“Show Me” Branson Family Trip
by John Schneider
Living in the Midwest allows me the ability to travel by car to vast amount of the United States. The east and west coasts are a little too far but the 20ish states in the middle are all well under a thousand miles away. Fall arrived, and the kids had a small break from school, so we hit the road again. This vacation adventure was taking us to Branson, Missouri.
Branson is one of the largest entertainment destinations of the Midwest. Make no mistake, while Branson is close to the plain states, this area is not the flat farmland I drove through to get there. The city sits in the middle of the scenic Ozarks with hills, valleys, and beautiful views all around. The non-tourist population is relatively small at just over 12,000 people, but has plenty of room for the countless guests that arrive from all over the country. Live entertainment, great food, shopping, excitement, and nature are abundant. Any evening, or day for that matter, you can find really good live entertainment in the many unique and separate theaters.
The day we arrived was sunny and warm; unfortunately, that day was the last we would see without rain. However, the endless rain did not dampen our spirits or fun. Sure, we would have preferred getting in a few more Ozarks nature hikes or riding on the roller coasters in Silver Dollar City, but rain or shine, Branson has tons of options to offer.
During our long weekend stay we saw 3 different shows and were entertained and impressed with each one. It is recommended that you spend some time before you arrive reviewing all the different types of shows to see what best fits your interests. Then call the box office or stop in one of the multiple ticket sale venues in town. If you are looking for a deal on tickets be careful when stopping at the “Half Price Ticket” booths throughout the city. Many offer great discounts, but some come with a timeshare presentation requirement. Our family is not interested in purchasing a timeshare or spending our vacation time listening to a sales pitch. With that said we did find “Branson 2 for 1 Tickets”, in a small purple building on the main drag, that did offer very nice ticket prices without any other gimmicks.
Here are the 3 shows we enjoyed:
- The Duttons: This is an extremely gifted musical family, where 3 generations of family members put on an incredible musical show. This family did it all and seemed to play almost every instrument possible; but the fiddle playing was the masterpiece. We were truly impressed with the show these “America’s Got Talent” finalists put on.
- Dolly Parton’s Stampede: Family entertainment is the key here at Dolly Parton’s Stampede. This is a dinner attraction where you get a full chicken dinner, with all the fixings to enjoy while you watch the show. During our visit, late in the fall the regular show had transitioned into the Christmas show. Several times during the show it began to magically snow in the theater and as it concluded Santa made a visit. Horses, singing, comedy, and food all combined for a night of fun.
- Rick Thomas; Illusionist: Magic was key here that left us fully entertained and amazed. Rick Thomas brought his show from the Vegas Strip to Branson and to say it’s impressive is an understatement. The kids, as well as Mom and Dad, were left wondering how to believe our eyes. This spectacle went well beyond slight-of-hand and card tricks. This consummate showman seemingly made live people and a helicopter disappear… and then reappear right in front of us. This fantastic 2.5 hour show is worth twice the price of admission.
Taking a drive down the main road in Branson will bring you past all the major theaters as well as countless restaurants and other exciting activities. The kids spent the few moments we had between the rain drops to get in some bumper cars and a race at one of the five different multi-level go-kart tracks hosted by The Track Family fun parks throughout the city. To get the birds eye view of the Ozarks and the Branson entertainment area from 150 feet in the air the family took a turn on the Branson Ferris Wheel. The Ferris Wheel arrived in Branson in 2016 after providing its initial 17 million rides in Chicago’s Navy Pier. Every visitor can see this colossal attraction from miles away, especially in the evening, as the outside is outfitted with thousands of colorful animated LED lights that provide a show put to music.
The Ozarks consist of a vast area of small mountain ranges, woods, rivers, lakes, and even caverns. One could take hundreds of miles of trips with a car or boat and still not get close to seeing everything. Given the weather during our stay we were not able to do as many outdoor adventures as we would like, but a little water falling from above was not going to completely stop us. A drive for only a few miles got us to the Table Rock Dam. The dam, created in 1959 is 6,423 feet log and 252 feet high, backed up the White River and, therefore, created the enormous Table Rock Lake. This is no normal shaped lake. Due to the terrain, the lake goes in every direction and has over 850 miles of shoreline. Right after / below the dam is the Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery where you can see and feed thousands upon thousands of rainbow trout being grown for area fish stocking efforts. Rain or shine, these lakes and rivers are a trout fishing paradise. Golfers do not need to worry either, 9 different courses will get you plenty of opportunities to get your swing-fix in.
There are many caverns around the Ozarks. On a rainy day we thought there was no better place to visit than a cave; no rain and always 59 degrees. I have traveled to a lot of the 50 states in our nation, but Arkansas had not been one of them. Given that Arkansas is just south of Branson we decided to take our cave adventure at Mystic Caverns. This set of two caverns is approached by a beautiful 40-mile drive from Branson. A guided walking tour of just over an hour allowed us to take in to the beauty and depths of both caves. This seemed like a perfect amount of time to see and learn about the stalactites and helictites; and to truly see what pitch black is (only for a moment when the lights are turned off).
If you are looking for a nice long weekend getaway, I recommend spending some time in the “Show Me” state of Missouri and giving Branson a try. You and your clan will have countless family-and-kid-friendly options to keep everyone entertained and enjoying the time away from home.
Published November 2019