Branson, located in the Ozark Mountains of southwest Missouri, is known to some as the perfect summer vacation for families. That may be true, but I would argue that a trip to Branson in the fall is even better because the temperatures are cooler and the scenic Ozark Mountains show off their spectacular fall colors. There is also less rush – which is always good. Some people wore masks and some didn’t, so the choice is yours. Here are the best ways to see the fall foliage in Branson.
Note: Some of the information in this article was obtained during a sponsored press trip, but all recommendations are my own.
1. Enjoy the fall colors with a celebration
Branson has lots of fun ways to celebrate, and one festive event that should be high on your list is the Sunset Ceremony at the Top of The Rock. Top of The Rock is located in the Big Cedar Lodge high in the hills and is home to several unique attractions. Here you will find a nature reserve that you can explore by golf cart, a first-class 18-hole golf course and first-class restaurants. To top it off, there is a really cool sunset ceremony every night with bagpipes and the firing of a civil war cannon. It’s a unique way to end the day! For the best view, head out onto the terrace of the Osage restaurant, overlooking the grounds where the ceremony is taking place.
I recommend going to Top of The Rock earlier in the day and experiencing the Lost Canyon and Nature Trail. On the tour, immerse yourself in nature as you meander through the beautiful grounds on an electric golf cart. Once you start your tour, you will go through a cave! And you can even make a pit stop at the bat bar in the cave for a cold drink! Then continue on to see nature at its finest, including many waterfalls and many pristine table rocks. There are plenty of beautiful photos to be taken along the tour route to capture the magic of the fall colors. The tour is very popular, so make reservations online to secure a golf cart!
Eric Hurlburt / Shutterstock.com
When after your tour feels like some more activity, head to the Top of the Rock Golf Course for your turn on the fabulous Jack Nicklaus Signature Course! Even if your golf game doesn’t play along, you can 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 really enjoyed our visit to Top of the Rock. It is definitely a gem of the Branson area and shouldn’t be missed!
2. Stay somewhere with a view
If you are traveling to Branson to take in the fall colors, it only makes sense to choose a hotel where you can look out the window and take in the beauty of the season. That is exactly what we did during our stay at the Chateau On The Lake. The hotel towers high above Tablerock Lake and is surrounded by trees. The Chateau on the Lake location is very close to all the action in Branson, but the castle’s rural surroundings feel worlds away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Branson. In the castle you feel like you are in an oasis as soon as you enter the hotel. You will be amazed at the very large courtyard full of plants and water features. We enjoyed our room and our balcony was the perfect place to relax with a glass of wine and enjoy the beautiful autumn landscape.
There are many things to do at Chateau on the Lake. Watch a movie in the on-site theater, play tennis on the outdoor courts, relax by the outdoor pool and hot tub overlooking the lake, or take advantage of the indoor pool and sauna. And if you want to pamper yourself, enjoy a facial, massage or one of the other relaxing services in the 14,000 square meter spa. When you’re hungry, enjoy breakfast or dinner in the Chateau Grill, grab a cocktail in the Library Lounge or enjoy an ice cream in the Sweet Shoppe.
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 relax after a workout in the on-site gym. Chilling out by the pool was the perfect way to take a little break and spend a very relaxed afternoon. Some of the amenities are seasonal and some options have shortened hours due to COVID. Therefore, find out about the current availability of various services online.
Silver Dollar City fall decorations (Photo: SJ Morgensen)
3. Step back in time
Treat yourself to a visit to one of the best theme parks in the country while in Branson In fact, Silver Dollar City was nominated for America Today’s 10 Best Readers’ Choice Awards as America’s Number One Amusement Park this year! And I can see why! At Silver Dollar City, you’ll be immersed in the beauty of fall as the park was built to show off the natural surroundings of the Ozark Mountains. Stroll the hills and valleys of this fabulous theme park from the 1880s and discover all the traditions that make Silver Dollar City and Branson so special. You will find craftsmen working on their craft right in the park. We could see glass blowers, basket makers and woodworkers as well as many metal workers making knives.
There is nothing like handcrafted goods made in the USA and that is exactly what you will find here. The park also has tons of free entertainment, including plenty of live music. It seemed like musicians were playing on every corner when we were there and the lively music was so well done. It is obvious that these are really talented musicians! We especially liked the Homestead Pickers.
There is so much down to earth delicious food to try. Whether you like sweet or savory, you will find plenty. We really enjoyed the wonderful barbecue from the Rivertown Smokehouse – the chicken was divine! And of course, I couldn’t resist the delicious sweet treats like peanut brittle and, for the ultimate sugar rush, Oreos-on-a-stick. After all this fun, end your day in the park with some awesome rides. When you’re ready to get a little wet, take a ride on the newest water adventure, Mystic River Falls! Or hop on the steam train for a ride through the countryside around the park and take in the breathtaking views of the fall foliage.
In the forest of Table Rock Lake (Photo: Anna967a / Shutterstock.com)
4. Surround yourself with color
There is no better way to experience the fall foliage than actually being a part of it. And that’s what you do when you click the links. Golfing in Branson is a great way to take in the scenery and get some exercise. The city offers several private and public golf courses. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced golfer, you will find a place for yourself with us. We played golf at Thousand Hills Golf Resort and had absolute fun even though we lost almost all of our balls (and we had a lot!). While I’m definitely more of a novice golf player, I felt welcome at Thousand Hills because it has numerous tees to tee off. If you are an expert you can score from black.
If you’re more of a newbie like me, go for the red ones! The natural surroundings of the place are very beautiful. The greens are very manicured and the fairways are made of zoysia grass which is great as the zoysia grass helps hold the ball – always a good thing! One of the top 18-hole public golf courses in Branson, Thousand Hills has been rated 4-star by Golf Digest magazine and has also been voted Best of the Ozarks for Branson Golf Courses on several occasions. Try your luck at some of the Swing King Experiences during the course. All par 3 holes have a chance to win money if you get a hole in one. High definition cameras capture your shot and if you pocket it on your first shot, you win big!
Anna967a / Shutterstock.com
5. Get out on the water
For a completely different view of the landscape, head to the lake! Take a seat on the Showboat Branson Belle, where you will cross Tablerock Lake while you are entertained with dinner and a show. This unique experience allows you to see the fall foliage from a completely different angle than you have ever seen before. Enjoy a 3-course menu on board! The shows run several times a day, several days a week, so you can choose the show that best fits your schedule. It’s a great way to get on the water and take in the nature’s spectacular fall colors along with great entertainment.
Branson is a popular travel destination for its location and entertainment: