Where to Stay in Branson

SD › Best Places to Stay in Branson
Updated: November 25, 2022
By Santorini Dave


Where to Stay in Branson, MO

Set among the lakes and forests of the Missouri Ozarks, Branson has become one of America’s biggest resorts. The primary draw is its 100-plus live music venues, theme parks, and shows geared toward families, combined with pristine waterways, tranquil woods, and hillsides dusted with oak, elm, and hickory which are particularly spectacular in the fall. Though Branson itself does have a small but recognizable Downtown, the resort area sprawls over a vast area, with “Ozark Disneyland” taking in 3 man-made lakes created by damming the White River: Table Rock Lake, Lake Taneycomo, and Bull Shoals Lake (partly in Arkansas).

The good news is that there’s a vast range of accommodations on offer, most of it tending towards the budget and mid-range type – and unusually, mom-and-pop family-owned establishments far outnumber the major chains.

The biggest decision is likely to be whether to opt for nature or entertainment. Lake and riverside accommodation tends to be a little more isolated from the main action in town – the Branson Theatre District along Hwy-76, Shepherd of the Hills Expressway, and Branson Landing. Having said that, everything is relatively easy to reach by car and the roads are rarely congested.

• A car is really necessary to make the most of Branson. Rentals are available at Branson Airport, 10 miles south of Downtown: Alamo, Enterprise, and National have desks here. Otherwise rely on Uber or Lyft to get around (and to get a ride from the airport), or the local taxi company, Ryde With Us.

• Though Branson is busiest in summer (when it’s warm enough to swim in Table Rock Lake), the resort is open year-round. Christmas events are celebrated November–December (like the annual Christmas Wonderland show) and new live shows are premiered January and February, along with the annual Hot Winter Fun Big Show. Branson also boasts some of the best winter trout fishing in America. Fall foliage is a big draw mid-September to November.

We’ve covered our favorite neighborhoods to visit and stay in more detail below, but golfers might consider staying in Branson Hills (home of the Branson Hills Golf Club, 3.5 miles north of Downtown). The best options here are the Hampton Inn Branson Hills and the Sunset Hills Cottages.

Best Places to Stay in Branson

Best Neighborhoods in Branson for…

  • Best Neighborhood to Stay for First Timers/Sightseeing: Table Rock Lake or Branson Theatre District
    The biggest choice when it comes to Branson is whether to stay by a lake or closer to the strip in the Theatre District. With a car its easy to experience everything Branson has to offer of course, but if the main priority is to see live shows, eat out, and visit family-friendly parks and attractions, it’s much more convenient to get a hotel nearby than to drive in and out of town everyday. Similarly, if you prefer the tranquility of the Ozarks forest and waterways, you don’t want to be driving along the strip everyday on your way to the lake. If shows are the main draw, stay in the Theatre District (or nearby in Thousand Hills or on Shepard of the Hills Expressway); if its nature and fun on the water you’re after, look for accommodation around Table Rock Lake. The Table Rock and Ridgedale neighborhoods offer the best of both worlds, but accommodation choices are relatively limited.
  • Best Neighborhoods for Budget Hotels: Hwy-76 (Branson Theatre District), Bull Shoals Lake, and Hollister
    Branson has a huge spread of cheap accommodation, especially in the low season (Jan–March), but there are some particularly good areas for bargains. Hwy-76 in the Theatre District, aka The Strip, is lined with cheap motels offering good rates year-round. Dutton Inn, Red Lion Inn & Suites, and Twelve Oaks Inn are all solid choices. For waterside accommodation, check out the budget resorts around Bull Shoals Lake. Cheap places can also be found along the banks of Lake Taneycomo (especially in Rockaway Beach), but these are mostly set up for fishing. One final option is Hollister, south across the river/Lake Taneycomo from Downtown Branson. The best budget options here are Creekside Retreat Inn & Suites and La Quinta Inn & Suites Branson-Hollister on the edge of town. One of the best hotels in the region is Keeter Center at College of the Ozarks, nearby in Point Lookout, but it’s not a budget option.
  • Best Neighborhoods for Nightlife: Branson Theatre District and Downtown Branson
    Branson isn’t a party town – nighttime entertainment is really all about the shows – some 120 different ones at last count – throughout the year. By far the biggest concentration can be found in the Branson Theatre District, so it makes sense to be based here if seeing shows is the primary aim. In terms of regular nightlife, Downtown Branson is probably the best bet: within walking distance in Branson Landing is Waxy O’Shea’s Irish Pub, Andy B’s Tiki Bar, LandShark Bar & Grill, and Big Whiskey’s American Restaurant & Bar, though everything closes by 1am or earlier. There’s even Branson’s only nightclub nearby, Summit, though even this usually closes at 1.30am.
  • Best Neighborhood for Food and Restaurants: Downtown Branson
    Kid-friendly restaurants, steakhouses, national chains, and local diners are sprinkled all over the resort area, but only Downtown Branson features a cluster of decent restaurants in close proximity. The local branch of Andy B’s Bowl Social is a perennial favorite, but we also like Clockers Café and historic Branson Café for breakfast and diner-style lunches, Dimitri’s Greek Gyros for classic Greek food, and Oscar’s Famous Ribs for top-notch barbecue. For dessert we love Mr. B’s Ice Cream Parlor and the homemade popsicles at Dreamsicle’s. The food and coffee is also good at game-focused Branson Boardgame Café.
  • Best Neighborhoods for Shopping: Downtown Branson and Theatre District
    Most of the region’s shopping opportunities lie in the built-up areas in the center of Branson. Downtown is best, as everything is within easy walking distance of each other, beginning with lakeside Branson Landing. Here you’ll find the Bass Pro Shops White River Outpost, Belk department store, H&M, and lots of local boutiques such as Marble Gypsy and Mark Ashton. Main Street features Cadwell’s Downtown Flea Market, Classy Flea, Cowboy Creed shoe and boot store, Henry’s Warehouse Outlet, Plum Bazaar (beads, rocks, & jewelry shop), and nearby, the Prehistoric Fossils shop. Be sure to visit Dick’s 5 & 10, a vast gift emporium open since 1961.

