Great Weather, Better Value for Events in Branson
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Great Weather, Better Value for Events in Branson

By Maria Lenhart | Apr 22, 2019

Photo courtesy of Branson CVB

There are no signs that things are slowing down in the southwestern Missouri entertainment mecca Branson, with plenty of new and upcoming venue and activity options to keep the momentum going strong.

Meetings Mecca

While most famous for its live-show lineup at more than 50 theaters, Branson also boasts many state-of-the-art meeting facilities and resorts.

The Branson Convention Center, which sits along Lake Taneycomo and within walking distance of downtown, is part of the US$490 million Branson Landing development, a shopping and entertainment district offering restaurants, marinas, condominiums and a boardwalk. The two-level convention facility features a 48,000-square-foot exhibit hall, a 22,000-square-foot ballroom and 31 meeting rooms.

The convention center is supported by more than 18,000 hotel rooms, including the adjacent, 294-room Hilton Branson Convention Center Hotel and nearby 242-room Hilton Promenade.

Branson also boasts several resort properties, including the 301-room Chateau on the Lake Resort, Spa and Convention Center, a AAA Four Diamond resort with views of Table Rock Lake and a full-service spa. The hotel has 43,500 square feet of meeting space, including a 32,000-square-foot ballroom.

Offering a wooded environment with lake views, the 246-room Big Cedar Lodge features the Grandview Conference Center with 21,000 square feet of meeting space. New additions at Big Cedar are an 18-hole championship golf course and a 50,000-square-foot activity center with a 16-lane bowling alley, a ropes course, NASCAR-themed flip and spin bumper cars, an arcade and a restaurant. The resort also offers a full-service marina, a spa, special events and outdoor activities including hiking and horseback riding.

Among Branson’s most devoted meetings customers is the Missouri Trucking Association (MTA), which has held its annual conference at the Chateau on the Lake Resort every October for several years running. The three-day event, which features a golf tournament at the Ozarks National golf course, draws more than 200 attendees.

While Tom Crawford, MTA’s president and CEO, says Branson’s southwest Missouri location makes it ideal for much of its membership base, which lives in or close to the region, the ever-increasing array of entertainment and activity options is also important.

“Even though we have been there many times, the added venues and other attractions keep it fun and exciting for our members to return year after year,” he says. “From golf to the lake to [Branson] Landing to the shows in Silver Dollar City, there is something for everyone in Branson.”

MTA is one of the many state or regional associations that form the bulk of Branson’s meeting business, according to Lynn Berry, director of communications for the Branson CVB.

“We’re primarily a drive-to market,” she says. “Our biggest challenge is getting the airlift we need into our local airport. It makes it hard to get as much national and international group business as we would like.”

But while service into Branson Airport, which opened in 2009, is limited to Frontier and Via airlines, a much wider network of air connections is available out of Springfield-Branson National Airport, which is located 50 miles north of the city, Berry adds.

“It’s an easy drive to and from the Springfield-Branson airport,” she says. “It actually takes no longer than transferring from the airport to downtown in Chicago and other cities.”

Another characteristic of Branson’s meeting business is that many attendees take family along and choose to extend their stay before or after the meeting. Because Branson is such a popular family destination, meeting planners will find the best rates and availability outside of the summer months, Berry says.

“Spring and fall are the times when we’d really like to see our meetings business grow,” she says. “Not only is it better value, we get gorgeous weather during those seasons.”

Venues and Entertainment

When it comes to entertainment, Branson offers an almost unlimited choice of options, including many tribute acts (ABBA, Bee Gees, Elvis, Neil Diamond, etc.), gospel music, comedy, acrobats and more. Headliner shows coming to theaters in Branson this year include Howie Mandel, “Vicki Lawrence & Mama: A Two Woman Show,” Darryl Worley & Billy Dean, Tommy James & the Shondells, Gary Lewis & the Playboys, Moe Bandy, Herman’s Hermits starring Peter Noone, Mitch Ryder,  Lee Greenwood,  T.G. Sheppard, Crystal Gayle, Johnny Mathis and the Oak Ridge Boys.

Along with reserving seats at shows, performers can be engaged to participate in different aspects of the meeting program.

“Entertainers can be on hand to welcome groups to Branson and to make appearances at the convention center or hotel meeting room,” Berry says. “In addition, groups can enjoy special performances where they are greeted from the stage or they can do a meet-and-greet with the entertainers before or after the show.”

Attendees can also combine a lake cruise with entertainment on the Showboat Branson Belle, a 700-seat paddle wheeler offering both scheduled cruises and charters. The cruises feature a three-course meal with live entertainment and also offer VIP seating and a secluded Club Room for private groups.

Other popular venues include the 1880s-themed Silver Dollar City, an amusement park with thrill and water rides, restaurants, shops and more than 40 daily live shows. A recent addition is the Time Traveler roller coaster, billed as the world’s fastest, steepest and tallest spinning coaster. The park offers customized event services and covered outdoor function spaces for groups.

Geared for glamorous evening events, Titanic Branson -  World’s Largest Museum Attraction is a half-scale recreation of the doomed luxury ocean liner that sank during its maiden voyage in 1912. Groups can gather for elegant dinners and receptions in event space below the museum’s Grand Staircase.

Places for team building and outdoor fun also abound in Branson, including Wolfe Mountain, which offers ziplining over a forest canopy. The attraction recently added the Snowflex tubing hill, a course where participants race down a hillside covered in artificial snow. Event space at Wolfe Mountain includes an observation deck and the Prospector Pavilion, an Amish timber-frame structure with table seating.

A new option in downtown Branson is the Aerodium Outdoor Flying Adventure, a vertical, open-air wind tunnel that enables participants to enjoy a skydiving experience in a safe, controlled environment.

“This is the only simulated skydiving experience in North America where you’re not encapsulated in a room—you’re truly doing it in open air,” Berry says.

Scheduled to open this fall, WonderWorks bills itself as a “science focused, indoor amusement park for the mind.” The attraction will offer four floors of interactive exhibits, including an Astronaut Training Gyro where participants can experience zero gravity.

Also new are two celebrity-operated restaurants at Branson Landing with space for group dining and events. Jimmy Buffett’s LandShark Bar & Grill focuses on seafood and burgers, while Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen serves Southern fare.

Upcoming developments in Branson include plans for a mixed-use complex owned by Russian-American comedian Yakov Smirnoff. The performer, who hopes to debut the project in 2021, is finalizing approvals for Yakov Towers, which is to include an upscale hotel and a 500-seat theater, along with senior residences.

 

Author

maria-lenhart-author
Maria Lenhart

Maria Lenhart is a former editor of multiple meeting and event industry publications, and has won numerous awards for travel writing, including a prestigious Lowell Thomas Award from the Society of American Travel Writers.