Saturday, October 21, 2017

Have a jolly Branson Christmas!

Branson is a very busy place in the spring and summer, but one of the most popular times of the year to visit Branson is Christmas season, a/k/a Ozark Mountain Christmas.  After November 1st, Branson turns into Christmas Town.  There are Christmas lights everywhere you look. Most of the shows switch over to partial or complete Christmas music.  There are 2 Christmas parades.  And you can find presents for everyone on your Christmas list at the many shops and at Branson Landing.  Let's take a look of some of the activities that take place in Branson during the Christmas season. Click on the links to go to the websites for the featured activities. 

Silver Dollar City goes all out for the Christmas season with a festival called An Old Time Christmas.There are 6.5 million lights and a 5-story special effects Christmas tree.  There are 5 different Christmas themed shows, including a living Nativity scene (it's the real meaning of Christmas, after all) and a presentation of "It's a Wonderful Life."  There is special food at Molly's Mill, Reunion Hall and the Lucky Silver Mine.  You can do some of your Christmas shopping at SDC as well.  And don't miss the Christmas parade with Rudolph and his shiny nose leading the way!

Speaking of Christmas parades, Branson has 2 Christmas parades. The first parade, the Most Wonderful Time of the Year Parade, takes place the first Saturday morning in November at Branson Landing.  after the parade, there are live performances by Branson stars in front of the Branson Landing fountains. 

The second parade is the Adoration Parade, which takes place on the first Sunday evening in December.  This parade honors the true meaning of Christmas with bands, floats and caroling.  A giant Nativity scene is lit up on top of Mount Branson, which is across Lake Taneycomo from Branson Landing. 

There are several drive-through Christmas light displays in Branson. The Branson Gift of Lights display has over a mile of LED light displays including a Nativity scene, Noah's Ark, and the 12 Days of Christmas.  The Trail of Lights, is located at the Shepherd of the Hills Homestead and is a 2 1/2 mile drive through all 160 acres of the complex.  Admission to Inspiration Tower and hot cocoa is included.  Branson's Promised Land Zoo features the Let There Be Lights! display, which is a 2 mile drive through display where you can see a living Nativity with animals you can pet, and Santa and his baby reindeer.   

There are many Christmas shows in Branson, from performers with regular shows in Branson and special Christmas shows.  Andy Williams' nickname was "Mr. Christmas,"and the Christmas show at the Andy Williams Performing Arts Center and Theater (that's a mouthful!) bears the grand name of "Andy Williams Christmas Extravaganza." It's a variety show with music, magic and ventriloquism.  The Haygoods and the Hughes Brothers have an all-Christmas show.  There are also special engagements that play in Branson only during the Christmas season.

Are Christmas trees one of your favorite things about Christmas?  There are Christmas trees at many locations in Branson - too many to list here, but you can go to the link here to see a list of all the decorated Christmas trees.  Don't forget your camera!

If you're looking for the perfect Christmas gift for that special someone, you're sure to find it in Branson.  There are many places to go Christmas shopping, including Branson Landing, old Downtown Branson, and Branson Hills.  Don't forget the gift shops at attractions and the craftspersons at Silver Dollar City!

I hope I have given you an idea of all the wonderful things that happen in Branson during the most wonderful time of the year, which is Christmas time, of course!  November is right around the corner, so start planning your Christmas visit to Branson soon!

Thanks as always for reading! See you next time!

Diane


Monday, July 17, 2017

Back from Branson 2017


We made our annual trip to Branson recently.  This was our fifteenth yearly visit to Branson. We did some familiar things and tried some new things.  As usual, we had a great vacation. My summary of our trip is below. If you click on the links, you will be taken to the website in a new window.

We left for Branson on Sunday morning.  The traffic on Hwy. 44 was fairly light.  Everyone was already out of town for the 4th of July weekend.  We ate lunch at Hardees' at the truck stop in Strafford this trip since we were running really early.  We usually stop in Lebanon for lunch.

The Groupon lodging deal we purchased was administrated by Branson Travel Group, so before we could go to the hotel, we had to go to BTG to pick up the voucher to take to the hotel.  The Groupon deal also included 2 tickets to any show at the Jim Stafford Theater.  We selected the Billy Dean and Steel Horses show since we had seen the other two shows playing at Jim Stafford last year.

