Although Branson is common vacation destination for many, I haven’t been there in twenty years! I was eager to see what all the excitement was about. What I remember was very small compared to what I saw on this visit. I remember an outlet mall and a few theatres.
We had a long list of activities to do on this visit, but we had to narrow it down for our short timeframe. We did the following:
Silver Dollar City – This is a must do when headed to Branson! This is an 1880s themed amusement park that offers 61 acres of fun! Originally the caves were the draw for visitors. A few attractions were added and soon the amusement park attracted more visitors than the caves.
I am sure it would be fun as is, however we opted for the VIP experience. Let me tell you, it was so much better than the VIP experience at Universal Studios in Los Angeles. First, we had the MOST WONDERFUL guide, a Branson star, Terry Wayne Sanders. He is a comedian that has appeared on Hee Haw, in movies, on TV and is pretty much everywhere you turn in Branson! He was the most amazing tour guide. AMAZING! Second, it was a private tour, so just our family of four. So we really were treated like VIPs! Third, we did exactly what we wanted to do, when we wanted to do it. Terry was amazing! Everyone at the park knew him whether they were an employee or patron. He was in character as a time traveler, but check out YouTube for great clips of him in many of his wonderful characters. As you know, I love a great costume, so this is a man after my own heart. You do have to pay extra for this experience, but I think it is worth every penny!
Dinner at the Keeter Center at The University of the Ozarks – Oh My Goodness! This place is amazing! The food is prepared and served by the students. Everything on campus seems to be done by the students as they work on campus in order to pay for their education. This is brilliant! In addition to the wonderful dining room, there is a creamery which serves the freshest ice cream made with milk from the student farm. Everything we ate seemed to be house made and often with local ingredients. There is also a store that sells student made items such as jams and jellies, pottery, books, grits and all sorts of cool things. Plan your trip so that you can tour the campus, which is spick and span…again thanks to the students. There are several points of interest across the campus including museums, a working mill and more. The Keeter Center is also a hotel. Make reservations in advance for your meal and/or stay.
Xcape Branson – Escape rooms are so much fun! This one was great! It is off the beaten path, about 20 minutes outside of Branson, but well worth the drive. We were two clues away from getting out in an hour, but I think we made a good showing, because it wasn’t easy. The best part to me was having my family pull together toward a common goal. Team building at its finest! The detail and thought that had gone into the experience we chose, the haunted house, was enormous. It was not cookie-cutter by any means.
Reza: Edge of Illusion – Fun for all ages. The boys loved it; we loved it. Reza seems like a tough guy in his publicity photos, but he sincerely has a heart for children and teaching them to follow their dreams. Great show put on by a great showman. I would go back!
Dolly Parton’s Stampede (formerly the Dixie Stampede) – This is quintessential Branson! A great show, which reminded me a lot of the rodeo I grew-up going to see (barrel racing, trick riding, etc.). There were some amazing performers! The food wasn’t bad. The weird thing is they don’t provide utensils…all food is meant to be eaten with your hands. Note to self – take silverware next time! It really was an entertaining two hours!
Titanic Museum – This was an incredible museum, which also had something for the entire family. The thing that really brought it all home was the pool of water that was the same temperature as the ocean so many of these folks perished in. Visitors put their hand in the water, in order to feel what the people waiting to be rescued felt. I thought the museum might be a bit cheesy, but it wasn’t. It shares stories of the people on the cruise and what took them there. You find out who survived and who did not. You learn stories of heroics and see real artifacts from the ship. It was very well done.
We rented a VRBO about 20 minutes outside town. This meant we wanted some downtime to enjoy the hot tub, pool table and each other. The Hiding Place was a perfect retreat. It was nice to fall asleep to the serenade of frogs and crickets.
We left a lot on the table for the next visit, like finding Bigfoot or seeing our new friend Terry Wayne Sanders in his show, CJ Newsome’s Classic Country & Comedy. There is so much to see and do that it is impossible to see it all in three days or probably even a month!
Bonus Information: I feel like my parents took my sister and I to Eureka Springs when we were little, but I am not sure. On this trip, we made a brief stop at the Crescent Hotel for lunch while traveling from Bentonville, Arkansas to Branson, Missouri. Eureka Springs is quaint and inviting. The hotel was steeped in history and full of things to explore. I can’t wait to go back and stay at the Crescent Hotel. There are several streets around the downtown full of interesting shops and galleries. Actually, downtown seemed to go on for quite a while. Eureka Springs would be a great destination for a nice weekend trip.