Only Branson’s Best for Mom

By Administrator on Wednesday, 6th May, 2015
Mother's Day

If you’re one of the many that want to show the moms in your life a great time this Mother’s Day but have no idea what to do, fear not for Branson has you covered. Due to its tourist nature, Branson has several options to choose from in order to have a fun day and those only get better when it comes time to show appreciation to all the hard working mothers out there. For those who are still looking for last minute ideas, here are five suggestions to get you started.

Shopping: If your mom or mother of your child is like most other women, they adore shopping. Branson offers several great locations to spend the day and give your mom a much needed shopping spree. Tanger Outlets off of Highway 76 is a good place to start. Filled with factory outlets of her favorite stores such as Coach, Rack Room Shoes and Bath & Body Works, this outdoor shopping center is a prime location for taking care of shopping needs at a less than normal price.

If you’re wanting to grab a drink or bite to eat while you are shopping, the Branson Landing may be the spot for you. Stores such as Victoria’s Secret, Francesca’s and Versona are perfect for that special mother in your life to browse through and restaurants such as Cantina Laredo and Black Oak Grill are located inside the landing for when you need to relax and refuel. Whether it’s an outlet mall or higher end stores, shopping is a great way to show your mom how much you appreciate her. Plus, most stores are inclined to have sales in honor of Mother’s Day.

Silver Dollar City: If you want to show mom a good time and want the kids to tag along, or maybe you just want a fun day out with your special lady, Silver Dollar City is a good option. Their Bluegrass & BBQ Festival begins on May 7 and will be in full swing by the time Mother’s Day rolls around. Taking mom out to one of Branson’s favorite attractions guarantees a fun-filled day with great food and entertainment.

Brunch: Most men opt for making breakfast in bed for the mother of their child, but if the kitchen isn’t exactly on your list of expertise, brunch is the way to go. Branson offers several locations across town that will host brunch with a special menu just for Mother’s Day. Restaurants such as the Keeter Center at College of the Ozarks, Level 2 Steakhouse and La Piazza Ristorante Italiano are popular spots to start the day with good food.

Perhaps spoiling your mom with brunch and a view is more your style. Chateau on the Lake offers a special brunch menu and overlooks scenic Table Rock Lake. Big Cedar Lodge offers brunch at their Worman House and Devil’s Pool restaurants as well. The Worman House also overlooks Table Rock Lake while Devil’s Pool gives a great view of the resort with the Ozark Mountains in the background.

Picnic in the Park: If you want a special meal but don’t necessarily want to fight the crowds, perhaps a picnic in one of Branson’s many parks is the way to go. North Beach Park on the banks of Lake Taneycomo near the Landing gives you a chance to spend time with mom while taking in a view. Lakeside Forest Wilderness offers its visitors an opportunity to picnic in the shade while also taking in the beautiful view of a waterfall or Lake Taneycomo. After lunch, there is also a cave to venture into to make Mother’s Day that much more interesting. Then there’s Table Rock State Park. This park offers several picnic areas to enjoy your food while relaxing and appreciating all the wonders the lake holds.

Fun with Animals: Celebrate Mother’s Day by going to see some mothers of a different species take care of their babies. Who doesn’t like seeing baby animals? Visiting one of Branson’s great wildlife attractions is another great way to tell your mom how much you love her while bringing the kids along. Branson’s Promised Land Zoo allows you to get up close and personal with animals while on their foot safari. Live animal shows are also offered that allow guests to pet animals such as lemurs, pythons and baboons. If there are baby animals available, those will be presented as well to melt your mother’s heart.

Branson’s Wildworld is another attraction that allows you and your mother the chance to get up close with some animals. Here you have the opportunity to observe several types from afar or you can choose to feed animals such as sharks, turtles and singing dogs. If your mom is more into smaller, flying insects rather than animals, then take her over to see Butterfly Palace and Rainforest Adventure. Inside here you can walk through a room filled with over 1,000 living tropical butterflies flying around. You can also visit their science center, home to live reptiles and amphibians to observe.

Any one of these options are a great way to show the mothers in your life how much you appreciate everything they do. No matter what you decide on, Branson has you covered for making this Mother’s Day one-of-a-kind.

Showboat Branson Belle: A Different Way to See a Show

By Administrator on Wednesday, 29th April, 2015
Branson Belle

If you’re looking for dinner and a show while getting off the beaten path of the Branson strip, then Silver Dollar City’s Showboat Branson Belle is just what you need. Cruising along on Table Rock Lake while enjoying dinner and entertainment allows guests to see one of Branson’s many great shows in a different way.

This year, the Showboat Branson Belle is celebrating its 20 year anniversary since being christened. The boat opened for business on April 13, 1995 and has been in operation every year since. At an average speed of six miles per hour, the two hour cruise gives its guests every opportunity to take in the beautiful scenery alongside the lake while enjoying what all the boat has to offer.

The vessel ventures off into Table Rock Lake at noon, 4:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. for lunch and dinner cruises. It sets sail from its position on the lake near Table Rock Dam, and begins by allowing guests to view the scenery along the lake such as the Ozark Mountains. Guests can observe from any of the boat’s three stories.