The building also contained an indoor miniature golf course.   The gentleman who took care of us at Branson Travel Group was very nice.  He asked if we needed any other tickets and we said no.  He wasn't pushy, which was nice.

Our lodging was at Stone Castle Hotel & Conference Center. We arrived at the hotel around 1:00 PM.  We discovered, however, that check-in didn't start until 3 PM.  We offered to just hang out in the lobby until 3 PM, but the front desk clerks did some juggling and found us an open room.  The room was in Building 2, which was the building with the breakfast room, and the breakfast room was even on the same floor where our room was.  Score! There was also an indoor pool and a hot tub as well as a small video arcade on the first floor of Building 2.  Stone Castle is huge - there are 3 buildings in the complex.  The breakfast is awesome - there was plenty of variety with the food and the staff was very nice and friendly.  The coffee is very strong though - whoa!

We went to Florentina's Restaurant for dinner Sunday evening.  We had a certificate from Half Price Ozarks/KY3 to help with the cost (which is no longer available).  The food was great and the location was only a couple blocks from the hotel. The decor is beautiful - the restaurant looks like your Italian grandma's house.  Florentina's is now on our list of favorite Branson restaurants.

The show we went to Sunday evening was Billy Dean and the Steel Horses.We had another Groupon deal for my son's ticket, It was a very nice show. Billy is a talented singer and songwriter and he was very entertaining.  His daughter played keyboards for him.  The theater was about half full, which is good for a Sunday evening.  I recognized several of the songs.  Billy has aged well - here's a photo of Billy with my son:



On Monday morning, we drove down to the Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery.  We took the plastic cups from the hotel room because the fish food is smelly.  We enjoyed all of the exhibits, but our favorite part is feeding the fish.  We enjoy seeing all those little fish coming up to the surface with their mouths open looking for food.

We then took a drive over the spillway and went to the Dewey Short Center.  We had not been there since it opened. The beach that was once there is now gone.  All of the exhibits that we had seen previously were still there.  It was a nice place to get out of the heat for a while, though.  We went back to the hotel to eat lunch.  After lunch, my son and I went down to the pool and the hot tub to cool off for a while.

That evening's agenda was a trip to Branson Landing for dinner and to nose around in the stores.  We were then going to stay for the concert and fireworks display.  We got to the Landing around 4 PM and it was packed - we had to park about half a mile away, behind the strip mall north of the Landing.

It had been a while since we had eaten at Garfield's.  We had a certificate that ended up covering all of the cost of dinner -  that's really nice when that happens (this certificate is still available - click here to purchase).  Garfield's has an Applebee's type menu, so if you like Applebee's, you'll like Garfield's. They are located across the "street" from Bass Pro Shops so you can park in their lot if you don't want to walk too far.

We walked around and visited some of the stores, but when hubby saw crowded it was going to be for the concert and fireworks, he decided we should go back to the hotel.  He doesn't do well with crowds.  The son and I went to the pool/hot tub for a while until bedtime.

On Tuesday morning, we woke up and it was raining.  We decided that it was a good time to use our Groupon (no longer available) for the Wildwood Miniature Golf Course that we saw on Sunday.  This is a fun little 18 hole golf course.  There were a few challenging holes.  It took the three of us about an hour and a half to complete the course.  We then went back to the hotel for lunch.

On Tuesday afternoon, we went to the Janice Martin Cirque Show.  Janice used to perform on the Showboat Branson Belle.  She now has her own show at the Americana Theater.  She is known for playing the violin while hanging on the curtains and while that in itself would make a great show, that's not the entire show.  Janice performs as various characters and showcases her many talents. She plays many different instruments and even performs some magic.  We really enjoyed this show.  We had Groupons for tickets to this show.  Kids are free at the Americana so this would be a great show for the family.

We then went to McFarlain's Restaurant for dinner.  We had a certificate from Half Price Ozarks/KY3, which is no longer available.  The food and the service were good as always.  We then nosed around some of the shops in the IMAX complex before heading back to the hotel to get ready for the evening's show.

