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Introduction to the Episode
Welcome to the fifteenth episode of Locals Know Best! I’m your host, Cindy. I’m a full-time RVer and lover of all things travel-related. Years of adventuring on the road have taught me one fundamental lesson; locals ALWAYS know best! Every episode of this podcast will dive into one local’s perfect day of outdoor adventure in their town!
Today, I’ll be speaking with Ashley Mann about a fun outdoorsy day in the tourist destination of Branson, Missouri. And then at the end of our chat, we’re also going to touch on a bunch of the outdoor adventures possible in the greater Ozarks area.
Join Ashley and me as we make the most of a day outdoors in Branson, Missouri, and then journey into all of the outdoor adventures provided by the surrounding Ozarks area.
Is Branson, Missouri Worth Visiting?
Ashley: There’s so much to see and do here. Branson, it’s a vacation destination for people in the Ozarks, but there’s a lot I think to offer people that are not from the area as well.
You know, every part of the U.S. has its own flavor and feel, and I think Branson is a good representation of what the Ozarks have to offer.
And … not just Branson, but the Ozarks is where I would travel from across the country to visit.
What is the Best Time to go to Branson?
Ashley: Yeah, that’s an easy question to answer. It pretty much shuts down in the winter. So don’t come in the winter. Basically so our climate here is it’s pretty cold from about November to February. That’s like, it’s like really, you know, temperatures below freezing.
There are some really neat, like Christmas things you can do if you’re wanting to have some kind of a Christmas experience. But I would really recommend staying between April and October, and really spring and fall are the most beautiful times of the year.
Why Explore Beyond Branson, MO?
Ashley: Branson, I like not because so much of Branson itself, but because it’s kind of centrally located.
So if you can spend a week or two in the Ozarks, there is a lot outside of Branson to do, and all of it is within an hour or two of Branson in different directions.
So I think it’s really a good hub for seeing the Ozarks. But there is a lot to do in Branson as well.
It can get pretty hot in the summer, and the outdoor activities are not as fun. It’s just oppressively humid sometimes in the summer. Also, it’s a lot more crowded in the summer because people are out of school then, but I would really stick to April and May, and then September and October are really the best times to visit.
What is there to do in Branson, MO, Besides Shows?
Links to all the places and activities we talk about in the episode (and a map of the area) can be found below!
About Ashley Mann
Ashley is a former full-time RVer.
She and her husband lived in an RV for three years, starting in 2016, while they both started their online businesses.
In 2019, they decided to return to their hometown of Springfield, Missouri for a few months and ended up falling in love with it so much that they decided to sell their RV and make it their permanent home base.
Ashley currently owns and operates a multitude of websites, including RVinspiration.com, a website about RV organization, decor, and renovations, and RenovatedRVsforsale.com, an RV listing website for buying and selling renovated RVs.
While RVing, Ashley blogged about their experiences, including why they bought an RV that they never traveled in, how they started out their online businesses, and even ultimately why they decided to end their RV life journey.
What We Cover in this Episode
- What makes Branson, MO, a great hub for visiting the Ozarks.
- The history behind the development of Branson.
- What makes Branson both cheesy and charming.
- The best time of year to visit Branson, MO.
- Where to stay in Branson, MO, with and without an RV.
- The best spots to get coffee and juice near Branson, MO.
- A relaxing outdoorsy spot near Branson, MO that’s not to be missed – complete with streams, lakes, waterfalls, caves, bike rentals, tram tours, segway rentals, and horseback riding.
- Why Historic Downtown Branson is worth your time.
- The most authentic Ozarks Southern dinner spot in Branson, MO, and what to order.
- A local’s favorite place to play mini-golf in Branson, MO.
- The most overrated attractions in Branson, MO, and where you should go instead to get the biggest bang for your buck.
- The best shows, museum, and Instagram spots in Branson, MO.
- The must-visit destinations throughout the Ozarks, in both Missouri and Arkansas, for paddling, hiking, rock climbing, and swimming.
