(LifeWire) - Nestled in the Ozark Mountains and surrounded by lakes, Branson, Mo., is known for its entertainment as well as its natural beauty. A popular destination for seniors, families and RVers, Branson is an easy place to plan a budget vacation.
Branson is served by the Springfield-Branson Regional Airport, located about 50 minutes from Branson. To reach Branson from here, it's best to rent a car, and all the big car rental agencies are represented at the airport.
Where to Stay
Missouri State Highway 76 is the main drag in Branson; it's a hub of restaurants, hotels, motels, theaters and more. If your focus is on entertainment and action, you'll want to stay on or near this seven-mile stretch. A variety of national chains offer clean, affordable accommodations here, as do locally-owned favorites, like 1st Inn Branson and Boxcar Willie Hotel. For those who prefer to commune with nature, campgrounds, cabins and RV parks surround Branson.
You'll likely hear the phrase throughout your Branson visit, "If it ain't fried, it ain't food." It's necessary to tuck away your diet and health concerns to fully enjoy the Love Me Tender Fried Steak at Mel's Hard Luck Diner, the biscuits and gravy at the Branson Café, or country-style fare from the more than 150 restaurants here. National chains and fast-food restaurants are also plentiful in Branson.
Most restaurants, hotels and attractions are along the seven-mile stretch of Missouri State Highway 76 and traffic can be a nightmare. Choose a hotel central to your activities and walk when possible. A few cab companies serve Branson, or you can try the All Around Branson Shuttle.
Branson has more theaters per capita than anywhere else in the world, and visitors can choose among concerts, dinner shows, comedy clubs, magic acts and more. Some places offer senior discounts, but because the Branson tourist demographic is geared toward seniors, the discounts are insignificant.
There are three outlet malls in Branson: Factory Merchants Branson, Tanger Outlet Center and The Shoppes at Branson Meadows. Other popular activities include fishing, boating, swimming and golf.
Events and Festivals
The most popular Branson festival is World-Fest at Silver Dollar City, which runs from April to May. Downtown's Plumb Nellie Days are held the third weekend in May. In July, you'll want to check out the annual Branson Elvis Festival. The festive Old Time Christmas runs November through January. Various food and music festivals are held throughout the summer.
Kate Silver is a Las Vegas-based freelancer whose work has appeared in Playboy, People and Spirit magazines, Pauline Frommer's Las Vegas 2007 and 2009, Mobil Travel Guide, Las Vegas Weekly, Las Vegas Home + Design and more. She is a former editor at Las Vegas Life magazine.