Dons Self Guided Tour of Branson is one full day...Before your Tour Suggestions.
Before you start your Dons Self Guided Tour there are a couple of things you should know about. You should have a city map and they are available as a regular blown up Branson, Missouri map like you could buy at Wal Mart or somewhere similar. Try and get the map and make the calls before the day you are planning on taking the tour. You can also get smaller attraction maps that tare off a pad at almost any restaurant, store or even the Stone Hill Winery check outs. This map is a little small to get to some of the attractions that are outside the 76 Country Blvd. area.
Next if you are going to make the Tour in one day you should plan to start early after business hours start. You should call from your room to The Branson Bell Showboat and check on sailing times and check the price if that is an issue. Hint-Remember if you take in any other attraction such as Silver Dollar City, The Ducks, White Water, Dixie Stampede you can use the stub from those tickets to get a reduced ticket at the others such as the Branson Bell within so many days so just check.
If you are interested in taking a ride on the Branson Scenic Railroad I would call them and get the time schedule and trip duration. The Branson Bell dinner cruise is 2 hours and the train ride I think is about the same. Those are the only two that you would need times for. Take the time schedules with you so you know if you have time to kill or have to hurry. You will only be in the City area or within a couple of miles from it on this tour so there is a lot of short drives between attractions and it will keep the driver busy but won't crank up a lot of miles on Dons Self Guided Tour.
Toot Toot Dons Self Guided Tour Starts Now.
First stop the Stone Hill Winery.
I don't know where you are staying so I will just say you go West on the Strip (Hiwy 76) and when you come to the Titanic (Don't take in the Titanic Tour it will take to much time to complete the tour so you may want to do that stop later so you don't have to rush through it. As you approach the, easy to spot, titanic on the right you will pass the Osmand theater on the left. At the stoplight you want to turn left on Gretna which is Hiway 165 going South. About a mile down Gretna-165 you will see The Stone Hill Winery on the right. If you want to take the tour and wine tasting there and do some shopping it will take about 1 and 1/2 hours. There is another winery just opening across from it on Green Mountain Drive.
Craft Mall and Doll Cabin.
When you are done at the winery proceed the same direction (S) on 165 past the New Shanghai Circus Theater and if you are interested in shopping at Craft Stores there is a little Craft Mall on the right and another one quickly on the left. Dons Self Guided Tour includes a Doll Store in a little Log Cabin on the right as you go down the hill. Don't spend too much time at these shops or you wouldn't make it all the way. Maybe you want to take a short trip to areas that you miss on the tour and pick them up another day.
Keep going on 165 and notice that they call it Fall Creek Road in some places. We are going to the Branson Fish Hatchery so past the Fall Creek Steak House and winding around a bend and you go past some subdivisions on the left and soon you will see the Welk Theater on the right. That is where the Lawrence Welk was produced for so long they no longer produce that show after Mr. Welk died but other shows use the Theater. The Doll store maybe on the next down grade and not earlier as I mentioned I will have to check next I go that way.
OK. Watch for a left turn at the sign for the Fish Hatchery. It is just below the Table Rock Dam and uses the cold water off the bottom of Table Rock Lake to raise the beautiful trout you will see there. There are large ones inside the building where you can tour free and take in the movie. There is a great reptile display in the movie area. Outside you can see all the fish they plant into Lake Taneycomo and elsewhere in the big fish runs. You can even feed them. You can get pictures of the Dam from the hatchery.
Table Rock Dam.
Ok, Dons Self Guided Tour is back on 165 going farther south wind up at a stop light and turn left still on 165 going past the Chateaus on the Lake Hotel and over the Dam causeway and bridge. Immediately off the bridge going around a sharp turn you can take a sharp left onto a little scenic overlook road where you come up just below the rim of the Dam and you can get nice pictures of the dam and the Hatchery hundreds of feet below along the shores of lake Taneycomo.
Corp of Army Engineers Visitor Center.
Back on 165 going south a block or so you can turn right and take in the park and visitors center run by the Corp of Army Engineers that own and control all the lake levels in the area.
Branson Bell Showboat.
Now another quarter mile South and you will see the sign and smoke stacks of the Branson Bell Showboat on your right. If you are taking the cruise check in at the souvenir shop and take some pictures of the lake and Paddle Wheeler.
State Park and Marina.
Scenic Overlook Hiway 165.
Next continue South another Quarter mile and turn right and drive through the Missouri State Park, Camping area and the Marina. If you look across the lake from the State Park you will see my house well you probably won't see it but it is there up on the bluff overlooking the lake on the South side about a mile away. Leaving there going south follow the scenic winding mountain road past the Jct of 165/265 and staying on 165 you will come to a great overlook on the left side. It looks over the complete Dam, Hatchery, Golf Course and Sub Division and you can see all the way to the Welk Theater. Oh Yaw I almost forgot the most important thing. If you look straight down the cliff you are standing on you will see Lake Taneycomo tucked up against the cliff. It is narrow like a river but here they call it a lake. In Northern Minnesota we would call it a crick. Ha ha.