Ashley’s Branson, MO Ozarks Travel Itinerary Map
Links to Places Mentioned in this Episode
Where to Stay in Branson, MO:
- Airbnb & VRBO Rentals
- 86 Campground
- Best Western Branson Inn And Conference Center
- La Quinta Inn & Suites by Wyndham Branson
Outdoor Activities Mentioned in the Episode & What to do in Branson, MO:
- Table Rock Lake
- Dogwood Canyon
- Historic Downtown Branson
- Dick’s Oldtime 5 & 10
- Branson Landing
- Lake Taneycomo
- Branson Ferris Wheel (Formerly Chicago’s Navy Pier Ferris Wheel)
- Pirate’s Cove Adventure Golf
- Silver Dollar City
- Ralph Foster Museum
Outdoor Activities Mentioned in the Episode & What to do Beyond Branson Throughout the Ozarks:
- Jasper, AR – Buffalo River Area
- Sam’s Throne
- Eureka Springs, AR
- Bentonville, AR
- Fayetteville, AR
- Hot Springs, AR
- Petit Jean State Park
- Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park
- Elephant Rocks State Park
Branson, MO Restaurants Mentioned in this Episode:
Branson, MO Instagram Photo Spots Mentioned in this Episode:
- Point Lookout
- Top of the Rock
Thanks for Listening!
We love our listeners! If you enjoyed this episode, please leave me a comment below and let me know about your favorite part!
If you’ve been enjoying the show, please also consider leaving me a review in Apple Podcasts. It’s super easy; click here and go to “ratings and reviews.” I read and appreciate every single one! Each review helps new listeners find the podcast. Thank you!!
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Transcription of this Episode:
Ashley: There’s so much to see and do here. Branson, it’s a vacation destination for people in the Ozarks, but there’s a lot, I think, to offer people that are not from the area as well. Every part of the US has its own flavor and feel, and I think Branson is a good representation of what the Ozarks has to offer.
Like I said, not just Branson, but the Ozarks is where I would travel from across the country to visit.
Cindy: Hey, this is Cindy Scott from Cinders Travels. Welcome to the Locals Know Best podcast. This is episode 15. Locals Know Best is a biweekly podcast where my guests share the places and outdoor travel adventures they love most, right in their own backyards.
Topics range from unique lodging options, treasured outdoor activities, favorite dining spots, and a breakdown of whether the insta-famous and possibly overrated spots in town are even worth checking out. Today, I’ll be speaking with Ashley Mann about a fun outdoorsy day in the tourist destination of Branson, Missouri.
And then at the end of our chat, we’re also going to touch on a bunch of the outdoor adventures that are possible in the greater Ozarks area. Ashley is a former full-time RVer. She and her husband lived in an RV for three years, starting in 2016, while they both started their online businesses. In 2019, they decided to return to their hometown of Springfield, Missouri for a few months and ended up falling in love with it so much that they decided to sell their RV and make it their permanent home base.
Ashley currently owns and operates a multitude of websites, including both RVinspiration.com, which is a website about RV organization, decor and renovations, as well as RenovatedRVsforsale.com, which is an RV listing website for buying and selling renovated RVs. While RVing, Ashley blogged about their experiences, including why they bought an RV that they never traveled in, how they started out their online businesses, and even ultimately why they decided to end their RV life journey.
If you’re interested in reading any of those articles or if you wanna follow along with links to any of the places we’ll be talking about and a map of the area, this episode show notes can be found at localsknowbestpodcast.com/15. Thanks so much for listening. Let’s get into the episode.
All right, so today I have with me Ashley Mann. Hi, Ashley.
Cindy: How are you doing?
Ashley: I’m, I’m good. Thanks for having me.
Cindy: Yeah. Thanks so much for joining me. Tell us a little bit about yourself and what makes you so familiar with the area.
Ashley: I am from Springfield, Missouri. That’s where I’ve lived since I was a senior in high school, which was in 2002. Prior to that, I have always lived in the Ozark Mountains.
They’re not really mountains like Colorado Mountains. I would compare them more like to the Appalachian Mountains. We lived in a few different towns that were both within an hour of Branson. So that’s kind of like what I consider home, which is northwest Arkansas and southwest Missouri. That was where my family took vacations.
