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Christmas in the Ozarks
Recent studies suggest that those that decorate for the holiday season earlier are happier people (you can read more about that HERE) and that must be true because some of the happiest people I have ever met have been in Branson, Missouri, where Christmas season begins the first week of November. I had the opportunity to take in all that Christmas in the Ozarks is all about with a recent #BloggingBranson trip, focusing on an #OzarkMountainChristmas. So come on, let’s go on a (figurative) sleigh ride to Branson as I tell you all about it – and be sure to snag the recipe I share of my favorite treat of the trip at the end!
Lights, Camera, ACTION!
I had the chance to visit Branson, MO for the first time this past April in the inaugural #BloggingBranson retreat and immediately fell in love with the town, and the people, of this small hamlet of 11,000 in the midwest. When I found out I was heading back during a time when they were kicking off their Christmas season, I could not hide my excitement! There is so much to love about Branson, from the people to the scenery and all the many activities you can do while there.
With millions of lights, dozens of shows, and so many ways to actively participate in your #OzarkMountainChristmas, Branson is the perfect place to get into the spirit and I am going to share with you an overview of my very favorite things to do while experiencing Christmas in the Ozarks.
Silver Dollar City is a destination that is awesome when visiting Branson any time of the year, but at Christmas time, it has been labeled as The Most Illuminated Park on Earth by the Travel Channel, and it is a true MUST DO. Silver Dollar City is an 1880s family owned theme park. With over 40 rides, live shows, crafters, shopping, and so much more, Silver Dollar City is truly a full family destination. There’s something for everyone!
An Old Time Christmas at Silver Dollar City features over 6.5 millions lights, amazing live productions, special treats, a parade featuring Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and so much more, your entire family will be delighted at every turn.
I’ll be sharing full details about all you can do at Silver Dollar City’s Old Time Christmas, plus all the other venues I highlight in this article in later posts, and there will be a few special treats so be sure to follow along for that!
Lighting up the night!
Another place for great lights is the Branson Ferris Wheel located at The Track Family Fun Park. The Branson Ferris Wheel may look familiar to many – it was the ferris wheel at the Navy Pier in Chicago for many years until it was sold and moved to Branson in 2016.
Besides being an iconic ride, they also have a special light show on the hour from 5 to 10 PM nightly, where you can even tune your car radio so the music plays along right from where you sit on the strip heading to your next venue. I suggest getting out and riding though, because the view is incredible – day or night!
While there are awesome ways to see lights outside while celebrating Christmas in the Ozarks, you would be remiss if you didn’t go inside and take in some of the other kind of lights…stage lights!
With over 50 theaters showing over 100 different shows throughout Branson, there are live stage shows going on all day long, and there is truly something for everyone!
Clay Cooper’s Christmas Express
Clay Cooper’s Country Express becomes the Clay Cooper Christmas Express during the holiday period and it is a show that can’t be missed! The first half of the show is a shortened version of the regular show followed by a fantastic Christmas segment after intermission, it is a great way to give you the best of both worlds. With Clay, his wife Tina, their boys and a whole ensemble of great talent from singers to dancers and an amazing band, this show is filled with so much good! Lighting, costumes, classic pieces and original numbers – I couldn’t imagine going to Branson now without seeing this show, it is that fantastic! There will be laughter, tears and lots of hand clapping, foot tapping, singing along fun.
The Branson Baldknobbers
The Branson Baldknobbers featuring the Mabe family is rooted in Branson history. This show is what began it all back in 1959 and the second and third generations of this dynamic family wonderfully keep to their roots with an amazing band, fantastic vocals and hilarious sketch comedy, too (like seriously make-me-snort-laugh funny). Country hits and Christmas classics keep you rocking in your seat the whole time no matter what your age and it is all good, clean family fun. No dirty jokes, no double entendre – just a lot of love and respect for each other which comes across in their performances. Seriously, lead singer Brandon Mabe looks at his beautiful wife like she hung the moon and it is just so heartwarming to see such love. When they sing together I feel like I am in the middle of a Hallmark movie. SO SWEET!!!
The Hughes Music Show
The Hughes Music Show becomes The Hughes Brothers Christmas Show and plays throughout the season. The Hughes Music Show is in a word: amazing. I loved seeing it back and April and have watched the DVD taped from that showing so many times since then, I know exactly what’s coming and am ready to sing along (where I pretend I can harmonize with this so incredibly talented family). So if the regular show is amazing, the Christmas show may be beyond words. It is 100% Christmas. Beautiful, beautiful Christmas. So much joy for the season is expressed in every number, and there is a story line that filled my heart so greatly that I think I beamed from the happiness it filled me with for the rest of the day. As I write this, I am watching the DVD from that showing and thinking once again that this large, loving family is truly some of Branson’s best.
