Branson has been a holiday destination for more than 20 years, thanks to its annual Ozark Mountain Christmas celebration, which kicks off in November. Through the end of December, the city is covered in light displays and decorations and offers plenty of holiday festivities and shopping. Whether you’re in town to get into the holiday spirit or for relaxation and entertainment, there is a burgeoning food-and-drink scene sure to satisfy your needs. Not far from Branson’s main drag, you’ll find restaurants dishing out everything from fresh Southern-inspired seafood to farm-to-table fare.

SLEEP

Big Cedar Lodge

This hillside resort turns the tree-topped Branson hills into a truly indulgent escape. There are cascading waterfalls, breathtaking views, scenic hikes, water activities and an assortment of lodging options. Turn this weekend getaway into the ultimate retreat by renting one of the private log cabins. You’ll find a Jacuzzi equipped with a light show, a deck with amazing views, wood-burning fireplaces perfect for cozying up and fresh cookies that somehow find their way to your cabin before bed. 612 Devil’s Pool Road, Ridgedale, Missouri, 417.335.2777, big-cedar.com

Chateau on the Lake

There’s a reason this towering hotel is dubbed the “Castle of the Ozarks.” Situated high up on a hill overlooking the clear water of Table Rock Lake, Chateau on the Lake is as beautiful as it is luxurious. Wind down after a long day with a glass of wine at the hotel’s Atrium Café & Wine Bar or head into its Chateau Grill for a hearty meal. In addition to plush accommodations, Chateau on the Lake also offers spa services including massages, an outdoor Roman bath, lake-view yoga classes and salon services such as haircuts, manicures and more. 415 N. State Hwy 265, Branson, Missouri, 417.334.1161, chateauonthelake.com

Still Waters Resort

If it’s not an extra dose of quiet time you’re after, check in at this adventure-packed resort where you can motor around the lake on a boat or take out some of that weekday stress on the volleyball court. There are also plenty of picnic areas scattered around the resort, where you can fire up a grill and spend your downtime roasting marshmallows after a long afternoon spent hiking along the many trails or cruising around on one of the resort’s complimentary bikes. 21 Stillwater Trail, Branson, Missouri, 800.777.2320, stillwatersresort.com

EAT

Dobyns Dining Room at The Keeter Center at College of the Ozarks

The Sunday brunch at Dobyns Dining Room at The Keeter Center is legendary. With a head count that easily eases into the 400s during the fall and winter season, it’s highly recommended that you make your reservation at least one week in advance. The best part about Dobyns is that many of the ingredients are grown or raised on-site at College of the Ozarks, where students run the farms and gardens. According to the college, students have a hand in every part of the dining experience at Dobyns through the school’s on-campus work program. 1 Opportunity Ave., Point Lookout, Missouri, 417.239.1900, keetercenter.edu

Danna’s Bar-B-Que & Burger Shop

For stick-to-your-ribs fare that will leave you ready to cuddle up by a window overlooking Table Rock Lake, head to Danna’s Bar-B-Que & Burger Shop. It’s all about down-home country cooking here with some Carolina-style barbecue thrown in. To get a true taste of Danna’s, try your luck at the Garbage burger, which tops a 6-ounce patty with cheese, bacon, lettuce and tomato, covered in Danna’s beloved meaty chili. 963 State Hwy 165, Branson, Missouri, 417.337.5527, dannasbbq.com

Sugar Leaf Bakery & Cafe

After a day spent among raging buffalos, murder mysteries and Wild West photo shoots, veer off the beaten path and stop in for lunch at Sugar Leaf Bakery & Cafe, a favorite local sweets shop. Aside from the amazing cakes, pies, cobblers and cupcakes, Sugar Leaf has one seriously tempting lunch menu packed with award-winning chili and hot panini sandwiches served on housemade bread. 2800 W. 76 Country Blvd., Branson, Missouri, 417.336.6618, sugarleaftreats.com

Vasken’s Deli

Since opening in 1997, this family-run Mediterranean café has become a staple for true Bransonites looking to get a delicious meal far from the tourist-packed strip. Diners will find a lineup of tried-and-true recipes that have been passed down in the Haroutounian family, including a classic gyro; dolmas; beef, brisket or chicken shawarma; and a great variety of baklava. As an added bonus, you can load up on international grocery items such as jams, cookies, coffee and olives. 3200 Gretna Road #100, Branson, Missouri, 417.334.9182, vaskensdeli.com

Level 2 Steakhouse

It’s no surprise that the menu at Level 2 Steakhouse is all about steak – that and creating a polished and intimate dining experience. During dinner service, curtains are drawn, candles are lit and the cozy eatery’s red and black color palette gives the dining room a classic, romantic ambience. Popular menu items range from filet mignon and Kansas City strip steak to rib eye, prime rib and wagyu steak. The fresh seafood is also popular, and is delivered multiple times a week. If you have room for dessert, order a piece of the housemade gooey butter cake. 200 E. Main St., Branson, Missouri, 417.243.3433, level2steakhouse.com

LOCAL FAVES

Vino Cellars at The Lake

Stock up on wine and gourmet meats, cheeses and chocolates at Vino Cellars at the Lake, and then head over to Mary Jane’s Café at the other end of the store for a quick bite as you soak in the great view of the lake and tree-covered hills off in the distance. If you’re planning a trip to Branson, be sure to stop here on Friday when the store pops open a few bottles of wine and treats shoppers to complimentary tastings. 8 Business Hwy 13, Branson West, Missouri, 417.739.1985, vcellars.com

White River Fish House

An afternoon spent on the Branson Landing means plenty of shopping, great restaurants and bars, and a fountain show that combines water, fire, music and lights. For lunch or dinner, motorboat to White River Fish House, which is actually a floating barge. Load up on napkins and dive fork-first into alligator tail, flash-fried crawfish tails, shrimp or the bayou platter, with fried crawfish tails and your choice of catfish filets or catfish étouffée. Pro Drive, Branson, Missouri, 417.243.5100, restaurants.basspro.com/whiteriverfishhouse

Top of the Rock

After several years of anticipation, Top of the Rock is finally open – and you’ll find so much more than a great golf course and stunning views of Table Rock Lake. An underground cave system with cascading waterfalls, the Ancient Ozarks Natural History Museum and a wine cellar that takes you deep into the earth are just a few of the on-site marvels. Top of the Rock offers guests a genuine glimpse of the natural beauty that resides in the rolling Ozark hills. 150 Top of the Rock Road, Ridgedale, Missouri, 417.339.5305, topoftherock.com

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