We also would go to a lot of state parks and campgrounds in the Ozarks. Cause my family didn’t have a lot of money. We never did big vacations to other parts of the US so it was always like what can we do in our area? So that’s why I’ve seen a lot of it. And then when I was in college, I worked at an amusement park in Branson called Silver Dollar City.
I had gone there growing up all my life. In fact, when I was a little girl. My dream job was to, I actually told someone this when they asked me what I wanted to be when I grow up, I wanted to be a saloon girl at Silver Dollar City, which was like, they have like an old timey saloon and they’ve got a show there and they have the dancers.
And so it’s like if you don’t have that reference point, it’s kinda a funny thing to say you wanna be a saloon girl. But that didn’t work out for me cause I am not a dancer or flexible enough to do that. But I did get to work at Silver Dollar City,
Cindy: We actually have the amusement park thing in common. When I was a kid, I really wanted to work at an amusement park.
My local amusement park was Cedar Point in Ohio. And it’s so funny you said the thing about the Saloon girl, because when I started working at Cedar Point, I basically had two options that appealed to me and that I kind of fit in. I could be a ride operator, which I thought would be really cool.
Cindy: Or I could work at Johnny Rockets and like serve people food and singing and dance and
Cindy: I picked the ride operator because
Ashley: Uh huh,
Cindy: it seemed cooler and I totally messed up. I totally should have been at Johnny Rockets getting tips and dancing because ride operating was stressful. I could have been making more money.
Ashley: My best friend in college worked on one of the rollercoasters there and it was like every day they broke down and then there were people be people waiting in line and angry that they couldn’t get on the ride. And
Cindy: Yeah, the ride situation was extremely stressful. It was not like the, I don’t know, it’s so glamorized.
Ashley: It does seem cool. I know, I, I used to think that would be fun too.
Cindy: Well, I’m really excited to talk with you about an outdoorsy day in Branson and then also the broader Ozarks area. I, I hate to say it, but I don’t really know a ton about Branson, Missouri.
Ashley: Yeah. A lot of people don’t. I feel like, I mean, I feel like there’s so much to see and do here, but I think a lot of people that aren’t from the area kind of think of it as a place you drive through on the way to somewhere else.
But there really is a lot to do here and Branson I like not because so much of Branson itself, but because it’s kinda centrally located. So if you can spend like a week or two in the Ozarks, there is a lot outside of Branson to see and do, and all of it is within an hour or two of Branson in different directions.
So I think it’s really a good kind of hub for seeing the Ozarks, but there is a lot to do in Branson as well.
Cindy: Okay, well let’s first go into an outdoorsy day in the Branson area. For the people who aren’t as familiar with Branson, what are we missing?
Ashley: It’s kind of hard, a little bit to describe Branson, but I would sort of almost like, I’ve heard it described as like a family friendly Vegas, but also it’s, I would compare it to, if you’ve been to Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge, those are like the same area I think.
It’s kind of that like hillbilly old timey theme. There’s a lot of a country music emphasis because the history of Branson is that there was a lake that was a destination, and then a few different families decided to capitalize on the people visiting the lake by opening these like country, western bluegrass type music shows.
And then over the years that grew up into let’s have mini golf and go-karts and all this stuff. And it’s, to be honest, really cheesy for me as a local, but there’s also something kind of charming about it. I don’t know if you kind of just go with it, it can be fun. You can have fun. Like I’ve had dates that it’s like we’re just gonna go ride, go-karts and that’s,
Ashley: You know, it’s what it’s, it’s go-karts, so, and there’s laser tag and there’s all those things. There’s ziplining and there’s a alpine coaster, which, if you’ve ever done those elsewhere, they’re really cool.
Cindy: Yeah, they are cool.
Ashley: Yeah. It’s like a rollercoaster that goes down a mountain like five minutes, but it’s like manually just gravity powered with a handbrake.
So they have that kind of stuff there, which isn’t like, I know unique to Branson, but it is. Just fun.
