Never in a million years did I picture Branson, Missouri, as the type of place that would have anything to offer children. Boy, was I wrong! You can certainly drop a load of money here, but there are also some free things that the whole family would be sure to enjoy as well:
This place is cool! They do a butterfly release twice a day, and we just happened to arrive at the perfect time. Because it was off-season, the boys were pretty much the only young kids, and were first to participate in the event.
There were about 30 cups with a newly hatched butterfly in each. The host explained a bit about how the butterflies arrived in Branson, and about their life span. Cups were passed around, and butterflies released to fly for the very first time. Many of them hung around for a little bit before taking off. The Butterfly Emporium was just awesome…lots of beautiful small and large butterflies flying everywhere, and landing on people too!
Great Banyan Tree
After we had enough of the butterflies, the boys ventured through the “Great Banyan Tree Adventure,” which consisted of slinking and maneuvering through a rainforest maze.
Living Rainforest Science Center
Next we made our way to the Living Rainforest Science Center for a “Critter Encounter”, where we watched and participated in the feeding of piranhas. Kyle insisted on attending this specifically for the chance to pet a lizard. On this particular day it was a gecko, called The Blue Tongue Skink, which did indeed have a bright blue tongue.
Maze of Mirrors
Besides the butterfly release, the favorite activity of the day, hands down, was the Maze of Mirrors. This is the best mirror maze that I’ve ever been in! You had better put your hands out in front of you, or I promise, you will indeed walk into a mirror. I heard several thumps to prove it. This was so much fun, we had to try it at least five times.
We skipped the movie this visit, but our admission was good for that day, as well as the following two days. We came back two days later, for free, and repeated our favorite activities.
A quick stop at the Celebrity Car Museum afforded us free pictures with Lightening McQueen and Tow Mater, who were parked just outside the Museum entrance.
Although we’ve been to many of these museums, they are always fun to visit. Each one is filled with fun optical illusions, interesting collections, and people with odd and unusual talents.
I was afraid a field trip to a local fish hatchery would bomb, but it had awesome online reviews, and happened to be one of our favorite stops. It was free to explore the Fish Hatchery museum, watch a movie, and learn about the trout and other animals in the area, including tarantulas and centipedes. Bring your quarters, because outside there are trout feeding opportunities, definitely the biggest hit with my kids.
Directly up the hill and around a few curves from the Butterfly Palace is a viewing point and parking for the Ruth and Henning Conservation Area. There are several trails, but we went directly to the Dewey Bald Trail and climbed up the steel observation tower for awesome views of the area. The tower was a little too shaky for my liking, but I braved it anyway. No tarantulas spotted on this hike, although we were warned that they are particularly active in the Fall.
Free and located in the middle of downtown Branson, we enjoyed the hikes at Lakeside Wilderness Area. There was one trail with about 300 steps down, and then back up leading to a waterfall, which was unfortunately dried up. Nice views and a peaceful hike.
College of the Ozarks is a Christian College where the students do not pay tuition, but work on campus to subsidize their tuition. We supported them by visiting their facilities:
The Ralph Foster Museum was a nice resource to learn about local history. A fun children’s area allowed the kids an opportunity to pet guinea pigs, experiment with magnets, and learn about geography.
One Room Schoolhouse
This was a fun stop where kids got to sit at desks and learn what attending school was like in the 1800’s.
We only chose one show while in Branson, and it was the Acrobats of China. The kids were entertained and mesmerized the entire time, as were as adults.
Silver Dollar City reminds me of a Midwestern Disney World with a country theme. We went on a reduced fee day, and it was crowded. Because it was close to Halloween, everything was very festively decorated. It was packed with rides for all ages and endless shows.
Shopping, dining, and a free fountain show are available downtown in Branson, and a beautiful walk along the river. You can spend plenty of time shopping at the outdoor mall or simply people watching. It has a great family atmosphere.
Don’t dismiss Branson for some good, family fun! It has a lot to offer for all ages.