Starting summer 2016, there will be a whole new way to see the sights of Branson. The Track Family Fun Parks are bringing the iconic 15-story Ferris wheel formerly featured at Chicago’s Navy Pier to Branson’s Highway 76.

“Branson will be a great new location for this amazing Ferris wheel,” said Brian Murphy, COO of Navy Pier. “It was a landmark here for many years, and we are happy to know that it will continue to attract thousands of visitors each year to such a family-friendly destination.”

During its 20-year history in Chicago, the Ferris wheel helped make Navy Pier a top tourist destination. The Track Family Fun Parks anticipates the Ferris wheel will continue to draw both repeat and new visitors to the Branson community.

“We are very excited to be the new home to this iconic Ferris wheel,” said Craig Wescott, President and CEO of The Track Family Fun Parks. “Our hope is that adding this unique attraction, which is enjoyed by people of all ages, will enhance our guests’ experience during the time they spend in Branson.”

This Ferris wheel, which was modeled after the first Ferris wheel built for the 1893 Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition, stands 150 feet tall and can hold 240 passengers in its 40 gondolas. At night, the Ferris wheel shines with 16,000 lights, making it a beautiful addition to the evening skyline.

The addition of the Ferris wheel is part of The Track Family Fun Parks 35th anniversary celebration.

The Baymont Inn Branson MO is a conveniently located hotel that underwent extensive renovations before reopening in 2010. This completely remodeled facility features amenities like a business center with printer capabilities, a fitness center, open from 5am-11pm, equipped with three cardio machines and a flat screen TV, as well as a guest laundry and free Wi-Fi access throughout the hotel. There is also an atrium-style indoor pool area, open from 8am-11pm, that is very clean, has plenty of patio seating and a hot tub. This hotel also features a warm and inviting hospitality room equipped with a flat screen TV, serving an extended continental breakfast, with waffles, daily. Guest laundry is also available.

The rooms at the Baymont Inn Branson MO are available in Double Queen and King Suite varieties, with the essential difference between the two rooms being the addition of a two person Jacuzzi in the suite. The same in-room amenities are found throughout both room types. They include a 32” flat screen TV, microwave, mini-fridge, exceptional case goods and granite vanities. Decorated in earth tones, the rooms have are very clean and spacious. A Serta perfect sleeper mattress rounds out the room, creating a perfect place to stay the night.

Baymont Inn & Suites is an ideal option for both families and business travelers.

Ashley is Reserve Direct’s travel expert, visiting Branson to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand-travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know.

The Starlite Theater is one of Branson, Missouri’s premier theaters, hosting big stars, seasonal shows and some of Branson’s most popular artists. The Starlite Theater has a spectacular line-up planned for 2016, with old favorites and new performers taking the stage.

Paul_Harris_-009-Paul Harris & The Cleverlys
This Starlite Theater show is one of the most unique shows in town, getting rave reviews from all ages. The show starts with Paul Harris’ signature comedy, which blends blue collar comedy with every day observations, then he plays a few tunes with the band before intermission. Once the show returns, The Cleverlys join Harris on stage. Their renditions of contemporary and classic songs in a bluegrass style wows audiences, garnering a cult following through the United States. The current line-up of Cleverly-spun hits include “Gangnam Style” by Psy, “Poppin’ Tags” by Macklemore and “No Diggity” by Blackstreet. Paul Harris & The Cleverlys have shows scheduled throughout the 2016 season.

Boot Daddy Concert Series
The line-up for the 2016 Boot Daddy Concert Series was recently announced.  Many of last year’s performers return, while new artists have also been added.  The full Boot Daddy Concert Series schedule is below:

Gene WatsonSuzy_Bogguss_(38304): April 22-23, October 28-29, December 1-3
Bill Medley: May 6-7
Mary Bilyeu and Cindy Woolf May: May 13-14
Dailey and Vincent: May 20-21, September 25-27
Suzy Bogguss: September 29-30
Jimmy Fortune: October 24-25, November 14-15

Buckets N Boards
Buckets N Boards comedy percussion show has captivated audiences for the past five years in Branson and as a featured headlining show for Disney Cruise Lines. Buckets N Boards is back in full force, presenting their comedy, rhythm and music in 2016 with both afternoon and evening performances.