Cindy: It does sound really similar to Pigeon Forge because Pigeon Forge has the history of the World’s Fair. That kind of built up Knoxville and then that sort of seeped into the Pigeon Forge area because of the national park there.
And it, a lot of similar things was what you’re talking about, mini golf, Alpine coasters, the same, uh, it just turned into, a little bit of a strip mall of fun, but we personally love that stuff.
Ashley: Right, like, that’s exactly, and we even have, like, we have Highway 76 that goes through Branson and we call it The Strip, which is like everything is on the strip, so there’s a little bit of something for everyone.
It can be really fun if that’s just kind of what you’re in the mood for.
Cindy: When is the best time to be visiting this area?
Ashley: Yeah. That’s an easy question to answer. It pretty much shuts down in the winter, so don’t come in the winter. So our climate here is, it’s pretty cold from about November to February, that’s like, it’s like really, you know, temperatures below freezing.
There are some really neat Christmas things you can do if you’re wanting to have some kind of a Christmas experience, but I would really recommend staying between April and October and really spring and fall are the most beautiful times of year. It can get pretty hot in the summer and the outdoor activities are not as fun.
It’s just oppressively humid sometimes in the summer. Also, it’s a lot more crowded in the summer because people are out of school then. But I would really stick to like April and May, and then September and October are the really the best times to visit.
Cindy: Okay, so let’s go into the perfect day. Where are we waking up for our day?
Ashley: So there’s a campground called 86 Campground. It’s a little bit south of Branson, but I like it because it’s right on the lake. There’s a sandy little beach there, and if you’re into lake activities, Table Rock is a huge lake that has, you know, boats and jet skis and all that stuff. And so if you have a boat or kayak, you can do that at your campground.
There are other campgrounds in Branson, but I feel like less people know about this one, so it’s not as crowded. It’s very peaceful. So that would be like my pick. But if you’re not RVing or camping, there’s Airbnbs and cabins in the area. Personally though, I would probably just stay in a hotel because, and I actually do typically stay in Airbnbs when I travel, but lately when I’ve gone to Branson, I’ve just found that the hotels are so much cheaper and really decent.
Ashley: But they’re both nice. Branson is not a dangerous town. There’s not really any bad parts of Branson or anything like that, so you don’t really have to worry about that.
And because it’s so touristy, they, everybody’s competing with with each other and they do a pretty good job of keeping places nice, I think.
Ashley: So that’s where I would stay.
Cindy: Okay. So that sounds great. Where are we starting off our day with some food or some coffee or juice or whatever we’re into.
Ashley: Okay. So my husband and I are really into local coffee shops. That’s the thing we do anywhere we go is find the best local coffee shop, and I’ve only found one local coffee shop there that meets my standards, in that they like roast their own beans and the people there actually know how to make a decent latte or whatever.
So that place is called Vintage Paris, and it is in Hollister, Missouri, which is right next to Branson. It’s just a little small town and it’s actually, if you were to stay at 86 Campground it’s closer to that than to Branson itself. There is also, we, I sometimes like going to juice bars, there’s a place called Revive Juice Bar. They have coffee too.
If you just like your black coffee or whatever, you can get it there and then get like acai bowls and hippie toast and things like that.
Cindy: Okay, great. And I can vouch for Ashley’s love of coffee. She probably doesn’t even remember this, but we’re in an RV group together and gosh, maybe like a year ago I was like, okay, I’m done with buying the coffees out at the coffee shops.
I need to be saving some money. I wanna,
Ashley: I forgot this.
Cindy: I wanna start making them in the RV. What are my options people? Help me. And Ashley left me like you had to keep scrolling. It was the longest.
Cindy: But it was so informative. It was great.
Ashley: In our RV, we had like five different methods for brewing coffee and we had our Breville espresso machine in our RV as well so that’s how I actually usually have my coffee. Although that’s, that’s not entirely true. I do that, but I also still go to local coffee shops a lot. Sometimes you just need to like, have a little more work-life separation.
Ashley: Than what you get in your RV. So that’s another reason that we go to them.
Cindy: Yeah. That is so true. Okay, well now we’re gonna kind of go into our first activity.
