The Branson area is home to dozens of health and fitness activities every year and this fall of 2014 is no different. It is not too late to get active and participate in one of these upcoming area events—you can walk, run, or race no matter what your fitness or activity level! Ozark Mountain Country’s schedule is packed full of 1 mile walk/runs, 5k, 10k, half marathons, and many other fitness challenges that attract participants from around the U.S. and the world. These events are not only a great way to promote wellness and a healthy lifestyle, but they are fun for the family. It doesn’t take an athlete or a competitor to get involved—it’s about getting out and getting active.

Here are some family-friendly fitness activities that you and your friends, co-workers, teammates or family members can get involved in this fall:


The Roller Coaster Race

This fall, Silver Dollar City hosts the Roller Coaster Race. Participants can choose between a 5K run/walk, a half marathon, or the Roller Coaster 5K, riding 3.1 miles of track on the coasters (that’s about six rides total!). This event is open to guests of all ages.
Find out more here:

Tanger Outlets’ Fitness for Families

Join Branson and Tanger Outlets this September as they bring our community together to promote and encourage a healthy, happy lifestyle and fight Breast Cancer. Proceeds benefit Breast Cancer Foundation of the Ozarks. This event is a timed 5K (3.1 miles), but don’t let a time stop you from participating! This family event is a walk/run and everyone is encouraged to participate.
Learn about this activity:

Dogwood Canyon Trail Runs

This October, join the fun at Dogwood Canyon Nature Park for the annual Dogwood Canyon Trail Run. Racers can choose between the 15K, 25K, and 50K races. Trail running can be rocky and hilly, so prepare for the terrain! All finishers will receive prizes and top finishers in each group can receive special prizes, including duffel bags, provided by The North Face.
For more information, check out their website:

Run to the Lightsrunner4

Silver Dollar City’s 9th annual “Run to the Lights” is back in 2014 and better than ever. Run right into the “Christmas Spirit” on the grounds of Silver Dollar City this November, surrounded by over five million sparkling Christmas lights, and hundreds of race participants. From candy cane-striped socks and tacky Christmas sweaters to reindeer outfits and Santa costumes, racers are set to enjoy this fun event.
Find out how you and your friends/family can participate here:

Bass Pro Shops Marathon Weekend

October 31- November 2 is Bass Pro Marathon weekend in 2014 with events for the entire family. Beginners can participate in the CAMO Color Run/Walk, a two mile color run. The News-Leader 5K is great for anybody who wants to get active and reach a personal fitness goal. The Cohick Half Marathon is sure to challenge any runner/walker who seeks to beat their current fitness goals. Last are the Conservation Marathon and Mercy Marathon Relay. Push yourself the full 26.2 miles or find three friends, family members or co-workers to make memories in the Marathon Relay. Whatever you choose; whatever your fitness level, come enjoy the festivities at the Bass Pro Shops Marathon Weekend.
See their site for more details:


Each year from mid-September to November, the Ozark Mountains change from luscious shades of green to the rich fall colors of red, orange, and yellow.


It’s the perfect season to catch a glimpse of the Ozarks from afar at a scenic overlook or get up close and personal while taking a stroll on one of many area nature trails.

Set your own pace by taking a self-guided fall foliage driving tour through the hills. Other favorites include boat, plane, helicopter and train tours, as well as lake cruises on one of our magnificent lakes.

While leaves burst into full color and the landscape undergoes its annual transformation, the city celebrates the new season and American heritage with numerous craft and music festivals, outdoor sporting activities, and patriotic events.

Fall in the Ozarks: A time to explore nature, beauty and heritage.
It’s time to explore Branson.



crafts2This fall, Branson celebrates American heritage with craft and music festivals throughout the season. Major festivals like the 41st Annual Autumn Daze, the Branson
Landing’s Artisan Market, and Silver Dollar City’s Harvest and Cowboy Festival will showcase hundreds of top local and national crafters, merchants and entertainers. Come see these men and women work right before your eyes at the many live demonstrations and showcases!