After sight-seeing, guests move inside onto the main level for their meal and entertainment. The Showboat Branson Belle offers a three course meal for general and premium dining passengers. The general dining meal starts off with salad and a buttered dinner roll as an appetizer. Guests will then receive slow-simmered beef roast and Honey-Dijon glazed chicken with garlic mashed potatoes, sugar snap peas and carrots. The meal concludes with a dessert of golden brittle lemon berry torte served with caramel on top.

For an additional charge, guests can enjoy premium dining. Their meal begins with salad as well, followed by their choice of prime rib steak, Berkshire pork chop, pan seared chicken breast, mahi mahi and the chef’s special that will be revealed at the table. Guests will then choose from a dessert menu that includes pecan praline pie, lemon berry torte, chocolate cake and turtle cheesecake. There is also a child’s menu if passengers wish to bring their children along for the entertainment as well.

While guests enjoy their food, they will take in a show with various acts. The boat currently has two different shows playing: Celebrate Blue and Celebrate Gold. Celebrate Blue features a four-man dance troupe, the singing of Branson’s own Cassandrè Faimon-Haygood and the vocals of The Showmen group. Each act is accompanied by a live band and the show is hosted by comedic magician Christopher Jones.

The Celebrate Gold act includes the multi-musical talents of Janice Martin, ventriloquist Phil Hughes and singer Jason Yeager. Like Celebrate Blue, Celebrate Gold is accompanied by a live band but is emceed by magician Aaron Radatz.

Showboat Branson Belle offers visitors of Branson the chance to see a show and enjoy a three course meal while also sight-seeing. While most think of Silver Dollar City attractions as fun roller coaster rides or hiking through a cave, the Branson Belle offers a different kind of attraction enjoyed from the comfort of an elegant dining theater after taking in the magnificent lake views.

Best Places to Eat in Branson for Cinco de Mayo

By Administrator on Tuesday, 28th April, 2015

Cinco de Mayo is potentially the most beloved holiday by Americans that has absolutely nothing to do with the United States. If you are one of the many that will be in the mood to celebrate but have no desire to host your own fiesta, go check out what Branson has to offer. We’ve composed a list of some of the top Mexican food restaurants in the area for all your Cinco de Mayo needs.

Cantina Laredo: Located at the Branson Landing, Cantina Laredo is a favorite among both tourists and Branson locals. If you’ve had a long day shopping or checking out the Cinco de Mayo festivities across town, stop in here for a drink. With 10 different types of margaritas available from the bar, Cantina Laredo has just what you need to relax at the end of the day.

If you’re more interested in food than drinks, their Top Shelf Guacamole is a good option to start with. Made fresh at your table, this dish serves as a great appetizer for your party of two to four. You can’t go wrong with anything on the menu, but the enchiladas have always been popular. After dinner, stick around for the Mexican Apple Pie – served sizzling and with a side of cinnamon or vanilla ice cream, you won’t be disappointed with this treat.

Botanas Premier Mexican: Residing off of Highway 76 near White Water and the Xtreme Racing Center, Botanas is another good choice for your Cinco de Mayo celebration. Visitors rave about the great service by the staff along with their chips served with salsa or queso blanco.

Like Cantina Laredo, Botanas offers a good selection of margaritas along with imported Mexican sodas. As for what to get as a meal, there are several options. This well-liked Mexican restaurant serves all the traditional Mexican foods, including fajitas, burritos and nachos. Perhaps the most popular item on the menu is their homemade tamales. Derived from a Botanas’ family recipe, the tamales are topped with your choice of enchilada sauce, salsa verde, or queso blanco. Perfect for really getting in the Cinco de Mayo spirit.

Pancho Villa Tex Mex: Another Mexican food stop off the main strip in Branson, Pancho Villa calls home next door to one of the more popular dessert places in town: Cakes and Creams. Someone looking for a quick sit-down meal in a quiet atmosphere needs to look no further. Customers compliment the restaurant on their chips and dipping sauces such as their salsa, guacamole and queso.

The burritos made with flour tortillas or the chicken chimichangas are good options to go with for your meal. If those don’t intrigue you, there are several other classic Mexican options such as tacos, fajitas and enchiladas. Don’t forget to wash that down with a margarita or an imported beer from Mexico.

Casa Fuentes Mexican Restaurant: With the slogan “Little place, big taste,” Casa Fuentes lives up to its hype. A restaurant some might call a “hole in the wall,” people keep coming here for they great service and authentic Mexican food. Located on Highway 76, less than a mile from Highway 65, it’s in a great spot to dine-in without having to fight the traffic on the busiest strip in Branson.

Like most Mexican restaurants, their chips and salsa are a signature part of the meal. Main dishes such as the enchiladas come out fast and so fresh that some claim it’s not even Tex-Mex, it’s just Mexican food. While the entrees are popular, some suggest the rice and beans served with the meal are the best Casa Fuentes has to offer.

Tequila’s 2 Mexican Restaurant: While the original Tequila’s restaurant resides in Branson West, Tequila’s 2 offers the same great taste for a good price closer to home. Located on Gretna Road near The Shoppes at Branson Meadows, it’s a great spot to stop in for happy hour to grab a drink or a bite to eat.

