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If you’re looking to do something different this Halloween, why not consider a trip to Branson? Offering the traditional Halloween celebrations—as well as some non-traditional ones—and the opportunity to enjoy one of our town’s most beautiful seasons, Branson is a favorite vacation destination on all fronts. From the mild to the wild to the extra-frightening, there’s no better place to celebrate America’s third favorite holiday than right here in the Ozarks and our Missouri mountain hometown enjoying Branson’s attractions!


Where to Trick or Treat

For families traveling with young children, trick or treating is extremely important, and thankfully, not necessary to forego during your Branson Halloween vacation. Your little goblins have the choice between three different locations, and because at least one of those locations holds its Trick or Treating night earlier, the opportunity to get more candy will make your child extremely happy! This year’s dates haven’t been released yet, but Branson Landing and Branson’s Tanger Outlets traditionally have sponsored trick or treating on Halloween night, while Branson Park and Rec’s Halloween BOOnanza is generally held the Saturday before.


Want to Be Scared?

Every year we say we won’t scream at Branson’s Haunted Screampark, but of course, every year we fail. This Screampark is scary, featuring four different attractions guaranteed to test the strength of your heart! Billed among Branson attractions as the Biggest Halloween Event and located at 236 Wild Valley Way in Branson West, you’ll want to go back again and again and again—if you survive your first visit, of course!


Want to Be REALLY Scared?

Fake ghosts may get your heart pumping, but it’s the real things that will test your mettle, and Branson Ghost and Paranormal Tours offer the opportunity to show what you’re made of! As you walk along the darkened streets of Branson, your guide will take you to the spots where the most restless of spirits are doomed to spend their days and nights.


It’s So Obvious

We almost don’t want to bring up this last activity, but we just can’t help ourselves! You come to Branson for the shows, so why not take in a Halloween themed one? The Hughes Music Show is proud to present the Howling Fun Show, held on October 27th, a Halloween themed show where the guests are invited to wear their most original costumes!


Stay in and Binge Watch Scary Movies and Enjoy Other Branson Attractions

Some of our best Halloween memories occurred after the last goblins and ghouls were tucked in bed dreaming of their All Hallows Eve experiences; we’d “borrow” candy, pour ourselves a drink, and settle in for a long night of binge watching scary movies, just as you can do today in your Sunset Nightly Rentals vacation escape. Our homes offer state of the art electronics, plush furnishings, and a quiet place to binge watch your own favorite spooktaculars— contact us and reserve yours today!

Not long after I moved back to the Ozarks in 2005, I reread Shepherd of the Hills by Harold Bell Wright. Reading the book as an adult impacted how I look at the Ozarks in a big way. While I enjoy the lakes here and their beauty is breathtaking, the hills call to me and always have since I first started exploring them back in the 1970s. When I look out over the mountains, I often imagine the people who lived in this region before Mr. Wright’s book became a best seller and people came looking for Uncle Matt and Aunt Molly. When I get a chance, I still love finding new trails to explore so when my sister and brother and law recommended the Homestead Trail, I decided to check it out. The Homestead Trail is part of Ruth and Paul Henning Conversation Area (interesting side note – Paul Henning was the creator of The Beverly Hillbillies, Petticoat Junction and Green Acres). The main parking lot for the conservation area is located right off of Highway 76 and offers wonderful views of the Ozark Mountains and a few moderately difficult trails, while the Homestead Trail is more secluded and can be accessed at the end of Sycamore Church Road off of Highway 248. This 3.5 mile trail is more difficult to traverse but even as a 50 year old woman with a little bit of a spare tire, I was able to make the hike with a few breaks to rest, hydrate and take in the serenity. There are 15 markers along the trail indicating where homes once stood. Other than the markers, there aren’t a lot of signs that people once lived in these remote hills. A few old stone wells, some old barbed wire growing through the trees and some foundations are all that remain of the homes inhabited with real-life people like the characters that helped form Branson into what it is. Even though the homes are no longer standing, there is still plenty to see along the hike. The trail winds through heavily forested areas into glades (or as they are known locally Balds) teaming with wildflowers, reptiles and birds. The whole 3.5 mile trek took us about 5 hours but we stopped many times along the way to try to rest and to look for skinks and lizards. We also pondered about the uses of many artifacts along the trail such as a cement wall about 100 feet long and 2 feet high running along a dry creek bed. If you are looking for a way to connect with the Ozarks that is off the beaten path, I highly recommend this hike. Just wear good shoes and take plenty of water and insect repellent.


