Going the Extra Mile: A Guide to Accessibility in Branson

Your Vacation has needs, and when you're traveling, you do too!

By Ashlie Beede


Did you know that on average, a person with diabetes mentally makes 180 more decisions in a day than someone without? Growing up as a Type 1 Diabetic—the only in my family— things have always required just a little more thought and planning for me. Never was this ever more apparent than when we would take our annual family vacations. While the rest of my siblings carefully planned out their best swimsuits and picked out which rides they wanted to ride first at the theme parks, I was selecting which juice boxes would travel the best and what backpack I was allowed to bring to keep my testing kit in.

I am so thankful for my family's efforts to ensure I enjoyed my childhood as normally as possible. However, I know that there are many who travel today who are making the same types of decisions when it comes to vacationing with health considerations. Now, as an adult who helps to tell the story of one of America’s top family vacation destinations, I knew I wanted to help another traveler who is like me and so many others. I set out to find someone who we could bring to Branson that advocates for travel accessibility. I connected with an inspiring young lady online and brought her to Branson so that she might offer her insights on the best features, things to do, and her personal experiences in Branson.


Aspen Baxter

Disability & Mental Health Advocate

FND | Autism | Celiac | Service Dog, JoJo


With the introduction of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, businesses across the United States were made aware of the need for accessibility. Since then, most established businesses have implemented some sort of ADA compliance, such as accessible bathroom stalls, ramps and automated doors. Branson adheres to these accommodations, but we wanted to take a deeper look at how certain businesses were going the extra mile. That's where Aspen Baxter comes into play. As a wheelchair-bound traveler who also lives with Autism and Celiac disease, traveling can be daunting for Aspen and her service dog, JoJo.  We invited her to come to Branson to experience some of the things that make our destination truly unique and to shed light on how Branson embraces our disabled travelers. She went to shows, experienced attractions and tasted her way through town. Here's her review!


1. What was your opinion of traveling to Branson before you arrived?

I had visited once before as an (able bodied) child so I had always wanted to take my parents and had told them how beautiful Branson is. Since my injury, planning trips becomes all about researching accessibility. It's a stressor but a necessary part of disabled travel. Many towns are not easy to maneuver. I'm happy to say, Branson is not one of them! Accessibility around Branson was not hard to find!


2. What was most surprising about your visit?

There is so much to do! How do you even decide? The ease of getting around to see everything Branson has to offer made for a low stress trip. Every place we visited had friendly and helpful staff as well as many accessible transportation options.


3. What was your favorite moment on your trip?

My favorite moment during our trip was visiting the aquarium and sitting in the tunnel staring at the water and all of the creatures. It was so peaceful and relaxing. I could have stayed there forever!


4. What was your opinion on your hotel stay accommodations?

The hotel exceeded my expectations by far! The Hilton Promenade at Branson Landing provided a fully accessible condo including a roll in shower and an accessible balcony overlooking the Landing. The room was beautiful and large providing plenty of turnaround space. The indoor pool offered a manual wheelchair lift and I was super excited to finally be able to get in and out of a pool. This was the first out of the last 7 hotels I've stayed at that had a working pool lift. The one downfall was the Jacuzzi bathtub in the room didn't have any grab bars around the tub. But overall such a beautiful hotel that I would definitely recommend to others!


5. What was the best thing you ate while you were in town?

How could I choose just one? For a quick morning brunch, I had a fabulous fig salad at a cute little coffee shop, Sugar Leaf. We really loved the vibe and amazing food choices at Flaming Margaritas, especially the flaming options! For a higher end experience, I loved the Citrus Shrimp dinner at Top of the Rock Buffalo Bar. The views were breathtaking.


6. Were there more or less accessibility accommodations in general than you anticipated?

The accessible accommodations were more than I was anticipating! I was pleasantly surprised that the town was well maintained and offered ramps throughout many different parts of the city, even the older more historic areas. I never know what to expect as I've experienced such a range of good to bad in my travels. Branson was great, from accessible accommodations at the hotel, attractions and events to the help and kindness of all staff. There is minimal accessible parking in some areas but that is made up for by the free trolley with a wheelchair lift! We got around Branson Landing quite well with all their ramps. It was not difficult to find accessible restrooms nearby all the places we visited. The aquarium had ample space to move around. The Titanic Museum can get quite congested (and loud for those with sensory issues) so I'd only recommend going on off times or days but I was able to get an amazing tour from our guide, Rod.


7. What are some things Branson is doing right in terms of accessibility? What can we improve on or add?

I think you are ahead of "the game". I really can't critique much about my visit to be honest. Maybe more accessible parking (near main street shops). This is always an issue in older parts of town. The amazing little juice bar we had breakfast at, had no accessible restroom. There was a public restroom right across the street from it at Liberty Plaza but oddly, there was no wheelchair parking in that parking lot. The hills in that area are steep for wheeling so more parking availability OR taking the FREE trolley is an easy fix.


8. What is something you are looking forward to returning to Branson to do?

I'm really looking forward to coming back to Branson around the holidays! I've always heard wonderful things about the holiday spirit and I want to experience it for myself. I would love to come see a Christmas show and all of the beautiful lights!


Other Accommodations and Considerations


Aside from the experiences of Aspen and her family, we know there are other visitors with other needs to keep in mind. There are many efforts being taken in Branson to ensure all of our guests' needs are being met. I wanted to take a moment to offer a shout out for some other accessibility features to keep in mind when planning your trip to Branson:


Shepherd of the Hills: They offer wheelchair accessibility for their Dinner Shows, their original Outdoor Drama, and the Inspiration tower. The dinner shows offer a vegetarian meal, as well.

WonderWorks: They offer many accommodations for guests with disabilities, but one of our favorite features is their “Sensory Days” events, where they modify the entire attraction and invite those with sensory needs to visit on special event days. A full list of their accommodations for guests with different types of needs can be found on their website.

Branson Aquaplex at RecPlex: Sensory Swim is a FREE and quiet time at the Branson AquaPlex designed for individuals with Sensory Processing Disorders and differing abilities to enjoy the AquaPlex without the crowds. There will be no music playing, and fountain features will be turned off during this time. More information can be found online.

Branson Landing partnered with Shay & Pals, an organization that helps those with sensory issues by providing calming trailers for use at special events. During the Landing’s special events, such as their Summer Concert Series, the trailer is parked near the fountains and is available for use free of charge to anyone with sensory issues or overstimulation needing a place to calm and refocus away from the crowds.

Silver Dollar CityThanks to Mercy Health Systems, Silver Dollar City now has two Family Calming Spaces (one of which is shown above) that park visitors with sensory processing disorder can step away from the sights, sounds, and smells for a while! With a minimum of 14 days advance notice, Sign Language interpretation can also be requested for special events and shows.

Fun Mountain has sound blocking headphones as well as elevator access to a more calming downstairs space with more secluded rides upon request.


With all of this in mind, I am aware that still, we’ve barely scratched the surface on accessibility in Branson. There are many, many disabilities and health limitations that people deal with every day, and one article cannot speak to them all. But, when you’re in Branson, we hope you feel welcomed and wanted, because you are. As a destination, we will continue to strive towards a more inclusive and authentic experience, providing the best for every guest. Whether it’s deciding what to eat, how to get there, or what feels the most comfortable when you arrive, Branson is ready to go the extra mile and help you have the best Vacation ever, because you deserve it.


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