The complimentary chips and salsa are a great way to start the meal off, and the quesadillas serve as a good-sized meal for a good price. If you’re trying to conserve a little money, ordering just a quesadilla without rice and beans is enough to fill you up. If the quesadillas don’t catch your eye, guests claim the pork enchiladas are worth a try as well.

Marvel Cave: An Exciting Afterthought of Silver Dollar City

By Administrator on Friday, 17th April, 2015
300ft below the Earth

Silver Dollar City plays host to roughly 10 million guests a year. Most come for the rides, food and various seasonal entertainment. However, lost in the excitement of roller coasters and delicious treats, many forget about the attraction that Silver Dollar City was built around: Marvel Cave.

Discovered by the Osage Indians in the 1500s, Marvel Cave was originally named “The Devil’s Den” due to the strange noises heard by the Indians from deep within the cave. Being one of the deepest caves in Missouri, it is home to one of the largest subterranean entry-rooms in the United States. It has been the subject of exploration by both Spanish explorers searching for the Fountain of Youth and others looking for priceless mineral deposits. When the expedition to find priceless minerals failed, the miners returned to the surface with the promise that marble could be found in the cave. Because of this, the cave began to be known as Marble Cave. It wasn’t until 1927 that it was renamed to Marvel Cave.

Marvel Cave is known as the first attraction to bring tourists to the Branson area. It is a registered national landmark that opened in 1894 as a tourist attraction by Canadian entrepreneur William Henry Lynch and his two daughters.

In 1950, Hugo Herschend and his family leased the cave from Lynch’s daughters and opened the Silver Dollar City theme park around it in 1960. In its first year of business, Silver Dollar City received four times as many visitors as Marvel Cave; thus beginning the park’s overshadowing of the original tourist attraction in Branson.

Though many visit Silver Dollar City for other reasons, Marvel Cave is still considered a great attraction and an incredible experience. Today, the cost of a tour of the cave is included within the price of admission for the theme park. Tours depart into the cave every half-hour, and last roughly 60 minutes.

The tour of the cave begins by traveling more than 300 feet below the surface to the Cathedral Room. After stopping to observe the entrance, the practically hour-long tour takes guests through different parts of the cave and requires them to climb a total of nearly 600 stairs.

For an additional fee of $10, guests nine years and older can now experience special lantern light tours that are offered 90 minutes prior to the closing of the park. This special tour allows guests to view a newly re-opened trail within the cave consisting of a bat wall and the only known Spanish ladder left in the cave.

Due to the amount of exhaustion one can experience during a fun-filled day at Silver Dollar City and the extensive walking required, you may want to tour the cave before setting out to experience all the park has to offer for the day. That way fatigue does not prevent anyone from conquering the vast amount of stairs required to complete the tour of the historic Marvel Cave.  The beauty you will behold on the tour is worth the effort.

Legends of Golf Returns to Branson

By Administrator on Monday, 13th April, 2015

For the second consecutive year, the Top of the Rock and Buffalo Ridge Springs golf courses will bring Branson added tourism as they host the 38th annual PGA Champions Legends of Golf Tournament at Big Cedar Lodge. Top of the Rock made history in 2014 for being the first Par-3 course to be included in a professional championship.

A total of 52 two-man teams will participate in the 54-hole tournament from April 22-26. However, the tournament will not consist of just golf. On the first two days of the event, half the teams will be at Top of the Rock playing nine holes of golf and participating in either shooting sports (sporting clays or archery) or fishing (bass or trout). The other half will be at Buffalo Ridge playing 18 holes of golf. The next day the two groups will switch locations enabling all teams to participate in all four events.

The next two days of the tournament will feature the Legends and Champions Tour competition and a winner will be determined on Championship Sunday. Last year, the champion was crowned on the final hole of the tournament when Jeff Sluman made a six-foot putt for par to ensure a one stroke victory for him and teammate Fred Funk over Peter Jacobsen and Jay Haas. This year, Sluman and Funk return as a team to seek their second consecutive Legends of Golf victory.

Some of the most noted golfers playing in the tournament include Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player. Nicklaus, a member of the 1974 World Golf Hall of Fame class, has won 118 professional golf tournaments worldwide, including 73 PGA Tour victories. Player, also a member of the 1974 Hall of Fame class, has won 165 tournaments worldwide and 24 PGA Tours.

Other noted golfers include Hall of Famers Hale Irwin and Tom Watson, who have combined for 59 PGA Tour victories. Golfing great Arnold Palmer, who is credited along with Nicklaus and Player for popularizing golf around the world, will also make an appearance at the event. Non-golfing celebrities scheduled to make an appearance at Legends of Golf include fishing professionals such as Edwin Evers, Kevin VanDam and Ott DeFoe.

Hunting pros such as Jerry Martin and Allen Treadwell will be there as well, along with NASAR drivers Richard Childress, Tony Stewart and Ty and Austin Dillon. Professional pool player Jeanette Lee will be at the tournament too.

Proceeds from the golf tournament will support College of the Ozarks and America’s Wildlife Museum and Aquarium – Bass Pro owner Johnny Morris’ wildlife facility in Springfield currently under major expansion and renovation.