Ashley: Okay. So this is a place I wanted to go for a long time, and it is called Dogwood Canyon. And it’s actually fairly new. Like it’s not. The place isn’t new, but they’ve developed it fairly recently, so that’s why I hadn’t been there before.
It’s actually owned by the guy who owned and founded Bass Pro Shops. His name is Johnny Morris and he has a nonprofit organization because he just really cares about conservation and getting people into the outdoors and to experience the outdoors. So he has created this place called Dogwood Canyon, where it’s kind of outdoorsy, but also accessible.
It has three and a half miles of paved. Fairly flat trail and it’s like a, there and back trail, so it’s really like seven miles if you do the whole thing. And it’s actually like really, really beautiful. It’s along a stream that pours into a little lake and there are a little waterfalls along the stream.
There’s dams placed intermittently to create little pools along the way, and there are springs and waterfalls that feed into the spring along the way, as well as a couple of caves. And there’s a few Native American locations, like a rock dwelling type of place and like a marker tree pointing to a cave and things like that.
And then they have a really nice visitor center with emphasis on Native American history and natural history and things like that, and I really enjoy it because I’m actually not super into rugged outdoorsy adventures. And I liked, I can like enjoy the beauty of the outdoors, but not have to be, it’s not like so physically exerting.
We actually rented bikes there, like beach cruiser type bikes and we did the three and a half mile trail on bikes and it was so relaxing and that’s what I liked about it, is that it was gorgeous and I was in the outdoors. And there were little well marked places to stop along the way and see things like at one point we stopped next to a rock bridge that went over the stream and we just watched a raccoon catching minnows under the bridge and it was so like peaceful and nice, and we actually bike a lot, but for us this was like really relaxing to just bike along these nice paved trails.
So that was really beautiful and I definitely recommend it. The admission is a little pricey compared to what you would expect for state parks, and so maybe a family with a bunch of kids might not choose that activity, but personally, I felt like I got my money’s worth because we did the whole trail. I also think if you went there and you only hiked for like 30 minutes or an hour and you were on foot, you wouldn’t see all the cool things and you might feel like, oh, I paid all this money.
I didn’t see much. So I would definitely do the whole trail if you normally hike seven miles and it’s no big deal. You could just walk it.
Cindy: I love that you said that you go in the outdoors to relax and that you’re not exactly like the most rugged, outdoorsy person because that’s totally okay. I wanna interview people of all types of outdoor love on this podcast because we all, there are a lot of people who love the outdoors, but not all in the same way.
So I think that’s really great. It sounds beautiful. I mean, that’s the best part.
Ashley: Yeah, they do have like a tram tour you can do as well. So if somebody was elderly or disabled, that would be a great thing for them to be able to see it. Or maybe somebody with small kids I think might enjoy that. They also have segways there like some parts of the year.
I know sometimes they also have horseback riding there. Some of the stuff they typically have, they’re not doing cause of c*v*d. But that’s where I would probably start.
Cindy: All right, cool. So how long do you think we’ve spent there, hypothetically, like how long should we be there to get our money’s worth?
Ashley: Yeah, we did it in about three or four hours with plenty. We, we had lunch there too. They have a nice restaurant with a beautiful view of the waterfall and the lake and everything. As long as you get an early start, you can be done by like, eat your lunch there and then be done shortly after. I would probably pack a lunch next time though.
Cindy: Gotcha. And why is that?
Ashley: I felt like the food was okay, but not like, it was actually really expensive.
Cindy: Okay. So we’ve spent our first half of our day there. Now we’re gonna go into our afternoon. What’s next after lunch?
Ashley: I think that anytime you do something exerting, you wanna kinda do something a little more relaxing and it is a little bit of a drive to get back into Branson.
I think maybe like 30 minutes. And also there’s no cellular service there, which is actually great because you can totally be in that moment in nature and not distracted by anything else. But it’s just something to be aware of.
Cindy: Yeah, that is great. And it’s getting rarer and rarer.
Ashley: Right. One place in Branson that I have always personally enjoyed is the historic older downtown part of Branson.
