Gone country

With theme parks, live shows, museums and a variety of shopping locations, Branson is a family-vacation mecca. Here are the dining, lodging and entertainment spots you don’t want to miss.

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Branson has a reputation. And regardless of your perception of that reputation, here’s one thing to keep in mind: Branson is a chameleon.

If you’re interested in a setting that inspired the television series “The Beverly Hillbillies,” coined the term “baldknobber jamboree” and forms the classic backdrop for “hoedowns” and a traditional folk dance called “square dancing,” then Branson most definitely should be at the top of your list.

Or say you’re interested in the finer details of Ozark mountain culture, but the spouse and kids can’t fathom sitting through any activity that features a fiddle or elicits “Yee-haw” at the end? Then maybe Branson’s Dinosaur Museum, Ripley’s Believe It or Not!, the Titanic museum, Silver Dollar City, White Water, Butterfly Palace and Rainforest Adventure, the Haunted House and Monster Asylum and the awe-inspiring number of outlet stores will convince them that Branson is a family vacation.

But Branson owes its fame to something money and man didn’t create — the Ozarks. And if the economic crunch and pressure of the workplace have you digging out camping gear, a backpack and hiking boots, then check out — that’s right, Branson.

Oh, yes, and don’t forget the shows — music, comedy, magic — more than 100 of them a day.

Branson’s Little Black Book

Where to eat

There are lots of buffet choices, such as:

Molly’s Mill, 399 Indian Point Road, Silver Dollar City, Branson, MO 65616; 800-475-9370

Grand Country Buffet, 1945 W. Highway 76, Grand Country Boulevard, Branson, MO 65616; 417-335-2434

The Rails, 433 Animal Safari Road, Branson, MO 65616; 417-336-3401

Or check out these:

Branson Café. For breakfast or lunch. The chicken-fried chicken, made-from-scratch biscuits, gravy, pies and cobblers make every meal stand out. 120 W. Main St., Branson, MO 65616; 417-334-3021

B.T. Bones. Steaks, turnip greens, loaded baked potatoes and — if you are lucky — sweet potato casserole. Live country music in the evenings. 2280 Shepherd of the Hills Expressway, Branson, MO 65616; 417-335-2002

Chateau Grille. The Sunday brunch is incomparable in the category of exceptional brunches. Beautifully arranged tables laden with brunch standards and smile-inducing surprises (such as the jalapeño cheese grits) mean this will be your meal for the day. 415 N. Missouri Highway 265, Chateau on the Lake Resort & Spa, Branson, MO 65616; 417-334-1161

Cantina Laredo. Mexican. Ask for the spicier green tomatilla sauce and have an order of the ceviche. 1001 Branson Landing Blvd., Branson, MO 65616; 417-334-6062; www.cantinalaredo.com

Danna’s Barbeque. You only need to know two words here — “barbecue nachos.” 963 State Highway 165, Branson, MO 65616; 417-337-5527; 15 Hope Way, Branson West, MO 65737; 417-272-1945; www.dannasbbq.com

Bleu Olive. Greek/Mediterr-anean. Try the Medley of Spreads and the Greek coffee. 204 N. Commercial St., Branson, MO 65616; 417-332-2538

Where to Stay:

Chateau on the Lake Resort & Spa. Reserve a spacious room with a balcony to watch a sunset over the lake, try the 14,000-square-foot full-service spa or enjoy fine dining in the Chateau Grille (winner of Wine Spectator’s 2008 “Award of Excellence”). AAA has awarded the resort its Four-Diamond ranking for 10 years running. 415 State Highway 265, Branson, MO 65616; 888-333-5253; www.chateauonthelakebranson.com

Hilton Promenade at Branson Landing. On Lake Taneycomo in historic downtown Branson, this Hilton boutique hotel offers all that makes Hilton an easy choice. 3 Branson Landing, Branson, MO 65616; 417-336-5500; www.bransonlanding.com/stay_promenade.html

Big Cedar Lodge. Ten miles south of Branson in Ridgedale, Mo., you can reserve a room in one of three lodges, your own cottage or a log cabin. 612 Devil’s Pool Road, Ridgedale, MO; 800-225-6343; www.bigcedar.com

Hilton Branson Convention Center. Connected to the Branson Convention Center. 200 E. Main St., Branson, MO 65616; 417-336-5400; www.hilton.com

White River Lodge. For something a little different and 15 minutes from the hubbub of Branson, this B&B is perched overlooking Table Rock Lake. 738 Ozark Hollow Road, Blue Eye, MO 65611; 800-544-0257; www.whiteriverlodgebb.com

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