The Pro-Am taking place April 22-23 will be closed to the public. The Legends and Champions Tour will be available to the public starting at 7:00 a.m. and the gates will open for fans on Championship Sunday starting at 6:30 a.m. Tickets are available online at and admission to Buffalo Ridge is free for active and retired military personnel and youth 17 years and younger.

Ballparks of America Bringing a New Kind of Attraction to Branson

By Administrator on Wednesday, 8th April, 2015

Branson has been home to a wide variety of entertainment acts for several years. These acts include singing, dancing, magic and much, much more. However, without a professional or minor league franchise to call their own, the city lacks a true sports attraction; a void that Ballparks of America hopes to fill this summer.

Yes, there are a several golf and mini-golf courses that call Branson home. But for those who do not love the links or haven’t yet mastered their put-put skills, or for baseball fans with a bucket list to visit famous stadiums, Ballparks of America could be an attraction for them.

Ballparks of America is an all-inclusive baseball resort that will host players and coaches from leagues in the age groups of 10 and under to 13 and under, whose parents and grandparents love to vacation in Branson. The resort is being repurposed from the closed two-story Red Roof Mall off of 76 to include five of the most historic professional baseball parks.

One of the five parks being constructed is the St. Louis Cardinals’ own Busch Stadium, home of the 12-time World Series champions since 1966. The replica stadium will be the premiere field located at Ballparks of America equipped with a “Mini-Gateway Arch” beyond the right-center field wall.

The other four ballparks included will be Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs since 1914; Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox since 1912; Tiger Stadium which hosted the Detroit Tigers from 1912 to 1999; and Ebbets Field where the Brooklyn Dodgers played from 1913 until 1957, when the team relocated to Los Angeles.

Each ballpark will be a two-thirds scale replica of the original stadium and will hold up to 2,000 fans. They feature the same attractions as the originals, including the over-sized “Green Monster” wall at Fenway Park and the ivy-covered walls of Wrigley Field.

Outside of the stadiums will be Players’ Village which will house team suites for the kids and coaches participating in the baseball games. These suites will imitate a major league style clubhouse and locker room, and will be equipped with open lockers and a lounge area with a big-screen television and gaming console. Each suite will also have a bunkroom for up to 14 players and semi-private bedrooms for the coaches, along with private bathrooms and showers.

Near Players’ Village will be practice areas, bullpen mounds and batting cages for players to prepare for the games. For the fans, there will be stadium seating, covered bleachers and grassy areas for them to enjoy the games. There will be concession stands at first with plans to add fast food and sit-down dining options.

According to the website, the first tournament scheduled to be played at Ballparks of America will take place Aug. 19-23, 2015. Admittance to the park will be free and parking is free as well.

Kings Castle Theatre – Show Schedule for 2015

By Administrator on Wednesday, 25th February, 2015

Make sure you get to Branson soon, to enjoy the shows that have toured around the world to sold-out crowds.
Kings Castle Theatre presents a series of sure-fire winners this year.

Five of Ireland’s finest tenors and four fabulous females mix traditional Irish tunes, Opera, Pop, Swing & Classical in a show for all ages! Includes: Danny Boy, You Raise Me Up, O Sole Mio, Rolling in the Deep, and We are the Champions.

Don’t miss this golden tribute to Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons, one of the best-selling groups of all time! You’ll hear: Sherry, Walk Like a Man, Rag Doll, Working My Way Back to You, Big Girls Don’t Cry, My Eyes Adored You and many more!

Puttin’ on the Ritz includes the most innovative song and dance routines from major musical films over the last 50 years of the golden age of Hollywood and features a dazzling tribute to the Award Winning Fred Astaire – recreated live on stage.

Incorporating many styles of choreography with a spotlight on traditional Irish Dance, Spirit of the Dance features Scottish highland flings, Spanish flamenco, Cuban salsa and a fast paced, jazzed up version of the French can can.

If you are planning to come to Branson during Holiday Season – A sparkling cast of singers and dancers take you to a Winter Wonderland in a grand Christmas extravaganza. A lavish production that’s the talk of the town!

Danna’s BBQ remains a hit with locals, tourists

By Administrator on Thursday, 19th June, 2014

(Photo courtesy of Danna’s BBQ.)


By Michael J. Frost

People visiting Branson during their vacation time will often ask around to find out where the best local eateries are — and many times, they find themselves directed toward Danna’s BBQ and Burger Shop.

Just read the online reviews. currently ranks Danna’s BBQ & Burger Shop #10 out of 308 restaurants in Branson, based on customer feedback alone. The popular travel website recently awarded the restaurant a 2014 Certificate of Excellence for its outstanding reviews.

Better yet, visit one of the three locations for yourself. While the Branson area is filled with a variety of large and small restaurants catering to the millions of tourists who visit here each year, those seeking a really good barbeque meal in the Ozarks need to look no further than Danna’s.


Don’t be surprised to find yourself standing in a line to place your order at the counter. The Branson location, at 963 State Highway 165, often enjoys a steady flow of customers during all hours. The reasons are simple — the food is good and the service is friendly.

