Midwest

7 Coolest Hotels in Branson: Where to Stay in an All-American Town

Branson has long positioned itself as an All-American vacation destination for working-class families. These days, anyone is welcome whether you're looking for honky-tonk country or a bit of rock and roll. Plan your visit with a stay at one of these Branson hotels.

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.

The Branson Hotel: Remodeled and Reborn

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The Branson Hotel originally opened in 1903 and is the city’s oldest lodging property. It’s been remodeled and reborn in recent years as a nine-room boutique hotel, complete with a wine bar and a patio for live entertainment.

The hotel was originally built to accommodate workers for the new railroad that was under construction just a few blocks away. But the property’s real claim to fame is that author Harold Bell Wright stayed in the hotel for extended periods around 1907 and penned much of his landmark book The Shepherd of the Hills here (it was the first American novel to sell more than one million copies). Today, guests can stay in Wright’s room, which is now called the “Heritage Room,” and be inspired by the numerous historical photos and a bedside copy of the novel that was written in the room.

The Branson Hotel is proudly low-key and caters only to adults. Guest are served a glass of wine upon check-in and enjoy a made-to-order breakfast each morning in the Backstage Café and Wine Bar. The café features desserts, entrees, gourmet coffees, beer and of course, an expansive wine list. The patio outside has an intimate music stage and is one of Branson’s better, but lesser-known, live music venues showcasing individual performers and folk-music groups.

The Branson Hotel

Top rated
9.2 Excellent (426 reviews)
Excellent Service 9.6 / 10
WiFi in rooms
Parking garage
Pets allowed
Wellness center / Spa
Hotel CTA

D’Monaco Luxury Resort: An Upscale Retreat

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Speaking of boutique hotels, the D’Monaco Luxury Resort is one of the most unique in the Midwest, and it really can only be described as an upscale retreat.

Located about 20 minutes south of Branson, the gated property is on a peninsula surrounded on three sides by the clear blue waters of Table Rock Lake. There are only six guest rooms on the entire property, but “room” isn’t really the best word to describe the accommodations here.

Guests ride an elevator to their private and luxurious villa that will range anywhere from 1,900 to 3,700 square feet. Each villa has soaring ceilings, large windows with panoramic views of the water, and private verandas. Several of the villas come with private outdoor hot tubs. The suites also have full kitchens that are equipped with all the dishes and utensils guests might need to prepare gourmet meals, and the property assigns a “personal shopper” to each villa so guests can check in to find a fully stocked pantry and refrigerator. Guests also have access to the property’s private boat dock, just a few steps from the hotel, as well as the outdoor pool (complete with a swim-up Tiki bar).

D'Monaco Luxury

8.6 Excellent (61 reviews)
Excellent Cleanliness 8.9 / 10
WiFi in rooms
Parking garage
Pets allowed
Outdoor swimming pool
Hotel CTA

Big Cedar Lodge: The Crown Jewel

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The crown jewel of the Johnny Morris (founder of Bass Pro Shops) empire, this upscale “wilderness resort” is all about everything outdoors, minus the roughing it. Located in a private cove on Table Rock Lake, the expansive Big Cedar Lodge is frequently listed as one of the top resorts in the Midwest.

Designed primarily for families, guests stay in one of the 260 luxuriously rustic hotel rooms or cabins. While on the property, they are encouraged to participate in the many outdoor activities that the lodge coordinates, including boating, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, and outdoor picnics on the lawn. On holidays, guests are treated to spectacular fireworks shows over Table Rock Lake. Big Cedar’s diverse activities also include programs for children, as well as wine tastings, painting classes, photography clinics, and more for adults.

Just 15 minutes south of Branson, the resort is convenient to the shows and activities in town. However, there’s so much to do at the property itself that many guests never make the short drive into Branson.

The resort is also a favorite wintertime getaway (staff members keep guests stocked with firewood to keep their cabins cozy during the cold winter nights). With four elegant, rustic chapels located around the property, Big Cedar is also a popular location for weddings.

Kids flock to the new Fun Mountain, a 50,000-square-foot indoor attraction that includes underwater bowling, bumper cars, and more. Meanwhile, adults enjoy the 18,000-square-foot Cedar Creek Spa and Salon, where each private treatment room includes a cozy fireplace. There’s also several renowned restaurants and cafes on site, including the Devil’s Pool Restaurant. Sunday Brunch is a favorite for guests, as are the hardwood smoked prime rib and pepper-crusted Kansas City Strip steak at dinner.

It’s difficult to talk about Big Cedar Lodge without also talking about golf. While the only golf you’ll find on the main Big Cedar property is mini golf, just over the hill is Top of the Rock, a spectacular course that has been home to the PGA’s Legends of Golf tournament for several years. Nearby are Morris’ other signature “Big Cedar” courses: Buffalo Ridge Springs, the Mountain Top Course, and the new Gary Player Ozarks National course. Opening in 2019 is the Tiger Woods-designed “Payne’s Valley” course, named after Missouri golf legend Payne Stewart.