Reza “Edge of Illusion”
New to The Starlite Theater for Spring/Summer 2016, Reza “Edge of Illusion” brings a fresh, young edge to the world of illusion and entertainment, blending a largely original stage show with his engaging stage presence. Hailed by critics as the Nation’s Top Touring Illusionist, Reza has sold out venues from Denver to New York and Orlando to Los Angeles, entertaining millions as well as being featured on television and radio in 31 countries around the world.

The_Blackwoods_Morning_Show_(51941) (1)The Blackwoods Morning Show
When it comes to musical groups with history and heritage, the famous Blackwood Singers are second to none, and the Starlite Theater is happy to welcome them to Branson beginning March of 2016. After 15 successful years in Pigeon Forge, The Blackwoods Morning Show will open at the Starlite Theatre and will feature their trademark harmonies, many of their huge hits, and lots of laughter and heartwarming stories from their 81 year musical history.

Billy Dean & Steel Horses
Join Billy Dean, Steel Horses and comedian Jarrett for a show filled with country and comedy, lyrics and laughter. Grammy Award Winner Billy Dean has sold over four million albums with 11 top 10 singles and five number one hits. His biggest hits include “Only Here For A Little While,” “Somewhere In My Broken Heart,” “You Don’t Count The Cost,” “Only The Wind,” “Billy The Kid,” “It’s What I Do,” “Buy Me A Rose,” and “Let Them Be Little.”

The_Texas_Tenors_(42826)The Texas Tenors
Introduced to the nation on America’s Got Talent, The Texas Tenors have been wooing and wowing sold out audiences around the world and now performing at the Starlite Theater. If you have never seen The Texas Tenors, (JC Fisher, Marcus Collins and John Hagen) they bring a unique blend of Country, Classical and Broadway with breathtaking vocals, humor and a touch of cowboy charm. Their stage presence is powerful and their passionate performance is an emotionally exhilarating experience.

Larry’s Country Diner
Fans of the popular RFD-TV series “Larry’s Country Diner” will be thrilled to see the return of Larry’s Country Diner LIVE at the Starlite Theater in Branson. Based on his down-home variety program that draws over 1.6 million loyal viewers each month, the live stage show is careful to retain all of the country charm and wisdom of the televised version. Enjoy the entire cast from the hit series including Renae the waitress, The Sheriff, Keith Bilbrey, and everyone’s favorite gossipy busybody, the church-lady Nadine.

This is the current line-up for the Starlite Theater for 2016. Check back soon for more additions to the show schedule.

Ashley is Reserve Direct’s travel expert, visiting Branson to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand-travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know.

Anytime you travel to a new city, one of the best parts for any foodie is trying out the local restaurants. In Branson there are plenty of restaurants to choose from, but only a select few are part of the group of Branson MO restaurants locals rave about. Check out my top picks the next time you visit the Ozarks.

Billy Bobs Yelp Branson MO Restaurants

Billy Bob’s Dairyland: Yelp/Tabitha H.

Billy Bob’s Dairyland
1901 W 76 Country Blvd.
This retro diner specialties in burgers, onion rings and milkshakes, and after doing it for decades, they have a local following unlike any other. I’ve been coming here for years and have my order down: bacon cheeseburger with all the fixings, side of crinkle cut fries and strawberry milkshake. I prefer to sit at the counter, so I can see the diner action first hand and see (and smell) the burgers sizzle on the grill. All made fresh, the burgers are grilled to order, the fries crispy, and the shakes are thick yet easy to sip through a straw. The portions are also huge; if you dare to order the double cheeseburger be prepared for full belly overload. Part of the charm is the size of the diner, seating about 30, so sometimes there is a wait but it’s worth it! Note that Billy Bob’s accepts cash only but there is an ATM on site.

Billy Gails Billy Buster Yelp Branson MO Restaurants

Billy’s Belly Buster
Billy Gail’s Cafe: Yelp/ Erin S.