“Of course, we offer traditional slow, hickory smoked pork, beef, chicken, ribs and sausage, but our award winning Catfish, highly acclaimed Bar-B-Q Nachos, and One Pound Stuffed Potato gives everyone a chance to try something new. But remember to try our fresh, never frozen, hamburgers. They are what started it all,” according to Kyle Junck, co-owner along with his wife, Danna.

Many people are interested in learning more about the family-owned business once they visit — and there is quite a story behind it.

“The story of Danna’s BBQ goes back to my childhood,” Danna Junck explained.

“Growing up not far from The Brisket House, a restaurant owned and operated by my Great  Aunt Ruth and Uncle Jack in Baytown, Texas, I have great memories of sitting at the counter there eating BBQ and sipping Coke, dreaming of owning a restaurant one day of my own,” she said.

In the summer of 2001, the dream became a reality when Danna and Kyle purchased a small BBQ restaurant that soon became known as Danna’s BBQ and Burger Shop on Highway 165. Kyle already had restaurant experience and held a degree from the University of Houston in Restaurant Management.

“With BBQ running through my bloodline, and Kyle with the business knowledge and a passion for BBQ we had no doubt that it would be a success,” Danna said.

However, the Juncks faced an unfortunate setback when a little over a year later, an electrical fire burned the restaurant down in the middle of the night.

“But, we weren’t deterred. Kyle and I remodeled an old hotel still on the property into the existing restaurant,” Danna said.

They reopened in 2003, and it wasn’t long before they began to see successful growth. Since then, the business has expanded with two additional locations, one in Branson West and another in Kirbyville.

Danna’s BBQ is still a family business as The Junck’s two sons, Matt and Lance, have been helping out since they were young boys.

“On weekends, and during the summer, you can find our two boys helping out and caring for the family business,” Danna added.

The family business is supportive of the community as well. “Danna’s is about family and community. We support the local fire department, emergency services, and police department, in addition to our local church and sport teams,” she added.

So, what do Danna and Kyle say to encourage folks to come and dine?

“We invite you to come to Danna’s BBQ and Burger Shop, because like my Great Aunt Ruth always used to say, there’s nothing quite like friends and family gathered at an old fashioned BBQ,” Danna stated.

Kyle added, “We strive to offer the very best in burgers, BBQ and service. Our most popular dishes include the specialty burgers that we prepare to order, such as: The Fat Burger — a cheeseburger with a fried egg on top; The Danna Burger — a cheeseburger with smoked pork on top, and the MiMi Burger, and our hamburger with bleu cheese and candied jalepenos on top.”

“Our specialty is our smoked meats. Each of our meats is specially prepared. We marinate and add our secret rub, then we slow smoke it until it’s falling off the bone,” Kyle explained.

“Our Hickory smoked pork plate is our most popular barbecue item, and is delicious on our Stuffed Baked Potato or Nachos,” he added.

The success of Danna’s BBQ is reflected in customer’s feedback.

“Customers tell us that they are very pleased with consistency and speed at which we prepare our meals.  The also comment on the friendliness of our staff, mostly local high school students,” Kyle said.

Whether you enjoy a pulled pork plate, a beef plate, or a rib platter, all the meals come with a Memphis roll and generous servings of French fries, coleslaw and baked beans.

Other choices include a smoked chicken plate, a variety of burgers, sandwiches, catfish, sausages, stuffed baked potatoes, salads and desserts. BBQ Nachos, about $9, feature your choice of meat, chips, melted cheddar, BBQ beans, jalapeno peppers topped with sour cream. A full menu can be viewed online. A children’s menu is also available.

With perseverance an a knack for preparing good BBQ that keeps locals and tourists returning, The Juncks have earned the good reputation they’ve enjoyed since opening their first restaurant in Branson.

Visit one of their three locations: 963 St. Hwy 165, Branson, MO 65616, 417-337-5527; 15 Hope Way (½ mile south of Hwy 76 on Hwy 13), Branson West, MO 65737, 417-272-1945; or 7930 E. Hwy 76, Kirbyville, MO 65679, 417-334-9541.

Visit online at, Facebook at, and Twitter at

Here’s what others are saying about Danna’s BBQ and Burger Shops:

If you like hamburgers and BBQ, this place is great. Atmosphere is rustic and comfortable. I had a hamburger and fries and couldn’t eat it all. There were 4 teens with me and each had a different food. All of them came away full – which is a minor miracle! They offer take out packages for families that are very reasonably priced. My grandma and aunt took advantage of that service. I didn’t try the desserts, but they looked divine. Danna’s is reasonably priced, too. For the 5 of us, it was about $45. — Amy B.

 We ate here based on reviews we had read. This did not disappoint. I had a good old fashioned burger that was yummy. My husband and son shared a plate of ribs that had the most meat I’d ever seen on a rib. Delicious and a great value. — Megan S. 

When travelling we always ask a local for recommendations for a restaurant. Danna’s was suggested to us and we had a very yummy lunch there. The place is casual and has a fun atmosphere. The staff was very friendly and because it was at 3:30 p.m. (not peak eating time), we felt like we could sit and relax a while after a busy day at Table Rock Dam. Many of the Branson restaurants offer huge meals but we prefer quality over quantity. This is not to say that the portions are not sufficient. We ordered the pulled pork plate which was delicious. — Jan C.