Big Cedar Lodge

Top rated
8.8 Excellent (271 reviews)
Excellent Cleanliness 9.1 / 10
WiFi in rooms
Parking garage
Wellness center / Spa
Gym
Hotel CTA

Chateau on the Lake Resort: Living the High Life

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Another lakefront resort that offers a unique experience is Chateau on the Lake. Located just minutes from Branson proper, this mountaintop hotel overlooks Table Rock Dam and offers some of the most spectacular views anywhere on the lake.

The 301-room, high-rise property is Branson’s only AAA Four Diamond hotel. The luxury guest rooms are only part of the experience here. Guests enjoy fine dining at the Chateau Grille, the Library Lounge, and the Atrium Café, or just exploring and relaxing in the lush and soaring atrium lobby. There’s even a coffee bar and sweets shop on site for guests who have a sweet tooth to satisfy.

Outside, guests can stroll along walking paths with benches and gazebos while watching the stunning view as the sun drops below the mountains and the sky’s fiery colors are reflected in the lake below. Adjacent to the hotel is the Spa Chateau, a 14,000-square-foot full-service spa. There’s also a number of activities on site, including indoor and outdoor pools, a private lake marina, and an activities club for children.

Chateau on the Lake Resort Spa & Convention Center

Top rated
8.9 Excellent (2095 reviews)
Excellent Cleanliness 9.2 / 10
WiFi in rooms
Parking garage
Pets allowed
Wellness center / Spa
Hotel CTA

Hilton Branson: Travel Car-Free

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At 12 stories, the Hilton Branson Convention Center is what passes for a skyscraper in Branson. While popular with business travelers, the hotel also targets luxury-minded leisure travelers with several one-bedroom suites that offer a separate living area, wet bar and private balcony overlooking the surrounding mountains and lakefront. It’s also directly adjacent to the Branson Scenic Railway station and the popular Branson Landing lifestyle center. There’s a trolley stop outside the hotel that lets guests ride for free throughout downtown Branson car-free.

The hotel is home to Level 2 Steakhouse, arguably one of the best in southern Missouri. Diners can choose from several cuts of 28-day aged Kansas City steaks, seared in a 1,600-degree oven. Frequent guests are given their own engraved knives that are kept in the kitchen for the diner’s next visit.

Hilton Branson Convention Center

Top rated
8.7 Excellent (1140 reviews)
Excellent Location 9.2 / 10
WiFi in rooms
Parking garage
Pets allowed
Gym
Hotel CTA

Hilton Promenade at Branson Landing: For A Boutique Feel

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The smaller Hilton Promenade is across the street from the aforementioned Hilton and is directly connected to the Branson Landing property. While the two Hilton properties share staff and room-service capabilities, the Promenade Hotel takes on more of a boutique feel. In addition to traditional rooms, the hotel includes condo suites that overlook the Branson Landing Promenade. On the lobby level is Big Whiskey’s Bar and Grill, a regional favorite for dining and socializing.

Hilton Promenade at Branson Landing

Top rated
8.5 Excellent (1692 reviews)
Excellent Location 9.2 / 10
WiFi in rooms
Parking garage
Pets allowed
Gym
Hotel CTA

The Mabee Lodge at College of the Ozarks

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Located at Point Lookout, just across Lake Taneycomo from Branson, The Mabee Lodge at College of the Ozarks’ Keeter Center is a frequently overlooked destination for unique and luxury accommodations. Run by the school’s Hotel and Restaurant Management program, the rustic lodge features 15 suites that are attended to by students who work at the facility to pay for their tuition. Guests enjoy nightly turndown service that includes fresh cookies and milk from the college’s nearby dairy. There’s also complimentary continental breakfast delivered by wait staff at the time of the guest’s choice.

The largest guest room is the 1,188-square-foot, two-bedroom Presidential Suite, which accommodates up to six guests and includes a two-person jetted tub and private fireplace. All rooms include Pacific Sea bath salts and luxurious robes for lounging, and children are given bracelets that allow them to claim free ice cream at Nettie Marie’s Creamery on site.

Downstairs in the Keeter Center is the Dobyns Dining Room, one of the highest-rated restaurants in the Branson area. Here diners experience truly farm-to-fork gourmet entrees, much of it grown on the college’s nearby farm.

The Keeter Center

9.4 Excellent (229 reviews)
Excellent Service 9.6 / 10
Parking garage
Restaurant
Air conditioning
WiFi in lobby
Hotel CTA

Feature image courtesy of Explore Branson