There are many layers to Branson, Missouri, as a vacation destination. There are the attractions and live shows that line the Highway 76 strip. There are the independent shops and restaurants in the historic district, which runs right into the newer Branson Landing. And then there are all of the natural attractions and outdoor recreation activities further afield.
For families with tweens and teens, there is plenty to keep this age group actively happy. Here are some highlights:
The Silver Dollar City theme park holds appeal for all ages, but older thrill-seeking kids will love rides like the PowderKeg, an explosive-launch roller coaster that shoots riders into a thrill zone from 0 to 53 mph in just 2.8 seconds; and WildFire, a multi-looping, cobra-rolling coaster traveling at speeds of up to 66 mph, with a vertical drop of 15 stories. Outlaw Run, which debuted in 2013, features the world’s first and only double barrel roll on a wooden coaster, and twists upside down with three inversions. A new ride, Tom & Huck’s RiverBlast, is a water raft ride with water soakers and hundreds of other water features.
I thought the Titanic Museum would be a big downer, considering the eventual fate of what was the world’s largest ship when it took its sole voyage in 1912. But this high-tech attraction in the shape of the ship tells its story in a compelling way, by assigning each visitor with a card identifying one of the 2,208 actual passengers. As you walk through the museum, which includes a recreation of the grand staircase and the starlit bridge, you’ll see more than 400 artifacts, including personal items from many of the 712 survivors.
In the final galleries, you’ll discover the fate of your passenger. Mine was Clara Hays, a 52-year-old First Class passenger who survived. Her husband Charles did not. While the Titanic Museum is billed as kid-friendly, and even has a dedicated audio tour just for children, we wouldn’t bring our sensitive 8-year-old. It would be too emotional for her. We think older kids can get a lot out of it, though.
If your teens love to shop, save time to stroll Branson Landing, a 1.5-mile scenic boardwalk along Lake Taneycomo. There are more than 100 stores, with a mix of national retailers like Aeropostale, Journeys and Justice, as well as specialty shops like Girlie Girl Originals and Versona Accessories. At the center is a large courtyard with dancing water fountains, which are even more exciting at night during hourly water, fire, music and light shows.
If we get the chance to go back to Branson with our 15-year-old son, there are a few other places he would probably want to check out, like the 4×4 Nature Expeditions at the National Tiger Sanctuary, Talking Rocks Cavern, laser tag at Fun Spot at Grand Country, and any of the several zip line outfitters in the area. There are also several shows that would appeal to older kids, such as the Amazing Acrobats of Shanghai.
— Traci L. Suppa
Traci L. Suppa drags her small-town family to see a quirky array of the world’s largest, longest, or tallest things, and blogs about it at Go BIG or Go Home.