Branson, Missouri

Coordinates: 36°39′55″N 93°13′57″W / 36.66528°N 93.23250°W / 36.66528; -93.23250
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Branson, Missouri
Aerial view from northwest
Aerial view from northwest
Flag of Branson, Missouri
Live Entertainment Capital of the World[1][2]
Interactive map of Branson
Coordinates: 36°39′55″N 93°13′57″W / 36.66528°N 93.23250°W / 36.66528; -93.23250[3]
CountryUnited States
CountiesTaney, Stone
IncorporatedApril 1, 1912
Named forReuben Branson
 • MayorLarry Milton[4]
 • City21.50 sq mi (55.69 km2)
 • Land21.35 sq mi (55.29 km2)
 • Water0.15 sq mi (0.40 km2)
Elevation965 ft (294 m)
 • City12,638
 • Density592.05/sq mi (228.59/km2)
 • Urban
Time zoneUTC-6 (CST)
 • Summer (DST)UTC-5 (CDT)
ZIP codes
Area code417
FIPS code29-07966 [6]
GNIS feature ID2394242[3]
The Moon River Theatre, founded by Andy Williams, is one of Branson's many theaters hosting live music and entertainment.

Branson is a city in the U.S. state of Missouri. Most of the city is situated in Taney County, with a small portion in the west extending into Stone County. Branson is in the Ozark Mountains. The community was named after Reuben Branson, postmaster and operator of a general store in the area in the 1880s.[7] The population was 12,638 at the 2020 census.[8]

Branson has long been a popular destination for vacationers from Missouri and around the country. The collection of entertainment theaters along 76 Country Boulevard (and to a lesser extent along Shepherd of the Hills Expressway), including Dolly Parton's Stampede, has increased Branson's popularity as a tourist destination.


In 1882, Reuben Branson opened a general store and post office in the area.[9] Branson was formally incorporated on April 1, 1912, and construction of the Powersite Dam nearby on the White River which would form Lake Taneycomo was completed.

In 1894, William Henry Lynch bought Marble Cave (renamed "Marvel Cave") and began charging visitors to tour it. Hugo and Mary Herschend leased the cave for 99 years in 1950 and began hosting square dances in it. The Herschend Family modernized the cave with electricity and concrete staircases, and in 1960 the Herschends opened Silver Dollar City, a re-creation of a frontier town that featured five shops, a church, and a log cabin, with actors that played out the feud between the Hatfields and the McCoys.

Harold Bell Wright published his novel about the Ozarks, The Shepherd of the Hills, in 1907. The novel became an international best seller, making Wright the first millionaire author and established Branson and Southwest Missouri as a tourist destination. The Old Mill Theater began its first outdoor production based on the novel in 1960. The show, known as The Shepherd of the Hills Outdoor Drama, continued in its 61st season for 2021. The historic farm is also the home of Inspiration Tower, the Shepherd of the Hills Adventure Park as well as numerous other shows and attractions.

The Harold Bell Wright Museum is located within The World's Largest Toy Museum complex. Mayor of Branson for 12 years and entrepreneur Jim Owen built the first theater in 1934 on Commercial Street, originally called "The Hillbilly Theater", which began to attract people from far and wide to tour the area. 1959 saw the completion of Table Rock Dam on the White River, which created Table Rock Lake. In 1959, the Mabe Brothers started a band that, in 1961, would become the first music show in Branson. Taking their name from the parts they played in the Shepherd of the Hills Outdoor Drama, they became known as the Baldknobber Hillbilly Jamboree.

In 1962, Paul Henning, inspired by a Boy Scout camping trip to the Ozarks, created The Beverly Hillbillies, which ran on first-run television until 1971. Henning later donated 1,534 acres (6.21 km2) for the Ruth and Paul Henning Conservation Area near Branson. He also donated the modified 1921 Oldsmobile truck used as the vehicle in the series to the College of the Ozarks, where it is on display in the Ralph Foster Museum.

The Presley family became the first to move their show (Presleys' Country Jubilee) to Highway 76 in 1967, followed a year later by the Baldknobbers. Eventually Branson would have more than 50 theaters, most of them located on Highway 76.