With all the natural beauty surrounding our pristine 43,000 acre lake, there is a plethora of activities that you and your family can enjoy on, in, under and beside this lake. Here’s our Top 10 List (in no particular order).


1) Swimming

Take a dip in the warm waters of the lake. Find a secluded cove to splash and play or if you prefer the sand under your feet, check out Moonshine Beach.


2) Boating

If you are bringing your boat with you or if want to rent a boat for the day, State Park Marina or Indian Point Marina can help you out. Be sure to call early though as boat slips fill up fast!


3) Canoeing or kayaking

If you prefer a slower traipse around the lake to really take in the beauty, a canoe or kayak is right up your alley. Ozarks Extreme Outdoors and Kayak Branson make renting a snap.


4) Fishing

For the anglers in the family, Table Rock offers up a variety of fish including bass and crappie. If it’s your first time on the lake, you might consider a fishing guide like Pete’s Professional Guide Service or Branson Guided Fishing Trips to show you the best spots. If you’re ready to go it on your own, check out Pete’s Fishing Report for a weekly update on lake levels, temperature and everything you need to know to get the fish biting.


5) Hiking

Take a walk beside the lake on Table Rock Lakeshore Trail. This easy 2.25 mile trail is so well-maintained and flat that wheelchairs and strollers aren’t a problem. For the more adventurous, the area does offer more challenging trails. Click here for a list of trails along with their maps.


6) Bicyling

If you want to take to two wheels on the trails, our friends at State Park Marina can help out again. They offer bike rentals by the hour or by the day to accommodate your schedule.


7) Parasailing

What better way to take in the splendor of the lake than from a bird’s eye perspective? A tour American Parasail allows you to fly like an eagle over Table Rock. They will even video your experience and private charters are available.


8) Scuba Diving

Go under the surface and explore the depths of the lake. Who knows what treasure may be waiting to be discovered. Or if that doesn’t work, there’s still some pretty cool fish and scenery to take in. For more information, check out White River Dive Co.


9) Dewey Short Visitor Center

This museum offers a respite from the outside on a hot or rainy day but it’s an experience to visit anytime. With interactive displays about the history and construction of Table Rock Dam, local flora and fauna, and Native American artifacts, everyone in the family will find something to interest them.


10) The Showboat Branson Belle

Want a great meal at a great price and a great show all while you’re cruising the lake? Look no further. The Branson Belle serves it all up on a 1890’s style paddlewheeler with tons of fun and flair.

Well, we hope this post offered some insight into a few of the activities and attractions that have made Branson, MO the great city it is. If you find yourself in the neighborhood and need a place to stay, make sure to check out our vacation homes & condos for rent!

You’ve worked hard all year. You look forward to some fun in the sun with the family. Visions of holes in one on Payne Stewart Golf Course and jet-skiing on Table Rock Lake dance in your head. You brave the drive through the Ozark Hills with the kids doing what kids must do on long trips – fighting about who touched whom. You arrive at your vacation rental, get a good night sleep and wake up, relaxed and ready. You open the door and…RAIN…RAIN…RAIN!!!!

What now, sulk in the condo and watch reruns? The family can’t decide on a show you would all enjoy? Don’t fret. Branson has tons of fun to offer when Mother Nature decides not to cooperate. Here’s just a few…

IMax Theater

Located in the IMax Entertainment Complex with live shows, shopping and food, this theater features six story tall screens showing first run feature films as well as visually amazing IMax feature. There’s even one about the history of the Ozarks with some breathtaking scenery. Even if you can’t be out in the mountains, you can still experience them bigger than life!


The Butterfly Palace and Rainforest Experience

This exotic interactive experience is a hit with kids and adults alike. Hang out in the peaceful aviary watching the butterflies feed. Stick around and you may even be able to release one of the newly hatched butterflies to fly for the very first time. Since it’s a self-guided tour, you can take as much time as you want and hang out as long as you like at The Butterfly Palace.


Titanic Museum

Billed as The World’s Largest Museum Attraction, this interactive museum is filled with artifacts and reproductions of items from the ill-fated luxury liner, including a reproduction of the Grand Staircase. There’s even a scavenger hunt for the kids to participate in to keep them occupied while you browse and read all the interesting trivia scattered throughout the ship. More info can be found on The Titanic Museum Website.