 This is our favorite meal in Branson! It was so good we went back twice. I highly recommend everything we tried. We had a burger, a pork sandwich, the turkey burger, and the salad with BBQ meat. Wonderful!!!! — Pam L. 

I was told to eat here by a friend. This place was awesome. Best food we had the whole time we were here. BBQ was great and the Banana Foster was a must have. Loved the flavor of the BBQ sauce. — Angela M.

New ‘Top of the Rock’ expansion at Big Cedar Lodge touted as ‘gift’ to Ozarks

By Administrator on Wednesday, 18th June, 2014

Top of the Rock Golf Course. (Photos courtesy of


By Michael J. Frost


A project several years in the works was unveiled this week as The Top of the Rock Golf Course and property expansion at Big Cedar Lodge opened to locals and vacationers to the Branson area. Johnny Morris’ Top of the Rock Ozarks Heritage Preserve is now the home of new restaurants, world-class golf, and unique attractions.

“Top of the Rock has already received enormous praise from locals, visitors and media,” according to Tiffany Higgins, Account Executive for Murphy O’Brien Public Relations, representing Big Cedar Lodge and Top of the Rock.

Higgins described the new expansion and it’s amenities as a “gift” to the Ozarks.

“Top of the Rock is Johnny Morris’ passion project and he’s been working for more than 5 years to perfect this development as a gift to his beloved Ozarks,” she said.

Morris, founder of the famous Bass Pro Shops, is also owner of Big Cedar Lodge. An avid outdoorsman, Morris was inspired by the beauty of Table Rock Lake and his own childhood memories of family fishing trips. His vision was to create a setting for families to “reconnect with nature,” and he established the wilderness resort as a place “where preservation, conservation, and family traditions meld.”

Top of the Rock features a nature trail with a four-story cave and waterfall.

Higgins said of Morris’ latest expansion to the resort, “This one-of-a-kind lifestyle experience is poised to lure locals, resort guests and visitors from all corners of the country to the American heartland to discover Missouri’s Ozark Mountains.”

She described the “Top of the Rock” expansion in more detail.

“Big Cedar Lodge has introduced a revolutionary property expansion and lifestyle outpost called ‘Top of the Rock’ that offers a breathtaking cliff top setting overlooking the 43,000-acre Table Rock Lake and features groundbreaking elements including an ancient natural history museum, a nature trail with four-story cave and waterfall, and a ‘floating’ golf course designed by three golf legends,” Higgins said.

Morris, with the help of legendary golf pros, Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson, and designer Jack Nicklaus completed the Par-3 course that was also several years in the making, she noted.

This course, nestled along the edge of a cliff, offers golfers a particularly challenging feat with its location, Higgins said. Along with panoramic views of Table Rock Lake, beautiful landscaping, streams, waterfalls and bass-filled ponds, the Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course also has a 70,000 square foot putting course designed by Tom Watson called the “Himalayas,” and an Arnold Palmer practice facility.

Top of the Rock Golf Course opened for play on Monday. Even before its grand opening to the public, the golf course made history as the first Par-3 course to ever be included in a professional championship.

Last week, Big Cedar Lodge’s Top of the Rock and Buffalo Ridge Golf Courses hosted the annual PGA Champions Tour Legends of Golf Tournament. The PGA Champions Tour event, known as the Legends of Golf, officially moved to Missouri this spring. For the past 11 years, Savannah, Georgia, hosted The Legends of Golf Tournament. Earlier this year, the PGA signed a five-year contract to hold this key event in the Branson area. The tournament has been renamed The Big Cedar Lodge Legends of Golf presented by Bass Pro Shops.

The Top of the Rock Golf Course is now officially open for public play. Call 1-800-225-6343 for tee times.

Even folks who are not golfers or outdoorsmen are encouraged to visit Top of the Rock as several more attractions have opened or are set to open this month as part of the new expansion.

The Ancient Ozarks Natural History Museum celebrates the ancient history of the Ozarks.

“With such an extensive array of new features, Top of the Rock pays tribute to the Ozarks while appealing to a broad audience of golfers, hunters, outdoor lovers or anyone seeking rustic peace and quiet,” Higgins said.

Top of the Rock offers a host of new and unique amenities, she explained. Also located on the property, guests can explore the new Ancient Ozarks Natural History Museum and take a tour ride through the Lost Canyon Nature Trail and Cave. Higgins described in detail more of the new attractions that are part of the Top of the Rock experience.

“The Ancient Ozarks Natural History Museumcelebrates the ancient history of the Ozarks with carbon-dated skeletons of animals including a Missouri mammoth, cave lion, and Missouri ground sloth, plus true-to-life dioramas of ancient species including a terror bird, hell pig, short faced cave bear and bear dog,” Higgins said.

Johnny Morris was reportedly so impressed by the exhibits at the world-renowned Chicago Field Museum, that he commissioned the same design team to help create the displays for his own Ancient Ozarks Natural History Museum, she explained.