Also in 1983, the 7,500-seat Swiss Villa Amphitheatre opened in Lampe, southwest of Branson. The outdoor amphitheater brought in acts like Def Leppard, Lynyrd Skynyrd, REO Speedwagon, Steppenwolf, and Ozzy Osbourne. Closing in the early 2000s, it reopened in 2010 as the Black Oak Mountain Amphitheater. Closing suddenly in 2013, it went unused until relaunching live music events in 2021.

In 1987, Boxcar Willie became the first internationally known entertainer to purchase a theater in Branson and have a permanent performance schedule there.

In 1989, Shoji Tabuchi opened his first theater in Branson (converting the Ozarks Auto Museum on West 76 Highway into a theater). He then built a new theater on Shepherd of the Hills Expressway in 1990, while Mel Tillis moved into Shoji's old theater. In 1990-1991 several nationally known stars such as Jim Stafford, Ray Stevens, Mickey Gilley, and Moe Bandy opened their own theaters. Along with these national stars, many home-grown shows also had theaters. The Lowe Family featured their show and hosted nationally known stars like Conway Twitty, Loretta Lynn, Vern Gosdin, Waylon Jennings, and others. 76 Music Hall (now known as the Grand Country Music Hall) became the first theater to have three different shows a day performing in different time slots. In 1991, local producer and entertainer Bob Nichols opened the first morning show and the following year, Buck Trent became the first nationally known star to star in a morning show.

The increasing number of theaters and other attractions opening in Branson drew the attention of 60 Minutes, which aired an episode about Branson on December 8, 1991, and called it the "live music capital of the entire universe".[10]

Andy Williams built his theater in Branson, opening on May 1, 1992, calling it the Moon River Theatre. The Glen Campbell Goodtime Theatre opened in 1994, starring Glen along with his "Goodtime Band", daughter Debbie Campbell, the Matthew Dickens Dancers, and comedian ventriloquist Jim Barber. Also headlining their own theaters were Tony Orlando (Yellow Ribbon Theater) and Bobby Vinton (Blue Velvet Theater). In 1998, the Acrobats of China arrived in Branson, making them one of the first international shows to call Branson home. They opened their theatre, the New Shanghai Theatre, in 2005. In 2006, Dick Clark's American Bandstand Theatre opened and is the most recent new theater to be built on Route 76. Branson has continued to add theaters (the most recent being the Sight & Sound Theatres) and shows; it refers to itself as "the live music show capital of the world".[11]

Use of social media is now an important factor in putting the spotlight on Branson. For example, the Petersens, a family bluegrass band, forced by COVID-19 to quit touring or performing live at Branson's Little Opry Theatre for much of 2020, found that YouTube was an alternative, with their videos generating more than 70 million views. In addition, 65% of their nearly 600,000 subscribers live outside the United States. (Figures as of October 2021 are as found on YouTube or cited by the Petersens). Thus this "American roots" band is generating a wide range of interest in Branson as a tourist destination.[12][13]

2012 tornado[edit]

Just after 1 a.m. on February 29, 2012, the city of Branson sustained damage from an EF-2 tornado in the 2012 Leap Day tornado outbreak. At least 37 injuries were reported, most being cuts and bruises, with the most serious injury being an 80-year-old woman with a head injury.[14][15] Most of the tourist attractions and businesses were undamaged and remained open after the storm, although at least 11 buildings suffered more than $3 million in total damage. As of November 2012, most of the damage was repaired.[16] Mary Jane Rice, a spokeswoman for Branson Area Chamber of Commerce, told the AP that February is generally a slow time for business and most of the damage would be cleaned up in the next few days.[17] The tornado followed a 22-mile-long (35 km) path from Kimberling City, Missouri, across Table Rock Lake and along the entertainment strip Missouri Route 76 (now 76 country boulevard) before hitting the downtown area where it blew out or cracked windows in 219 of the hotel rooms in the 12-story/295 room Hilton Branson Convention Center. The tornado extensively damaged three of Branson's 50-plus theatres — (Americana Theater, Branson Variety Theater and Dick Clark's American Bandstand Theater) and there was damage to portions of Branson Landing on Lake Taneycomo and the Veterans Memorial Museum. Vehicles at the Ride the Ducks water/land attraction were flipped over, but officials said they were not damaged enough to be put out of service.[18][19][20]

Entertainment and performing arts[edit]

Branson is famous for its numerous entertainment theaters, which host residency shows in music, dance, magic, and other performing arts.

