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Retire in Branson, Missouri?
Overview: Branson is in the Ozark Mountains of southeastern Missouri and started out as a post office in the late-1800s. In the 1950s and 1960s, "hillbilly" theaters, kitschy museums and outdoor musical acts started opening along the town's main drag, Highway 76.
When the Roy Clark Celebrity Theatre opened in the early-1980s, Branson began its transformation into a tourist destination. A 1991 "Sixty Minutes" segment that proclaimed Branson to be "the live music capital of the universe" brought even more attention and helped make the town the vacation magnet that it is today. The old Highway 76, now called "76 Country Boulevard," is wall to wall with theaters, museums, restaurants, shops, motels, chain retailers and more. Festivals are plentiful, too, and nationally known country and western stars perform daily and nightly, as do a bounty of other acts, including '50s and '60s bands, gospel groups, puppeteers, Chinese acrobats, animal shows, comedians, impersonators and many, many more.
Dolly Parton's Dixie Stampede Dinner Attraction is particularly popular, as are the Titanic Museum and Silver Dollar City. Stores and shops number in the hundreds and range from somewhat low brow to upscale. Pedestrian friendly Branson Landing sits along Lake Taneycomo and has a light show syncronized to music and fire. In addition to the endless theaters and shows, Branson has a zoo, a tiger sanctuary and several wineries. Churches are in good supply, too.
Away from the hubbub of 76 Country Road, Branson's neighborhoods are quiet and leafy. Homes are primarily ranch ramblers and raised ranch ramblers, although Colonials and antebellums can be found in the higher price ranges.
Table Rock State Park is just to the southwest of Branson and has 365 acres of land for camping and hiking. The public marina serves Table Rock Lake and has boat rentals. Lake Taneycomo and Bull Shoals Lake, as well as Table Rock Lake, are known for their excellent bass fishing.
Population: 12,000 (city proper)
Percentage of Population Age 45 or Better: 45%
Cost of Living: 18% below the national average
Median Home Price: $155,000
Climate: Summer temperatures are in the 80s and 90s, and winter temperatures are in the 30, 40s and 50s. On average, the area receives 48 inches of rain and eight inches of snow per year.
At Least One Hospital Accepts Medicare Patients? Yes
At Least One Hospital Accredited by Joint Commission? Yes
Public Transit: Branson does not have a public bus system, but it does have a trolley system geared toward tourists.
Crime Rate: Well above the national average. In fact, the violent crime rate is double the national average, and the property crime rate is three times the national average. Branson is actually considered one of the most dangerous cities in America. More crime happens in larger cities, but when compared per capita, a person has a greater chance of being a crime victim here than in St. Louis or Detroit.
Public Library: Yes
Political Leanings: Very conservative
Is Missouri Considered Tax Friendly for Retirement? Somewhat
Cons: The tornado risk is 110% higher than the national average, and a EF-2 twister caused some damage in 2012. Traffic congestion is a problem. The poverty rate is above the national average.
Notes: Branson has a reputation as a friendly place and has grown by 14% within the last decade. Racial diversity is minimal. Many of the entertainment venues market to the 55+ audience. Locals say that most crime happens in the tourist areas.
Recommended as a Retirement Spot? Branson has a lot going for it, and a lot of people love visiting, but the high crime rate and high poverty rate do not make it a great place to retire.
Spanish explorer Hernando De Soto first visited this area in 1541, and France claimed the region after fur trader Rene-Robert De La Salle arrived in 1682. St. Louis was first inhabited in 1764, and Missouri became part of the U.S. through the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. In 1820, Missouri became a state.
Both before and during the Civil War, Missourians were on the fence about slavery and supported both the Union and the Confederacy. The state itself remained in the Union.
Missouri played an important role during the early years of the nation. St. Joseph on the eastern edge of the state was the starting point of the famous Pony Express. The Oregon and Santa Fe Trails began in Independence.
Today, Missouri makes a lot of transportation equipment, such as autos and their parts, as well as beverages and beer, aerospace and defense technology parts. Food processing is also big here. Lead mining produces 90% of the country's non-recycled lead, and Missouri leads most states in the production of turkeys, cattle and grain.
Thousands of tourists visit Missouri hot spots every year. Branson is a well known entertainment destination with live performances, shopping, museums, riverboat tours and much more. Other state attractions include Bass Pro Shops Headquarters, Mark Twain's boyhood home, the Ozark National Scenic Railways, the Jesse James Museum and more. The lake regions in central Missouri draw fishermen, water devotees and sun worshippers.
Population - 6,126,552
Persons 65 years old and over - 16%
High school graduates, persons age 25+ - 89%
Bachelor's degree or higher, persons age 25+ - 28%
Persons of Hispanic or Latino origin - 4%
White persons, not Hispanic - 83%
Median household income - $53,560
Median home value - $151,600
Social Security taxed? No, unless above a certain income
Source: U.S. Census Bureau
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