  “Lost Canyon Nature Trail and Cave is an unforgettable two and a half mile ride in an electric cart that takes guests through a cave, complete with a four story mineshaft-style elevator, waterfall, a cave bar and multiple viewing balconies for socializing with drinks,” she said. Lost Canyon Cave & Nature Trail is set to open June 22nd.

Dining at Top of the Rock is a first-class experience, she added, with newly completed options like Osage Restaurant, Arnie’s Barn Restaurant, Buffalo Bar, and End of the Trail All-American Wine Cellar.

“Arnie’s Barn Restaurant– named for Johnny Morris’ friend, golf legend Arnold Palmer, is a Mexican eatery in an airy, wooden barn and was reconstructed at TOR by a local Amish family after being disassembled by hand in the Pennsylvania hometown of Arnold Palmer,” she explained.

Osage Restaurant, the cornerstone dining and social experience, serves inspired American cuisine in a whimsical mountain setting with a “wow” dining room, offering Ozark Mountain views and homespun touches, including rugged wood beams, iron chandeliers, tapestries and native artifacts, Higgins described.

“End of the Trail” All-American Wine Cellar features a stone-lined stairwell leading from Osage Restaurant to the wine cellar. “Spaces include a wine tasting bar, whiskey room, and a cigar and cognac room, as well as a banquet space with mirrored ceiling and Amish hand-hewn beams and glass doors that open to an infinity pool,” she said.

Buffalo Bar is located on the lower level of Osage Restaurant. “This lively bar features a premium cocktail and spirits program and a centerpiece glass-encased bar containing Native American artifacts. Open-air dining is available via a collection of windows offering stunning lake views.”

The Chapel of the Ozarks is the perfect setting for a wedding, Higgins said.

“Chapel of the Ozarks, a lovely three-story wedding chapel, evokes America’s iconic country churches and features chapels on the main and lower levels, each offering gorgeous Ozark Mountain views. Design features include gothic-style arch windows, a copper roof and steeple with bell tower, antique pine entry doors, and native limestone,” she said.

Honeymoon Cabinis fashioned entirely by hand by Amish craftsmen. “This Civil War-era honeymoon cabin is an enchanting retreat created from original square-hewn log cabins that owner Johnny Morris found and commissioned to be re-assembled here. The two-story cabin includes a centerpiece bedroom on the main floor with a stone fireplace and sitting area, a morning kitchen, spa-like bathroom with jetted tub and outdoor stone shower, a loft, and an idyllic porch with a wood shake roof.”

As a premier wilderness resort, Big Cedar Lodge commands more than 800 acres in the heart of Missouri’s ruggedly serene Ozark Mountains. Nestled in its own wooded hollow, Big Cedar Lodge overlooks the sparkling 43,000-acre Table Rock Lake, and features a collection of lodges, cottages and cabins rooted in rustic elegance that come with all the modern comforts. The resort also offers restaurants, spa services in a 1920s carriage house and lake-front setting, five swimming pools, more than 20,000 square feet of flexible meeting space, and land and water adventures ranging from bass fishing, water skiing and lake cruises to campfire wagon tours and horseback riding. Big Cedar Lodge offers 246 guestrooms across a collection of lodges, cottages and private log cabins. Accommodations are outfitted with cabin-style décor and offer privacy for an ideal vacation retreat.

Big Cedar Lodge is located at 612 Devil’s Pool Road, Ridgedale, MO, 40 miles south of Springfield — home to Bass Pro Shops’ flagship “granddaddy” store and headquarters. The lodge is surrounded by more than 3,000 acres of unspoiled Ozark Mountain wilderness, just eight miles south of Branson.

Call 417-335-2777 or 800-225-6343, and visit

Community rallies for young performer battling cancer

By Administrator on Tuesday, 17th June, 2014

Friends of Ashley Howard, who is shown here (center) in the leading role during the 2014 spring production of Anything Goes at College of the Ozarks, are rallying financial support for the young performer recently diagnosed with cancer. (Photo by Michael J. Frost)


By Michael J. Frost


Ashley Howard, a music theater major at College of the Ozarks who has recently been diagnosed with cancer, is getting star treatment from the community to help her “kick cancer’s butt.”

A website for financial support has been established by her college friend, Afton Nash, at Also, on Wednesday, June 25, Chili’s Restaurant in Branson will donate 10% of all tickets sales for everyone who mentions to their server that they are there to support Ashley.

Already landing leading roles in her college productions, Ashley has proven she is not only a force to be reckoned with on stage, but also in real life as she faces a difficult health crisis. Her outlook has remained positive as her friends, family, and college professors rally around her in support.

Afton Nash has spearheaded the fundraising efforts. She became friends with Ashley during their time in college.

“My best friend is the most outstanding and bright shining spirit that I know. She has always been there for me and never put me down. She is a fighter and can make anyone’s day brighter and full of light. She is a talented actress and singer and is one of the most Godly women I have had the pleasure of meeting,” she said.

“Everything has all happened so fast that it really hasn’t become quite a reality yet. However, her cancer is coming back and the doctors are taking every measure to prevent it from spreading with some very strong chemotherapy. The amount of chemotherapy that they will be giving her will make her lose all of her hair,” Afton explained.