Event descriptions and details can be found below.


Autumn Daze (9/18 –  9/20)
Local crafters, vendors and artisans fill the streets of Historic Downtown Branson for three days of exhibitions, demonstrations and entertainment each September for “Autumn Daze.”  This year, 2014, will be the 41st year for Branson to host this annual event. Get the scoop on the 2014 Autumn Daze festival here:

Artisans Market (9/26 – 9/27) crafts
The Branson Landing is set to host the Fourth Annual Artisans Market on September 26 and 27 this year. Stop in the many tents and booths along the sidewalks and see the many different displays and demonstrations, or browse around and shop for something you or a friend will love. More information about the market or how to become a vendor can be found at:

National Harvest & Cowboy Festival (9/12 – 10/25)
The National Harvest & Cowboy Festival returns to Silver Dollar City once again in Fall 2014. This festival features over 125 visiting craftsmen from the “four corners” of the United States, the increasingly popular Western Barn Dance, live crafting demonstrations, stunt shows, live music entertainment and so much more. For details about the events or pricing, see:

Chef Robert Stricklin preparing a meal at the Keeter Center at College of the Ozarks.

Whether you’re staying at one of the area’s resorts or grabbing a bite at Hard Work U, Branson’s farm-to-table options offer unique

Chef Robert Stricklin preparing a meal at the Keeter Center at College of the Ozarks.
Chef Robert Stricklin preparing a meal at the Keeter Center at College of the Ozarks.

dining experiences you’ll savor long after the meal is over.

Out at Hard Work U, better known as College of the Ozarks, you find abundant menu offerings that have, quite literally, been taken straight from the farm to your table at Dobyns Dining Room inside the Keeter Center.

That’s because students at the college help manage farms to supply the kitchen. It’s not called Hard Work U for nothing!

As you browse the menu, your eyes are drawn to the pork pomodoro: Medallions of campus-raised pork are basted with pesto, fresh tomatoes and garlic, all served on campus-crafted cornmeal polenta. You’re going to order that, right?

When dessert time rolls around, you might be tempted to try one of Missouri’s favorite sweet treats, the gooey butter cake. Go ahead and give in to that temptation. And add a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream – it’s another campus creation you’re sure to enjoy (and it’s available as a nice complement to every dessert option, plus no one counts calories on vacation).

Oh, and if you find yourself in Branson over a weekend, check out the Keeter Center’s Sunday brunch. With loads of locally-sourced foods, it’s an experience to remember, and you won’t leave hungry. Reservations are recommended; call 417-690-2146 for details.

For more farm-to-table meals in the Branson area, don’t miss:

  • The Chateau Grille inside the Chateau on the Lake Resort, Spa and Conference Center. Several farm-to-form choices are available. The smoked trout salad, for example, includes trout from the nearby Rockbridge Rainbow Trout and Game Ranch paired with Romaine lettuce, Roma tomatoes and lemon-poppy seed vinaigrette. Other options include dishes with pork from a sustainable farm in the Southwest Missouri region. For reservations, call 888-333-5253.045
  • At the renowned Big Cedar Lodge, you also find farm-to-fork options. At Devil’s Pool Restaurant, enjoy the stunningly beautiful setting as you savor creations like the Devil’s Pool House salad, which comes as a side or a full meal. This salad is noted for its house-made blueberry poppy seed dressing. Also on the menu are dishes featuring trout from the Rockbridge farm; an appetizer portion comes with caper berries and mixed greens, while the meal includes pecan and herb rice and roasted asparagus. You can’t go wrong with either. Call Big Cedar for reservations, 417-335-2777.

There’s a quick look at how your next vacation can include a fabulous farm-to-table meal, along with the variety of exciting, family friendly attractions for which Branson is known. Learn more and start planning today at

Fishing on Table Rock Lake. Photo credit: Bob Linder

There are plenty of big bass to be caught at Table Rock Lake in Branson, one of the key reasons major tournaments such as the B.A.S.S. Bassmaster Elite Series and Fishing League Worldwide (FLW), have hosted tournaments there.

