Our weekend trip to Branson, Missouri to kick off the Christmas season.
This past weekend we went to Branson, Missouri for Silver Dollar City’s Old Time Christmas. Branson is only about a three hour drive from our home so it is an easy weekend destination.
For those who may not know, Silver Dollar City is a 1880’s era theme park located in the vacation mecca of Branson, Missouri. Originally founded in 1960 around the entrance to Marvel Cave, the park began celebrating a Christmas festival several years ago and it is now a well known destination for the holidays.
We arrived in Branson Friday evening after a normal day of school/work and checked into our hotel. I had picked a hotel on the Hotels.com website after a couple of basic filters (nonsmoking, free breakfast and by price) and we were redeeming a free night as well. We had never been to the Grand Plaza Hotel, which despite it’s name and outward appearance, wasn’t particularly grand. The room was clean and there were no icky comforters (another prerequisite for my hotel choice) so we checked in and went to bed relatively early. Around three a.m. we began hearing loud noises from above us and after remembering the kitchen/breakfast area was on the ninth floor, we realized what we were hearing was early morning breakfast prep. Trever tried calling the front desk repeatedly and got no answer so he went downstairs around 4:00 a.m. and was told at that time that they could move us to another room. Well, if you have ever traveled with two daughters you would know that the amount of luggage and clothes and mess that we make in a mere two hours in a hotel room would not be easy to clean up and transport at any hour, much less in the middle of the night!
We tried to rest until a decent hour and then went down to the front desk before breakfast. At that time, we did get a key for another room and after speaking to the general manager, also received a gift certificate for a free night’s stay on a future visit. After breakfast – and after we finally got everything moved to the new room – we set off for the day.
Traffic wasn’t as terrible as it can sometimes be on the way out to the park and we arrived not long after opening at 11:00 a.m. We ended up in parking lot six and made note of where we were parked; we have been known to lose our vehicle after a long day! After shuttling to the park’s entrance we went through the various gift shops to arrive at the main entrance. We had pre-purchased our tickets so we didn’t need to stop to buy them at the gate.
Although Silver Dollar City isn’t a ride-centric theme park, there are several renowned roller coasters and other rides to choose from. We – however – are not “ride people.” The Flooded Mine is one of the only “rides” we all participate in together and it’s more for nostalgia than excitement! That was our first stop in the park as we decided what our itinerary would be.
We decided at that point to see a show. There are two musicals that run several times a day in different theaters in the park. Although we have seen both shows before, Trever and I decided to go see A Dickens Christmas Carol while the girls went shopping. To see any of the shows, there is first come, first served seating and the lines began to form an hour or more before showtime. There is an additional reserved seating pass you can buy, but with the price of admission to the park being quite steep, that doesn’t interest me! The musical A Dickens Christmas Carol is an original adaptation of the classic Christmas story and the performers are top notch. The young boy who was with the family next to us was NOT a fan of Marley’s ghost and proceeded to announce it was time to go every time the music got a little bit spooky! He seemed to enjoy the livelier song and dance numbers though and the artificial snow that rained down on the audience was a consolation!
After the show, we were hungry and no trip to Silver Dollar City is complete without overpriced food! The girls had already had some skillets/bowls but bought hot chocolate and joined us as we ate. I had to get my usual Tater Twists sprinkled with parmesan cheese and Trever had some kind of hot dog wrapped in a hamburger delicacy that I failed to get a picture of. At that point, we sat down to regroup.
Another must do at Silver Dollar City is the train so we made that our next activity. Although we usually try to ride the train after dark when the park is lit up, we decided to ride earlier this year due to the crowds. During Old Time Christmas, the Frisco Silver Dollar Line steam train becomes the “Sing a Long Train.” The narrow gauge railroad takes a 20 minute ride through the park and culminates in a stop with “Grandpa” telling The Christmas Story in front of a cabin in the woods.
As we wandered through the park, we took time to go into shops or buildings which interested us. A unique aspect of Silver Dollar City is the aritsians and craftspeople who work and create there in the park, as well as the homestead area which has a cabin, schoolhouse and a church. I always make a point to visit the Wilderness Church and next visit, I would be interested in dropping in on one of the “singing” services they have.
As I said before, we really aren’t into the rides – especially the roller coasters, but we do ride a few of the tamer rides…my threshold for excitement is met on the “swings” of the Magnificent Wave Carousel. Lines weren’t long and by the time we were done, it was dark and all of the lights were on throughout the park.
We went through the Frisco Barn to see all of the trees and Christmas decor at Jingle Bell Junction and had one more snack before we walked up to see the parade and watch the tree – apple dumplings with caramel sauce and ice cream.
The main attraction at Silver Dollar City’s Old Time Christmas are, of course, the lights – over 6.5 million according to their website. The centerpiece is an 8 story Christmas tree which lights up with coordinated music and light shows every few minutes after dark. There is also Rudolph’s Holly Jolly Christmas parade which we stopped to see before making our way back to the exit of the park and shuttling back to the parking lot, where we found our vehicle with no problem!
After a long day in the park, we decided to just pick up some Subway sandwiches on the way back to the hotel where we were greeted by Menard and Lavender, two giant plush animals the girls insisted on getting at our stop at Menard’s on the way up Friday evening. Also waiting was Peppermint Jazz – he deserves his own post later this season.
On night two at the Grand Plaza, we discovered that sound from the ninth floor carries even to the seventh floor but we made the best of it. After breakfast at the hotel, and as if we hadn’t seen enough Christmas trees, we made a quick stop at The Grand Village Shops. Any kind of Christmas decoration you can imagine can be found at Kringles Christmas Shop, although we only bought one small ornament, a dachshund for our newest addition Lucy.
Our last stop on our whirlwind kick off to Christmas weekend was at the Chateau on the Lake, a resort with a beautiful lobby and atrium that features a large nativity and some stellar gingerbread/cookie houses. The nativity was created by The Fontanini Family from Italy and was featured the the original Home Alone movie. The houses are created by the kitchen staff at The Chateau. We happened upon this display a couple of years ago and I wanted to go back and see this year’s artistry.
We left Branson in time to drive home to have a few hours Sunday evening to unpack, regroup, and prepare for the week. We also left grateful for time together as a family and inspired to start our own decorating. I hope you enjoyed this virtual trip on our pre Christmas vacation!
-Karri Temple Brackett
November 18, 2019