Off the Branson Strip: Attractions & Unique Adventures
Branson, Missouri, is known as a fabulous (and busy) family vacation spot, filled with theaters, parks, dining, and live music. But if you’re looking for unique activities to enjoy with your family away from the hustle and bustle of those famous Branson strip attractions, you might find yourself wondering where to start.
From wildflower hikes and exotic butterflies, to theme parks and zoos, here are some of the best—and often overlooked—ways to spend a wonderful afternoon in Branson.
National Tiger Sanctuary
The National Tiger Sanctuary is a non-profit rescue organization located in Saddlebrooke. It provides a permanent home for exotic and domestic animals—like Jinx the arctic fox and Krishna the white tiger. The learning campus dedicates itself to unique experiences that help to foster love for nature in every visitor. Choose from feeding and walking tours, behind-the-scenes-tours, and “Day with the Director” tours for a hands-on experience.
You can also go for the Riding Safari, a tram ride that allows you to see double the cats you’d see on the walking tour. The tram slows for cats who choose to visit or “chase” the tram as it moves through the sanctuary. You can even do Tigers by Twilight, which allows you to see the tigers by the light of the moon as they pounce and play in the dark. In the midst of all things exotic, don’t forget to pay a visit to the domestic animals, too, like Arnie the pig, and Luna the beautiful husky-wolf hybrid.
Butterfly Palace & Rainforest Adventure
High on the hills past the typical Branson strip attractions, you’ll find the whimsical Butterfly Palace & Rainforest Adventure. Like magic, you’ll walk your way through thousands of tropical butterflies that have come from exotic rainforests throughout the world—places like Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Malaysia. The palace is home to around 60 different species of butterflies and offers a peaceful and majestic experience for both kids and adults.
Enjoy a 3-D film about the butterflies, visit the Emerald Mirror Maze, and navigate through The Banyan Tree Adventure (which simulates the roots of the Banyan tree in the rainforest). Make sure to stop by the Living Rainforest Science Center, where you’ll find a variety of rainforest inhabitants, such as poison dart frogs, salamanders, and geckos.
White River Balds Natural Area
If it’s a hike in the wildflowers you’re looking to embark on, consider paying a visit to the beautiful White River Balds Natural Area. Just a couple miles away from the bustle of the Branson strip attractions, you’ll find species that are more common to Texas and Oklahoma, enjoy vibrantly colorful flowers all season long, and experience some of the midwest’s biggest grassy glades (also known as “balds”). Be sure to take a notebook and camera to document some of the world’s natural beauties like Missouri evening primrose, pale purple coneflower, and blue wild indigo.
Snowflex Tubing at Wolfe Mountain
Welcome to America’s largest synthetic tubing run—using the high performance snow sports surface known as Snowflex® (say that ten times fast). This high tech Snowflex Tubing Slope at Wolfe Mountain is 400 feet long and fits up to six tubes on the slope at the same time. Overlooking a view of the Ozark Mountains, this is an adventure for the family of thrill seekers and adventurers. Spend part of the day on the slope, then if you’d like, check out other Wolfe Mountain offerings like the Branson Zipline Canopy Tours (for a birds-eye view of those stunning Ozark landscapes).
Promised Land Zoo
Right at the western point of the strip, you’ll find Promised Land Zoo. An expansive respite compared to usual Branson strip attractions, the zoo is located on 75 acres and has ranked as one of the country’s top 25 zoos. The park offers hands-on interaction, which means you’re able to get up close and personal with the animals (selfies included) for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Each admission includes Live Animal Shows, a self-guided Foot Safari, a 2-mile Drive Thru Safari, and Parakeet Paradise—so it’s a good bang for your buck. You can also opt for the Better Experience Admission, which includes the Guided VIP Tram Tour inside the animal enclosures and a VIP animal encounter with a handful of animals. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, you can also go for the Ultimate Excursion Admission, which grants you a private encounter with the animals and a chance to make a new friend.
Silver Dollar City
Silver Dollar City was opened in 1960, but has the feel of an 1880s-style theme park (and though it’s off the strip, it has the quintessential energy of Branson strip attractions). It features a multitude of rides, craftsmen like blacksmiths and candle makers, unique shops, and blast-from-the-past restaurants like Cokes and Floats or Elmer’s Frankfurters.
Silver Dollar city offers culinary, adventurous, and crafty experiences for the creatively-minded family. Sitting on top of one of Missouri’s deepest caves, you definitely want to make time to visit where it all started, Marvel Cave. The cave was opened in 1894 as a tourist attraction and then became a show cave, where eventually, the Silver Dollar City theme park was built around its entrance. Plus, from a harvest festival, to an eight-story high Christmas tree, mark this place on your Branson bucket list if you find yourself touring during holidays seasons.
Parakeet Pete’s Steampunk Balloon
Float to new heights, as they say, for 360-degree views of Lake Taneycomo and the Ozark Mountains with Parakeet Pete’s Steampunk Balloon. This enormous golden balloon, located on the north side of the Branson Landing, brings guests into a basket to float 188 feet above Branson. The balloon can hold up to 12 riders and all those under 42 inches can ride for free.
This attraction pays tribute to the sci-fi subgenre and post-apocalyptic world run by steam. It comes with décor, costumes, and gifts themed after the Victorian and Industrial eras. The balloon is the only one of its kind and resided for the first seven years of its life near the Eiffel Tower in Paris before it made its way across the Atlantic and onto Branson. After riding the balloon, visitors can make their way to Parakeet Pete’s Waterfront Zipline, also at Branson Landing, which takes guests across the waters of Lake Taneycomo in the luxury of their own “Parakeet Seats.”
Shepherd of the Hills Inspiration Tower
For a place that towers above the glittering shine of the popular Branson strip attractions, visit Inspiration Tower, a massive 230′ tall structure located on Inspiration Point (the highest point in Southwest Missouri) for a sensational view of the countryside. Built to celebrate the 100th anniversary of author Harold Bell Wright’s first visit to the area, the tower features over 4,400 square feet of glass and over 92,000 pounds of structural steel. For an awe-inspiring point of view when in Branson, visit this “landmark on the horizon.” And for an extra bit of adventure, zipline back down from the deck!
We hope, if you visit some of these fun places or the famous Branson strip attractions, you’ll book a stay in the heart of it all. The Lodges at Timber Ridge by Welk Resorts are nestled in the breathtaking beauty of the Ozarks and include luxury accommodations and amenities. We can’t wait to see you there!