One prominent theater in Branson is the Andy Williams Performing Arts Center and Theatre. It hosts annual shows year round, but most prominent are the Christmas shows hosted by The Osmonds and The Lennon Sisters.[21]

Attractions and events[edit]

Hollywood Wax Museum - Branson MO
The Titanic Museum.

Branson's local attractions include Aquarium at the Boardwalk, Beyond The Lens!, Hollywood Wax Museum Branson, Wonderworks, Silver Dollar City, White Water, Ripley's Super Fun Zone, Mount Pleasant Winery, Dolly Parton's Stampede, helicopter rides, ziplines, cave tours, go-karts, mini golf, and more. Ripley's Odditorium is housed in a building that has been made to look as if it is cracked wide open by an earthquake or other disaster, while the Titanic Museum is a half-scale replica of the famous ship and iceberg.[22]

Dick's 5 & 10, a gift and souvenir shop

Branson Landing opened in the summer of 2006[23] on the Lake Taneycomo waterfront in downtown Branson. The lakefront project includes retail space with Bass Pro Shops and Belk as anchors in an outdoor shopping mall of stores and restaurants. It also features a scenic boardwalk along the lakefront with the Branson Landing Fountains at the heart of the property as well as a Hilton Hotel. Branson Landing has been known to host summer concerts and other special events throughout the year. The convention center, situated between Branson Landing and Historic Downtown Branson, opened September 7, 2007. The Branson Scenic Railway is located in the old depot, across from Branson Landing.

Due to Branson being known for family-oriented tourism, casino gambling is frowned upon and it does not exist in this area. However, Branson's neighboring cities do offer those types of entertainments for those who enjoy gambling.[24]

Finally, Branson's ferris wheel, moved from Chicago's Navy Pier in 2016, provides a scenic view of the Ozarks from 150 feet. [25]


Branson is located at 36°38′16″N 93°15′18″W / 36.63778°N 93.25500°W / 36.63778; -93.25500 (36.637706, -93.254965).[26] The White River/Lake Taneycomo forms a bend on the east and southern side of the city.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 20.80 square miles (53.87 km2), of which 20.63 square miles (53.43 km2) is land and 0.17 square miles (0.44 km2) is water.[27]


Branson has a humid subtropical climate (Cfa) with characteristics of a continental climate. The hardiness zone is 7a. [1]

Climate data for Branson, Missouri (1991−2020 normals)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 80
Mean daily maximum °F (°C) 43.2
Daily mean °F (°C) 34.9
Mean daily minimum °F (°C) 26.6
Record low °F (°C) −15
Average precipitation inches (mm) 2.81
Average snowfall inches (cm) 2.9
Source 1: [28]
Source 2: [29]


Historical population
U.S. Decennial Census

The Branson Micropolitan Statistical Area encompasses and is coterminous with Taney county.

2020 census[edit]

The 2020 United States census[30] counted 12,638 people, 4,857 households, and 2,809 families in Branson. The population density was 591.9 per square mile (228.6/km2). There were 8,347 housing units at an average density of 391.0 per square mile (151.0/km2). The racial makeup was 80.57% (10,182) white, 2.46% (311) black or African-American, 0.9% (114) Native American, 2.68% (339) Asian, 0.09% (12) Pacific Islander, 4.69% (593) from other races, and 8.6% (1,087) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race was 12.9% (1,489) of the population.

Of the 4,857 households, 22.5% had children under the age of 18; 42.4% were married couples living together; 38.9% had a female householder with no husband present. Of all households, 33.1% consisted of individuals and 15.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.3 and the average family size was 2.9.

19.3% of the population was under the age of 18, 10.5% from 18 to 24, 21.3% from 25 to 44, 19.8% from 45 to 64, and 20.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38.9 years. For every 100 females, the population had 73.2 males. For every 100 females ages 18 and older, there were 70.6 males.

The 2016-2020 5-year American Community Survey[31] estimates show that the median household income was $44,184 (with a margin of error of +/- $6,551) and the median family income was $50,216 (+/- $10,990). Males had a median income of $23,413 (+/- $3,429) versus $22,091 (+/- $3,304) for females. The median income for those above 16 years old was $22,771 (+/- $2,713). Approximately, 15.9% of families and 22.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 40.2% of those under the age of 18 and 10.3% of those ages 65 or over.