Lake life on Table Rock Lake 2013
Fishing on Table Rock Lake. Photo Credit: Bob Linder

And while you certainly don’t have to be a pro to have a great outing, you can land ’em like one on your next fishing trip to Branson.

In fact, some of the largest bass caught in Missouri have come from Table Rock Lake, according to the Missouri Department of Conservation. That list includes:

  • A five-pound, 10-ounce hybrid black bass.
  • A seven-pound, eight-ounce spotted bass.
  • A five-pound, six-ounce white bass.

With more than two dozen boat ramps at Table Rock Lake, plus points of entry at private resorts, finding access to the water – and spots where lunkers live – is easy.

A popular spot from which to access the lake – for regular anglers and tourney pros alike – is State Park Marina. In addition to offering a spot to put-in, the Marina has bait, tackle and fishing maps, plus snacks, drinks and those things you sometimes forget, like sunscreen.

The Moonshine Beach Access is conveniently located less than 10 minutes from Highway 76 and attractions such as Titanic and Stone Hill Winery and is just a long cast from Table Rock Dam.

These are just two of the places to access Table Rock Lake. The Army Corps of Engineers maintains an updated list of access points and marinas on its website, in case your travels don’t lead you to either of these locations.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, Bull Shoals Lake in the Branson area also is home to some impressive fish.

According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, a 13-pound, 14-ounce monster caught at Bull Shoals is the state’s record largemouth, while the state’s record striped bass is a 60-pound, nine-ounce behemoth caught near Powersite Dam, near Forsyth. And that’s no fish story.

Start planning your next fishing trip – one that leads to a brag-worthy fishing story – today at

Branson Lakeside RV Park - 2011

Your home away from home will feel at home in Branson.

Located in the beautiful, rolling Ozark hills of southwest Missouri, Branson is an ideal playground for your vacation – no matter what

Branson Lakeside RV Park
Branson Lakeside RV Park

time of year you travel – and with dozens of campgrounds and parks catering to recreational vehicles, it’s a top destination for RV travel.

Around the Branson area, campgrounds and RV parks offer a place to pull up, pull-thru and connect your vehicle to water and electric, but those are just the essentials. The extras Branson’s RV parks offer make them can’t-miss destinations for a weekend, a full week or longer.

Jellystone Park in Forsyth, for example, offers themed activity weekends throughout the year – with special celebrations around major holidays – to make your stay more memorable. Other amenities at Jellystone include a playground and a swimming pool, and you never know when Jellystone’s most famous resident, Yogi Bear, might show up to join in the fun.

If you want to be closer to one of Branson’s popular attractions, a visit to Wilderness Campground at Silver Dollar City might be what you’re looking for. Located near the banks of Table Rock Lake, Wilderness Campground offers full hookup RV sites and amenities such as a swimming pool and Wi-Fi access. They also offer a free shuttle service to and from Silver Dollar City, so you can leave the driving up to someone else for a change.

If your Branson-area travels lead you to Kimberling City, you (and your RV) are welcome at Port of Kimberling Resort Hotel, Campground and RV Park. Pull in, park it and then play until your heart’s content: Port of Kimberling has amenities such as tennis and basketball courts, plus boat and WaveRunner rentals on Table Rock Lake. Play areas for kids, horseshoe pits and a three-quarters mile nature trail offer more than enough options for an extended vacation and fun in the sun.

These are just a few of the nearly three dozen campgrounds and RV parks found in the Branson area. To learn more and to start planning your RV getaway, check out today.


For Michael, Avery and Nadia Cole, the leads of Voices of Glory, AYO is more than just a catchy name—it has meaning. First, it’s simply a slang term used to greet somebody you know (Hey! How are you?). But second, it is a West African phrase of endearment, meaning “joy and love.”  So, for the Voices of Glory their name is a warm, loving way of welcoming you to their show… and the name fits the experience perfectly. After seeing AYO, it could also mean “Fresh, Dynamic and Unique.”

