Four Can’t-Miss Experiences in Branson

Sunset Statue at Top of The Rock
In the middle of the shimmering infinity pool at Top of the Rock stands “End of the Trail,” a statue of the famously tired warrior.

As a veteran travel writer, I’m always eager to unearth a surprising hidden gem. Last year, to my considerable amazement, I found one deep in the verdant Ozark Mountains in Branson, Missouri—a burgeoning vacation paradise that for generations has been known for its unpretentious, family-friendly ambiance.

Branson is a quintessential Midwestern community rooted in down-home hospitality and unabashed patriotism, a G-rated landscape packed with everything from splendid panoramas to thrilling amusement parks to Nashville-quality shows to premier recreation. And yes, it absolutely shines when it comes to golf.

What are the must-do experiences in Branson? Don’t miss these four:

Top of the Rock Golf Course
Top of the Rock Golf Course (Photograph by Chris Duthie)

1) Top of the Rock Golf Course. This nine-hole par-3 layout, masterfully crafted by Jack Nicklaus, is so astonishing in every respect that it regularly stages a PGA Tour Champions event, the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf (April 19-23, 2017). This 1,420-yard masterpiece anchors a massive resort-oriented development spearheaded by billionaire Johnny Morris, who in addition to his Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s sporting goods portfolio is the sole proprietor of neighboring Great Cedar Lodge, the luxury property that last year was named the No. 1 resort in the Midwest by Travel + Leisure magazine.

Big Cedar Lodge
Big Cedar Lodge has welcomed guests since 1921.


2) Buffalo Ridge Golf Course, ranked the No. 1 public course in the state by Golf magazine and co-host of the Legends of Golf tournament. Tom Fazio crafted this exquisite 7,036-yard challenge, but give credit to owner Johnny Morris, who excavated numerous Roubidoux sandstone formations, underground caves and natural waterfalls that limn the course to jaw-dropping effect. Golf tip: Watch for the 2017 opening of a new 13-hole short course designed by Gary Player, and the 2018 opening of a new 18-hole layout orchestrated by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw. Both are located minutes from Buffalo Ridge and Top of the Rock.

Buffalo Ridge Golf Course
A bronze bison stands outside Buffalo Ridge Golf Course’s clubhouse above the first fairway. (Photograph by Chris Duthie)


3) Raiding the Country Vault. There are literally dozens of live entertainment productions that happen

Raiding the Country Vault
Raiding the Country Vault

every day in Branson — like stalwarts Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede, Million Dollar Quartet, New Jersey Nights and Moses — but none are more impressive and memorable than this first-cousin Vegas production of Raiding the Rock Vault. Seeded with top country talent, RCV takes a magical journey into country music’s greatest hits, covering everything from Patsy Cline and Johnny Cash to Willie Nelson and George Strait.

The Haygoods
The Haygoods

A close second option is scoring a front-row seat to The Haygoods, the five-brothers-and-one-sister family that elevates its frequently sold-out audiences with a star-spangled spectacle of tight harmonies, stunning choreography, phenomenal special effects and inspirational talent.

4) Titanic Museum, Showboat Branson Belle and Silver Dollar City. First, the world’s largest collection of Titanic memorabilia is in Branson, all showcased among exacting replicas of Titanic’s ill-fated cabins, staircases, parlors and walkways. Second, ride the riverboat Branson Belle around Table Rock Lake and feast on an all-the-fixins three-course meal, plus a standing-ovation-worthy aperitif of magic, dance, comedy and live music. Third, Silver Dollar City is an Ozark Mountains mainstay renowned for its thrilling rides, sumptuous dining, master craftsman demonstrations and awe-inspiring performances (including the Harlem Globetrotters).


The Marvel Cave in Silver Dollar City
The Marvel Cave in Silver Dollar City


Branson is a 12-hour drive southeast of Denver via I-70 and I-49. It’s also 53 miles south of Springfield-Branson National Airport, or visitors can fly direct from Denver on ViaAir to Branson Airport, the first privately owned and operated commercial service airport in the country. For more, go online to



What are your favorite things about Branson? Share your comments below.





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Chris Duthie is a Durango-based contributor to Colorado AvidGolfer. Colorado AvidGolfer is the state’s leading resource for golf and the lifestyle that surrounds it, publishing eight issues annually and proudly delivering daily content via