It was like the first part of Branson that was built, and there are a lot of little antique shops and things like that. But one place that is really popular but also really cool is an old time, five and dime store that is called Dick’s Five and Dime. And it’s supposedly one of the only authentic, original five and dime stores left in the United States.
And it’s really just interesting to go and see the kinds of things they sell there because they do have like touristy types of things that they sell there like, but they also sell old timey stuff like home items and pantyhose and things like that. And because it’s been around so long, it’s just kind of a neat little historic thing to like go and visit and it’s fun.
It’s also within walking distance of Branson Landing, which is right along Lake Taneycomo. It’s a small springfed lake in the Branson area, so that’s kind of a cool area that you can just walk around and probably spend several hours there.
Ashley: And then if you get hungry by dinner time, there’s a restaurant that like there’s a lot of restaurants in Branson that have like a southern cooking type of theme to them because that’s the culture of Branson.
But the place I would most recommend eating to get that ozark Southern flavor is called the Farmhouse Restaurant, and it’s located right in that same historic Branson area, and the best things to have there are the chicken fried steak and the blackberry cobbler.
Cindy: Ooh, well that sounds delicious. And so then what about the evening?
What are we gonna be doing next?
Ashley: After dinner there, there’s a lot of places in Downtown Branson that are open late at night. So if you wanted to just do kind of the typical touristy thing, like mini golf and go-karts, and there used to be a big Ferris wheel at Navy Pier in Chicago, and it has been moved to Branson, that same Ferris Wheel .
Cindy: Oh, wow.
Ashley: Yeah. So you can ride the Navy Pier Ferris Wheel there, like things like that. There’s, even if you have a little more spend, there’s like helicopter tours that you can do. And if you wanna do mini golf, the best one, I think, I know this is not unique to Branson, but I really like Pirate’s Cove in other towns too, but it’s a nice mini golf place.
Cindy: Okay, and so what about overrated spots?
Ashley: Yeah, so if you go to Branson and stop at like a visitor center, you’ll just see a wall of brochures and I think it can be kind of overwhelming cuz there’s so much to do. And a lot of the things to do in Branson are shows like country music shows, acrobats of China, magic shows, variety shows, et cetera.
They try to appeal to various tastes and they’ll all tell you they’re like the best and the funniest and all that. I’ve been to several of those types of shows and some of them are okay. Usually you’re like, oh, okay, that was fine, but I wouldn’t really spend that money on it again, you know? So I think I would tend to avoid the shows unless you specifically are a fan of the thing that the show is about.
So like there’s actually a pretty decent Beatles tribute show. If you really love The Beatles, I would go see that. Otherwise. I would skip it. If you really love country music, go see a country music show. So I mean, if, if that sounds fun to you, then definitely do it. I mean, it can be fun, but Yeah.
Cindy: No, it’s good to know though, because there’s lots of other things we could be going and doing.
I can totally relate to what you talk about with the tourist station and all the brochures. We experience that all the time. So that’s a big part of what led me to make this podcast because we found that just talking to someone in a gas station or a restaurant or anything gave us such a clear image of what we should actually be doing than going to the visitor centers, which I hate saying, but they’re just, they have everything, you know, they just wanna please everyone.
So it’s hard for them to pinpoint it sometimes.
Ashley: Yeah, but what I would say is Silver Dollar City is I think the most bang for your buck. You have to spend a whole day there, in my opinion. You can spend all day just riding rides, but you can also spend an entire day going to the shows there and they have a big show in the evening in their outdoor amphitheater.
That is, in my opinion, every bit as good or better as any of the other shows in Branson. It’s like similar in that it’s a variety show with music and comedy and everything, but you get it along with the admission to Silver Dollar City, which has so much more.
Like, okay. My personal thing that I always did growing up when I went to Silver Dollar City, they have an old time homestead there that’s like a log cabin with, you know, wood stove and the furnishings of an old log cabin. And then behind it they have a little farm with live farm animals and a garden and everything. And then they have a little outdoor stage and there’s this group, they’re called the Homestead Pickers, and it’s just four old guys that sit around and play like the banjo and the guitar, and the upright bass and the violin.
