From Dueling Pianos to Traffic Shortcuts: Branson's Best-Kept Secrets

Millions of people visit Branson each year and while top attractions are worth sitting through traffic jams on Highway 76, sometimes it’s fun to step off the beaten path to experience lesser known fun things to do.

From the freshest handmade ice cream and late night dueling pianos to alternate routes for avoiding traffic and the world’s largest banjo, this town is full of unique, and sometimes quirky, treasures. If you’re looking for the inside scoop on those hidden gems only locals know about, here’s a guide to some of Branson’s best-kept secrets.

Best Hidden Restaurants

Vasken’s International Deli 

Just off Gretna Road in the Branson Mill Marketplace, Vasken’s is a local favorite serving a tasty assortment of hot and cold sandwiches and salads. Mediterranean fare is their specialty and you can’t go wrong with any of Vasken’s delicious gyros (especially the Firehouse Gyro—a spicy, savory combination of lamb and beef), chicken shawarma, Greek salad or sample platter with falafel. For dessert, be sure to try their homemade baklava, a gooey, flakey pastry with layers of chopped nuts and honey.

India Clay Oven

Tucked away in an unassuming strip mall off Highway 76, India Clay Oven takes you on an Indian culinary journey. Many visitors say this is the best Indian food they’ve eaten in the country. And if you’ve never tried Indian food, this is the restaurant that may just make you a fan—especially the warm, garlicky naan bread. Their extensive menu of traditional Indian cuisine includes delicious tikka masala, pakora and a selection of refreshing Indian beer. Order off the menu or go for their fresh, piping hot lunch buffet.

Local Favorites for Delicious Desserts

Nettie Marie’s Homemade Ice Cream at the Keeter Center

Homemade Ice Cream at the Keeter CenterThe ice cream at Nettie Marie’s is so fresh you can see the cows it came from outside in the pasture. Part of College of the Ozarks “Hard Work U” student work program, the ice cream is made from farm-fresh cream from the campus dairy. Students then pasteurize, bottle and deliver it to the Keeter Center where, with the help of natural ingredients, they turn it into delicious ice cream in a variety of flavors including vanilla custard cream, chocolate and the very popular salted caramel.

Sugar Leaf Bakery

A local favorite, the Sugar Leaf Bakery is tucked away in the Grand Village Shops and serves a delicious assortment of baked goods fresh from the oven. Their cobblers come in a variety of flavors and are the ideal comfort food. They also make exquisite pie, cake, sandwiches and salads. This cozy bakery is the perfect place to rest your feet after a long morning or afternoon of shopping.

How to avoid traffic like a local

The color-coded map system

The traffic on Branson’s famed Entertainment District Highway 76 can get packed. It’s the main thoroughfare running from East to West providing access to Branson’s main attractions but there are a series of shortcuts that can help you shave time off your travel. The city of Branson has put together a color-coded map to utilize back roads for avoiding traffic. Each route is designated a different color and most run parallel to Highway 76, meaning you can cut back quickly to your destination.

Most Unusual Attraction

World’s Largest BanjoWorld's Largest Banjo

Branson is home to several must-see roadside attractions including the 43-foot tall rooster, Mr. Peck, and what is arguably the world’s largest ball of twine at the Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum. Less visible is the world’s largest banjo. Located inside the arcade at the Grand Country Inn, it stands 47 feet and is a working replica of a Gibson-style banjo. It’s a great quirky stop for a unique vacation photo.

Best Locally Made Wine and Spirits

Copper Run Distillery

Just on the outskirts of Branson, Copper Run is a small batch distillery located in a charming house in the countryside. Not only do owner David and distiller Alysa give an informative tour but it also comes with samples of some of their most delicious spirits including their “overproof” moonshine, whiskey and the popular gold rum made from blackstrap molasses. When the weather is nice, enjoy sipping a craft drink or two on the large porch with distillery dog Kaya and black cat Molasses.

Smith Creek Moonshine

Missouri MoonshineLocated in an unassuming storefront in the Branson Landing, Smith Creek Moonshine not only offers tasty concoctions made with their special recipe moonshine, they also feature mouthwatering barbecue and great entertainment in the evenings. Try their caramel moonshine along with their melt-in-your-mouth Pig Stickers—pork shanks that have been dry rubbed, smoked, steamed and then flash friend to perfection. Be sure to save some room for their yummy Moonshine Bread Pudding.

The cream sherry at Curling Vine Winery

It’s no secret Curling Vine Winery offers a popular tour with free samples of their red and white wines but many visitors are surprised to learn that they also make a delicious cream sherry. The sherry is aged on the premises in barrels for three to five years, giving it a rich, complex and nutty flavor. You may just walk away with a bottle or five after you taste it.

Best Late Night Venues

Ernie Biggs Dueling Piano Bar

Open nightly until 1:30 am, Ernie Biggs Dueling Piano Bar is a great late night stop for drinks and fun entertainment. Enjoy a spirited sing-a-long or try to stump the talented pianists with a request. Don’t be surprised if you see a number of local performers here after their shows —this is where Branson’s entertainers go to be entertained.

Vintage Paris

This quaint, cozy cafe in historic Downtown Hollister serves the best handcrafted espresso beverages in the area. Vintage Paris also features a large selection of fine wines, craft beer, cigars and scrumptious pastries. Experience a warm summer evening on their string-lit patio or stay cozy inside and enjoy one of the numerous evening performers.

One of the country’s top golf destinations

Branson may be best known for its shows, but is fast becoming one of the country’s top golf destinations. With courses like Top of the Rock, Buffalo Ridge, Branson Hills Golf Club, the new The Ridge Course in development and The PGA TOUR Champions Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf at Big Cedar Lodge, it’s little wonder Branson was recently dubbed “golf’s best-kept secret” by Forbes magazine.

Best Hidden Theater

The Little Opry Theatre

Although technically not hidden, the Little Opry Theatre is nestled deep in the Branson IMAX Entertainment complex and is a pleasant surprise to visitors. Like its name, it’s cozy but that also means there isn’t a bad seat in the house. Enjoy a variety of shows including tributes to George Strait and Marty Robbins, the comedy of Sons of Britches, foot stomping bluegrass with the Petersen Family and the gospel favorite Smoke on the Mountain.

Trip Ideas