows of Outlaw Run, a daring new wooden roller coaster. Silver Dollar City is also the place to enjoy a culinary and craft school that provides cooking lessons and tastings of traditional and contemporary recipes—yet another surprise in the ever-evolving destination of Branson.