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More Than a Show

By Margret Collier

Photo: John Starnes, Flickr

Discovering the Natural Beauty of Table Rock Lake near Branson, MO.

My husband and I were having lunch with some friends when we started talking about our upcoming trip back to Branson, Missouri. They responded as many do, “Oh, how fun!” But, then they asked us a question we had never heard anyone ask: “Are you staying on Table Rock Lake?”

I can’t even begin to tell you the embarrassment I felt when she had to explain to me that the massive lake right next to Branson, a place where my husband and I had visited countless times for shows and Branson attractions, was called Table Rock Lake.

On the drive home I couldn’t help but think about how in all these years we had never explored the area outside of Branson-proper. Yes, the Branson shows are a ball. But, what had we been missing out on? Not just on Table Rock Lake, but the whole area around it. I always thought the area was pretty—why hadn’t we explored it? So I hopped online and started re-planning our trip.

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Off the beaten path

Now, my husband was set on seeing the Samson show at the Sight & Sound Theatres, but instead of staying somewhere in Branson-proper, I decided to book our stay at Table Rock Resorts on Indian Point. Was it a bit of a drive to get there from Branson’s main drag? About 15 minutes extra, but when the drive takes you through the Ozark mountain hillsides with unbelievable vistas we couldn’t care less! And, trust me, the calming view of the lake sure beat the roar of traffic along Branson’s entertainment district.

We enjoyed the serenity that we never knew existed off the main roads in Branson.

At the resort, we had our choice of cabin size. We opted for the simple one-bedroom A Frame, since it was just my husband and I; but they had two- and three-bedroom options as well as the Lake House and Chalet that can sleep up to 10 people! So we’ll be staying in one of those when we bring the whole family and grandkids, or head down the road to the Watermill Cove Resort, which has one of the best looking family pools you can imagine!

After catching the show in Branson, we continued our “outside Branson” theme and headed to nearby Hollister, where we came upon what may be the cutest street in the whole area—Downing Street. Being a lover of all things “pub,” my husband was quick to pull us into the Downing Street Pour House. The space was so cozy feeling, and the menu had such a great variety of classic pub and upscale dishes. We split a few appetizers and entrees, and enjoyed the serenity that we never knew existed off the main roads in Branson.

A breath of fresh air

The next day we took our sweet time enjoying a few cups of coffee by the pool. What a view! Now, normally we’d head down to the Branson Landing for some shopping to burn time before a show. But, this time we headed across the lake to explore a tamed-wilderness area called Dogwood Canyon. We hopped on one of the Wildlife Tram Tours and enjoyed the relaxing drive through the beautiful wilderness park that stretches along both sides of a quietly meandering river. What a breath of fresh air, and knowing there were dozens of cars sitting on the 76 Country Boulevard waiting at stop lights made the cool breezes off the water just that much more refreshing.

After a bit of downtime at the hotel, we headed back out for our evening festivities. But before heading into town to catch our show, we decided to stop by Vino Cellars. We both enjoy wine, but admittedly don’t know very much about it, so wine focused bars can be a bit intimidating. But, the staff was so kind and helped us find the perfect glasses based on our preferences that we felt like we were enjoying wine on a friend’s back patio. Did I mention the view? People rarely talk about the striking beauty of the area surrounding Branson, and really it’s because they haven’t ventured out of the lowlands to truly experience them. Up here on the ridges outside of town, you can’t help but be struck by the magnificence of those rolling Ozark hills and stunning views of Table Rock Lake.

Dinner & a show

That evening we killed two birds with one stone and attended a show that we had never thought to try—the Showboat Branson Belle. The show takes place on a large riverboat cut straight from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, and it sets out across Table Rock Lake for a two-hour sail. Not only do you get the show and the relaxing cruise, but the ticket also includes a three-course meal, making it a no-brainer for a laid-back vacation. They gave us an extended intermission to enjoy the beauty of Table Rock Lake and the gorgeous surrounding Ozark scenery. If you’re planning a trip to Branson and this show isn’t on your list, you are seriously missing out. Table Rock Lake is stunning at sunset!

After the show I was hankering for a chocolate malt shake. Before you ask… yes, the dinner show served dessert, but there was just something about driving along those winding ridgetop roads outside of Branson that reminded me of years ago when my husband was still just my dreamy boyfriend who swiped his big brother’s cherry convertible to take me on dates. We stopped by a spot that we had passed countless times, Andy’s Frozen Custard. It always looked like so much fun; all of the young couples and families sitting on the hoods of their cars enjoying their custard on summer nights. So, we found our spot next to some nice college kids who turned out to be summer counselors from a nearby camp. This being our second dessert of the night, we decided it would be best for our diet plan to split a chocolate malt. It was worth every luscious bite. No shame.

Under the radar

On our last day in the Table Rock Lake area, we decided to check out a new attraction—well, a new one to us, at least. If you’ve visited the Branson area you will recognize the name, Talking Rock Caverns. It’s billed as a family friendly adventure, so we never really thought to check it out just the two of us. But, after chatting with some folks around our resort’s pool we were convinced.

The cave was spectacular! Not only did we get up close and personal with the beauty of the cave’s striking formations, something that you don’t get to do in a lot of other public cave adventures, but we got to do it from the comfort of a well laid out path. There’s no crawling, slopping through mud, or scrambling up dusty slopes—a welcomed sight for someone like myself, who doesn’t have the same balance and agility that I used to. Talking Rock Caverns was an amazing experience and to think we had passed the opportunity to explore them time after time. What other outside-Branson adventures have we been foolishly overlooking?

As our trip wrapped up, my husband and I were both struck by just how much more fun this trip was than all the others we had been on. That’s no slight on Branson and its shows; our trips have always been amazing. But, when you layer in those dazzling Branson Show experiences with the tranquility that can be found in a quiet wine lounge, the hominess of a pub and the jaw-dropping beauty of that view from the pool or the fun found on the lake, a Branson vacation becomes an experience when you venture out around Table Rock Lake.

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