When it comes to spending time in the Ozarks, most out-of-towners are going to head towards Branson. It’s in the middle of the mountain range, is in within easy reach of so many of the best things to do in the region, and the city itself has so much to see and do. You’ve undoubtedly heard of many of the top activities, events, and destinations, but what about those off the beaten track?
If you love to discover places when they travel, or if you’ve already been to the Ozarks before and are looking for a different experience this time, then this guide is for you. It’s going to dive deep into the unusual, the hidden, and the local gems that make Branson so special.
Where to Stay to Make the Best Use Out of the Area Staying in Branson is already a great choice. Because of its size and location, you’re most likely to get a good deal at a hotel or resort in comparison to the smaller towns (the popular ones fill up fast). You’re also within easy reach of all the things you’ll want to get up to. The only question left is where to stay in Branson itself.
There are many great options, like Big Cedar Lodge, but if you’re looking for the best value experience (meaning low price, high-quality amenities) you’ll want Westgate. Click to visit their website, and see just what their two resorts offer and what kind of deals you can expect when you choose either of their 3-star hotels.
Getting Off the Beaten Track
The beaten track is absolutely worth doing in the Ozarks. The festivals at Silver Dollar City are worth your time, as are the live shows like Dolly Parton’s Parade. The only time you’ll want to venture further is if you want to add a little something extra to your trip’s itinerary, or if you’ve already done all the top things to do in the area and are hoping for something new. If this sounds like you, then it’s time to get off the beaten track and explore these top unusual things to do and see in and around Branson:
Red Oak II
Red Oak II is just an hour and a half outside of Branson, making it a great pick for your day trips. It also has one of the most fascinating histories in the area. Once upon a time, Lowell Davis, a famous artist from the area, grew up in the town of Red Oak. Sometime between moving out and coming back, the town became a ghost town. He decided to move back and resurrect it. To do this, he bought abandoned, beautiful homes from other ghost towns and dragged them back to Red Oak, where he spent his life restoring them.
Today, the area is a thriving artist community, with beautiful artwork, galleries, vintage cars, and antique buildings. It’s a great little place to explore. The town is free to explore, just remember to be respectful around the residential areas when taking pictures.
Bo’s Hollow is a bit further away, at two and a half hours, but it’s still very worthwhile for those looking for a unique experience. This town is more of an open-air museum, and it’s been recreated to look and feel like towns in the area did in the period between WW1 and WW2. The town itself was entirely built by the Borel family, who were originally passionate about buying and restoring old cars. That passion grew, and turned into them transforming and building their own period town.
Going there gives you a glimpse of the past, without the barriers of traditional museums. For example, you can book a car ride in a vintage Model A Ford, shop in the stores, or even mail a letter.
Topaz Mill is a great place for real history, but you’ll need to contact the family that owns it if you want to take a look around, since it is private property. However, they are happy to take guests through on a free tour, so it’s absolutely worth getting in touch.
Topaz Mill was once a small hamlet where farmers in the area would come in to get their corn and wheat ground at the mill. As they waited, those farmers would send mail, shop, or get their hair trimmed at the barbershop. All that is still standing with its original features, so it’s worth a look.
Daisies and Olives Flea Market
Now onto shopping. If you love antiques, you absolutely must go to Daisies and Olives Flea Market. This is a multi-building vintage and antique haven that is full of treasures. Those who love to hunt for treasures can spend hours upon hours in the space – but don’t worry, because there’s a café right across the street so that you can have a break and dive back in.
If you want a different music experience than what you can get in Branson itself, then you will absolutely want to head out to the Oldfield Opry. This is a metal sheet music venue that plays jam sessions with offbeat instruments like banjos and fiddles. When COVID hit, they took their music outside, and now offer a mix of both indoor and outdoor shows. If you do happen to catch an outdoor show, know you’ll want to bring a fold-out chair or picnic blanket to get comfortable.
World’s Largest Toy Museum
An off-beat toy museum that’s a delight for those who love the weird and eclectic is the World’s Largest Toy Museum, which is actually a collection of six different toy museums. Here you’ll see the National BB Gun Museum all the way to the Stearnsy Bear Museum. From antique toys to interactive visits, this toy museum is something else, and a great way to get away from the big crowds.
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