The Ozarks are full of famous attractions as well as unforgettable hidden gems. Let's take a tour through the mountains and learn just how much there is to see and do in The Ozarks!
I'm fortunate enough to be within driving distance of Branson, but if you'd like to fly in for your Ozarks adventure, Frontier Airlines offers low-fare, direct flights from Dallas, Denver, Chicago, and more. Whether you chose to drive or fly, Branson will likely be the first stop on your Ozarks journey. Here are a few things to enjoy (and eat!) while you're there.
Hilton of Branson - If you're wondering where to stay during your visit to Branson, I can't recommend Hilton of Branson enough. Besides all the luxury and amenities, you'll be within walking distance of Branson Landing and a couple of other things featured in this post.
Clocker's Cafe - Just a short walk from Hiltons of Branson you'll find Clockers Cafe which is a popular breakfast spot for locals.
With delicious, Southern breakfast spreads like the ones we enjoyed it's easy to see why Clockers is popular.
We were seated and served quickly but if you find yourself with a little wait time on your hands you'll be entertained by admiring the restaurant's enormous clock collection.
Illusionist Rick Thomas - Branson is famous for its shows and if you don't have time to see them all during your visit, at least ensure Illusionist Rick Thomas at Andy Williams Performing Arts Center makes it toward the top of your list. A 2:00 matinee is currently available on Fridays and Saturdays which frees up your nights for different shows.
Rick Thomas brings his Las Vegas magic and showmanship to the Ozarks so get ready for not only jaw-dropping illusions (including making a helicopter disappear!) but also lots of laughs and audience participation. This show is suitable for the whole family and I would like for my own kids to see it one day soon.
Grand Village Shops - Stop by the Grand Village Shops in Branson to browse 27 different stores. Kringles Christmas Store, Lori's Soap Market, and Peter Engler Woodcarving Designs were a few of my favorites.
Sugar Leaf Cafe - Don't leave the Grand Village Shops without visiting Sugar Leaf Cafe for a meal, dessert, coffee, or all three.
I started off with a scrumptious salad and a side of fruit.
Paired with fresh-squeezed lavender lemonade, my salad and fruit plate was plenty to make a memorable lunch.
But then dessert happened and happened WELL. You'll probably have a hard time deciding on dessert at Sugar Leaf so feel free to order several. I won't judge.
And you've got to love autumn in the South where you're sipping on lemonade one minute and enjoying hot chocolate the next. If that's not a metaphor for our mercurial weather I don't' know what is!
Million Dollar Quartet - After your tummy is full and you've purchased treasures to bring back home, settle in for Million Dollar Quartet at Welk Theatre.
Storytelling, acting, plus a beautiful set and costumes combine to give Million Dollar Quartet that Broadway musical feel that won it a Tony award. I was expecting a simple performance of favorite classics and got so much more!
The performers really own their roles and in addition to the raw talent they naturally possess, you can tell they've spent hours honing their characters' mannerisms, body language, and voices. Music lovers and history buffs alike will enjoy Million Dollar Quartet.
White River Fish House - Located at Branson Landing, the White River Fish House is within walking distance of Hiltons of Branson. It's an ideal location to enjoy a relaxing dinner after a day of fun in Branson.
I went all out with crab-topped redfish, the cornbread that's included with entrees, and an appetizer of fried cheese curds (clockwise from top left in the photo below.). If you have land-lubbers in your party, the brisket sandwich might just be their new favorite.
Silver Dollar City - There's always something unique going on at Silver Dollar City. This was my first visit to the theme park and I was fortunate enough to experience their first Pumpkin Nights festival. Over 10,000 pumpkins adorn the park during Pumpkin Nights.
2,500 of them are hand-carved and 500 of them were done by master carver Barry Brown who created many of the pumpkins you see in the movie Hocus Pocus! Check out the video below to see what the park looks like during Pumpkin Nights and to learn some of Barry's pumpkin carving tips.
Silver Dollar City offers seasonal-inspired desserts for fall and Christmas. From pumpkin whoopie pies to churros with a whipped pumpkin dip, there's something to please everyone. The pumpkin funnel cake was my favorite and judging by how many people I saw enjoying one that night I'd say I have good taste.
Another special feature of Pumpkin Nights at Silver Dollar City is that the park stays open until 9:00 PM. This gives guests the opportunity to ride some of their favorite rides in the dark. This is particularly cool for two reasons:
- Silver Dollar City coasters are purposely not lit at night
- Silver Dollar City is located in the mountains and away from any metropolitan areas which means you don't have the twinkle of city lights or the glow of a large urban area nearby
The result? Bigger thrills!