2010 census[edit]

As of the census[32] of 2010, there were 10,520 people, 4,688 households, and 2,695 families living in the city. The population density was 509.9 inhabitants per square mile (196.9/km2). There were 8,599 housing units at an average density of 416.8 per square mile (160.9/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 89.0% White, 2.0% African American, 0.9% Native American, 1.5% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 3.9% from other races, and 2.6% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 8.8% of the population.

There were 4,688 households, of which 23.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 42.8% were married couples living together, 10.7% had a female householder with no husband present, 3.9% had a male householder with no wife present, and 42.5% were non-families. 32.8% of all households were made up of individuals, and 13.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.20 and the average family size was 2.77.

The median age in the city was 41.2 years. 18.8% of residents were under the age of 18; 10.2% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 25.7% were from 25 to 44; 25.6% were from 45 to 64; and 19.6% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 47.9% male and 52.1% female.

2000 census[edit]

As of the census[6] of 2000, there were 6,050 people, 2,701 households, and 1,661 families living in the city. The population density was 374.0 inhabitants per square mile (144.4/km2). There were 3,366 housing units at an average density of 208.1 per square mile (80.3/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 94.50% White, 0.84% African American, 0.86% Native American, 0.71% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 1.47% from other races, and 1.59% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 4.26% of the population.

There were 2,701 households, out of which 24.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 48.9% were married couples living together, 9.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 38.5% were non-families. 31.9% of all households were made up of individuals, and 14.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.21 and the average family size was 2.76.

In the city, the population was spread out, with 20.3% under the age of 18, 8.2% from 18 to 24, 24.4% from 25 to 44, 27.0% from 45 to 64, and 20.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 43 years. For every 100 females, there were 86.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 83.2 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $31,997, and the median income for a family was $43,145. Males had a median income of $31,769 versus $21,223 for females. The per capita income for the city was $20,461. 12.1% of the population and 9.7% of families were below the poverty line. 15.6% of those under the age of 18 and 17.0% of those 65 and older were living below the poverty line.


Branson R-IV School District operates four elementary schools, Branson Jr. High School and Branson High School.[33]

The town has a lending library, the Taneyhills Community Library.[34]

Notable people[edit]


  • Branson Tri-Lakes News – A twice-weekly newspaper that traces its origins back more than 100 years to the oldest publications in the Branson area.


Branson is served by the 165 bed full-service hospital and emergency department Cox Regional Medical Center and the Mercy Health System multi-specialty clinic.[35][36][37]



U.S. Route 65 runs north and south, connecting Branson to Springfield to the north, and Little Rock to the south. Missouri Route 76 ran through Branson. In 2020, Route 76 was rerouted onto the existing Ozark Mountain Highroad replacing Route 465. The old alignment now forms 76 Country Boulevard.[citation needed]


Branson is served primarily by Branson Airport, the closest commercial airport, which opened in May 2009. It is the largest privately owned commercial airport in the United States. Over the years, the airport has had on-again off-again service from carriers such as AirTran, Sun Country, and Frontier.

The two closest commercial airports to Branson with more extensive airline service are the Springfield-Branson National Airport (SGF) located in Springfield, Missouri, which is about 52 miles from Branson, and Northwest Arkansas National Airport (XNA), in Bentonville, Arkansas, which is about 96 miles from Branson. Between these two airports, service is offered to cities such as Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, and Denver which allows connections to other cities.

M. Graham Clark Field in Branson is a general aviation airport, which serves mainly single engine aircraft.


Branson is served by the Missouri & Northern Arkansas Railroad (MNA), owned by shortline holding company Genesee & Wyoming. The MNA is an important link between Kansas City, Missouri, and Newport, Arkansas.[38] The Branson Scenic Railway operates round-trip sightseeing trains out of Branson through a lease agreement with the MNA.[39] The trackage used was constructed in the 1900s by the St. Louis, Iron Mountain & Southern Railway, later absorbed by the Missouri Pacific.