Billy Gail’s Café
5291 Hwy. 265
What I can I say, Billy Gail’s knows Branson food! This café is famous for its breakfast and the lines out the door prove it. Open from only 7am to 2pm daily, the owners know what their customers like and haven’t changed the menu for years—for good reason. Their famously large “hubcap” pancakes are bigger than a dinner plate; the Billy’s Belly Buster Breakfast is a feat to eat; and the gravy is homemade just like mom used to make. In keeping with their massive portions, the omelets are made with four eggs and concoctions like the stuffed French toast is filled with sausage, egg and cheese. I’ve tried a little bit of everything at Billy Gail’s Café. My go-to order, though, is the sloppy biscuit. Take biscuits, eggs, cheese and sausage, then top it with hash browns and gravy. Delicious! The restaurant, which is a renovated gas station cabin, has limited parking and only accepts cash. Arrive early to avoid the lines.

Danna's Yelp Branson MO Restaurants

Barbeque Nachos
Danna’s Bar-B-Que & Burger Shop/Yelp: Alexis C.

Danna’s Bar-B-Que & Burger
963 State Highway 165
Danna’s Barbeque & Burger Shop has three locations in the Branson area, but the easiest one to access for most visitors is on Hwy 165 near the Welk Resort Theatre. The family-owned café hasn’t been around as long as the previous two mentions, but in the 15 years they’ve been operating locals have fallen in love. Juicy, smoked meats are covered in a secret rub, smoked for 12-14 hours, and paired with a secret barbeque sauce that’s sweet yet savory. That’s just the start of the reason for their success. Danna’s menu has something for every taste: fresh-made burgers, seasonal strawberry pecan salads, barbeque nachos, catfish, and more. I should mention the Memphis Rolls, too, as they’re kind of the best thing ever. Take a fried sour dough roll, then add a melted butter center for a roll so decadent it’s almost a doughnut. But, you get it with dinner! Yep, that’s the best.

Thai Thai Cuisine Facebook_RSZ Branson MO Restaurants

Thai Thai Cuisine/Facebook

Thai Thai Cuisine
1615 W 76 Country Blvd.
You might not think Branson would be an optimum place to eat Thai food, but think again. Thai Thai Cuisine, located near the Dixie Stampede, is an authentic ethnic experience with a diverse menu. I seem to come here for lunch more often that dinner as they’ve got great lunch specials. Two of my favorites are the Spicy Noodles and Pahd Thai. You get to choose from chicken, pork, beef or tofu to accompany your dish, with shrimp available for an extra $2. A crispy yet light spring roll, paired with a citrusy sauce, adds the perfect crunch. The setting is quiet and ideal for conversation. Try to get a table by the backlit waterfall, but if not you can still admire the artwork and ornate statues found throughout the restaurant.

Level 2 Steakhouse Yelp Branson MO Restaurants

Petite Filet Mignon Oscar Style
Level 2 Steakhouse/Yelp: Tatiana M.

Level 2 Steakhouse
200 E. Main St.
Branson doesn’t feature many fine dining options. That said, Level 2 Steakhouse, located at the Hilton Branson Convention Center, covers the scene nicely. As one of the Branson MO restaurants locals rave about, this is where you go for a romantic night or adult night out. You have to try the award-winning steak. Thick yet tender, it pairs nicely with sides like sweet onion rings, garlic mashed potatoes and creamed spinach. Of course, nothing goes better with steak than a cabernet which is why Level 2’s wine list is extensive. If you can, save room for dessert. The signature Missouri Butter Cake, topped with bourbon caramel sauce, fresh berries and vanilla ice cream, is a sweet end to the night.

Vaskens Yelp Branson MO Restaurants

Vasken’s Deli: Yelp/Becky G.

Vasken’s Deli
3200 Gretna Rd., Suite #100
Locals flock to Vasken’s Deli for lunch. Even with a recent expansion, the lines can get long and tables hard to find. There’s a reason, though: Vasken’s serves the best authentic Mediterranean food in Branson. I’ve ordered just about everything from their menu, and can vouch for them all. That said, I do have some favorites. The Famous Gyro has flavorful lamb and tzatziki sauce (add feta cheese for an extra kick);  the Reuben has piles of pastrami and sauerkraut, sandwiched between lightly buttered rye bread; Rosa’s Mediterranean Turkey combines pita, garlic mayo, turkey, fresh veggies, and provolone; and their pizzas are one-of-a-kind Mediterranean specialties.

These are the Branson Mo restaurants locals rave about. Do you have a favorite I missed? Tell me about it in the comments.

Ashley is Reserve Direct’s travel expert, visiting Branson to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand-travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know.

