Branson, located in the Ozark Mountains of Southwest Missouri, is known to some as the perfect summer family getaway. While summer is of course a perfect time to go to the lake, I’ll argue that a trip to Branson in the fall may be even better! With cooler temperatures and the picturesque Ozark Mountains showing their spectacular fall colors, it’s hard to beat Branson in the fall. Another huge benefit to visiting in the fall is that the crowds are fewer; always a good thing. Here are the best ways to experience fall foliage in Branson.
Note: Some information in this piece was obtained during a sponsored press trip, but all recommendations are my own.
1. Sunset Celebration At Top Of The Rock
Branson has lots of fun ways to celebrate and one celebratory event that should be at the top of your list is the Sunset Ceremony held at Top of The Rock. Located at Big Cedar Lodge high in the hills, Top of The Rock is home to several unique attractions. This place is unbelievably beautiful and the views are incredible. At Top of the Rock, you’ll find a nature preserve you can tour by golf cart, a top notch 18-hole golf course, and world class dining. To “top” things off, they hold a cool Sunset Ceremony each evening complete with bagpipes and the firing of a Civil War cannon. It’s a very unique end to the day! For the best view, head over to the deck at the Osage restaurant which overlooks the grounds where the ceremony takes place.
I recommend going to Top of The Rock earlier in the day and experiencing the Lost Canyon and Nature Trail. On the tour, you’ll be immersed in nature as you wind your way through the beautiful grounds via an electric golf cart. Almost as soon as you start your tour, you’ll go through a cave! And you can even make a pit stop at the Bat Bar within the cave to indulge in a cold beverage! You’ll then continue on where you’ll see nature at its finest, including many waterfalls, along with lots of pristine table rocks. Along the tour route, you’ll be able to make stops for plenty of gorgeous photo ops to capture the magic of the fall colors. The tour is very popular so make your reservations online to ensure you secure a golf cart!
If you’re up for more activity after your tour, head over to the Top of the Rock Golf Course for your turn on the fabulous Jack Nicklaus signature course! Even if your golf game isn’t up to par, you’ll enjoy the immense beauty of the course, a perfect combination of nature and golf. You can also enjoy golf memorabilia and the pro shop at Arnie’s Barn, a historic 150-year-old barn that was moved from Arnold Palmer’s backyard in Pennsylvania. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Top of the Rock. It’s definitely a jewel of the Branson area and not to be missed!
If you just can’t get enough of Top of the Rock, you can stay on site at Big Cedar Lodge. All the rooms and cabins are simply oozing with coziness.
2. Take In The View At Chateau On The Lake
If you’re going to Branson to take in the colors of fall, it only makes sense to choose a hotel where you can look out your window and take in the beauty of the season. We did just that with our stay at Chateau on the Lake. The hotel is perched high above Table Rock Lake and surrounded by trees. Chateau on the Lake’s location is very near all the action in Branson, but the rural setting of the chateau feels worlds away from all the hustle and bustle of downtown Branson. At the chateau, you’ll feel like you’re in an oasis the minute you step into the hotel. You’ll be amazed at the very large central courtyard teeming with plants and water features. We enjoyed our room and our balcony was the perfect place to relax with a glass of wine while enjoying the beautiful autumn scenery.
You’ll have plenty of options for things to do at Chateau on the Lake. Catch a movie at the onsite theater, play tennis on the outdoor courts, lounge at the outdoor pool and hot tub overlooking the lake, or take advantage of the indoor pool and sauna. And if you feel like being pampered, enjoy a facial, massage, manicure, or one of the other relaxing services at the 14,000-square-foot spa. If hunger strikes, enjoy breakfast or dinner at the Chateau Grill, grab a cocktail at the Library Lounge, or enjoy an ice cream cone at the Sweet Shoppe. On the weekend, relax at the Sunday Champagne Brunch.
