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Things have been a little quiet here as we’ve been on family vacation in Branson! When we travel, we are always traveling on a limited budget. This being said, today I wanted to share some free things to do in Branson with kids while the ideas are fresh on my mind!
Our children are 2 and 5 years old as I write this. Which means, paying for experiences isn’t always the best option for us. You never know how long they are going to be interested or how they will react to what’s going on around them.
With that being said, here are some free or affordable activities that our kids LOVE doing in Branson!
20 Best Free Things to Do in Branson Missouri with Kids:
1) Visit the Dewey Short Visitor Center.
This turned out to be SUCH a fun spot and great free tour! The kids wanted to go back the next day, that’s how much fun we had! One of the best things about this place is that the employees are so kind and helpful, and truly encourage letting the kids play and explore. There is a interactive sand area, informational movie room, overlook, and several informational activities. After exploring the building, you can take a walk down by the water and let the kids explore. We got there right as they opened and had the place to ourselves for about 30 minutes.
There are lots of places to sit down by the water, as well as some picnic tables. You could spend a whole morning here and then have a picnic by the water!
We didn’t swim here due to the temps when we visited, but this would be a great swim area!
2) Drive and see the gorgeous 165 Scenic Overlook. Simply walk across the road to grab a coffee at Vintage Paris and let the kids play in the kids corner there!
This is the prettiest view of Branson, and even driving to this spot gives you such scenic views. There is a fence around the ledge making it safe for kids. Sadly we visited on a super cloudy day, so we couldn’t see as much as you can on a sunny day. But still beautiful!
Just across the street is Vintage Paris, which is a little slice of Heaven. You can hear the soothing folk music playing as you approach. It’s generally pretty quiet and set against a mountain, all by itself. Amazing coffee, kind employees, and LOTS of cozy places to sit.
Dave and I grabbed coffees and let the kids play in the kids corner (there is a little shelf with toys for smaller kids). Our oldest got a kids hot chocolate and felt very big 😉
I even snuck away during the kids nap time one day just to come back here by myself and sit in a comfy chair by the window! Can’t rave about this place enough.
3) Feed the fish at the Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery and tour the facility.
Take a self-guided tour through the fish hatchery! Our kids (5 and 2 years old) LOVED every minute of this. There is an indoor area with fish, snakes, and lizards on display. We even got to see a REAL and very rare two-headed snake! I was equal parts terrified and amazed.
Make sure to bring quarters to buy fish food outside for the rainbow and brown trout! I’d recommend at least $3 to $5 dollars worth of quarters, as the food goes pretty quick with kiddos. They have quarter machines located outside that make it easy to purchase the food. You can even get a peek at table rock dam!
We had a lot of rain when we visited, so we decided to make the most of it and still get out and explore. Thank goodness for the Trolley! It runs from 9am to 6pm all week long, March – December.
We parked in the Branson Landing parking lot, right in front of the White River Fish House. There is a pick-up spot located right on the corner there. We arrived at 8:55 and the trolley showed up around 9:05am, so we didn’t wait long at all.
Our driver was so kind and gave us the history of things as we drove around. Make sure to ask your driver about themselves and how they ended up in Branson. We had the best conversation with the kind man that drove our route!
We grabbed coffee from Hollister Coffee right around the corner before catching the trolly. Highly recommend!
5) Browse Dicks 5 & 10 in Downtown Branson
There is a trolley stop right in front of Dicks 5 & 10, so we just hopped off when the trolley stopped! It’s the cutest store that will take you down memory lane with it’s old toys and candies. We spent about 30 minutes in here, but without kids I would have browsed even longer. It was so fun to peruse and remember things from childhood!
The kids were each allowed to pick out one candy and one toy under $10. This was a trip highlight for them!
6) Walk around Branson Landing, feed the fish and geese, and catch a fountain show.
Since we parked in front of the Landing to catch the trolley, we hopped back on the trolley after Dicks 5 & 10 and made our way back to take a stroll amidst the stores and along the waterfront.
We also love the complimentary cornbread skillets at the White River Fish House, so we had to stop there for lunch while on the Landing. Ask for a table overlooking the lake for an extra fun experience!
7) Visit the Arcade City at the Branson Landing.
We stopped at Arcade City while perusing the Branson Landing and purchased a $20 game card. This actually gives you $25 worth of game money. This is a great place to go if it’s raining and you need to tuck away for a bit. The games range from 50 cents to $1 per play, so this actually took up a good bit of time! I’d say around 45 minutes for our littles, and they had a ton of fun!
8) Go for an easy, kid-friendly hikel and swim at the Waterfall Hiking Trail.
I stumbled upon this beautiful nature trail while looking for an easy hike for small kids. This one far exceeded my expectations! It’s only 2/3 mile long and runs along a creek-bed with some beautiful trees, so the kids can swim and play along the way. There are also deep swimming holes along the way that you can stop and take a dip in. When you make it to the end of the trail, there is a gorgeous waterfall with a wading/swimming area underneath. Our kids had such a great time here. It really feels like a hidden gem.