College of the Ozarks or School of Hard Knocks.
Continue on 165 now you are going East and you will go by our new Church on State Street behind a little TV station with the tower. When you come to the stop sign our old church is on the hill to your right. Now turn left on Freeman about a half mile and if you want to tour the College of the Ozarks be in the left lane at the stop light. You will see the beautiful water fall and the log lodge building on your right as you turn into the college. Pull in at the log building on the right called the Keeter Center. Go inside and if you are still hungry or didn't eat on the Branson Bell they have a nice Buffet there but it is a little at the top of my budget. You will really enjoy the inside of this beautiful log structure. It was originally a lodge donated to the college and disassembled and moved to it's college site and put back up. Well actually it is just a replica of the original building as the original one burnt. You can look at the huge stone floor to ceiling fire place in the lobby and if you look up on the balcony that is where the hotel is located. It is often used by alumni when they come to visit.
There is a nice little museum there you can look at and read all the history of the college and area. When you leave drive down the hill into the smaller college campus and you will see another resterant on the left and a park left and a mill pond where there is an old grist mill and usually ducks and swans on the pond. You can see a beautiful stone church on campus as all students are required to go to the church of their choice so many times each month.
This college is locally called the school of hard knocks. No it's not a penitentury school but it is filled with kids that are working their way through college by working for the college. They have many classes to teach the tourist or hospitality trade and all the help at the Keeter Center and other resteraunt plus the hotel are learning the trade. Where they have other majors they may work in admin. offices or as cleaners or laundry, grounds keepers or at the farm you see below the Keeter Center as part of the Ag. School. It is a great program but mostly Missouri kids get first dibbs so my Grand Sons probably won't be going there as they are in Minnesota.
Now leaving there turn left and go East and over the bridge and Highway 65 and continue down the hill and across the railroad bridge. At the end of the bridge you will see the Mule Barn or old feed store on the right under the bridge and when you get off the bridge take one of the first left turns and go a block then right on the old Hollister Front Street. it is kind of quaint make up like a little English Pub block or row you can just drive through or stop for coffee. back on the highway you go along Turkey Creek and by the trailer and RV park and come to a three way stop light light.
Branson Landing, Convention Center and Fountain.
Branson Scenic Railroad.
This is known as one of the worst intersections in town. They have talked about building a round about there but it is a shear cliff on the right site about 300 feet tall with buildings on the top. You want to turn left there and cross the old rickety cement bridge. It is safe but looks bad and it is scheduled to be replaced as soon as the city and the State and the Feds figure who is going to pay for what. Look to your left and you will see a nice camping grounds and park and to the right you see the floating resteraunt by the Bass Pro shop in Branson Landing. If you keep going to the first stop light and turn right a block then left past the new Branson Convention Center and the Hilton Hotel. When you come to the Railroad Depot you can pull in if you are taking a scenic ride on the train or if not cross over the tracks into Branson Landing. If you turn right back toward the South or Bass Pro you can park in there lot or farther down the Lake and take the scenic little trolley for a tour of Branson landing. If you want to walk for awhile walk through the Bass Pro Store I am sure you will enjoy looking at all the stuffed animals and even live birds and fish. This is the kind of store the Guys will drool all over. Going out onto the street you can head left down the Lake toward the beautiful Branson Convention Center and Branson Landing fountain. It goes off and does it's thing with water jets, lights and music every so often. Now it's the gals turn to shop or maybe you can split and meet later at the Ice Cream Store or someplace and later take the trolley for a ride to rest your recently tired legs.
Dicks Five and Ten, Victorian Shop and Clockers.
When you leave cross the tracks Dons Self Guided Tour goes up the hill a block and find another parking spot if you can. You maybe want to walk up from the the Depot. There are lots of neat shops but you must stop in at Dicks Five and Ten Store. It is really just jam packed full of the old things you used to see in the dime stores like Woolworth or something like it. Right next to it on the corner is a nice Victorian shop if you like that kind of home decor and they have nice Dolls there because I know and did purchase one there for my wife and we have it on a pedistool in our master bedroom. There are lots of places to eat near buy. Some small diner type or resteraunts like Clockers on Sycamore street. There is a Ice Cream store on the corner also.
When you go up the hill on Main street after the busy light you will find fast food stores and across 65 bridge and you will see Bob Evans resteraunt on the right. You have to go to the light and turn right and come back to the resteraunt. It is quaint and clean and very good food and very inexpensive.
End of Tour.
Ok you are back on 76 Country Blvd and I hope it is still the same day you started. Ha ha. If you get the map and follow it with your finger in your room or at breakfast it will be easier to follow in the car. You may still have time for a 8 PM show if you have one on your schedule or if you didn't get back too late or are too pooped.
I hope you enjoyed "Rancher Dons Self Guided Tour". I will probably lay out one or two more when I get a chance to do it.
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