My favorite ride is the Time Traveler which is the world's fastest, steepest and tallest spinning roller coaster.
Riding it in the dark made me disoriented in the best of ways. I screamed and giggled throughout the whole ride and the fantastical steampunk theme delighted my soul.
There will be even more fun to be had during Christmastime in Branson. Don't miss it!
Eureka Springs, ARKANSAS
Just an hour southwest of Branson by car lies the charming town of Eureka Springs, Arkansas. This Ozark town captured my heart with its quirky shops, rich history, and of course the Crescent Hotel. Let's see what's in store for you during your visit to Eureka Springs.
Tram tour of Eureka Springs - Probably the best way to learn about the history of the town, see some of the original springs that initially drew settlers, and meet some locals is to take a tram tour.
Eureka Springs is walkable (yet hilly!) but you'll learn so much more with the help of your guide on the tram tour, especially if you have limited time. There's quirky architecture like this duplex with addresses on two different streets,
and the residence of Arkansas' first female doctor,
which has a carriage step just outside that I would have missed if I wasn't on the tour.
What's a 19th-century town without a former house of ill repute? You're not imagining the..erm..symbolism of the sign shape. Locals have nicknamed it "The Phallus Palace" and if that doesn't make you giggle like a 6th-grader, you need some more levity in your life.
Eureka Springs Shopping - Shops galore line the street of the shopping district in Eureka Springs. I found everything from crystals sourced from local rockhounds to unique pieces created by local artisans, to tarot and psychic readings.
Bring your camera along because this area is pure eye candy for the shutterbug.
Plan at least a few hours here to browse the stores, take fun photos, and enjoy lunch.
Crescent Hotel - America's Most Haunted Hotel earned its moniker honestly. You can stay the night in an "active" (haunted) or "inactive" room to take advantage of all the hotel has to offer or just make a night out of it by enjoying dinner in The Crystal Dining Room followed by a ghost tour.
Read all about my adventures at the Crescent Hotel and watch the video tour below.
Thorncrown Chapel - On the outskirts of town on your way west toward Bentonville, you'll pass Thornecrown Chapel. This free attraction (they do accept donations) is a wonderful place to sit for a little while in contemplation.
Due to the architecture of Thornecrown Chapel, you'll feel like you're in nature minus the heat, cold, rain, or bugs. It's a lovely atmosphere and perfect for meditation, prayer, or just to rest a bit on your journey.
21C Museum Hotel - 21C Museum Hotel is a 104-room boutique hotel located within walking distance of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art (more on that later.) An art museum, hotel, and restaurant in one, 21C Museum Hotel has hosted some famous guests thanks to a local film festival.
Guests are encouraged to interact with the hotel's flock of penguins from taking them to dinner at The Hive to bringing one up to your room. Jennifer Garner decided hers needed a shower.
The Hive - Chef Matthew McClure has won culinary awards galore and you can sample some of his creations at The Hive.
Art flows from the hotel into the restaurant so you can enjoy it while you eat (and even bring a penguin along for a bite.) I had The Hive Power Bowl to fuel the rest of our busy day in The Ozarks and was not disappointed.
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art - We had three hours to spend here and could easily have spent six. In addition to 50,000 square feet of gallery space, you'll find a restaurant on a glass-enclosed bridge overlooking the ponds, a Museum Store, a library featuring more than 50,000 volumes, plus sculpture and that link the museum's 120-acre park to downtown Bentonville.
Perhaps most spectacular of all is that entry to the permanent galleries and nature trails are always free. FREE. I would probably live at Crystal Bridges if I could. I mean there's food, nature, art, community, and serenity. Sign me up.
I addition to the always free permanent collections, installations, and outdoor acreage, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art also hosts rotating, temporary exhibits that are ticketed.
Crystal lover that I am, I was on cloud nine in this exhibit. I tried to take a selfie with this bad boy, but at 1,500 pounds he deserves the photo to himself.
Bentonville residents, I hope you know how lucky you are to have a treasure like Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in your back yard!
With so much to do and see in The Ozarks, I can't wait to go back. Only in The Ozarks can you be entertained in Branson, revel in the history and mystique of Eureka Springs, and appreciate all the art that Bentonville has to offer.
About the Author
When Jennifer isn't creating delicious recipes at Sweet T Makes Three, she's exploring family-friendly destinations across the Southeast with her husband and two children.