By: Michael Ayo
Vacations can create lifelong memories with friends and family. However, unless you luck into winning a free vacation, they can also get pretty pricey. Branson is without a doubt one of the most premier vacation destinations in the country, but if you don’t manage your money well, you can end up blowing your budget. Thankfully, there are plenty of great things to do in town that won’t cost you a dime.
Whether you have little ones tagging along may factor into where you go and how much you spend while on vacation. If you’re making it an adults-only trip or you happen to find some time away from the kids, take advantage of the free wine tours and tastings at the Branson wineries. The Stone Hill Winery on Highway 165 offers a free tour and wine tastings while Mount Pleasant Winery, located just a few minutes away from Stone Hill on Green Mountain Drive, offers free wine tastings as well. Located near the outskirts of Branson, on Highway 265, is the Lindwedel Winery that offers free wine tastings or wine and food pairings for $10. After you have tried the three in Branson, make a short trip to Walnut Shade to try the free wine tasting at Bear Creek Wine Company.
Downtown Branson Trolley
Getting out and seeing the town is a must when visiting Branson. Some of the best places to see, and maybe do a little shopping, are in the historic Downtown Branson area. In order to do that, you’ll need a way to get around town, and you can find that with the free trolley ride. The trolley runs from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. in February and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in March through December. The route for the trolley is a constant loop throughout the downtown area, and the pickup and drop off is generally every 15 minutes.
One of the main draws to Branson is the copious amount of live entertainment in the area. While just about every single one of those shows charges a price of admission, visiting at the right time gives you a chance to see some free concerts at the Branson Landing. The Landing hosts several concerts during the summer months along with various other events throughout the year. If you aren’t lucky enough to catch a concert while vacationing in Branson, you can still see the beautiful $7.5 million fountain show for absolutely free. This show features 120-foot geysers of water and fire cannons blasting in the air, all choreographed to lights and music such as the Star Spangled Banner and Bon Jovi’s “Living on a Prayer.”
Table Rock Dam
Staying with the theme of being outdoors, the Table Rock Dam is a great place to spend an afternoon sightseeing free of charge. The dam contains 1.2 million cubic yards of concrete and offers a great setting for family pictures and beautiful views. If you want to get closer to what exactly is in the water contained by the dam, head below it to see the Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery. This is the Missouri Department of Conservation’s largest trout-rearing hatchery, and 80 percent of its production goes into Lake Taneycomo while the remaining 20 percent helps stock other Missouri trout-management areas. The hatchery is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. September through June and tours are conducted on weekdays from Memorial Day to Labor Day at 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. For the rest of the year, you can go on your own, self-guided tour.
If you aren’t interested in sightseeing at the dam, there are several other spots to get great views of scenery and attractions around town that will cost nothing but your time. There is a beautiful scenic overlook at the Ruth and Paul Henning Conservation Area off of Highway 76 between the Butterfly Palace and the Inspiration Tower. There’s also several other popular photo opportunities such as Optimus Prime, the Transformer outside of Ripley’s Believe It or Not, the giant banjo at the Grand Country Music Hall and the Hollywood Wax Museum’s Mount Rushmore of Hollywood stars.
Branson is a great vacation for all whether you are willing or unwilling to spend a lot of money. If keeping to a strict budget is essential during your trip, there are plenty of cheap or completely free activities, and these suggestions are a few of the best.