BRANSON, Mo. – This is the time of year when we start thinking about vacations and finding someplace new and exciting to go.
For the past few years, the New York Times puts together a list of 52 places to visit for that year. On the exclusive list for 2018 is a place only four hours from St. Louis. And for people in Branson, who have seen their small town grow into a world-class destination, this latest ranking is validation for a lot of their hard work.
Branson Mayor Karen Best has seen a lot of growth over the past few years.
“For a long time, we were a well-kept secret,” she said. “And then all these articles kept coming out about how this is the place to be and go… and I think it’s getting so much attention because we are kind of reinventing ourselves.”
People in the Midwest have known about Branson’s country charm for decades. But a transformation in the Ozark Hills has upped the exposure and the expectations. One of the top tourist destinations in Branson is, and has been for decades, Silver Dollar City. Park General Manager Brad Thomas said no matter what the economy seems to bring, the little town in the hills continually sees millions of people visit every year.
“Branson constantly changes,” Thomas said. “Back in the 90s, we were building all kinds of theaters and music shows. And those music shows are still around today. But in addition to all of those great things that Branson has been in the past, there are even more reasons to visit.”
One recent change is people moving to the area full time, not just for the tourism season. The population is still only about 12,000 permanent residents but that has …
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