  1. ^ "60 Minutes Branson". Youtube. 60 Minutes. Archived from the original on December 11, 2021.
  2. ^ Wilcox, Lauren (March 25, 2007). "Big Time in Tune Town". Washington Post. Washington Post.
  3. ^ a b c U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Branson, Missouri
  4. ^ "Larry Milton - Mayor | Branson, MO - Official Website".
  5. ^ "ArcGIS REST Services Directory". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved August 28, 2022.
  6. ^ a b "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 31, 2008.
  7. ^ "The Branson Story". Archived from the original on December 13, 2010. Retrieved August 30, 2010.
  8. ^ "Explore Census Data". Retrieved December 2, 2021.
  9. ^ Earngey, Bill (1995). Missouri Roadsides: The Traveler's Companion. University of Missouri Press. p. 26. ISBN 9780826210210.
  10. ^ "History of the Branson Entertainment Phenomenon". Retrieved August 10, 2012.
  11. ^ "History of the Branson Entertainment Phenomenon". Retrieved August 10, 2012.
  12. ^ "The Petersens web site".
  13. ^ "The Petersens on YouTube". YouTube.
  14. ^ "Leap Day Storm: At least three dead, several injured after tornadoes strike Ozarks; Branson hit hard". Archived from the original on June 15, 2013. Retrieved June 14, 2013.
  15. ^ "Powerful storms sweep Midwest, damaging Branson theater district and killing at least 9". Archived from the original on March 6, 2012. Retrieved February 29, 2012.
  16. ^ "Tornado injures at least 33 in Branson, causes major damage". Archived from the original on March 2, 2012. Retrieved February 29, 2012.
  17. ^ "Tornado tears through country music town of Branson, Mo". USA Today. February 29, 2012. Retrieved February 29, 2012.
  18. ^ Ashley (December 30, 2011). "Branson, Missouri Travel Guide: Branson Takes Hit from Major Storm; Many Businesses Unaffected". Archived from the original on May 26, 2012. Retrieved February 29, 2012.
  19. ^ "Nixon touring storm-damaged areas by Branson, Cassville | Springfield News-Leader". Archived from the original on March 2, 2012. Retrieved February 29, 2012.
  20. ^ "EF-2 Tornado Confirmed; Debris Cleanup Begins in Stone, Taney Counties". Archived from the original on March 2, 2012. Retrieved February 29, 2012.
  21. ^ Church, Tim (November 5, 2021). "Andy Williams Theatre welcomes new owners". Branson Tri-Lakes News. Retrieved November 28, 2021.
  22. ^ "Attractions & Museums in Branson". Explore Branson. Retrieved December 5, 2021.
  23. ^ "Branson landing drives development". Joplin Globe. January 2, 2007. Retrieved January 13, 2024.
  24. ^ Coulter, Ronald L.; Hermans, Charles M.; Parker, R. Stephen (September 1, 2013). "Religiosity and generational effects on gambling: Support for and opposition to introducing casino gambling in a non-gambling tourist entertainment environment". Journal of Business Research. 66 (9): 1682–1688. doi:10.1016/j.jbusres.2012.12.015.
  25. ^ "The Branson Ferris Wheel". Missouri -- n.d.
  26. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. February 12, 2011. Retrieved April 23, 2011.
  27. ^ "US Gazetteer files 2010". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on January 25, 2012. Retrieved July 8, 2012.
  28. ^ "Climate i Branson, Missouri". Retrieved March 28, 2022.
  29. ^ "NOAA NCEI U.S. Climate Normals Quick Access". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved March 28, 2022.
  30. ^ "Explore Census Data". Retrieved December 17, 2023.
  31. ^ "Explore Census Data". Retrieved December 17, 2023.
  32. ^ "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved July 8, 2012.
  33. ^ "Branson R-Iv School District". Greatschools. Retrieved March 18, 2018.
  34. ^ "Missouri Public Libraries". Archived from the original on June 10, 2017. Retrieved March 18, 2018.
  35. ^ "Skaggs Regional Medical Center means quality medical care for Branson visitors and residents alike - Branson, MO". Retrieved October 3, 2018.
  36. ^ Finello, Beth (October 31, 2018). "New Clinic in Branson Opening to Patients Soon". OZARKSFIRST. Retrieved November 2, 2018.
  37. ^ Morton, Christine. "Mercy Branson multi-specialty Clinic ribbon cutting ceremony scheduled for Halloween". Retrieved November 2, 2018.
  38. ^ "Missouri & Northern Arkansas Railroad MNA #508". Retrieved June 11, 2023.
  39. ^ "Branson Scenic Railway History". Retrieved June 11, 2023.

External links[edit]