If you haven’t seen Branson lately, you haven’t seen Branson. New and exciting additions are flooding this legendary destination.

If you talk to the folks in Branson, they will tell you that about every five to seven years, positive changes have a major impact on their community. In December 1991, a 60 Minutes story took this sleepy Ozark Mountain community from a popular regional destination to a national vacation and tour location. Over the years, new theaters, attractions, accommodations and restaurants added to Branson’s appeal.

Construction is underway on the $51 million Aquarium at the Boardwalk, located in the heart of Branson’s entertainment district. After sitting vacant for a decade, the Grand Palace property is being transformed into the Branson Boardwalk. Aquarium at the Boardwalk – the centerpiece of the 13-acre development – is on schedule to open in the summer of 2020.

With a focus on fish and fun, the aquarium will take guests on an undersea adventure with games to play and aquatic life to view. The setting for each exhibit area will be magnificent. From the giant Pacific octopus greeting visitors outside to plenty of photo opportunities throughout the aquarium, there will be many exciting things to see and do.

A water tunnel in the center of the aquarium surrounds you with various species of fish in an underwater city setting. There’s beauty to discover in the Jelly Fish Infinity Room. See schooling fish, seahorses, butterfly fish and a mermaid in the Mermaid Palace. The gorgeous coral reef, Amazing Rays and touch pool are not to be missed.

The beauty and heritage of the Ozark Mountains will always be an important part of Branson’s DNA. The Shepherd of the Hills Homestead Adventure Park offers groups a variety of ways to experience the Ozarks. Immerse yourself in the history that surrounds the homestead. For the more adventurous, there’s off-road exploring on ATVs, ziplining from the 230-foot Inspiration Tower and a new ropes course.

Outdoor excitement is the centerpiece of Big Cedar Lodge. The Bass Pro Shops Shooting Academy is a great experience for beginners and experts. Coaches provide training in a variety of shooting sports, including trap, skeet and clays. For golf groups, the lodge has opened the Ozarks National Golf Course. Highlighting the local terrain, the course offers wonderful vistas. You might want to park the cart and simply enjoy the views.

When Branson Landing along Lake Taneycomo opened 15 years ago, it was the city’s biggest development. It continues to impress. Celebrity kitchens have found their way to the popular shopping and dining destination. Andy B’s Bowl Social brings bowling, games and a “pub grub” experience. Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen is serving favorite Southern dishes in her family-style restaurant. Jimmy Buffett’s Landshark Bar & Grill proves you don’t need an ocean to enjoy the beach vibe.

There’s always something new happening at Silver Dollar City. Innovative rides, top entertainment and outstanding artisans are hallmarks of this 1880s-themed park. 2019 brought a new multi-million-dollar original production, “Reuben’s Swashbuckling Adventure.” Fall guests were delighted with “Craft Days and Pumpkin Nights,” the park’s biggest fall event ever. Silver Dollar City’s “An Old Time Christmas” will debut an 80-foot-tall, state-of-the-art Christmas tree. The $1.5-million project combines color, music, lights and animated imagery. On top of all this, Silver Dollar City will open a new Rivertown area and ride, Mystic River Falls, in 2020.

Branson’s 2019 additions were certainly exciting. 2020 promises to be spectacular.

By Dave Bodle