    With a car it’s possible to explore the malls in and around the Theatre District: Tanger Outlets Branson, Branson Craft Mall, The Shoppes at Branson Meadows, and the upscale Grand Village, containing all sorts of gift shops and fashion boutiques.

  • Best Neighborhood for Fishing: Lake Taneycomo/Rockaway Beach
    Fishing aficionados will find plenty to cast for in all 3 of the region’s major lakes/waterways, but the cooler waters of Lake Taneycomo, just to the south and east of Downtown Branson, are the best, especially for trout.

    Thanks to the Shepherd of the Hills Trout Hatchery, the lake is stocked annually with around 750,000 rainbow and brown trout (some 80% of the trout raised at the hatchery annually are released here). The lake is also excellent for bass and crappie fishing; the downstream area closer to Powersite and Forsyth is considerably warmer, attracting more species of fish.

    • A Missouri fishing license is required to fish any lake, river, or stream; a special trout permit is required for fishing Taneycomo between the Table Rock Dam and the US-65 bridge.

    Best Hotels: Driftwater ResortLazy Valley ResortTanglewood Lodge

    Best Cheap/Midrange Hotels: Blue Haven ResortLakeshore ResortDuck Harbor ResortPeninsula Cabin & RV ParkPipers Lakeshore ResortRainbow Haven Resort

  • Best Neighborhood for Families: Table Rock Lake or Thousand Hills
    The numerous waterside cabins and hotels around Table Rock Lake are popular for good reason, especially in the summer, as its possible to swim and take part in all sorts of watersports here. The pine-fresh air, access to hiking and biking trails, boats, kayaks, and good deals on large family-sized apartments and cabins are all key draws.

    If visiting the fun attractions and shows in town is more preferable, consider the Thousand Hills area, just south of the Theatre District and Hwy-76. It’s a hilly district primarily home to condo developments and apartment resorts – it’s a little quieter, there tends to be more room for families, and everything is within a short ride (or even walk) of the Strip.

    Best Hotels: Bradford House Bed and BreakfastBranson’s BestBrookwood InnComfort Inn At Thousand HillsGrand Crowne ResortMarriott’s Willow Ridge LodgeSeven Gables InnWorldMark

The 7 Best Neighborhoods in Branson for Tourists

1. Historic Downtown Branson (& Branson Landing)

Downtown Branson, with its Main Street rising up the slope above Branson Landing and Lake Taneycomo, is the one part of the area that feels like a real town. It’s never crowded and is a great place to eat or shop, with a strip of local stores along Main Street and bigger chains inside Branson Landing along the water. The Boardwalk usually hosts the daily Branson Landing Water & Fire Show (featuring 120-foot fountains) running from noon–9pm every hour. You can get on the water by renting a kayak, taking a Branson Jet Boat, or a Lake Queen Sightseeing Cruise.

Back in town, the free Branson Centennial Museum chronicles local Ozark history, while the Branson Scenic Railway offers 1hr 45min train rides from the historic 1905 depot to either Galena, Missouri, or to Arkansas and the Barren Fork Trestle. Be sure to check out the iconic “Branson Mural” on the corner of Main Street and Sycamore. For entertainment, there’s the Branson Boardgame Café, live shows at the Hot Hits Theatre, and plays at the 1930s Historic Owen Theatre.

2. Branson Theatre District (Hwy-76 Strip)

Just to the west of Downtown, Hwy-76 (officially W 76 Country Blvd) anchors Branson’s primary entertainment district or Theatre District. It’s lined with friendly-family attractions and show venues for over 6 miles, from the I Love Branson Visitor Center to the Shepherd of the Hills park.

