Branson Area Guide
Nestled among beautiful Ozark lakes, the resort of BRANSON (year-round population 5000), forty miles south of Springfield on US-65, is one of the top auto destinations in the country. Over seven million visitors a year are attracted to what's become known as the "Ozark Disneyland" by thirty-plus music venues (almost all of a country bent), a few theme parks and lots of good ol' family fun. "The Strip," until recently merely Hwy-76, looks like it was thrown together with a pitchfork a hideous agglomeration of theme parks and theaters owned and/or performed in by big-name stars. The spectrum ranges from Japanese fiddler Shoji Tabuchi and ancient crooner Andy Williams, to banal mountain humor joints like Baldknobbers and Presleys' (not that Presley). Lesser lights include Russian comedian Yakov Smirnoff, and Jim Spiders and Snakes Stafford's place. Tickets for a two-hour show are fairly priced, at around $20, and there's no shortage of takers in summer for most, if not all, of the town's 57,000 seats a figure said to exceed that of Nashville. Branson shows are firmly geared toward families; you won't find anything remotely progressive or avant-garde, although the new Ripley's Believe It or Not performance is a step in a new direction. The Strip, once dubbed "the world's longest parking lot" because of the mass of cars that crammed here each night, has been somewhat eased with road improvements, but try to avoid driving at night. When you've had it with Branson, escape to nearby Table Rock Lake, a beautiful area offering hiking, biking, camping, water-skiing and world-class fishing.