I sat in my seat, anticipating the show, fifteen minutes until the curtain was set to open when, to my surprise, Nadia Cole, the youngest voice of the trio, welcomed the crowd to the show, introduced herself and invited the audience into a Q&A session. Wait, what just happened? For the entertainment industry, that may have been the most unique and down-to-earth approach I’ve seen—as if they just welcomed all of us into their living room to sit and visit. Nadia shared a little bit about their lives together, their music careers and a little bit about the show. But she couldn’t share everything because the show had yet to begin, so we had to wait to find out what else they had in store!

The opening number was an original rendering of the late Taio Cruz hit, “Dynamite,” with its upbeat and bright sound. It was a perfect selection because the show’s name (“AYO”) just happens to be the memorable line in the song. The energy was high, the harmonies were tight and every hand in the audience was waving in the air to the beat—left, right, left, right.


Voices of Glory took turns haring their own renditions of classic tunes like “I’ve Got the World on a String,” “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” “I Will Always Love You,” and “Cry Me a River.”  They also shared original music that’s on their new album— what a great surprise! The only thing left they needed to have was a little dancing and comedy… but they have that covered too! From the first downbeat to the curtain call, I was awed by the voices, the music, the dancing and the entertainment. I could share so much more about the show but it seems like you’ll need to go experience AYO for yourself!


AYO Starring Voices of Glory performs at the Hughes Brothers Theatre, singing everything from Jazz and Gospel to R&B and Soul. More information (including show schedules) can be found here at


Summer days are starting to dwindle away and the back to school countdown has begun. Branson is your back-to-school headquarters, where you can find everything on your shopping list. Find the perfect outfits and supplies at the area’s outlet malls, shops, boutiques and more.

And on the weekend of Aug. 1-3, you can skip out on paying Missouri sales tax for back-to-school items (local and county taxes still apply). Have extra time shopping at Tanger Outlets during their extended hours for the tax-free holiday, Friday and Saturday 8 a.m. – 10 p.m. and Sunday 9 a.m. – 7 p.m.Tanger-shopping

Need some fashion inspiration for your children? Tanger Outlets kicks of their first KidSTYLE Fashion Camp on August 16 from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Local stylists will be there to discuss tips and trends for hair, skin and nails to get your child ready for the year.

Shop at over 100 stores Branson Landing and take a break for lunch or to enjoy the fountain show. The Landing stores are offering great specials, including the following:

  • The Children’s Place – Buy More Save More! Buy 4 or more children’s school uniforms and get 30% off! See store for details.
  • Hollister – Entire store 60% off through the back to school season! See store for full details.
  • Justice – Just for Girls – Spend $50 before tax, now through August 14th and get $60 worth of coupons to spend starting August 15th! See store for full details.
  • Famous Footwear – Buy one get one half off on shoes and backpacks now through September 14th! See store for full details.

When you’re done shopping: Smile… because you’re still in Branson! It’s like a mini vacation!

Fresh water, salt water; lake or ocean—nothing says summer quite like being out on the water.

The Spirit of America anchored in the cove.
Spirit of America anchored in the cove.

I’m walking along the edge of the dock, my steps in time to the melodic refrain of Jimmy Buffet and friends, and I can smell the familiar scent of Coppertone SPF 30.  I can feel the brush of a gentle summer breeze on my skin and, through my shades, enjoy the sights of the blue sky and the beautiful Table Rock Lake.  I give the First Mate my ticket and notice the welcome sign that reads “Naked Feet Only” (that means no shoes).  I’ve found a seat on the deck, and the First Mate unties the boat as Captain Jack steers the boat across the waves, out of the marina, toward the anchor point.  Welcome aboard the 49 passenger sailing catamaran, the Spirit of America, only at the State Park Marina.