And they just play like kind of old timey, hillbilly, bluegrass type of music and it’s so authentic. Those guys have been there doing that thing for like 30 years and they are authentically from the Ozarks, and I just enjoy sitting there and listening to them and it’s so like peaceful. There’s been days that I’ve gone to Silver Dollar City and it’s like raining, so we can’t do rides or anything, but I just enjoy listening to them do that.
And so that’s the kind of thing that I enjoy about Silver Dollar City, that it’s not just rides and amusement park type stuff. There’s this authentic Ozarks experience that you can get there as well. It’s kind of almost like a, a craft show and an amusement park, and also a bluegrass festival all rolled into one, if you can imagine that.
Cindy: Yeah. That’s awesome.
Ashley: Another thing that you can do in Branson that you might not get from the visitor center. So a place that wouldn’t seem that cool, but it is actually really cool, is this museum called the Ralph Foster Museum. It’s at College of the Ozarks, which is a college that’s near Branson. It’s actually closer to that 86 Campground in Hollister. But it’s just in a museum that has a really cool collection of random things, and it’s very cheap to visit. It’s like $8 for an adult and free for kids.
But like they have the, for example, the car from the Beverly Hillbillys TV show is there. They have like the world’s largest collection of cupie dolls, and they have like a really large collection of like antique firearms and antique clocks and pocket watches and a huge collection of butterflies and taxidermy type stuff, and natural history and like Native American artifacts and just all kinds of random stuff. I feel like every room you walk into you’re like, whoa, like I didn’t expect this and it’s so neat and it’s better than any of the museums that you’ll find in Branson on the strip there, but cheaper and you’ll probably be one of a, only a few people there.
It’s actually I think, closed cuz of c*v*d right now. But once they reopen, I would definitely recommend checking that out.
Cindy: Oh, cool. That sounds really interesting.
Ashley: And it’s a beautiful campus. There’s actually a beautiful scenic overlook right next to the museum in that same campus. In fact, this is probably like, if you’re looking for an Instagram moment, this is probably it.
Point Lookout in College of the Ozarks is a gorgeous location. And then also another place that’s right in that same area that I recommend is this place called Top of the Rock. It’s another Johnny Morris Bass Pro owned location with a restaurant that’s on top of an overlook. There’s like a world class golf course up there and then a beautiful view.
You can watch the sunset over the lake there and it’s really pretty. So that’s another place.
Cindy: Great. Those both sound like great photo spots. Well, okay, so that wraps up our day in Branson, but I know you really wanna share some beyond Branson highlights in the greater Ozarks area. So I’d really like to spend a tiny bit of time talking about that.
If you could give us a sort of best of the best on the Ozarks.
Ashley: Yes, definitely. A lot of the cool things to do are in like northwest Arkansas, if you’re into paddling and hiking and rock climbing, definitely you wanna go to the Buffalo River, and there are several spots along the Buffalo River that you can kind of focus on.
My favorite locations are near Jasper, Arkansas. There’s tons of hiking there for rock climbers. Sam’s Throne is a popular rock climbing spot there, right in that area. And then for canoeing and kayaking, there’s several put-in points along there. So that’s definitely a great area for just experiencing the Ozarks outdoors.
And then there’s some really cool towns that have. Kind of outdoorsy, hiking things around them. Like Eureka Springs, Arkansas is my personal favorite Ozarks destination. It’s a Victorian town that during the late 18 hundreds, the springs in the town were thought to cure cancer. So a lot of people would travel to there and stay in the hotels there while they were suffering from cancer and drink and bathe in the springs there.
They’re not like hot springs, but they’re really beautiful. And the thing I love about that town is that it’s so incorporated with the natural environment to where there’s these beautiful Victorian homes, but they’ll be built right up into the side of a cliff where like the four story home and every floor has a ground floor entrance because it’s like next to the cliff.
Cindy: Wow. Cool.
Ashley: Yeah, the town has like little springs and parks and beautiful flowers and things through the town. You can take a walk through the town and see just gorgeous nature and landscaping and flowers and things, and it kind of switchbacks along the mountain. So, The town is really, it’s really like right on the side of a cliff I feel like.
