Branson Means Business

"Belle" Showboat, Branson
“Belle” Showboat, Branson

Branson, Missouri made its reputation as a family-friendly vacation spot from the 1950s through the 1980s, but the same qualities that drew families then is luring meeting and convention business now. The Branson Convention Center alone spans more than 113,000 sf of space.

“Groups choose Branson because of our scenic beauty, beautiful hotels and resorts, and because of the wide variety of entertainment options available for attendees,” says Deborah Cohen, director of meeting and convention sales for Branson/Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce & CVB. “We are also very family-friendly, safe and affordable.”

Entertainment is also a big draw for the region. Among Branson’s acts are Acrobats of China, Liverpool Legends, a Beatles tribute band and the celebrity impersonators of Legends in Concert. Other acts invite groups into their specially designed theaters ranging in size from 210 pax (Little Opry Theater at IMAX Entertainment Complex) to 1,500 at Baldknobbers Jamboree. Almost all of Branson’s theaters are available for buyouts.

“The Branson CVB keeps a list of Branson entertainers that can entertain groups at their hotel or venue, currently 43 different options ranging from gospel to bluegrass, rock to jazz, country to opera, magic to comedy,” says Cohen. “Because many of these artists live here, the cost is also very affordable.”

But it’s not just stage shows. Silver Dollar City, an 1880s-themed park, is Branson’s No. 1 attraction, offering group rates and customized meals, cocktail receptions and more. Also look into buyout events aboard the Branson Belle paddle wheeler.

“Branson is becoming known for unique zip-line adventures,” adds Cohen. Branson Zipline has eight ziplines and 10 suspension bridges that offer a unique look at Wolfe Creek Preserve. Many of them have private event spaces.

Group dining is becoming more sophisticated in Branson, such as Take Table 22, which serves an artfully presented, inventive menu to 22 guests at a time. For something larger, try the Keeter Center at College of the Ozarks, where Chef Robert Stricklin leads teambuilding cooking classes and farm-to-fork dinners, with much of the produce grown onsite at the college.

The 294-room Hilton Branson Convention Center has reopened after closing for six months last year to complete a near-total renovation. Adjacent to the Convention Center, the Hilton Branson Convention Center Hotel offers convenience for delegates at BCC as well as 28,000 sf of meeting space in various configurations from boardrooms to a 2,000-seat ballroom.

For meeting planners seeking a resort setting, Big Cedar Lodge is a luxury wilderness resort 10 miles south of the city. It recently underwent a comprehensive renovation to the interiors in throughout the pine cottages and private log cabins. The Lodge puts a unique spin on teambuilding events, from the popular Ozark Olympics (with challenges like cow-patty tossing) to a pirate-themed scavenger hunt around Table Rock Lake. New to their offerings is the 62-foot dinner yacht Lady Liberty, which hosts up to 45 for private cruises.

The newly enhanced offerings set Branson up for more growth going forward, and with the location in temperate southwestern Missouri, there’s never a bad time to go.

“Branson actually promotes five seasons: winter, spring, summer, fall and Christmas,” says Cohen. As to her favorite? “I really love them all, but we had such a gorgeous fall this year and I just love the beautiful reds, oranges and yellows against the Ozark Mountain landscape.”