It used to be if you didn’t eat dinner before going to an evening show in Branson, you were out of luck. The sidewalks pretty much rolled up just before or as the shows ended. Not so anymore. More restaurants are staying open until at least 10 p.m. weekdays and 11 p.m. weekends. Here are three of our favorites located right on the strip, Highway 76, near most of the theaters:
The College of the Ozarks doesn’t charge tuition. Instead, students at this southwest Missouri school are required to work fifteen hours per week. Student workers in many of those jobs create goods or hospitality experiences available for sale to the general public. We visited the College of the Ozarks, located about four miles from Branson, expecting to spend a couple of hours in the Ralph Foster Museum and to grab a bite to eat in the Dobyns Dining Room. We ended up spending a full five hours on campus, discovering there is much more to explore at the College of the Ozarks besides the museum.
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Start at the Keeter Center, the rustic lodge recreated from Dobyns Hall, a lodge that was displayed at the 1904 World’s Fair. The original lodge was moved to the College of the Ozarks where it stood until 1930.
The Keeter Center houses fifteen luxury suites, the Dobyns Dining Room, an ice cream parlor, a gift shop and a small armed services memorial. The Keeter Center is also where you can pick up a map to take a self-guided campus tour.
Plan to eat lunch or dinner in the Dobyns Dining Room (reservations recommended). Many of the ingredients used in the dishes are campus-to-table and some of the other ingredients are sourced locally. All of the vegetables and fruits in my Spinach with Smoked Chicken Salad were raised by the students on campus, and so was my husband’s pork fritter. Yep, they raise pork on campus.
The Maybee Lodge in the Keeter Center offers fifteen suites that accommodate up to six people each. We didn’t stay at the lodge and didn’t see the rooms, but judging from the descriptions and photos on their web site, the suites truly are luxurious. Every room has a fireplace, private balcony and other upscale amenities.
A 12-foot water wheel powers the mill where student workers grind whole-grain meal and flour.
Upstairs in the mill we watched basket weaving and rug weaving demonstrations. Baskets, placemats, rugs and tablecloths that the students make are available for sale.
Ralph Foster Museum
The Ralph Foster Museum is named for an Ozark region radio pioneer instrumental in bringing country music to a national level. Besides broadcasting, the museum includes antique and archaeology exhibits.
The College of the Ozarks, located southwest Missouri’s Point Lookout is an ideal side trip when visiting Branson. Check the web site for hours of the various campus sights or to make reservations for the Dobyns Dining Room or Mabee Lodge.
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I always thought Ripley’s Believe It or Not! museums were big tourist traps. After all, they’re located in all the touristy areas. However, something compelled me on my last trip to Branson to visit the Ripley’s museum there. Curiosity, I guess. Or maybe it was the rainy weather that weekend that made me want to do indoor things. It turns out that I really enjoyed it. Some of the exhibits are wacky, some educational, but I found all of them to be fascinating.
Over the years I’ve been fortunate enough to see quite a few stars in Branson. Most were past their prime but singers I would have given arm and a leg to see when I was a teenager. I saw the late Paul Revere, Bill Medley from the Righteous Brothers, Bobby Vinton, Bobby Vee, Brian Hyland and the Beach Boys, to name just a few.
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While Branson still attracts big names, they aren’t as abundant as they used to be, and most don’t perform as regularly as they once did. However, Branson is still the live music show capital of the world, offering more than 100 different shows. Many of today’s regular performers are lesser known or tribute artists. However, the quality of Branson shows remains high, and all are family friendly. On a recent trip to Branson, my husband and I saw three shows, all of which we thoroughly enjoyed.
Clay Cooper’s Country Express at the Clay Cooper Theatre, combines singing, dancing and comedy for a great evening of entertainment. Clay Cooper was born into a musical family and began his professional singing career when he was 14 years old.
Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Theater, where we saw so many great artists in the past, is now home to Legends in Concert. Each show includes five tribute artists. There is always a Blues Brothers duo and an Elvis, but the remaining three rotate seasonally.
On the night we saw the show, Michael Buble, Marilyn Monroe and George Strait tribute artists were scheduled. However, George Strait was replaced by a Kenny Chesney tribute artist, who had been part of the summer schedule.
While all of the artists were entertaining, Marilyn Monroe was my personal favorite, as she included some comedy in her act, involving a few reluctant audience members.
On our last evening in Branson we saw Dublin’s Irish Tenors and The Celtic Ladies at the King’s Castle Theatre. The gentlemen performed part of the show, the ladies another, and they sang some songs together. The selections ranged from traditional Irish songs like Danny Boy, to pop music and even opera. All of the performers had beautiful voices and put on a terrific show.
Unfortunately, they don’t allow photographs at this show, but you can get snippets of their performance on their web site.
You’ll find the schedule of all Branson shows listed on Explore Branson, the Branson/Lakes Area Convention and Visitors Bureau web site. For the best seats order your tickets a few weeks before your trip. To save a few dollars, wait until you get to Branson and pick up a discount coupon booklet found in many hotel lobbies. Most shows offer a discount of a few dollars with a coupon.
Disclosure: I received complimentary tickets to the three shows described above.
Thank you for reading Midwest Wanderer. Don’t miss a post. Enter your e-mail address below and click Subscribe to be notified whenever I publish another post. Subscription is FREE. After subscribing, be sure to click the link when you get the e-mail asking you to confirm. – Connie