It wasn’t so long ago that highway 76 was the best route to get from one end of Branson to the other. Sometimes that meant “smooth sailing,” and sometimes that meant “traffic jam.” Today, however, a web of new roads are in place (and more to come) to help keep a steady flow. Yes, you can still find a traffic jam from time to time, but these new and expanded roads help you get to your destination much faster—and they really work.
One thing we suggest you do before you leave home is turn to look at our branson map. Roads are marked and theaters are noted. A little familiarity with the location of your destinations, i.e. your hotel and the shows you plan to see, could save you hours during your stay.
Now, let’s go ahead and take a look at the general traffic picture. We’ll clue you in to the Time-Saver Routes and pass on New Time-Saver Tips.
Even with the addition of alternate routes, Branson’s main drag, highway 76 (a.k.a. Country Music Boulevard, the Musical Mile and the Strip), is still the area’s most heavily traveled stretch of highway. It can accommodate about 29,000 cars a day.
The reason the Strip is so popular is because it’s the 5-mile section of road running east and west where the entertainment began. And it’s still “where to go” to see loads of entertainment, restaurants, hotels, attractions, shops and shopping centers.
This famous section of road is definitely an “attraction” you’ll want to include in your plans; however, you need to pick the time for this adventure and learn what you can do when “cruising the Strip” turns into “crawling the Strip.” The answer? You guessed it, alternate routes and access roads.
These routes bypass highway 76 on the north and south and are marked on our branson map. The color-coded routes are called the Blue Route, Yellow Route, and Red Route. You’ll see signs on the side of the road that correspond to these colors. In addition to the signs, new Blue, Yellow, and Red color blocks are painted directly on the road to help you as you go.
The Blue Route is still the one our staff uses most often. This route consists of Roark Valley Road going west, running mostly parallel to the Strip on the north side. Roark Valley becomes Gretna Road and finally intersects with the Strip again at highway 165. The key is to know the location of your final destination and use one of the many connecting roads leading back to highway 76.
You can use the Yellow Route and the Red Route the same as the Blue Route. The Yellow Route bypasses the Strip on the south side, and the Red Routebypasses it on the upper north. We use these often, too; it just depends on where we’re going. These roads are where you’ll find new outlet malls, theaters, hotels and restaurants.
New Time-Saver Tips
At the point where Gretna Road and Roark Valley Road intersect (part of the Blue Route), you can now continue on Gretna Road to the northeast and connect with highway 248 (the Red Route).
The new five-lane section of Shepherd of the Hills Expressway is complete. It runs east from highway 76 (at the Country Tonite Theatre) for 5 1/2 miles to the junction of highways 65 & 248 (the Red Route).
And Green Mountain Dr. (the Yellow Route) now connects highways 165 and 376, providing another east-west thoroughfare. It’s a three-lane road with access to the back parking lots of several theaters. This route helps you avoid the most crowded, slow-going part of highway 76.
The bottom line: New and improved alternate routes and access roads are your alternatives to “crawling the Strip.” Keep one eye on the road, one eye on the map, and use the Blue, Yellow, and Red Routes to maneuver around the city.
Driving into Branson
One of the most common ways to enter town is to come in on highway 65 and take highway 76 west. If you hit the 30-minute-to-an-hour timeframe before shows begin or after they end (in the afternoon most shows begin at 2 or 3 and last about 2 hours; in the evening most begin at 7 or 8, again about 2 hours), you might get tied up in the traffic. You can use this time to go sightseeing on the Strip, or you can try one of these suggestions:
We, unofficially, call these our “back door” routes. We like them a lot for three reasons. One, you see much more of the beautiful Ozarks scenery. Two, these routes give you the “big picture” of the whole area by getting you to try new roads. And three, you can save time by avoiding the congestion of highway 76 (similar to using the “official” Blue, Yellow, and Red Routes).
If you come in from the north on highway 65, our first “back door” suggestion is to continue past highway 76 to the south and take highway 165 west. You’ll end up on the western end of the Strip, and along the way you’ll have avoided some traffic, taken in a great view of the Ozarks, and passed by Table Rock Dam and Visitors Center, the Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery, and the new Branson USA Amusement Park (go ahead and stop in, if you have the time).
Our second “back door” suggestion is to drive into Branson via highway 13 on the far western end of town, Branson West, and turn onto highway 76 going east. This route will take you on some curves and hills, by Silver Dollar City, Indian Point, Shepherd of the Hills and finally straight into town on the Strip. Tip: Going straight into town is often congested. Look for the traffic congestion light on the side of the road just before reaching highway 265. If it’s flashing, you may want to exit onto highway 265 and take it, a more scenic route, back to a point on highway 76.
The bottom line: Take the 65-165-76 route or the 13-76-265-76 route for a relaxing drive around the Ozarks. The change in scenery is a delight.