If you want an authentic Ozark experience you simply must go to Copper Run Distillery.   Located on a secluded road off the beaten path, visitors and locals alike flock to Copper Run for a true taste of Ozarkian heritage.   

Copper Run Distillery

Copper Run/Facebook

Moonshine and whiskey are both traditions in the hills of Branson, Missouri, with homemade stills and other contraptions used over the years to create alcoholic brews.  Traditional, small batch methods are at the center of Copper Run operations.    The owners of Copper Run Distillery create their spirits using techniques dating back as far as 5,000 years ago.  In fact, a 140 galloon, direct fire copper pot is still at the core of their operation.  Moreover, Copper Run strives to source local ingredients for its products.  From the water that flows through the recipes to the barrels made of locally grown white oak, the company concentrates on making each batch a local product. 

Copper Run Distillery

Copper Run/Facebook

Many people hear about Copper Run through word of mouth.  Located at 1901 Day Road, off Hwy 65 north, the small distillery is housed in an unassuming cabin surrounded by trees.  This creates an atmosphere perfect for tasting Ozark Mountain moonshine or whiskey.  At Copper Run, tours of the distillery are given at noon, 2pm, 4pm and 6pm during which you can sample the local creations.  You can also stop by Copper Run’s Tasting Room, open daily from 11am-7pm, to try concoctions like a Shine-a-Rita or Copper Run Manhattan.  Want to purchase a bottle of moonshine to take home?  You can do that too.  Whiskey and Rum are also available as drinks or for a take-home purchase.

See you at Copper Run!

Ashley is Reserve Direct’s travel expert, visiting Branson to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand-travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know.

The Andy Williams Theatre has announced its show line-up for 2016.  In addition to returning performers, there’s a whole slate of new entertainers planned. The theatre has also underwent a name change and is now known as the Andy Williams Performing Arts Center. Helmed by Jimmy Osmond, who has curated quite the show season for 2016, the Center plans to continue to bring big-name entertainers to Branson.

Andy Williams Theatre Line-Up 2016

Returning Shows

Rick_Thomas___Premier_Illusionist_(24647)The Magic of Rick Thomas
Thomas performs the most intriguing and innovative grand illusions in the world with a style unlike any other magical entertainer. 

Moon River & Me
Pay tribute to the man himself, Andy Williams, at “Moon River & Me,” starring Jimmy Osmond and Charlie Green.

The_Lettermen_(001)The Andy Williams Christmas Extravaganza
The Osmond Brothers and The Lennon Sisters join forces to keep the Andy Williams’ Christmas traditions alive. Know as Mr. Christmas, his delightful holiday shows have been a tradition for many.

The Lettermen
This world famous trio has charted 16 Top 10 Singles and 11 Gold Records, and is best known for “The Way You Look Tonight.” 

New Shows

Jennifer NettlesApril 8: Jennifer Nettles with 016 Next Women of Country Tour
The line-up includes Nettles, along with Brandy Clark, Lindsay Ell and Tara Thompson.

April 22: Travis Tritt
The man known for songs like “Country Club” and “Here’s a Quarter (Call Someone Who Cares),” Travis Tritt, performs for one night only.

Leann RhimesApril 29: LeAnn Rimes
The young singer shot to fame with “Blue,” and has been in the business ever since, continuing to create award winning music.

May 14: Ray Stevens
Branson staple Ray Stevens returns and brings his signature comedy with him. Look forward to hearing “The Streak,” “It’s Me Again, Margaret,” and “The Mississippi Squirrel Revival.”

Don McLeanSeptember 24: Don McLean and Judy Collins
Best known for “American Pie,” McLean will be joined onstage by folk singer-songwriter Judy Collins.

October 15: K.T. Oslin
Award-winning artist K.T. Oslin, best known for songs “Wall of Tears” and “80s Ladies,” will perform notable hits from the late 80s and early 90s.

rsz_loretta_lynnOctober 22: Loretta Lynn
Country music legend Loretta Lynn will perform her iconic hits such as “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” “Don’t Come Home a Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind,” and “You Ain’t Woman Enough to Take My Man.”

November 1 – December 10: A Maxine Christmas
One of Hallmark’s most popular characters, Maxine, comes to life on stage for a Maxine version of “A Christmas Carol.”