“I don’t want Ashley to feel like someone she is not through this process,” which is why she is spearheading the efforts to raise money for nice and durable wigs for Ashley, “so she does not feel like a stranger when she looks in the mirror.”

“These wigs are expensive, so we will need to raise quite a bit of money, but I believe that we can do it and it will be completely worth it seeing Ashley’s big and bright smile when she puts on her new hair. Ashley is like a sister to me and I couldn’t imagine my life without her. I pray that God will give her the strength and the optimism to overcome this illness and live a long and prosperous life,” she added.

Afton says that Ashley has become her best friend, and she wants to do everything she can to help her through this.

“We met each other three years ago working at the Keeter Center in Dobyn’s Dining Room for the Summer Work Program at College of the Ozarks. Our personalities really clicked and we became friends quite quickly. Both of us were freshmen and were still trying to get used to the new college experience. We have been through so much together. It seems like we have known each other for much longer than what we have. In the past 18 months, we have become closer than ever. We have traveled with the Chapel Choir all over England and to San Antonio performing in famous cathedrals and colleges and getting the chance to meet many amazing people! Ashley and I have been roommates on campus for the past year and have made so many great memories between late study nights, helping her run her lines, late night Sonic runs, and staying up late to watch movies. We are best friends and I would do anything to help her,” she said.

Afton said Ashley was diagnosed with cancer about a month ago.

“Things really hadn’t sunk in for either of us. We didn’t realize the extent or the severity. It took a little more than a week for Ashley to be diagnosed after they found the growth. It was the longest week of our lives. Ashley’s chemotherapy began just a few days after the doctors recognized the growth as cancer. The chemo was not affecting her very much in the beginning because she was being given such a small dose. She went in for a check up two weeks later and the doctors discovered that the tumors were growing back after being removed. So, in exchange for the tumors growing back so suddenly, her chemotherapy increased by three levels. She went from level 1 to level 4 within a week. The nurses informed her that she would be losing all of her hair and to prepare for potential side effects from the chemo. The chemotherapy has taken a toll on Ashley these past two weeks. She is struggling to regain her strength for several days after the chemo and it is making it hard for her to keep food down. Through all of this, Ashley decided to shave her hair off because she did not want to sit there and watch it fall out day by day. Even though she has been diagnosed with cancer, she is still the happiest, most spirited, talented, and genuine girl I know. She refuses to let this cancer change who she is or take away her dreams,” Afton said.

Indeed, Ashley herself has remained a positive force, posting messages of encouragement to her Facebook page, and photos of herself with a bright smile holding a sign saying “no hair, don’t care.”

Afton said, “Since Ashley is the closest thing I have to a sister, I decided that I would do anything I could to help. We were looking at wigs on the Internet and discovered just how expensive they are. I knew that neither Ashley nor her parents would be able to afford a good quality wig for her by themselves. I decided to take it into my own hands. I began by sending out a mass message to my friends on Facebook asking for their help with donations for a wig for Ashley. I had several responses, but I knew that it wasn’t going to be enough. My mom introduced me to the ‘gofundme’ site. I created an account and sent out the link to my Facebook friends and asked them to share it with their friends. So far we have raised $408 between the site and personal donations people have made to me. Although, we are still quite a ways away from the amount that we need.”

She added, “Ashley didn’t know that I was doing this for her and never asked for help. I knew she never would ask because she is so strong-willed, but I knew in my heart that she was worried.”

Afton also took the initiative to contact Chili’s Restaurant.

“After a week of starting the site and sending out the email, a friend of mine told me that Chili’s, his former employer, did Give Back Nights,” she said.

She contacted management and set a date for June 25. She has since been working with Chili’s managers to create a flyer and a social media presence to make people aware of the event. All folks have to do is come in to dine and have a good time. Ten percent of ticket sales will go directly to Ashley’s fund. “They must mention mine or Ashley’s name to their server. Otherwise, their sales do not count towards Ashley’s event,” she explained.

Edmundo Rodriguez, manager at Branson Chili’s, said the restaurant is happy to give back to the community. The restaurant hosts Give Back Nights “anytime somebody has a crisis, as often as people need it.”

“We’re very thankful to give back. The restaurant has been successful, and that success is due to the community, and we’re always happy to help,” Rodriguez said.

Afton hopes this event will be a huge success.

“I can only hope and pray that this event reaches a big audience and people are willing to help Ashley. I could not wish for a better friend and all I want is for her to feel normal again. She deserves to live a long prosperous life filled with many joys, love, and wonders. I just pray that through God and all of this, Ashley will be able to be stress free and enjoy her life,” she said.

A recent Facebook post by Ashley herself reads, “I have cancer, but I’m not afraid. I have a God who loves me and has a plan for me. I’ve been blessed with the most amazing people who will be with me every step of the way. Bring it on cancer — I’m so ready to kick your butt!”

Donate to Ashley at:

Dine at Chili’s in Branson, 1150 Branson Hills Parkway, on Wednesday June 25 for “Give Back Night,” and don’t forget to mention Ashley’s name.