Seatbelts buckled, armchair travelers?
Last week I mentioned outdoor activities in Dogwood Canyon, lunch and a brief tour of the Keeter Center at College of the Ozarks, and the Titanic Museum. Now, if you've ever heard of Branson, chances are, you've heard of its ubiquitous shows. Folks, if you want to sit and be entertained for any length of time, this is the place for you. In the course of four days, I attended five shows. And some of my fellow travel writers attended more. Just between you, me, and the electronic doorpost, I was maxed out by Show #4.
BUT. All crankiness aside, I'd recommend bringing the kiddos to at least one show if you're in town. Recommendations:
4a. The Dixie Stampede. Two words for you: Dolly. Parton. Yup, she's the producer. Need I say more? The dealio is, you sit and eat downhome cooking with your fingers while watching lively entertainment in the arena (complete with horses, buffalo, chickens, and racing pigs). Also, there's a friendly North vs. South rivalry that gets the audience involved. My brain was involved in a fierce Civil War of its own, as follows:
Me as a Person: Oh my. This is hokey.
Me as a Mother: Oh my. My kids would FLIP for this.
4b. Legend of Kung Fu. These talented folks from China actually performed in the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics. (And they didn't lip-synch!) They put on a really impressive extravaganza of martial arts, dance and acrobatics. The kids sitting behind me were absolutely riveted, even at 10:00 p.m. Also, we got to meet the performers and snag post-show autographs in the lobby. I tried to say "thank you" in Chinese. They were probably laughing at me.
4c. The Hughes Brothers variety show. Full disclosure: Didn't attend this one. But, I met two of the five Hughes brothers at a dinner reception and they were super nice. And they homeschool their collective twenty-nine kids, all of whom are part of the show. Gotta put in the plug for nice homeschooling families!
My other recommendation:
5. Silver Dollar City.
Yes, it's a theme park, and yes, I'm generally unimpressed by theme parks -- i.e. places to lose kids and part with lots of money. What made SDC soften my curmudgeonly edges?
- The park builders deliberately kept as many trees as humanly possible. This translates into shade, baby, lots of SHADE.
- All the thrill rides are along the outside perimeter of the park. The center area belongs to the festivals and the craftspeople (leather workers, glass blowers, wood carvers, etc.) that preserve the 1880's theme. Love that.
- Included in park admission is an hour-long tour of Marvel Cave, which has a cavern so large you can fit the Statue of Liberty in at an angle (I didn't try).
- Parents, you can take cooking classes! While one of you rides roller coasters with the kids, the other can learn, as I did, how to make a killer chocolate meringue pie. I wrote down everything the instructor, Debbie Dance Uhrig, had to say. Now I have no excuse not to turn out a grrrrreat pie ... which I will be doing ... ummmmm, really soon!
- Most important, check out the name of the ice cream parlor. Can I make the joke about "good taste?" No? Okay. I won't.
(Fun fact: Five episodes of The Beverly Hillbillies were filmed in and outside of this building.)
And I can't close without tipping my hat to Branson Zipline. Yes, it's not really a budget-friendly family activity, but if you've found and harvested your family's secret cash cache, or you just want go all out with a small group, zipping along through those tall trees is quite exhilarating. And, they say, quite safe. Unless a thunderstorm begins. Then it's not safe. Then you have to wait on a platform sixty feet off the ground until the lightning stops.
But that won't happen to you. I've been there and done it for both of us.