I’d recommend wearing waterproof shoes and swim-friendly attire!
9) Picnic and let the kids swim or wade at Table Rock State Park.
This is free and a must for us every visit! We bring a picnic lunch (usually hot dogs to grill) and arrive early to ensure that we get a table at one of the lakeside picnic areas.We bring the kids sand toys as there are tiny rocks along the shore that they can dig in.
This is truly such a pretty spot!
10) Grab $1 ice cream at Abby’s Tourist Trap.
Abby’s Tourist Trap has cheaper souvenirs than most of the other shops we saw, so it’s a nice place to visit and let the kids pick out a little something. They have $1 ice cream, cobbler, and homemade fudge as well, so it’s great for an affordable dessert out!
We always stay at Pointe Royale Resorts when we visit Branson, as our friends own two beautiful condos there. Branson Boho on Airbnb! And also Branson Boho #2! Their condos are in an amazing location for everything you might want to do in Branson and have everything you could possibly need. Andria and Greg, the owners, are truly the kindest and want their guests to have an amazing stay. Their rentals are downright luxurious, and we always feel at home when we stay at either of their places!
The Resort has an outdoor and indoor pool (great for rainy days!!) and an outdoor hot tub. I recommend the indoor pool because if you get a week like we did (where it rains almost every day), the indoor pool is a saving grace!
There’s also a tiki bar and restaurant! You better believe we were at the pool every afternoon after naps. It also backs up to Lake Taneycomo, with a playground and grill/picnic tables by the water. This is one of our favorite spots!
12) Tour College of the Ozarks.
For a free activity, you can tour the grounds of College of the Ozarks. It’s a beautiful campus where you can tour the barn, Ralph Foster Museum, Edwards Mill (where they grind flour and cornmeal), fruit cake bakery, church, and overlook at Lake Taneycomo!
Afterwards, you can stop by Keeter Center for lunch or ice cream, or simply to visit the gift shop. This is a completely student run facility, and it is honestly one of the best dining experiences we’ve ever had!
If you go for lunch, make sure you get there at 10:30am when they open. It’s first come, first serve and they do not take reservations.
13) Spend the day at Moonshine Beach!
Moonshine Beach is a sandy beach swimming area of Table Rock Lake. We LOVE visiting Moonshine beach, as it’s the closest us Missourians get to a real beach! It has shaded picnic tables, grills, and a public restroom.
It is $5 a vehicle to enter the park, but well worth it! We bring our sand toys, a beach tent, snacks and lunch, and stay until mid afternoon!
14) Spend some time at 1984 Branson Arcade.
This arcade has $10 admission but you can play all day! We actually haven’t done this, as our kids are still pretty little and would not be quite old enough to play most of these games. But for 7+, I think this would be an awesome experience and affordable fun! We will definitely be going in the future.
15) Play in the creek or on the playground at Stockstill Park.
16) Visit Ruth and Paul Henning Conservation Area.
An easy hike and a beautiful view!
OTHER IDEAS: (Not free, but still affordable!)
17) Visit Silver Dollar City!
Obviously, this is not free or cheap. However, it is our one big splurge when we visit Branson, and in my opinion – worth it! I highly recommend going on a Thursday with discounted tickets from Country Mart! We aim to only buy lunch and one treat while at the park, and generally stay from opening (9:30 am) to around 4:30pm. There are so many kid-friendly rides and fun family activities!
If you are going in peak season (summer months), make sure you strive to get there EARLY. Earlier than early! We have made the mistake of aiming to get there 15 minutes before opening. This wasn’t a good move, as everyone else was aiming for that as well – and there was a 30 minute car back-up to get into the park. And then we had to stand in line for the shuttle to make it into the park. So while we technically aimed for 9:15am, we made it into the park at 10:45. Learn from our mistake! It’s better to be there early and sit in the parking lot until they open, rather than be an hour delayed because of traffic.
We really wanted to do on our last trip, but it rained almost every day we were there. We’ve heard it’s beautiful and a ton of fun, so it’s next on our list!
19) Wild World
The kids loved this and it was perfect for a rainy morning! You can feed sharks and stingrays, play mini golf, and there are SO many animals to see. We were able to find a deal on Groupon, and all of us got in for around $60, I believe. This is incredibly affordable compared to most of the entertainment I price compared. Highly recommend! The best part of this is that it’s an all-day pass, so you can leave and come back after grabbing some food or another activity.
This is another that we didn’t get to do this trip, but it is on our list for next year! I’ve heard that kids can spend hours here and not run out of activities.
21) Drive the Branson Strip
This goes without saying, but in the Heart of Branson on the main strip – you will find so many places to catch live shows, live music, interactive exhibits, see famous cars, grab ice cream, ride carousels, visit small amusement parks, and loads of indoor and outdoor activities!
Branson is truly fun for our whole family, and there are so many ways to keep it budget friendly.
I hope this list of free things to do in Branson has been helpful in planning your own fun-filled trip!
Until next time,