When Branson was incorporated as a city in 1912, the small settlement on the shores of the White River encompassed practically the entire city. Of course, the town has expanded in the century since then and has become one of America’s top tourism destinations. But Historic Downtown Branson has remained a unique district that is full of history, natural beauty and fun attractions.
One of the best ways to experience downtown is to take a walking tour. Of course you can stroll at will, but we’ve put together a mapped walking tour of downtown. The tour starts at the corner of Business U.S. 65 and Main Street and winds through the downtown streets, taking you to unique shops, diners and breathtaking Lake Taneycomo.
Free maps and walking tour brochures are available at the Downtown Branson office and visitors center at the intersection of College and Commercial Streets.
The Branson Centennial Museum
Learn about the colorful history of the area at the free Branson Centennial Museum, located at the corner of Commercial and Pacific Streets. The museum opened in 2012 during Branson’s 100th birthday, and has continued to offer year-round and rotating exhibits that change every few months. The museum is free for visitors. It is open 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays. For more information, call (417) 239-1912.
Attractions and Activities
Downtown is packed with some of Branson’s most popular attractions and activities. Here are just a few you’ll want to check out:
Branson Scenic Railway
This train is an impossible-to-miss downtown landmark. Located in the historic 1905 Branson depot at the intersection of Main Street and Branson Landing Boulevard, the train operates from March-December and takes riders on a scenic 40-mile tour through the Ozark Mountains. During the Christmas season, the train becomes the Polar Express and thrills families with a ride themed after the Christmas movie.
You can get more information at the Branson Scenic Railway website or by calling (800)-287-2462.
Branson’s first theatre, built 80 years ago, was the precursor to the city’s entertainment industry and is still in operation today. You can take in a show, or even watch movies here. For more information, visit the Historic Owen Theatre website or by calling (417) 464-8497.
There are several unique art pieces scattered throughout downtown, including the “Legends of the Ozarks” sculpture at the corner of Commercial and College streets and the “Circle of the Waters” metal sculpture across from the Branson post office.
Branson Landing Fountains
This $7.5 million display is one of Branson’s most popular attractions, drawing thousands of viewers every week. The free “fire and water show” begins each day at noon with the Star Spangled Banner and continues with a different display every hour until the shopping center closes. The fountain schedule is available on the Branson Landing website.
Downtown Branson was built on the shores of the White River. Today, a 22-mile stretch of the river is bookmarked by two dams, creating the cold-water Lake Taneycomo. The water averages 48 degrees and is too chilly for swimming, but it’s ideal for trout fishing, boating and kayaking. In fact, Taneycomo is one of the top trout-fishing streams in the United States.
The Branson Hotel
Built in 1903, the Branson Hotel was the city’s main lodging property for its first few years. Harold Bell Wright stayed here while writing much of his famed novel The Shepherd of the Hills. The hotel has been restored with painstaking care and continues to operate as a boutique inn. You can even stay in Wright’s room, which is decorated with his memorabilia. You can get more information at the Branson Hotel website or by calling (417) 544-9814.
Parakeet Pete’s Waterfront Zipline and Steampunk Balloon
These two attractions are among the city’s most newest and most unique. The waterfront zipline takes riders on a fast zip from Branson Landing, across Lake Taneycomo, to the bluffs above downtown. Situated at the top of the ride is the Sky Deck, an events venue overlooking downtown and Branson Landing.
The balloon is located at the north end of Branson Landing and is a caged vertical ride that take occupants 188-feet high in the air for a breathtaking view of Lake Taneycomo and Downtown Branson.
Parakeet Pete’s operates daily 10 a.m. until close (when the fun is done) from March through December and on weekends in January and February. More information about both attractions is available on the Parakeet Pete’s website.
Branson Farmers Market
Operating at the southermost end of the Branson Landing parking lot, the seasonal Branson Farmers Market on Tuesdays from April through October, 3-7 p.m. Trolley riders can use Stop #2 at the foot of the Taneycomo Bridge for easy access to the market. More information is available online at the Farmers Market of the Ozarks website.