The biggest draws are numerous live shows held here in around 30 theaters, covering everything from comedy and Gospel to magic, bluegrass, country, and more. The spectrum ranges from the horse stunts at Dolly Parton’s Stampede to beloved country acts like Buck Trent and the musical SIX Show. Kids will enjoy the attractions (think zip-lines, Aquarium at the Boardwalk, Bigfoot Fun Park, and the Butterfly Palace & Rainforest Adventure), as well as the World’s Largest Toy Museum. Other highlights include interactive Beyond the Lens dedicated to technology, Fritz’s Adventure amusement park for younger kids, the wildly popular Titanic Museum, and the Branson Ferris Wheel. The Veterans Memorial Museum highlights American conflicts of the 20th Century.

3. Shepherd of the Hills Expressway

Shepherd of the Hills Expressway has gradually become an extension of the main strip, just to the south, with a similar line-up of shows and family-friendly attractions. Highlights include shows from Japanese fiddler-singer Shoji Tabuchi, Hamners’ Variety Theater, The Sons of Britches, and the Sight & Sound Theatres. Kids will also enjoy the Waterfall Hiking Trail, Adventure Ziplines of Branson, and Branson’s Promised Land Zoo.

Note that the Shepherd of the Hills Homestead lies just north of the Expressway turn-off itself, on Hwy-376. This complex of adventure park rides and ziplines is anchored by a farm and outdoor shows based on Harold Bell Wright’s novel, The Shepherd of the Hills. It also includes the 230ft-tall Inspiration Tower with its panoramic views.

4. Silver Dollar City

Silver Dollar City is one of Branson’s biggest attractions, a Victorian-style theme park about 10 miles west of Downtown. Staying in one of the hotels nearby means quick and easy access to the park which features over 40 rides and attractions, more live shows and concerts, and a host of restaurants and shops, in addition to Marvel Cave, one of Missouri’s deepest caverns. Highlights include Time Traveler, the tallest, fastest, and longest spinning roller coaster in the world; Mystic River Falls, which boasts one of the world’s tallest water raft ride drops; Outlaw Run, the only wooden rollercoaster to go upside down three times; and the Frisco Silver Dollar Steam Train, offering 20-minute rides through the hills. The park also features resident craftspeople demonstrating traditional skills like blacksmiths, candy makers, and glassblowing.

5. Table Rock

Table Rock is a relatively quiet neighborhood 7 miles southwest of Downtown Branson, where the Table Rock Lake/White River is dammed. The Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery is here, as is the Dewey Short Visitor Center next to the dam itself. There are small strips of sand on the lake, like Moonshine Beach, waterside trails, and the Showboat Branson Belle riverboat, which offers lake cruises with meals and shows. Table Rock State Park is laced with shady hiking trails and the Runaway Mountain Coaster, a thrilling alpine coaster (9 and over). The Welk Resort Theatre is attached to the Welk Resort and is open to the public.

6. Table Rock Lake

Table Rock Lake, which sprawls west of Branson itself, is huge (about 52,300 acres). It’s actually a man-made reservoir created in 1958 when the US Army Corps of Engineers dammed the White River. Motels, resorts, campgrounds, and fish camps line the jagged arms of the lake, making for fun-family getaways in the summer. It’s a different sort of holiday, with outdoor activities in relatively secluded surroundings forefront. Depending on the section the lake, the attractions of Branson will be anything from a 20-minute to a 2-hour drive away, something to bear in mind when booking.

The closest area to town is Indian Point (also a short drive from Silver Dollar City), with plenty of accommodations along the water: White Wing and Crystal Cove are good choices here. To the south of Branson, Ridgedale is another lakeside community conveniently close to the city and the airport, with major resorts like Big Cedar Lodge. Further west, Kimberling City is a separate community, with its own shops and restaurants serving another cluster of lakeside resorts.

The main draw here is obviously the lake itself, ideal for paddleboarding, kayaking, and boating. The lake is also known for its excellent bass and trout fishing. Other attractions on the fringes of the lake include the trails at Dogwood Canyon Nature Park, concerts at Black Oak Mountain Amphitheater, the quirky Golden Pioneer Museum, and Talking Rocks Cavern.

7. Bull Shoals Lake

Bull Shoals Lake is another man-made reservoir on the White River, southeast of Branson, encompassing parts of Missouri and Arkansas. Its heavily indented shoreline stretches for hundreds of miles, offering more opportunities for boating, swimming, and fishing. Its crystal-clear waters are also good for scuba diving. Bull Shoals tends to be much less busy than the other Branson lakes and neighborhoods, making for a much more tranquil vacation and wilderness experience, though most hotels are also much further from the entertainment in Branson itself (the city of Bull Shoals is at least a 1hr 30min drive from Downtown Branson). Most accommodations lie on the Arkansas side of the lake and tend to be very good value. Other attractions include Bull Shoals Caverns and the Bull Shoals White River State Park.

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About Santorini Dave

Santorini Dave Author Bio. Santorini Dave was started in 2011 by a guy who loved Greece, travel, and great hotels. We're now a small team of writers and researchers on a mission to deliver the most helpful travel content on the internet. We specialize in Santorini, Mykonos, Athens, and Greece and recommend the best hotels, best neighborhoods, and best family hotels in top destinations around the world. We also make hotel maps and travel videos. I can be contacted at dave@santorinidave.com.