Branson is known as a budget-friendly vacation destination, but enjoying several days of shows and activities can still be expensive, especially for larger families.
Luckily, there are plenty of things to do and see during the holiday season in Branson (which runs Nov. 1 – Jan. 1) that will get you in the Christmas spirit without emptying your wallet. We can’t guarantee you won’t spend a few dollars once you’re there, but at least admission is free!
1. See the gingerbread village at Chateau on the Lake
You’ve probably never seen gingerbread done quite like this. This edible village, hand crafted by chef Doug Knopp and kitchen staff, stands more than three feet tall and is made of more than 300 pounds of sugar, 120 pounds of egg whites, and 600 pounds of candies, cookies, pretzels, and more.
Check out photos from a previous year’s display here. Also be sure to also check out the nativity scene (a twin of the set featured in Home Alone) just around the corner from the village.
LOCATION: 415 N State Highway 265, Branson, MO 65616
WHEN TO VISIT: Lobby is open 24/7; Village is on display early November through end of December
2. Shop at Dicks 5 & 10
For over 50 years, Dicks 5 & 10 has been a pillar in downtown Branson. The shop is home to an incredible selection of nostalgic and novelty candy, a vast assortment of gifts, crafts, and merchandise, historic collections, and an ever changing “fun aisle.” Keep an eye out for the Dicks 5 & 10 Express train, which runs around its track overhead the store aisles.
LOCATION: 103 W Main St, Branson, MO 65616
WHEN TO VISIT: Open daily 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. year-round
3. Cruise “The Strip” Highway 76
Most of the theaters, shops, and other attractions deck out their buildings for the holidays. Take some time to cruise the strip to soak up all the twinkling lights. Because traffic can be brutal before and after nightly shows, 9 p.m. is likely the perfect time to make the drive.
In Downtown Branson, Chick-Fil-A, Steak N Shake, and many other businesses have great Christmas light displays.
LOCATION: Highway 76 Country Blvd, Branson, MO 65616
WHEN TO VISIT: Dusk to 11 p.m.; 9 p.m. is prime time to avoid traffic before and after theater shows.
4. Take a self-guided tour of 700 trees in “America’s Christmas Tree City”
As part of Branson’s commitment to being “America’s Christmas Tree City,” area businesses have teamed up to construct nearly 700 colorful, creative, and unique Christmas trees throughout the city.
You’ll find traditional evergreens adorned in lights, tinsel, and ornaments, but also dancing trees of lights, naturally growing trees illuminated with colorful lighting, and creative trees made from wine bottles, racing flags, library books, and more.
The Branson Christmas Tree Tour guide lists the specific locations of some of the biggest and brightest trees and includes an interactive map, allowing you to take a self-guided tour at your own pace. Read more about the community effort here.
5. Enjoy the decorations and water show at Branson Landing
The Branson Landing shopping and restaurant district is adorned in holiday lights and decorations for the annual “Winter Wonderlanding” celebration. Iconic silver reindeer sculptures welcome guests at the entrance and an all-new must-see 63-foot animated LED Christmas tree (with shows every 20 minutes from 5:30 to 10:50pm nightly) serves as the central attraction on Town Square.
LOCATION: 100 Branson Landing Blvd, Branson, MO 65616
WHEN TO VISIT: Nov. 1-Jan. 2; Late afternoon/early evening to enjoy both day and night decorations
6. Discover the culinary creations and decor at Sugar Leaf Bakery
This bakery and cafe inside the Grand Village Shops is known for their incredible unique cake creations and giant homemade marshmallows. Stop by for a sweet treat and enjoy their holiday decor too.
LOCATION: 2800 W 76 Country Blvd, Branson, MO 65616
WHEN TO VISIT: Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays
7. Get a free photo with Santa at Bass Pro Shop
The outdoor-focused retailer will again host “Santa’s Wonderland” inside their store at Branson Landing. Stop by free crafts, games, and activities, plus get a free photo with Santa!
LOCATION: 1 Bass Pro Drive, Branson, MO 65616
WHEN TO VISIT: Nov. 15-Dec. 24; Open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sundays
Bass Pro is just one location you’ll find Mr. Claus and his helpers this season. Visit our Where to visit Santa in Branson page for the full list.
8. See the horses at Dixie Stampede
Dixie Stampede is one of the area’s most popular dinner and show attractions, featuring a cast of 32 horses and riders. If catching the show isn’t in your budget, you can still stop by the theatre to enjoy the holiday decor and see some of the horses who perform in the show from their stables along the building’s exterior.
LOCATION: 1525 West Highway 76, Branson, MO 65616
WHEN TO VISIT: Oct. 29-Jan. 2; Late afternoon/early evening to enjoy both day and night decorations
9. See the “Electrify Christmas” light show at the Branson Ferris Wheel
Stop by the Branson Ferris Wheel to experience a special Christmas edition of their “Electrify” music and light show. The Branson Ferris Wheel, located at the Track Family Fun Parks along Highway 76, is the same 150-foot attraction previously housed at Chicago’s Navy Pier for the past two decades. It was moved, refurbished, and reopened in Branson in 2016. In addition to offering rides for up to 240 passengers on its 40 gondolas, the wheel is equipped with 16,000 LED lights to create a dazzling light show after dark.
The Electrify Christmas presentation is played at the top of the hour each night at 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 p.m.
While you’re there, check out the Branson Community Christmas Tree in the front lot, and go skating on real ice at the Holidays on Ice rink (ice skating opens in late November and fees apply).
LOCATION: 3335 W 76 Country Blvd, Branson, MO 65616
WHEN TO VISIT: After dark, Nov. 1-Jan. 31
10. Explore Kringle’s Christmas Shop
The largest Christmas store in Missouri, Kringle’s at Grand Village Shops features 125 designer decorated Christmas trees and countless collectables throughout its sprawling 9,000-square-feet of retail space. From specialty ornaments to Christmas villages to nativity sets, it’s all here.
LOCATION: 2800 W 76 Country Blvd, Suite 103, Branson, MO 65616
WHEN TO VISIT: Open year round, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays
BONUS: Visit Big Cedar Lodge
Big Cedar is “the” Christmas resort in Branson. Head into the main lobby to see their gingerbread village and train display, large trees, and other holiday decor. After dark, they have a new paid drive-through light display (as of 2022, there is no longer a free drive-through display), and a separate tram tour if you prefer to let someone else do the driving. There’s also an ice skating rink with a large tree programmed to “dance” along with a selection of favorite Christmas songs.
Big Cedar is also an excellent place to stay, as they offer a variety of amenities just for resort guests, including craft activities for the kids, elf and santa visits to your room, storytime with Mrs. Claus, kids tree decorating pajama party, baking with Mrs. Claus, Christmas Eve services at the onsite chapel, and more. Find more details here.
LOCATION: 190 Top of the Rock Road, Ridgedale, MO 65739
WHEN TO VISIT: Nov. 5-Dec. 31