by Diana Lambdin Meyer
Located right smack in the middle of all of the excitement and entertainment of the Branson Missouri theater district is a little oasis of serenity and attention specific interests of families. The Marriott at Willow Ridge is a part of Marriott’s renowned Vacation Club Concept, and this property exemplifies the best of the brand. That Willow Ridge is so centrally located, yet so far removed from the hyper-activity of the Highway 76 strip, reflects families’ needs to have a bit of quality time together.
The 35-acre complex is just 10 years old and is comprised of three residential buildings smartly arranged with the pool and entertainment facility within easy access. While most families coming to Branson do so to experience the live theater, the bounties of Table Rock Lake and the fun of Silver Dollar City theme park, it’s reasonable that you could spend several days right here on the Marriott grounds and never lack for something to do. Golfers will have to leave the grounds, but there are four world-class golf courses in the region, so book your tee times now.
The landscaping here really distinguishes the Marriott from many other properties in the Branson area. Although the resort is in a prime location near the strip, the grounds are lush and natural, contributing to the experience of vacationing in the Ozarks. Native foliage and stone have been so well placed that you can imagine they’ve always been there. It’s the perfect spot to experience the change of seasons, a spectacular event in the Ozarks, right outside your front door.
For more information, read about Marriott Vacation Club Resorts and Hotels.
Our Editor Loves
- Five swimming pools
- Well-equipped game room
- Free Wi-Fi
- Theme Park
- Water Sports
- Game Room
- Kids' Pool
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The 216 guestrooms are in three buildings arranged in a semi-circle around the pool/entertainment complex. Each building is four levels (yes there's an elevator), and if you've chosen a master suite or a two-bedroom condo, you will have a spacious balcony from which to watch the activity below.
For smaller families on a budget, this 375 square foot room sleeps up to four people using a queen size sofa and a queen size bed. A microwave and refrigerator are included, but there are no additional kitchen facilities.
One bedrooms include one bathroom, a king-size bed in the master suite, and a full-size kitchen and washer/dryer. Four people stay comfortably in a one bedroom.
Bring along some friends or another family, because eight people can sleep comfortably in a two bedroom. The master bedroom has a king-size bed and the second bedroom has two queen-size beds. There are two bathrooms, but the master bath only has a shower. The second bath has a shower/tub combo to accommodate little ones who prefer a bath. Two bedrooms also have a full kitchen and laundry.
For babies needing a crib, the Marriott offers Graco's Pack 'n Play portable cribs for a nominal fee per stay.
Daily maid service takes care of the basics: trash, clean towels, and making the beds, but you'll be responsible for washing dishes and any personal laundry.
The entire property has a solid Wi-Fi signal at no extra charge, but you won't find a pay-per-view channel for watching newly released movies.
We took a last minute vacation to Branson before school started back up and chose to stay at the Marriott Willow Ridge as a timeshare exchange through ii. It is not a very big place but is full of nice touches that made it a very enjoyable vacation stay. Of course the condos are very modern, well kept, and stocked for a week stay as most Marriott vacation club resorts are. We really enjoyed the little wiffle ball field, disc golf course, tether ball and basketball courts. There are both gas and charcoal grills right outside the buildings and they feel nice and private with high quality patio furniture right next to them. Balconies felt large and private. The pool is fabulous with an actual lifeguard and a snack shack. The only cons we found were the people below us smoking (and actually later trying to get into our room), almost zero water pressure if anyone in units around you are also taking a shower, and pillows that were way too soft for me (I’ve had neck and back surgery) so I’d suggest bringing your own if possible and you’re picky.
highway. 4 blocks from the main drag of entertainment HY 76, is this excellent Marriott property. Lots of amenities that we chose not to use on this trip, as we were there for the shows
No restaurant, but plenty of nice places to eat within 4 blocks!
With tons of activities from which to choose, the outdoor recreation area of the Marriott will certainly be the focal point of your family stay here.
The kiddie pool is zero-depth entry with a few friendly sprayers spurting up around the perimeter. Separated by just a few feet but surrounded by plenty of luscious landscaping is a winding pool for the older kids, complete with lifeguard. From a zero-depth entry, the pool deepens to 4.5 feet at the end, highlighted on one end by a waterfall and the other by a volleyball net. Adjacent to the pool area is a small hot tub, and tucked away in a secluded area surrounded by evergreen shrubs is yet another hot tub. There are plenty of lounge chairs for tanning and tables for snacks and drinks. A larger group picnic area is just outside the fenced pool area, complemented by grills, shuffleboard courts, a tetherball court, and a playground.
The indoor pool is your typical rectangular pool ranging in depth from three to five feet, but a special feature is its wheelchair lift. An indoor hot tub is a few steps away.
Of course, this is a perfect location for the gym, but it only allows kids 15 years and up. It's a pretty good fitness center with a nice view of the outdoor pools, multiple cardio machines, free weights, resistance training and space for using those yoga mats and balls. Aqua aerobics and yoga are some of the classes offered at the center.