Bill Engvall

November 5: Bill Engvall
Comedian Bill Engvall and his hilarious brand of blue collar comedy return to Branson one-night only.

This is the latest line-up for the Andy Williams Theatre 2016. I’ll keep you updated on further show additions as they’re announced.

Ashley is Reserve Direct’s travel expert, visiting Branson to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand-travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know.
I love a good burger.  Not from a fast food chain, but a fresh cooked made-for-me burger.  I’m always looking for the next good burger joint, and I found one in Branson, Missouri
The Burger Shack, located directly on the famed Hwy. 76 or “The Strip,” is located in a surf-shack style building that is pure casualness.  Ordering from a menu board, you can load your burger with up to 18 different toppings.   You can add as many toppings as you like for no extra charge. You can also order a chicken or salmon burger, or salad, but this is a burger joint, so I opted for the simple but delicious bacon cheeseburger and had to get some of their hand-cut, fresh-made fries. 
All orders receive an order number, and there is generally about an eight minute wait on your hamburger.  They make them fresh, on order, so the wait time is definitely worth it.  And, if you need something to munch on, there are free peanuts on the table.
With seating for less than 90, the Burger Shack isn’t a big place and that’s a good thing.  It fits the laid back, California beach vibe it has created.  That carries over with the delivery of the food.  I call it “shack style” as the burgers are wrapped in foil to keep in the just-made goodness, and put in a paper bag along with your piping hot fries. 
Soon enough, my order was up and I quickly unwrapped my burger.  The cheesy, bacon covered, juicy burger that awaited me looked delicious.  And, yes, yes, it was.  Take a look for yourself:
The fries are something you must order.  They’re addictive though, so be ware.   I’m a ketchup lover by nature, but I barely dipped at all eating these natural cut, fresh-made fries.
Feeling hungry?  Head to The Burger Shack at 1946 W. Hw 76 Country Music Blvd.

Ashley is Reserve Direct’s travel expert, visiting Branson to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand-travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know.

february_eventsTake advantage of these Branson events planned for February 2016:

February 1: Hot Winter Fun Big Show
Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Theater enjoys Branson’s 22nd Annual Hot Winter Fun Big Show where the stage will sizzle with entertainment from a variety of Branson shows. A wide variety of shows and performers come together for one exciting show. Held at Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Theater at 7pm.

February 12-14: 20th Annual Tri-Lakes Building & Home Show
The Home Show is Branson’s trade show of the year for homeowners and consumers. The event includes vendor booths, prizes, seminars and special guests. Located at Chateau on the Lake.

Ripley's Museum Transformer_RSZA tour of the Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Museum in Branson begins outside rather than inside. Parents and children alike marvel at the structure of the museum, built to show the effects of an unbelievable 8.0 earthquake that hit Missouri in 1812. It’s a great place to take memorable photographs.

The self-guided tours of the Ripley’s Museum Branson can take as little or as long as you like. I toured for an hour, and still didn’t see it all! There are a lot of visual items that are great for children, such as the speaking hologram of Robert Ripley and the Mystery of the Vanishing Woman. I enjoyed the Quiz Room, where unbelievable facts and interesting brain teasers create an interactive experience. The Tribal Room and Marine Room house artifacts like a genuine shrunken head from an Jivaro Tribe and unique aquatic oddities like the contents of a Shark’s stomach, which believe it or not, held everything but the kitchen sink, including a 50 pound anchor! Relatively new to the museum is a a 22-foot tall Transformer sculpture made of scrap car parts. It stands guard outside the front entrance of the museum, making it hard to miss and perfect for photo ops.

Ripley's Believe it or Not!My personal favorite exhibit was the room of extraordinary people, where I could compare myself to both the world’s tallest man and world’s largest man and marvel at rare creatures like the Unicorn Man and Lighthouse man. The fun, however, doesn’t end until you travel through the barrel room where the movement isn’t real, but you’ll believe it is!

Notables: Allot yourself at least an hour to view the museum, as crowds can vary and there truly is a lot to take in. Be sure to bring your camera too, as Branson’s Ripley’s Museum encourages guests to take photographs throughout the museum. These amazing exhibits were fun, but several have moderate reading involved, which may be a bit distracting for young children.

Ashley is Reserve Direct’s travel expert, visiting Branson to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand-travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know.