World’s Largest Toy Museum

With over a million toys, you’re sure to find your favorite childhood toy on display at The World’s Largest Toy Museum. What a great way to spend a rainy day, reminiscing and sharing memories of your past with your kids. They may even discover that there was a time when toys didn’t have to be connected to the internet – or even plugged in, for that matter.


Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum

Spread out over 12,000 square feet, this Odditorium features over 450 items from the Ripley Collection. Ranging from the breathtaking to the macabre, everyone in the family can find something to oooh and aaaah over at Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum.


Celebration City is located just south of the 76 & Shepard of the Hills Expressway intersection. It has been closed since October 2008. If you would like to see the current view from a drone, watch this youtube video here. Did you go to Celebration City at night? Do you see the “special” items in the video?

Parakeet Pete’s Waterfront Balloon in Branson

Over the course of the last month, I’ve curiously watched crews assemble the new Waterfront Balloon. Rising some 16 stories in the air, this impressive cylindrical design can easily be seen from miles away. Today, my curiosity got the better of me so I drove down to The Branson Landing for a closer look.

The Branson Waterfront Balloon is located right next to Belks at The Branson Landing and overlooks Lake Taneycomo. Although details are rather scarce, the illuminated balloon will lift visitors to the top for a birds eye view of Downtown Branson, The Landing, and Lake Taneycomo. I’m not sure exactly how high the balloon will rise, but it’s my understanding the balloon will remain encapsulated in the steel structure. This enables operation during windy weather conditions. I’ve been unable to track down pricing or a grand opening date. As soon as more information becomes available, I will update this post.

Review of Indian Point Zipline Adventure Tour

One thing that Branson is known for is their zip lines, and being the young adrenaline junkie I am, I decided that it was time I finally tried on of these crazy flying adventures. After checking out the various ziplines around town, my best friend and I decided on Indian Point Ziplines at Deer Run.

Indian Point Zip line is located right by Silver Dollar City and the Indian Point Marina so it was not hard to find. When we got there, our guides were super friendly and helpful. They helped us with the harnesses and explained all the rules in a fun way, so it wouldn’t be just another rules lecture that most people simply ignore. They even made the people in our group who were not exactly excited about going feel a lot more comfortable. Once we got through all the rules, we headed out to the course. I will warn you there were quite a few stairs to get up the tower, so be prepared! Once you make it up there DON’T LOOK DOWN! Being 30 feet up in the air can be somewhat scary, so I would focus on looking straight ahead. Once it is your turn to go, just jump! The longer you wait the scarier it gets! However, do not worry, the guides are extremely qualified and trained, and they make it a lot easier and fun!

There are 6 different lines, some starting from towers, and others starting from the ground. Each time they give you a challenge to make you more comfortable, such as keep your eyes open, only hold with one hand, do not use your hands at all, or even go upside down (Upside down was the hardest, but the most fun)! The whole course takes 1-2 hours to go through, depending on how big your group is and how long it takes each person to go. Once you are done with the course there is a half mile hike back, but it is easy and beautiful!

Along with the Zip line, they have a water slide that is 347 feet long! It winds through mountains and different parts of the Ozarks. Unfortunately, we did not have time for the hydro slide, but It looks like a blast!

If you’re thinking this blog post is about education, you will probably have to go somewhere else, because College of the Ozarks, or more popularly called Hard Work U, is not just a place of learning. College of the Ozarks is a work-study college, so none of the students pay tuition; they earn tuition through 15 hours of campus work each week. But never fear, the campus has a lot to offer tourists as well!

Campus Agriculture

After you enter the “gates of opportunity,” I recommend you visit the dairy farm. Students who run the farm get up early every morning and milk the cows around 5 am and then again at 5 pm. If you’re there around those times you’ll learn about the cow milking process. Across from the milking area is the tractor museum. Here you can see all of the equipment they have used over the years and learn a thing or two about farming. The farm is completely open for tours; all you have to do is ask one of the students. Make sure they take you to see the baby calves!

Next to the dairy farm are the greenhouses. Stop and smell the flowers where students grow their prize winning orchids, along with other plants and vegetables. You can purchase the orchids any time, and on Fridays, you can visit the farmers market where vegetables, flowers, meats, and other student made products are available for purchase. Anything that anyone purchases here goes to help students to pay for their education!