Spirit of America sets sail every day at noon and 2:00pm, operating a sailing cruise and a Water World Adventure Cruise, but also a Sunset Celebration Cruise, at dusk.  My ticket is for the 2:00pm, two hour Water World Adventure Cruise… which became pretty obvious when I saw all of the toys we were tugging along with us behind the boat!  Accompanying us are many different water toys/activities: kayaks, a water trampoline, a blob, and a 20+ ft. inflatable water slide.  This has “good time” written all over it.  Fast-forward twenty minutes, and a beautiful cruise across the lake, and we’re dropping the anchor so we can get in the water.  Now the fun begins.  For the next hour we can choose to play, get a nice tan or simply relax.

Passengers and crew enjoying the fun on Spirit of America.
Passengers and crew enjoying the fun on Spirit of America.

I took to the kayak first for a while before hopping back on the boat for a while to relax.  But the giant slide looked too tempting for me not to jump in.  I dove in, swam to the starboard side, and began climbing up the mountain of a slide.  The view from the top was great… but the plunge down to the water was even better.  With five minutes of swimming remaining, Captain Jack sounded the bell (kind of like mom used to do when calling us in for dinner) to notify the passengers and crew it was time to pack up and head back to port.  It didn’t, however, mean that the fun was over.  On the return trip to the dock, passengers finished the expedition hoola-hooping, competing in the limbo, and dancing the YMCA and Macarena among other classics.

From the time my bare feet stepped onto the deck, to the time I put my sandals back on at the dock, the Spirit of America had me sailing on high spirits. One thing is for sure: nothing beats the feeling of warm weather, sunshine, laughter and good times.  Those can be found aboard the Spirit of America.

As I mentioned before, Spirit of America also has a relaxing sail cruise. On the sailing cruise, crewmates and passengers lift the prop and hoist the sails, then kick back and relax for a 90-minute excursion on the pristine Table Rock Lake. The Spirit of America accommodates businesses, groups and other private charters (up to 49 passengers) for virtually any occasion! Contact Captain Jack Edwards for reservations at 417.334.2628, or visit them online at

Happy sailing, friends!

Crystal Bridges

If you’re a lover of art, the next time you’re in Branson you need to schedule a day-trip to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Ark.

The museum opened in 2011 and has quickly become one of the most significant private art collections in the United States. Alice Walton, daughter of Walmart founder Sam Walton, led the multi-year effort to create this world-class museum in Walmart’s hometown of Bentonville. Crystal Bridges is a scenic, two-hour drive from Branson.

The museum itself and the surrounding landscaping is a work of art, designed by renowned architect Moshe Safdie.

Crystal Bridges

The museum’s permanent collection is free to the public thanks to an endowment from the Walton Family Foundation. Crystal Bridges’ collection, valued at more than a half-billion dollars, includes works from practically every significant American artist and ranges from the Colonial and Revolutionary Eras to several 21st Century works.


rosieNotable pieces in the permanent collection include:

  • Portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart
  • Cupid and Psyche by Benjamin West
  • Rosie the Riveter by Norman Rockwell
  • Green River, Wyoming by Thomas Moran
  • Kindred Spirits by Asher Durand
  • The Reader by Mary Cassatt

The gallery of abstract and modern art includes works from Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Mark Rothko and Adolph Gottleib.

Also, an entire gallery is dedicated to the 101-piece Alfred Stieglitz Collection, which was personally curated by Stieglitz’s wife, Georgia O’Keeffe. The collection rotates every two years between Crystal Bridges and Fisk University in Tennessee.

george-washingtonThere is a small admission charge ($8-$10) to view touring collections, which include works on loan from several major world museums, including the Louvre in Paris.

The details:

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
600 Museum Way
Bentonville AR, 72712

The museum is open 6 days a week (closed on Tuesdays) except for Thanskgiving and Christmas. Admission to the grounds and the permanent collection is free. Admission is charged for special events, seminars or to view touring collections.