The Andy Williams Ozark Mountain Christmas Show
The Andy Williams Ozark Mountain Christmas Show takes place in the beautiful Andy Williams Performing Art Center’s Moon River Theater and has been going strong for 26 years! Presented by Jimmy Osmond and starring The Lennon Sisters, this show is a winter wonderland of warm Christmas memories with a big dose of nostalgia. My grandmother would have called this show ‘Ustey’ [you-stee] which meant that warm feeling in your heart that comes from sweet memories and moments in life. This show definitely fits that word to a T (or a U!). There is an actual ice skating rink on the stage, featuring lovely ice angels performing ice dances while songs that make you smile are being sung by the Lennon Sisters, Britain’s Got Talent’s Charlie Green or America’s Got Talent trio Voices of Glory as well as great video clips of the man who began it all for them, Mr. Andy Williams. If you’re looking for warm Christmas memories, look no further than The Andy Williams Ozark Mountain Christmas Show.
Branson Belle Showboat
The Branson Belle Showboat sails on beautiful Table Rock Lake with a fantastic dinner show perfect for the whole family. Owned and operated by the Silver Dollar City family, you know before you board that you are going to get the same attention to detail, wonderful service and unique experiences that you will find in their theme park, and you are not left disappointed. With a fantastic show, great dinner and fun audience interactions, you’ll be tempted to stay in your seats indefinitely – but don’t worry, the intermission is the perfect time to get up and check out the other show, the view from atop the decks of the Belle! And this is where you will need your camera, because the views are STUNNING!
Butterfly Palace & Rainforest Adventure
Keep those cameras out for this next stop! The Butterfly Palace & Rainforest Adventure may just be one of the most beautifully peaceful places in all of Branson. I only had a little less than two hours to spend here, but I could have stayed for hours longer. The Rainforest Adventure and Science Center includes some very cool creatures that all ages will be peering through the glass for up close views for and the Banyan Tree Adventure is perfect for the adventurous (and nimble) members of your family. You can’t visit without a trip through the Mirror Maze, which really was kind of trippy! The piece de resistance though is the Butterfly Aviary. With over 55 species of butterflies among beautiful exotic plants, calming sounds and and warm light, I could not get enough of this spot and hated when we had to leave. One awesome thing about The Butterfly Palace is that your wristbands are good for three days! So even if you can only spend a little time here between shows, you can spread it out and come back as many times as you’d like for those three days. Now that is a deal!
If you love butterflies, be sure to check back as the article specific to The Butterfly Palace is going to be photo heavy with butterfly beauty!
Branson IMAX Entertainment Complex
A great place to see either shows or movies, take in a little shopping or some good eating is the Branson IMAX Entertainment Complex. The screen of this IMAX theater is the largest in the entire midwest, and every movie I’ve seen on it so far has amazed me with the videography. It is truly astounding, like you are right in the middle of the movie and experiencing it firsthand. The varied shops have something for everyone, from jewelry and clothing, clocks, leather goods and so much more, plan to spend time going from shop to shop, exploring all the little nooks and crannies – you never know what unique souvenir you may find!
One place you won’t need a camera (no cameras allowed!) is the Titanic Museum. But no worries because there is plenty of action! This museum is so fantastic and I have sooo much to say about it that you can read all about my last trip to this MUST DO Branson attraction and why I love it so much HERE.
Dolly Parton’s Christmas Stampede
Dolly Parton’s Christmas Stampede is one magnificent moving part after another. A wonderful dinner show that begins with a foot-stomping pickin and a grinnin before moving into the large arena, there are so many parts to this experience, you may find that you don’t know which way to look!
And that’s a wrap!
With all this excitement, there’s no better place to wrap up your busy Christmas in the Ozarks days than at The Stone Castle Hotel & Conference Center, the host hotel for #BloggingBranson and where THE NICEST PEOPLE EVER happen to work. You can read all about my first stay at the Stone Castle HERE and why I love this family owned hotel.
I mentioned at the beginning that I would have a special treat for you, and even though I don’t actually have any I can send you, I am happy to share with you this recipe for my favorite treat during my Christmas in the Ozarks adventures: Pepparkakor! We had the chance to try out this Swedish cookie during the intermission at the Hughes Brothers Christmas Show, made by Lena Hughes, the matriarch and manager, who plays a huge roll in the success of this theater, and I had to go back for more – TWICE! While this is not her recipe, it is sure to bring you good results and I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!
I hope you enjoyed this round-up of my favorite things to see and do for Christmas in the Ozarks and I know you are ready to plan your #OzarkMountainChristmas vacation now! Continue to follow along as I give more detailed accounts to each of the attractions highlighted throughout this post. Thanks for joining me on this ‘sleigh ride’ and I hope the bells jingle jangle for you the entire holiday season.