The rustic looking building is the mill. The College locally outsources different grains and grinds them right here in the mill. Chock-full of history and artifacts, the mill has a lot of information about the early Ozark period. They also make baskets by hand and linens with the loom. Everything they make is available for purchase, along with some of the meats that the campus raises, butchers, and processes themselves!

On the “sweeter” side of campus you’ll find the fruitcake and jelly kitchen! Here you will see students making the campus famous fruitcakes and apple butter, along with tons of different jellies. Never tried fruitcake? Well you will have an opportunity to here!

Chapel, Point Lookout, and Ralph Foster Museum

Right next to the fruitcake and jelly kitchen is the Williams Memorial Chapel. This architecturally gorgeous building with its stained glass windows makes a great place for worship and weddings. Services are at 11 am every Sunday.

Across from the chapel is the “Point Lookout.” This scenic overlook looks over the lovely Lake Taneycomo, city of Branson, and Ozark Mountains. A beautiful sight to behold in the fall when the leaves are changing colors!

I saved the best for last; The Ralph Foster Museum! This three-story museum has a bit of everything for everyone. Full of artifacts from the college and Ozarks, its highlights include a gun collection and the famous Beverly Hillbilly’s car!

As you can see there is lots to do here! After you spend the afternoon here, don’t forget to visit the Keeter Center for dinner, or just coffee and ice cream.

Yep. Branson Missouri has a beach; Moonshine Beach.

Now if you are like me love to be outside splashing in the water, and don’t want to spend a lot of money, Moonshine Beach is a great attraction to visit while in Branson. This beach is fun for all ages. Whether it is swimming in Table Rock Lake, getting that perfect tan, playing a fun game of sand volleyball, grilling some tasty food for lunch, or having a party in their shaded pavilions, there is something for everyone!

Kids especially love the beach, building sand castles, running around, and swimming! However, never fear, if your child is not the greatest of swimmers, there are life jackets available for use so they can still enjoy the fun.


Sand Volleyball is a Blast

Now being in the younger generation, I really love to swim and play volleyball with my friends, it is something we could do all day! The first thing we do when we get there is find a good spot, kick off the shoes, start the best summer music, and serve the ball! One of the great things about the Branson area is that everyone is so inviting so if you do not have a big group don’t worry. There will be plenty of people already there ready to play!


A Relaxing Experience

Not everyone who goes to the beach is up to being that active. Moonshine however is so spacious that you can have a good time volleying the ball, while others lay out, relax, read books, or just work on their tans. With the warm sand, it also makes a great place to catch up on some sleep!


Shaded Pavilions and BBQ Grills

If you’re not into the sun as much but still want to enjoy a day out with friends and family, there are shaded pavilions where you can stay cool and enjoy the beautiful views! Next to the pavilion, there are community grills so you never have to leave the beach property. You can cook a great lunch and laugh together with family under the covered pavilions!

With volleyball, swimming, a place to cook lunch, and even a good place for an afternoon nap, you can’t go wrong with spending the day at Moonshine beach. Entry is only $5 making it one of the least expensive, fun, all day events in the Branson area.

Cold Weather Won’t Matter

How often does Mother Nature disrupt your vacation plans? Maybe I’m just unlucky, but I’ve never had a vacation with utopia like weather every day. When your inevitable, unseasonably cold or wet vacation day arrives, head over to Castle Rock’s indoor water park for a slippery fun time without breaking the bank.

Before reading on, let this slideshow share my family experience!


The Price is Right

As a parent of twin 8 yr old boys, I am always on the lookout for value attractions. Castle Rock Water Park certainly falls into this category. At $15 per swimmer, a family of 4 can spend the entire day splashing down the slides, floating the lazy river, or swimming laps in the swimming pools. If you’re a parent that prefers to sit out and play lifeguard, your ticket as a non-swimmer will only run $5. Children 2 years and under are free. Don’t let the price fool you though, the park is not only a blast, it’s well maintained, clean, and safe.


Large Water Slides

There are 2 large water slides in the park with a minimum height requirement of 42 inches. Long, concrete, stairways complete with hand railings ascend above the main level to the slide entrances.

