Old Glory is out, waving its star-spangled banner in front of nearly every shop in town. A passerby gives a grateful handshake to a veteran pausing at a memorial. And of course, there’s the unwavering reverence for all things cinnamon rolls and apple pie.
Branson has long positioned itself as an all-American vacation destination for working-class folks. For a town that draws 8 million visitors a year and features more than 16,000 hotel rooms and condos, that’s meant that most properties have been predictably affordable and good, but somewhat ordinary. As Morley Safer famously commented in his 1991 60 Minutes report about the original Branson country music boom, Branson’s visitors “want to be surprised, but only by the familiar.”
A lot has changed in Branson in the nearly three decades since Safer’s proclamation, and there are certainly more surprises now than ever before. Twangy country music can still be heard every night in the town’s theaters, but unlike the ’90s, there are new shows that lean heavily on classic rock ‘n’ roll, and Broadway-style productions. The city has also diversified its non-show entertainment options, with hundreds of millions of dollars in new development in recent years that includes upscale shopping, a convention center, roller coasters, a landmark Ferris wheel, and countless other family-friendly attractions.
The hotel landscape, too, has changed significantly in that time. While there’s still plenty of value-conscious, mid-amenity hotels, many of the limited-service motels from Branson’s boom days are gone. There’s also a growing number of boutique properties and upper-tier facilities that cater to discerning and adventurous visitors. Here are some of the coolest places you can stay around Branson, the ones that most visitors overlook.