|Published Nov/Dec 2006|
Story By Deborah Reinhardt Palmer
|he crowd was swelling around the five-story musical Christmas tree. With colorful lights pulsating and the “Hallelujah Chorus” blasting from its boughs, the tree couldn’t help but attract people, including my 9-year-old daughter.
We were waiting for the Holiday Light Parade, part of the spectacle held annually at Silver Dollar City located in Branson. And this southwest Missouri town is one of the best places to gather at Christmastime.
Christmas in the parks
Silver Dollar City (399 Indian Point Road) is the well-known 1880s theme park with ridesincluding those in the new Grand Exposition areashows, shops and restaurants. The park’s Old Time Christmas (Nov. 4Dec. 30) is a festival of sensory delights. With more than 50 acres to explore, plan several hours to see it all.
Everyone will enjoy “A Dickens’ Christmas Carol,” a show that retells the familiar tale using music and special effects. No wonder lines were long (about 30 minutes) to see this first-rate performance.
After dark, stake your spot at least 20 minutes ahead for the lighted parade. Folks several rows back had a tougher time seeing, as good vantage points go quickly.
Four million twinkling lights, a living nativity scene and holiday treats like warm mulled cider, cinnamon roasted pecans and holiday dinners with the trimmings help to make it a full day at the park.
Another themed attraction, the Shepherd of the Hills Homestead (5586 W. Highway 76), dazzles visitors with its Trail of Lights, Nov. 1Dec. 31. A 15-year tradition, this drive-through trail features millions of colorful lights and animated displays as it winds through the 160-acre homestead, ending at Inspiration Tower, which climbs 230 feet into the air.
The Christmas on the Trail chuck wagon dinner and show has sing-along carols. After dinner, enjoy the light display. A combination ticket is $28 for adults, $14 for children (416) or $78 for a family. Trail of Lights tickets are $8 and $4 or $35 per car.
Most theaters are open in November into at least part of December and they will offer some type of Christmas program. Call the Branson Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce or see their Web site for updated show information. Companies that package Branson trips, such as ReserveBranson.com, also have holiday show schedules. Here are a few suggestions to put you in the spirit.
You’ll hoop and holler at The Dixie Stampede (1525 W. Highway
76), the show that combines a casual meal with music, horses and a friendly North-South rivalry. That’s where the hollering comes in.
At Christmastime, the blue and gray rivalry takes on new colorsred and greenas the soldiers now are elves, but the cheering and good-natured fun are the same.
The Showboat Branson Belle may not be rowdy but it’s a festive night out. The showboat, dressed in holiday finery, cruises Table Rock Lake while waiters serve guests a full dinner and beverages. Other festive theatrical offerings include Andy Williams’ Christmas show returning to his Moon River Theater, 2500 W. Highway 76, Nov. 1Dec. 9.
Shopping and more
New shops this year are at the Branson Landing downtown on the bank of Lake Taneycomo. There’s also three outlet malls in Branson to explore or browse some of the boutiques scattered through town.
The Branson Area Festival of Lights, open daily Nov. 1Dec. 31, is a twinkling trail that begins just off Highway 65 north at Bee Creek Road and winds up at Branson Hills Parkway. A passport ($15 per card) is available at Branson Lakes Area Chamber Welcome Centers in town.
Travel tips The key to visiting Branson is advance planning. Pick the attractions and shows you want to see. Then find a hotel or resort nearby, some within walking distance to the theaters you’ll visit. For our family’s two-night stay last year, we wanted to see Silver Dollar City and the Showboat Branson Belle, so staying near these attractions on Indian Point Road was the clear choice. We found The Village at Indian Point (24 Village Trail), just south of Silver Dollar City parking lots, to be very comfortable and convenient.
Deborah Reinhardt Palmer is managing editor of AAA Southern Traveler magazine.
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