It’s really hard to describe unless you’ve been there. I’ve heard it called the Little Switzerland of the Ozarks or something like that. So I would kind of compare it to that kind of European, almost town in that it’s historic and so ingrained in its environment. So definitely I would recommend going there.
And it’s very close. It’s less than two hours from Branson, probably like an hour and a half. And then less than an hour from Eureka Springs is Bentonville, Arkansas, which is where Walmart headquarters is located. And they’ve actually invested a lot into the town and they’ve, they have a world class art museum there called Crystal Bridges that has modern art exhibits both indoors and outdoors.
They have like a nature hike that has all kinds of art installations along it. So that’s a really cool place to check out. And then Fayetteville, that’s a college town that’s located in northwest Arkansas as well, has a lot of cool restaurants and coffee shops and breweries and things like that. So all three of those places are, I think, places that if you’re going through Arkansas, you could easily spend a day or two there.
Hot Springs is a little farther south. Same with Petit Jean State Park in Arkansas is a great hiking location. Both of those are farther south if you’re like going more down into Arkansas, but they’re beautiful locations as well. Hot Springs has historic bath houses and hot springs right in the town, like the downtown itself, so a lot of really cool places to see.
Elephant Rocks State Park is hiking only and you hike through these giant boulders in the woods. So it’s just a really cool natural rock formation type of thing.
And then Johnson’s Shut-Ins kind of has the same geological formations in that there’s these huge boulders, but they’re all in the middle of the river and the river flows through the boulders and creates natural waterfalls and little pools. I call it an outdoor waterpark. You can like slide down the waterfall like a water slide and like land in the pool or there’s jumping, jumping off spots and, and it’s huge.
I remember as a kid the first time I went there and we went. Along the little hike to get to the actual swimming hole. And I just was like mind blown the minute I saw it cuz it was so much bigger than I thought. And so cool. And I just couldn’t wait to get in it. And I actually haven’t been there in a long time and would love to go back there.
But it’s, I think the coolest thing in the whole area to visit. And they do have RV camping there, although a lot of it is first come, first serve and every day there’s like a long line of cars to get in and they only let so many people in every day. So I would probably look for somewhere to camp in the area that’s not at Johnson’s Shut-Ins, just in case you don’t get in there and then get up early and go get in line to get into the park that day.
So I just wanna mention all those places because those are things to do in the Ozarks, and if you stay in Branson, you’ll have an easy drive to all of those things as opposed to just going to one of them. It’s just a great way to experience a part of the country.
Cindy: I am really glad we talked about places beyond Branson because honestly, it sounds like if you’re an outdoors lover, there’s tons of options around Branson, and then Branson’s a really great spot to maybe spend a day and get some historical perspective or just have like a day of fun,
Ashley: Right. There’s so much to see and do here. Branson, it’s a vacation destination for people in the Ozarks, but there’s a lot I think, to offer people that are not from the area as well. Every part of the US has its own flavor and feel, and I think Branson is a good representation of what the Ozarks has to offer.
Like I said, not just Branson, but the Ozarks is where I would travel from across the country to visit.
Cindy: Lastly, where should we go if we wanna learn more about you?
Cindy: Perfect. Yeah, and we’ll put a link to AshleyMann.me in the blog post as well for this episode. Thank you so much, Ashley, for all of these recommendations. Now I really just wanna come visit Branson and the Ozarks. It sounds beautiful.
Ashley: Yes. I’m glad that that is what, that is your takeaway, cuz that’s what I hope to communicate is that it’s really a cool part of the country that has a lot to offer and it’s worth a visit.
Cindy: Thanks so much for tuning in. Once again, if you wanna grab the show notes for this episode, head on over to localsknowbestpodcast.com/15. If you enjoyed this episode, I’d love if you would leave a review in Apple Podcast and let me know what your favorite part was. Make sure to check out the Instagram stories for this episode over at Cinders Travels and please feel free to share this episode of your favorite travel buddy.
Thanks so much. Catch you next time on Locals Know Best.