Branson is a favorite destination any time of the year. Whether you’re heading there in winter for the holiday celebrations, summer or spring for all the lake activities, or fall for the beautiful fall colors, every season has something to offer in Branson.
Once you’re in Branson, you can branch out to several neighboring towns for quick day trips. When you’re in the Branson area, consider these nearby spots for even more fun!
1. Springfield, Missouri
A day trip to Springfield is a wonderful way to spend a day. Less than an hour north of Branson, it’s super quick to get here, and there’s a ton to do. Home of Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield, Springfield is a great place to learn about the history of Missouri. Spend some time walking through the visitor’s center and viewing all the artifacts from this Civil War battle. Stroll through the main road in the park to get a feel for this hallowed ground.
For a unique underground experience, try the Fantastic Caverns drive-through cave experience. Founded in 1862, the Fantastic Cavern cave is unique in that you’ll tour the entire cave from the comfort of a carriage as it’s pulled behind a Jeep for the hour-long tour. There’s no walking you have to worry about, and there’s no bad weather because the cave is always a temperate 60 degrees. Talk about the perfect way to go exploring!
If you’re ready to explore a Springfield landmark, head over to the original Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World! For those unfamiliar, Bass Pro Shops is the premier outdoorsman’s store around. You’ll find absolutely everything you need for outdoor adventures, and then some. What makes the Bass Pro Shops in Springfield so cool, though, are all the different exhibits inside the store.
There are many free things to experience in the store, as well as some paid experiences. You’ll find numerous aquariums, along with an instore swamp, complete with alligators! There’s a shooting range and an archery range inside for marksmen to get some practice. You’ll also see lots of wildlife mounted around the walls and huge, life-like bears and bison around the store. Bass Pro Shops also hosts in-store educational programs on a variety of topics. This place takes time to see, so plan on spending hours here, if not a half or full day. Even then, you probably won’t see it all because it’s absolutely gigantic!
And did you know that Bass Pro Shops has a full-service restaurant on-site in case all the shopping and activities in the store make you hungry!
Pro Tip: Make sure you check the fish feeding schedule so you can stop by the auditorium to watch the excitement as the divers feed the fish.
For those with a hearty appetite, a great place to go in Springfield is Lambert’s Cafe. Known for the hot rolls they toss to each customer, along with their very large portions of home cooking, there’s a wide choice of entrees on the menu. We enjoyed the delicious chicken fried steak and mashed potatoes!
2. Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Only 53 miles south of Branson, Eureka Springs is a charming town with lots of appeal. The number of things to do in Eureka Springs is really quite impressive, considering the town’s population is not quite 2,000 people. I don’t know of many other towns of that size with so many interesting things to see and do. Eureka Springs was founded due to the many natural springs in the area.
Today there are multiple springs in town, many of them located in parks and gardens along Spring Street. While the springs aren’t technically in use today like they were in times past, it’s still cool to see the springs and imagine the healing powers that many claimed they had.
Art lovers will enjoy Eureka Springs. It’s an artist’s mecca and home to hundreds of local artists and crafters. You’ll find all sorts of art — paintings, jewelry, fountains, and sculptures. In addition to finding lots of art for sale in specialty shops, downtown is also home to quite a few art galleries. History buffs will relish in the town’s every feature, considering the entire town is on the National Register of Historic Places.
While you’re in Eureka Springs, spend time wandering the winding streets downtown and checking out the cool old buildings. Almost every building is spectacular here! Linger over a late afternoon lunch at one of the fabulous downtown restaurants, like the ever-popular Local Flavor Cafe. Or head over to the casual Rockin’ Pig Saloon for scrumptious wagyu beef!
For those that enjoy the paranormal, Eureka Springs has plenty of opportunities for you to investigate the spooky side of things. The Crescent Hotel is said to be one of the most haunted hotels in the country! Through the years, many guests have reported ghost sightings and other types of paranormal activity. Try the Haunted History of Eureka Springs walking tour for some scary fun!
Pro Tip: If you want to potentially experience this type of thing for yourself, stay at the Crescent Hotel and book one of their Crescent Hotel ghost tours. Or check out some of their other special haunted activities — if you dare!
3. Bentonville, Arkansas
Sure, you’ve probably heard of Bentonville, Arkansas. Located about 85 miles southwest of Branson, Bentonville is known as the birthplace of Wal-Mart, and you can even visit the Wal-Mart Museum! But Bentonville is more than just home to the giant superstore.
One of the most unique attractions here is the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. A visit to Crystal Bridges is a great way to spend time learning about art both indoors and outdoors! Here you’ll find a world-class collection of American art and stunning architecture nestled in 120 acres of Ozark woods with over 5 miles of trails. Open every day except Tuesday, Crystal Bridges offers various art exhibits and tours as well. If you download the free app, you can enjoy audio tours of the permanent collection galleries on your phone. Crystal Bridges Trails and Grounds are open from sunrise to sunset daily and during museum hours.
While in the Bentonville area, you may also want to visit nearby Pea Ridge National Military Park, which preserves the site of the Civil War battle that saved Missouri for the Union.
4. Fayetteville, Arkansas
Located about 95 miles southwest of Branson is the town of Fayetteville, Arkansas, home of the University of Arkansas. At the university, you can catch a game at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Or if you want to take your day trip into the later evening, get nostalgic while watching a drive-in movie. Head over to the 112 Drive-In and catch a movie! Drive-ins were so fun back in the day, and they’re few and far between today.
One of my favorite things to do while exploring new towns is to go to the local watering hole and check out some live music. Fayetteville just happens to be home to the oldest running live music venue in Arkansas, George’s Majestic Lounge. George’s is located in a cool old brick building and offers live music many nights each week. Even if you’re not into seeing a show, it’s still worth a stop just for the history. So many great musicians have graced the stage here.
5. Carthage, Missouri
About 100 miles outside of Branson lies the town of Carthage. Perfect for a day trip from Branson, Carthage offers the opportunity to see unique attractions, including a portion of the famed Route 66, a recreated old town, and the Precious Moments museum.
I’m sure you remember the sweet little Precious Moments figurines from the 1970s and ‘80s that depicted angelic-like children. Many, many people collected these back in the day. The Precious Moments Chapel is much more than it sounds, and you truly don’t need to be a Precious Moments fan in order to appreciate the kitschiness of it all! The chapel itself is inspired by Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, complete with 80 different hand-painted murals at the chapel, all inspired by the bible. You can also take a tour through Timmy’s Tower and Philip’s Room, both areas touchingly dedicated to the founder’s children.
If you’d like to take a break while at the chapel, the on-site restaurant, Taste of Italy, is known for its sumptuous Italian fare and interesting daily specials. The chapel, gift shop, visitor center, and grounds are all open year-round.
For a step back in time, head out a couple of miles from Carthage to the new “old town” of Red Oak II. Created by artist Lowell Davis, Red Oak II is a homage to the original Red Oak, Missouri, of his youth — long since emptied out. Davis bought homes and businesses from the original Red Oak and moved them to the “new” Red Oak. The restored buildings will take you back to times gone by and are really a find!