By Julia M. Johnson
Holding meetings in the southern part of the state? Get away for a day, and enjoy the myriad attractions the Branson area offers. There’s a good deal going on, and your guests will be certain to thank you for the memories they’ll make.
Contact the Branson Convention & Visitors Bureau, www.explorebranson.com, for ideas on shows, activities and attractions that will keep your attendees entertained throughout their stays. In the meantime, here are a few suggestions to get you started.
A Round of Fun
If you haven’t been to The Track Family Fun Parks lately, come back for a visit. The amusement park operator’s latest offering is a 150-foot, 40-gondola ferris wheel with an interesting history. It’s not just any old wheel – it’s straight from Chicago’s Navy Pier, where it was disassembled recently and replaced with a new one.
The wheel welcomed about 17 million riders during its 20 years at the pier. It was relocated earlier this year to Branson, and a group of Dutch engineers worked with local contractors to give it new life. The ride’s arrival was feted with a grand opening celebration in June. MM&E staffers enjoyed special tours of the site in June as well.
Visit at night and enjoy the Branson Ferris Wheel’s spectacular LED lighting displays – it’s a show well worth experiencing, says Craig Wescott, chief executive officer of The Track Family Fun Parks. The company also features high-rise go kart tracks, laser tag, and other exhilarating activities for visitors of all ages. (www.bransontracks.com)
Hitting It Out of the Park
For sports enthusiasts, there’s excitement on base at Ballparks of America, a new youth baseball “stay and play” tournament park with synthetic turf fields. The unique, $20 million facilities are built to mimic famous major league stadiums.
A July 2016 grand opening ceremony introduced the local community to this one-of-a-kind attraction. It features carpeted, air conditioned “Big League Suites” for teams, and there are big-screen HD TVs, personal lockers, food, and shower and restroom facilities.
“Ballparks of America has paid meticulous attention to a travel ball family’s real baseball experience, and we’ve endeavored every step of the way to create an environment of fun, comfort and special amenities that are not typically found at a baseball complex,” said Hamilton Chang, CEO of Ballparks of America, earlier this year. “We designed five stadiums that pay homage to iconic MLB ballparks like Wrigley, Busch, Tiger, Fenway and the historic Ebbets Field, and have plans to add more in the next phase of development, like Kauffman Stadium.” (www.ballparksofamerica.com)
There’s Always More
No list of Branson attractions would be complete without the Branson Scenic Railway, Titanic Museum, Silver Dollar City and Showboat Branson Belle.
The Branson Scenic Railway offers picturesque, 40-mile round-trip rides through the local Ozark countryside, across the Arkansas state line and back. Dome cars and period music enhance this one-of-a-kind experience recalling railways’ heydays. (www.bransontrain.com)
The Titanic Museum features exquisitely presented displays, costumed guides, and experiences that put visitors in the shoes of ship passengers and crew. Each guest takes on the identity of an actual person aboard the vessel, which famously hit an iceberg and sank more than a century ago. Mary Kellogg, owner of the museum, says it’s an educational step back in time for groups and visitors of all ages. (www.titanicbranson.com)
The Silver Dollar City theme park conjures up fun for all, including rides, craft and artisan shops, restaurants, games, boutique stores and other attractions. Guests enjoy first-hand experiences watching expert craftspeople create pottery, glass artifacts, candies, and more. (www.silverdollarcity.com)
Affiliated with Silver Dollar City, the Showboat Branson Belle paddlewheel boat offers engaging musical and stage entertainment while guests gently cruise local waters and enjoy food and beverages. (www.silverdollarcity.com/showboat-branson)