For the first slide, you’ll grab a required, inflatable tube before your short hike to the top. The slide itself is completely covered and winds around at a very gradual slope and concludes with a steepening plunge into a large landing pool. Because it is fully enclosed, it’s a dark ride. This one is a personal favorite of my boys. They’ve appropriately named it the “cave slide.”
The second slide doesn’t require an inflatable tube. Compared to the first slide, the slope makes for a slightly faster ride initially with a drop in speed at the conclusion. The overall slide speed is definitely tied to the weight of the rider. If you’re a 6 foot 4 inch adult, you’re gonna build up speed before the final plunge. As an observer, you won’t want to miss the perfect photo/video opportunity behind the thick, splash barrier at the base of the slide (pic in slideshow). Watch out for adults though! Even the splash guard might not fully thwart off their concluding water show.


Kiddie Pool and Slides

Between the two main slides you’ll find an entire area for toddlers. I’m not exactly sure of the water depth, but it can’t be much more than a foot. There are 3 or 4 kiddie slides in the shape of tropical fish, reptiles, and amphibians. I saw children as young as 2 years old (with a parent of course) splashing around. There are also several water falls and a giant, 500 gallon dumping bucket to fully drench your little ones.


Lazy River

There is a giant loft area housing a lazy river. The river is great for both adults and children. You have the choice of swimming tubeless or grabbing a single or double tube for a leisurely float. I must caution adults though; there is an unavoidable waterfall that will soak you each lap. Along with the waterfall, kids will enjoy the unique, mini-bucket dump encountered along the way.


Swimming Pools & Outdoor Area

There are two swimming pools; one outside, one inside. The rectangular, indoor pool has both a shallow and deep end with multiple ladders and steps leading into the shallow end. The pool is handicap accessible by way of a lifting device. You won’t find a diving board, however, so you’ll have to save your twisting, somersaulting, pike dive for the upcoming summer Olympics.

We visited the park in March; therefore, the outdoor area was still closed. As seen in the photo, there is a swimming pool, a kiddie pool, another dump bucket, and 2 kiddie slides. Although there were no lounge chairs out, I suspect there will be once the area opens for the season.


Fuel for the Fire

Kids’ burn energy; lots of it. When its time to drag them away from the slides, you’ll have plenty of food options available to refill their tanks. The restaurant, adjoining the main park with the hotel lobby, has an extensive menu. Pizza, burgers, grilled cheese, pulled pork, and PB&J are just a few of the kids meals you’ll find on the menu. Prices are reasonable too ($10.99 for a 12 inch pizza). You are not restricted to eating in the restaurant. You can bring your meals to one of the many table areas surrounding the water rides so little Johnny can remain barefoot and wet while eating lunch. For early risers, the restaurant also includes a breakfast menu.


Gaming & Gift Shop

One word. Galaga! Wait… 4 words. Galaga and Cruisin USA. Ok. So my age and gaming addiction is showing. I grew up battling the never ending onslaught of galactic bugs and probably spent an entire 401k account on galaga and cruisin USA. I wasn’t a pacman fan, but the popular ms pacman is here too. Along with the aforementioned classics, there’s an air hockey machine, skee ball, a stuffed animal claw machine, and a handful of other arcade games. You won’t find any quarter gouging in this small arcade; 25 and 50 cents a play.


Safety and Lifeguards

Safety is top notch. Even my wife, a recovering helicopter mom, managed to relax while our kids splashed around for hours. There is an entire army of lifeguards on constant patrol. You’ll find them circling the kiddie pools, slides, swimming pools and lazy river. A lifeguard is also camped at the top of each slide policing correct usage of the slides. I also noticed the watchful eye of management ensuring the lifeguards are paying attention. Worth a mention is the chlorine level which is loosely related to safety. As with any public pool, there’s ample chlorine to make your eyes sting. A good thing if you ask me. Nobody wants to spend the remainder of their vacation battling a microscopic bug.

When its time to pack up and leave, you’ll find a rinsing shower right next to a large supply of clean towels. If the kids minded well and didn’t bellyache about leaving, you can grab them an ice cream or chocolate bar from the various vending machines on your way out.

In conclusion, I highly recommend this small, indoor water park to families. It provides enough enjoyment for an entire day. The ticket cost is minimal and the food, video games, and gift shop are priced reasonably.


Location & Lodging

Castle Rock can be found on Green Mountain Drive just off the main Branson Strip (Hwy 76). If you’re looking for lodging close by, check out our Thousand Hills condo rentals located across the street.