A Family Values Theme Park Branson, Missouri

Jun 01, 15 A Family Values Theme Park Branson, Missouri

WARREN RESEN – North American Travel Journalists Association

Adelightful family themed vacation destination that will not break your bank account awaits your visit in Branson, Missouri.  This is Middle America USA, located in an area, known as “The Gateway To The West,” where residents practice what is commonly called traditional values and patriotism, is on the top of everyone’s list.

A trip to Branson Missouri, just north of the Arkansas border, exposed this long time Floridian to a different life style.  Drivers are actually courteous and generally obey posted speed limits. People you pass on the street nod and say hello and the major marketing effort is not about promoting a mouse but a life style.

Branson is a city which I discovered is an unknown to many Floridians.  Life in Branson is the polar opposite of Orlando despite the fact that its main tourist attraction, Silver Dollar City, which opened in 1960, is the largest privately owned themed amusement park in the United States.

SILVER DOLLAR CITY was named after a city of the same name once located on the site but which burned to the ground more than 100 years ago.  It is also the site of MARVEL CAVE often called the “Jewel of the Ozarks.”  At more than 500 feet deep, it is the deepest limestone cave in the state of Missouri. Having walked every step, down and then up, I can attest to this fact.  The cave was first discovered by the Osage Indians who I was told were too superstitious to ever enter it.

SDC - MARVEL CAVE ENTRANCE

Several years ago when hiking into a small village in the middle of Panama, a young boy approached and asked me, in Spanish, where I lived.   When I told him Florida, his face lit up and he said, “Ah la casa de Mickey Mouse.” I don’t think that needs translation. But that’s what the driving force behind what is billed as the Happiest Place on Earth has programmed us to think. I’ve discovered that it ain’t necessarily so.

Branson is another happy place for visitors where prices, half that of most Orlando attractions will not break a family’s bank account. Once inside the park there are no additional charges for any of the rides, shows, or cave tours and parking is free.  Fun seekers do not have to wait in hour’s long lines in brutal heat and humidity.  Many parts of the midway have mature tree canopies which provide visitors with shade.

 

SDC - OUTLAW RUN Wooden coaster

Branson doesn’t have the international flavor of Orlando or Las Vegas.  What it offers is a wholesome laid-back-down home-family friendly- experience and themes are more in keeping with traditional values.

Route 76 is the major road leading to Silver Dollar City and most outside attractions, theatres, shopping, restaurants, and accommodations are located in this corridor. Theatres offer an eclectic mix of live, professional entertainment. Branson claims to have more live shows operating at any one time than Las Vegas and more theatre seats than Broadway.

A theme park would not be worth its salt without a world class roller coaster.  Here they built an old fashioned (sort of) wooden coaster named OUTLAW RUN featuring a 720-degree double barrel roll.  It has to be seen and ridden to be believed how this throwback to olden days has been brought up to date.

SDC - GIANT BARN SWING

More than 40 rides and attractions including white water rafting, 2 additional world-class coasters, log flume ride, giant swing, antique full size steam train ride, flooded mine, Half-Dollar Holler (super-sized play area for kids) are there. Opened in April is the $8 million FIREMAN’S LANDING modeled after an 1880’s fireman’s volunteer fair saluting the activities of community volunteer firefighters nationwide.

 

SDC - THE AMERICAN PLUNGE

Silver Dollar City’s World-Fest Showcases headlines live global entertainment from Africa, Latin America, Ireland, South Sea Islands and more.  Shows are scheduled throughout the day affording visitors the opportunity to enjoy many of them even on a one day visit.

Part of the Herschend family holdings includes the Showboat BRANSON BELLE, a replica of an 1880’s- style paddle wheeler, which is celebrating its 20 year anniversary. This 700 passenger ship is the largest ship known to have been built on an American land-locked lake.   Daily dinner show and cruises take place on Table Rock Lake. Featured music numbers are represented by old time standards, country, mountain, gospel, and The Beatles with absolutely no ear splitting hard rock.

Except for the cookie cutter architecture, which is the standard of national chain restaurants, almost every structure you will drive by is different and unique to the area. An example is the free standing building replicating the famous TITANIC. Commemorating the sinking of what was purported to be an unsinkable luxury ocean liner 103 years ago in 1912, this exhibit is well worth a visit.

Branson - TITANIC Exhibit

The only local organized sightseeing tour offered in Branson is by the amphibious Ride the DUCKS/Branson.  Driving the streets (entertainment district, Table Rock Lake and Dam, scenic Ozarks, etc) with a plunge into Table Rock Lake when the land vehicle becomes a boat, is an educational and memorable experience. Tours are narrated by drivers with witty stand-up comic routines. It is an experience you won’t soon forget.   The famous DUCKS have been operating here for more than 40 years,

 

Branson sightseeing DUCKs - On land and sea

There is no end of food offerings both inside and outside Silver Dollar City.  A fun experience for our group was having lunch in the 1950’s themed   Mel’s Hard Luck Diner on Route 76.  The singing wait staff will try to accommodate any musical request and will perform at the drop of a hat. The menu is lengthy, the portions large and prices are very reasonable.  One special feature is an ice cream platter that will more than satisfy anyone’s sweet tooth.

Branson sightseeing DUCKs - On land and sea

Attractions at most Branson venues are not about future and fantasy but about preserving old fashioned traditional values and history. An illustration of how far the people of Branson will go to preserve family values is that no alcohol is served or permitted at any theme park, music, or general tourist venue. You can find establishments, restaurants and hotels, serving alcohol in the downtown area and there are no casinos in Branson.

 

Showboat BRANSON BELLE

The attractions and special events in the area, particular at Silver Dollar City change throughout the year.  I’ve just covered the tip of the iceberg.  There was no mention here of the special craft and food exhibits at Silver Dollar City simply because I did not have enough time to sample everything.

My travels allow me to frequently cross the United States.  I told my wife that the next time we are in the Branson area, a stop for several days will be in order to enjoy some of the shows and rides, I did not have time to experience on this trip

I would advise the reader to go to  Silverdollarcity.com and  Bransontourismcenter.com  for more detailed information.

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