Family-Friendly Attractions in the Ozark Mountain Town
Tucked away in the Ozark Mountains, Branson, MO, is a quirky town, where kitschy attractions, like miniature golf courses and go-kart tracks, meet a rural landscape dotted with glistening lakes, pristine wilderness and dense forests. The diverse setting provides vacationing families with an array of activities from which to choose, including everything from scenic mountain train rides to wet and wild adventures at a water park.
Nature on Display
Kids enjoy an up-close encounter with nature at the Butterfly Palace & Rainforest Adventure (4106 W. Hwy. 76, Branson, MO). Dressing the part is encouraged–children are offered an explorer’s hat, magnifying glass and binoculars before entering the aviary filled with vibrant butterflies and tropical birds. There’s even more wildlife on display at the Living Rainforest Science Center, where poison dart frogs, salamanders and geckos roam the premises. Children can also examine specimens under microscopes and watch an educational video in the Rainforest Theater. Adventures for the whole family continue in the forest-themed mirror maze and a dizzying course where Banyan tree vines serve as obstacles.
Take a Walk on the Wild Side
There’s more wildlife fun on tap at the Promised Land Zoo (2751 Shepherd of the Hills Expy., Branson, MO). Embark on the foot safari, a pathway that leads visitors to exhibits featuring everything from lions and tigers to zebras and antelope. Children also come face-to-face with farm animals at the petting zoo and delight as birds flock to hand-held feeding sticks in Parakeet Paradise, a free-flight aviary filled with hundreds of birds. Pay more for VIP privileges and you might get the chance to bottle-feed pygmy goats and enjoy private encounters with such animals as two-toed sloths and ring-tailed lemurs.
Coasters and Carnival Rides
Step back in time to the 1880s at Silver Dollar City (399 Silver Dollar City Pkwy., Branson, MO), Branson’s major theme park offering more than 40 rides and attractions. Tiny tots are entertained at Fireman’s Landing, an area filled with pint-sized freefalls, kiddie carnival rides, a firehouse-themed obstacle course and a splashpad. Older kids find big thrills on mammoth steel coasters and water flume rides with five-story drops. Costumed characters pause throughout the park for photos, and family-friendly concerts take place throughout the year. The park is open from mid-March through New Year’s Day.
Splash Into Fun
Beat the heat at White Water (3505 West Hwy. 76, Branson, MO), a 13-acre water park in the heart of downtown Branson. Open between Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends, the park caters to swimmers of all ages. Small children stay cool in Coconut Cove, a toddler-friendly area equipped with dump buckets, mini-slides and water blasters. Older kids in search of bigger and bolder rides hang 10 in the wave pool, drop 75 feet down massive water slides and test their speed against friends on multi-lane racing flumes. End the day with the whole family on a relaxing journey down a lazy river.
All Aboard: Train Travel Adventures
Ride the rails for a family-friendly adventure aboard the Branson Scenic Railway’s (206 E. Main St., Branson, MO) collection of classic passenger cars. Each journey starts from the 1905 Branson train depot as you set out on the 40-mile scenic train ride along the foothills of the Ozarks and across sprawling valleys. For the best view of the surrounding scenery, make your way to one of the train’s three glass-domed cars. The nearly two-hour, round-trip excursion features detailed narration about historic bridges, trestles and tunnels. Train rides operate from March through December.
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A travel writer since 2002, Leah Rendon has written countless articles for online pop-culture magazines and various travel-related websites, including Eurobooking and World66. Gosford also has experience in copywriting, having developed a series of articles related to network marketing. She graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles with a degree in theater arts.