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Branson attractions opening as tourism season heats up

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Seeking to capitalize on a tourism market with millions of annual visitors, a handful of new attractions are coming to Branson. Here’s a quick breakdown.

Branson Sawmill
Gray, Tennessee-based Face Amusement Group added a new ride and restaurant at its Branson development called Branson Sawmill.

Adding to the 3,980-foot Branson Coaster that opened in 2017, officials on Wednesday held a sneak peek event for the Branson Buzzsaw, a swing ride that rises 123 feet into the air. A fast-casual restaurant called The Heartwood also is preparing to open.

“Like all our venues, this expansion creates a new dimension of fun for guests,” Face Amusement Group CEO Bucky Mabe said in a news release.

Branson Sawmill’s original coaster that launched the development reaches more than 25 miles per hour with 11 curves and one helix. The attraction is located at 2115 W. 76 Country Blvd, where Cool Off Water Chute once operated.

The Branson Buzzsaw is similar to another new attraction in the city that opened last month. The Track Family Fun Parks’ Skyscraper ride has windmill-style propeller arms that spin at a maximum speed of 60 miles per hour. The attraction was added to the company’s Track 3, 2505 W. 76 Country Blvd., at a cost of $650,000, which included a new sales office, Springfield Business Journal previously reported.

WonderWorks
Work is underway to transform the former Baldknobbers Theater, 2835 W. 76 Country Blvd., into an indoor, science-based amusement park called WonderWorks.

First announced last year, the attraction is targeted to open in October, according to a news release.

WonderWorks, which operates locations in five other cities but no others in Missouri, is billed as an “amusement park for the mind.” The 20-year-old concept started in Orlando, Florida.

“We are heavily inspired by the combination of mixing fun with science, creating a one-of-a-kind edutainment attraction,” Chief Operating Officer Janine Vaccarello said in a news release last year.

Starting with an exterior designed as an upside-down house, the museum is planned with an interactive sandbox, an optical illusion art museum, a room to create large bubbles and other features.

The co-founder of WonderWorks, Robin Turner, also is a partner in Orlando-based FrontPage Attractions LLC, which is developing a $10 million project in Branson called National Enquirer Live. Located at the former home of the Starlite Theatre, 3115 W. 76 Country Blvd., the attraction based on the infamous supermarket tabloid is scheduled to open June 28, according to its website.

Aquarium and more
Construction is underway on the $51 million Aquarium at the Boardwalk, which earlier this year was approved for incentives by the Branson Board of Aldermen.

At the site of the former Grand Palace, 2700 W. 76 Country Blvd., Crossland Construction Co. Inc. is targeting a mid-2020 opening for the 46,000-square-foot attraction, SBJ previously reported.

Plans for the aquarium call for an attraction with a boardwalk theme that takes visitors “under the sea” for views of marine animals. Renderings of the attraction show a giant octopus facing the 76 Strip and close-up views of stingrays and touch pool, a so-called mermaid palace and a jellyfish play area for children.

Elsewhere in Branson, a former water-themed attraction recently was converted into Branson Top Ops, which has indoor laser tag, an outdoor maze and other amenities. The attraction opened late last month, according to its Facebook page.

At 2320 W. Highway 76 Country Blvd., Branson Top Ops replaces the former depot for Ride the Ducks Branson, which is closed at least for the 2019 season after a July 2018 accident killed 17 people on Table Rock Lake.

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