The Chateau on the Lake is Branson’s only AAA Four Diamond resort! We absolutely loved the outdoor pool and hot tub. The pool was a perfect place to unwind after a workout in the onsite gym. Chilling out at the pool was the perfect way to engage in a little downtime and was a very relaxing way to spend an afternoon. Some of the amenities are seasonal, so please check online for the most up-to-date availability for various services.
3. Step Back Into Time At Silver Dollar City Theme Park
While you’re in Branson, treat yourself to a visit to one of the premier theme parks in the country — in fact, Silver Dollar City has been nominated this year as the Number One Amusement Park in America by USA Today! At Silver Dollar City, you’ll be immersed in fall beauty as the park is built to show off the natural Ozark Mountains surroundings. Walk through the hills and hollows of this fabulous 1880s theme park and discover all the traditions that make Silver Dollar City and Branson special. You’ll find craftspeople working on their crafts right in the park. We were able to watch glassblowers, basket makers, and woodworkers, as well as a lot of metalworkers making knives.
There’s nothing like handcrafted merchandise made in the USA and that’s exactly what you’ll find here. The Park also offers tons of free entertainment including lots of live music. It seemed there were musicians playing on every corner when we were there and the lively music was so well done. It’s obvious these are genuinely talented musicians! We especially liked the Homestead Pickers.
There’s so much down-home mouthwatering food to be tasted as well. Whether you like sweet or savory, you’ll find plenty of both. We really enjoyed all the wonderful barbecue from the Rivertown Smokehouse — the chicken was divine! And, of course, I couldn’t resist the delectable sweet treats like peanut brittle, and for the ultimate sugar buzz, Oreos-on-a-stick. After all this fun, end your day at the park with some fabulous rides. If you’re prepared to get a little wet, take a ride on the newest water thrill, Mystic River Falls! Or, hop on the steam train for a ride through the countryside surrounding the park for awesome fall foliage views.
4. Hit The Links In Branson
There’s no better way to experience the fall foliage than to actually be part of it. And that’s what you’ll do when you’re hitting the links. Golfing in Branson is a super way to enjoy the scenery and get in a little exercise. The town offers quite a few private and public golf courses. No matter if you’re a beginner or an expert golfer, you’ll find a course for you. We golfed at Thousand Hills Golf Resort and had an absolute blast, in spite of losing almost all of our balls (and we had a lot!). While I’m definitely more on the beginner golf spectrum, Thousand Hills made me feel welcome because they accommodate everyone from beginners to experts. Play 18 holes at this award-winning public course and enjoy the beautiful grounds as you make your way to each hole in your GPS-outfitted golf cart.
The natural setting of the course is quite beautiful. The greens are very well maintained and the fairways are zoysia grass which is awesome since the zoysia grass helps keep your ball teed up — always a good thing! Thousand Hills is one of the premier 18-hole public courses in Branson and was rated 4 stars by Golf Digest magazine, and has also been voted Best of the Ozarks for Branson Golf Courses numerous times. While on the course, make sure you try your luck at some of the Swing King Experiences. All of the par 3 holes offer the chance to win cash should you get a hole in one. High-definition cameras capture your stroke and if you happen to sink it on your first shot, you’ll win big!
5. Cruise Table Rock Lake On The Showboat Branson Belle
For a totally different view of the landscape, head to the lake! Grab your seat on the Showboat Branson Belle where you’ll cruise Table Rock Lake while being entertained with dinner and a show. The Belle has plenty of water to traverse as Table Rock Lake is 52 miles long with nearly 800 miles of shoreline. This unique experience will allow you to see the fall foliage from a totally different vantage point. While cruising around the gigantic lake, you’ll indulge in a three-course meal while on board! The Belle runs from late March through the end of October with shows multiple times a day. It’s a great way to get out on the water and enjoy the spectacular fall colors of nature, along with seeing great entertainment.
Branson is a popular destination because of its location and entertainment: