Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Road Trip Idea: Branson, MO

This is a Tuesday Travels post, my friends, but in case anyone's counting, it's ... not Tuesday.

But yesterday, the actual-factual Tuesday, I experienced multiple technical difficulties that prevented any blogging. So can we pretend together that it's Tuesday? Because "Wednesday Travels" just doesn't alliterate.

I'm uptight that way.

Anyway, last week I spent four days in Branson, Missouri with a whole slew of other travel writers on a press tour (like the one I went on last fall) as guests of the Branson CVB. Now, when I say, "other travel writers," I'm being generous with myself. Let me clarify.

All the other attendees = Professional travel writers who do this for a living, belong to the Society of American Travel Writers, and like to talk about that fact. (But are nice people.)

Me = Professional mom who travels with her family whenever she can and likes to write about it -- for no or very little pay.

One of these folks was not like the others.

Now, when you think of Branson, what springs to mind? A haven for baby boomers trying relive the glory days of the Beatles or the likes of Andy Williams, the Presleys and Roy Clark? The Vegas of the Midwest? I'd love to hear what your preconceived notions are. I went with an open mind, but I'd heard the following from different friends before the trip: "Oh, you don't want to go there -- it's SO honky-tonk!" and "Ooooh, Branson! I've ALWAYS wanted to go there!"

Our itinerary was chock full of activities and shows, but I'm going to give you just my personal highlights here. Remember, I lean toward lower-key, educational or nature-based travel rather than glitzy entertainment productions. That's my own personal bias, and this is my blog, and I own them, yes ma'am.

1. Horseback riding in Dogwood Canyon

We rode for about two hours through completely unspoiled Ozark countryside on land owned by the head of Bass Pro Shops. Y'all. It was gorgeous. I felt like Laura Ingalls Wilder with Almanzo and little Rose, glimpsing the greenery of the rolling hills for the first time from their wagon (her homestead is only a couple hours away). Note: You can also hike, bike, ATV, and ride a "tram" through Dogwood Canyon.

2. Lunch at the College of the Ozarks' Keeter Center

Yes, we visited a college. Try this on for size: No student at this college pays tuition. They all work fifteen hours per week somewhere on campus in exchange for their schooling. How cool is that? This would be the perfect place to visit and spend a day looking around  --- at the gristmill, the dairy and hog farms, the prizewinning orchids in the greenhouse, the museum -- for very little money. Oh, and the restaurant at the Keeter Center serves fabulous food that's locally sourced: veggies from their own garden, pork from their hog farm, milk from their dairy, etc. Best meal of the trip.

3. The Titanic Museum

The folks who own and operate this museum have a huge personal collection of artifacts from the survivors of the Titanic, plus some pretty cool re-creations. (They're also friends with James Cameron, but I'm happy to report that there was no Celine Dion playing over the sound system.) I felt like the museum made the whole experience of the Titanic come alive, from the actual-size replica of the grand staircase to a re-creation of the deck in a room kept at the actual temperature of the subArctic air, to decks you could climb that sloped at increasing degrees as the ship sank. Confession: In the very first room, hearing about the passenger on my "Boarding Pass" (a mother of six), I was in tears. Those stories of people who bid their families goodbye and chose to stay aboard -- or knew they were going down and never had a chance -- always get me in the gut.

BRING KLEENEX. This is a Public Service Announcement. Thank you.

This post grows long, so I think I'll share more next week. Happy travels, everyone!


Jenny said...

I've never heard of Branson. Is there some kind of connection to the Titanic?

KTG said...

I love travel articles keep them coming!

Hannah said...

@Jenny: Not really. The story I heard was that the people who started the museum, who are big shots in the TV production business, had friends in Branson who urged them to go there, thinking it would be a good fit. There is also one in Pigeon Forge.

The Writing Garden said...

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Joan Price said...

I actually have family in Missouri! My husband and I have been looking for hotels in Branson MO so we can visit them. I grew up there and had no idea there was so much to do!