Country Music's New Mecca

Why 5 million people a year spend $1.5 billion in a tiny but tuneful town nestled in the Ozarks

It is 200 miles south of Kansas City, near the center of the U.S. but isolated from everything. You reach it by a two-lane highway that snakes through the Ozark Mountains with nothing but oak trees for company. You round a corner and -- Look! -- there is a line of campers and cars stretching to the horizon, crawling along a five-mile strip of neon lights that flash from theaters, motels and miniature golf courses.

Welcome to Branson, Mo. (pop. 3,706). This hardscrabble town attracts 5 million tourists a year, who drop an estimated $1.5 billion into local pockets. And in...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now

Subscribe
Subscribe

Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on TIME.com

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!