Family Game Room
The family game room is located nearby. This is a well-planned area with lots of little nooks where you'll find tables already set with checkers and chess. Additional tables are scattered around where you can gather the family to play the many board games provided. There's also a pool table, ping pong, foosball, several video games and more. This is where you can check out basketballs for the outdoor half court, along with the requisite horseshoes for the horseshoe pit, the shuffleboard supplies, and badminton birdies.
In this same area is a space called The Clubhouse. At first appearance, this could be a childcare center, but it's actually a craft room that remains open for parents to visit with their kids. There are several announced craft programs each day in the busy season and other times when you can just sit quietly and color or read a book.
Planned Kids' Activities
The Marriott Willow Ridge does not have a designated kids' program, but the summer season is filled with so many planned activities that everyone in the family will keep busy: Kids can enjoy noodle races, Wii tournaments, karaoke, and contests to see who can make the biggest splash in the pool.
All of the rooms are equipped with DVD players and the front desk has a huge selection of movies you can for rent $2 each. Also, family-friendly movies are offered daily in The Den on the second level of the main lodge. Here you can participate in Texas Hold 'em and blackjack tournaments with wagers made in your favorite junk food.
A small sundry shop at the front desk will take care of any emergency needs you have, but if you're in for some serious shopping, talk to the concierge about shopping destinations in Branson like the Landing, the Tanger Outlet Center and fun shops along the strip.
There are so many family-friendly activities in Branson you'll be glad that the concierge is around seven days a week to answer questions and direct your family to the area attractions. You're sure to make some lifetime memories with all the fun on a family vacation in Branson.
There are no restaurants per se on property at the Marriott Willow Ridge, although there are literally hundreds within a few blocks.
The Hitchin' Post
Meal-sized snacks are available most of the day during warm weather at The Hitchin' Post, located on the pool deck. In addition to soft drinks, ice cream and shaved ice, the menu includes paninis, nachos, and quesadillas. You may pay cash or charge to your room, and if you want your kids to have that privilege in your absence, you simply need to accompany your kids on their first visit to The Hitchin' Post and give your OK.
About once a week during the summer season, the staff hosts a "Party at the Pool" where, for a minimal fee, you can have a cheeseburger, hot dog and other appropriate goodies. Ice cream socials are common throughout the summer months.
Complimentary Coffee and Popcorn
Starbucks Coffee is available in the main lodge for a fee, but complimentary coffee is offered to registered guests every morning. Fresh popped popcorn is complimentary for your enjoyment every afternoon.
Grilling and Cooking
A number of outdoor grills are located around the pool and in other convenient spots around the property. Otherwise, each condominium is equipped with a full kitchen and essential cookware and utensils. The main lodge has a small store for the basics, but you'll want to plan on a visit to a major grocery store early on.
Wal-Mart Super Center #4318
This Wal-Mart is about four miles from the Marriott and allows customers to shop online. They'll have your selections packaged and ready for you to pick up when you arrive -- what a time saver!
Planning & Tips
All about the Extras
Babysitting services are not offered at the Marriott, but the concierge will provide information about The Granny Nannies, a service that many guests use.
There's no spa onsite, but just across Green Mountain Road is the Body Works Day Spa, and they'll be able to work out any stress you brought with you on this getaway.
The Art of Smart Timing
With the five beautiful swimming pools on property and nearby Table Rock Lake, it's reasonable to assume that warm weather months are the busiest in Branson and at the Marriott Willow Ridge. However, the crowds don't dissipate much in the autumn months, which are just beautiful in the Ozarks. November and December are also busy with the much-celebrated Ozark Mountain Christmas. Therefore, your quiet, least expensive times here are in January and February.
Getting There and Around
The Branson Regional Airport (BKG) is 13 miles or 30 minutes from the Marriott. If you're flying to Branson, you'll want to rent a private automobile at the airport; public transportation is minimal in this area.
Driving in Branson is an experience unto itself. Highway 76, or Country Music Boulevard, is bumper-to-bumper traffic any day of the week, but especially so on summer holiday weekends. If you're calm and the kids aren't screaming in the back seat, it can be fun just to drive the strip and see the sites, especially at nights when the lights are at their most brilliant.
Before you load up in the car, study the map provided by the front desk because a wrong turn could cost you a lot of time in traffic. The Marriott is located on the Yellow Route, a back-road access to many of the most popular destinations. Note that these are winding mountain roads and it will take much longer than you expect to get to almost anywhere you plan to visit off property.
For Mom and Dad
Each Wednesday afternoon, sneak away from the kids to enjoy the complimentary wine and cheese reception in the main lodge. Also within walking distance of the Marriott is a tasting room for Stone Hill Winery, one of the region's most popular wineries.
Live entertainment choices in Branson are all but endless. Choose from Irish Tenors, Chinese Acrobats and Liverpool Legends to the down-home country music that launched the entertainment empire here. Your Marriott concierge can offer insight, making your decision easier. For a romantic, adults-only restaurant with a spectacular view of the lake, consider The Candlestick Inn.