That evening, we went to see the Haygoods.  We have seen them at the Americana, the RFD Theater, and now at the Clay Cooper Theater.  This year is the Haygoods' 25th anniversary (and me and my husband's 25th wedding anniversary as well), so we wanted to celebrate with them. This was by far the best show we saw this trip.  The Haygoods are so musically talented it would take more than a blog post to describe their show.  The show has great music, great lighting effects, and great music. We bought the DVD of this show so we can watch it in the winter when we miss Branson. We bought our vouchers for this show at Branson 2 for 1 Tickets.

When we got to the parking lot, we discovered that some beautiful fireworks were being shot off across the street from the theater.  We stood there and watched them for a while and then went back to the hotel, where we could still see the fireworks from our hotel room window.



On Wednesday morning, we visited the National Tiger Sanctuary for the first time.  I had wanted to visit the NTS for a long time, but couldn't find a good deal until I won an auction on the KKOZ website (no longer available).I have always wanted to see the big kitties. NTS is located in Saddlebrooke, Missouri, which is about a half hour north of Branson.

There are 3 types of tours offered, with different prices:  the Awareness tour, the Feeding tour and the You Feed tour.  Our voucher was for the Feeding tour.  There are other, more expensive tours offered as well.  Ryan was our guide and he knew all sorts of information about every cat he fed and what their habits were.  He was very good at answering any question posed to him. The tour ran for about an hour and a half.  Here's some photos of the big kitties:





On Wednesday afternoon, we hung out at the hotel and went swimming.  I found a 2 for $20 deal for Lone Star Restaurant like the one at Applebee's for dinner that evening.  The food and the service was fine and it was close to the hotel.  On Wednesday evening, we went to Andy's for frozen custard and we played a few games at the Tracks.

On Thursday morning, we went to Branson 2 for 1.  We were going to get tickets for Raiding the Rock Vault, which was opening that night.  When we discovered that the price for 3 tickets was going to be $91.00, we decided to pass. We wanted to see another show since it was our last night in Branson, so we got tickets for Rick Thomas.

We then went to visit Promised Land Zoo.  We had a voucher from Half Price Ozarks/KY3 for buy one get one free (no longer available, but check Groupon for a similar deal).  There are VIP activities available if you want to pay extra.  We have been to PLZ before and enjoyed it, so we decided to visit again.  We enjoy seeing all of the animals and attending the show.  PLZ is expanding and will open a drive-thru section of the park later this month. We will have to visit next year to enjoy that part of the park.  We then went to Cici's Pizza for lunch and enjoyed their buffet.

We went to Danna's BBQ for dinner on Thursday evening.  The food and the service was excellent, as always.

We then went to see Rick Thomas, who was performing at the Andy Williams Performing Arts Center.  We really enjoyed this show.  Not only is Rick a great magician, he has a comic touch as well.  His beautiful Great Pyrenees dogs were brought out to the lobby after the show for everyone to pet.  If you want to see an illusionist on your Branson trip, I highly recommend seeing Rick's show.

We left on Friday morning to go home.  I always hate going home. Someday, I want to move to Branson permanently.  Now that my husband has retired, we may be able to visit Branson during the Christmas season to see the shows and visit Silver Dollar City.

Thanks as always for reading! See you next time!

Diane


Saturday, May 20, 2017

Branson and camping - a perfect combination

Do you enjoy spending time in the great outdoors?  And you love Branson, of course, or you wouldn't be reading this blog.  Combine your love of the great outdoors and Branson by camping out in one of Branson's 35 RV parks and campgrounds. If you own an RV, you already have a hotel room on wheels. Bring your boat or jet ski and camp near either Lake Taneycomo or Table Rock Lake.  You'll also be close to all of Branson's shows and attractions. Here's a sample of some of Branson's many RV parks and campgrounds:  If you click on the name of the campground, their website will open in a new window.

Silver Dollar City's Wilderness - The Wilderness is owned and run by Silver Dollar City. There are tent campsites, RV sites, and cabin rental.  If you have a season pass to SDC, you can save money on your stay. There is also a shuttle from the Wilderness to SDC.  The Wilderness also has free wi-fi and a swimming pool.

Branson Lakeside RV Park - This lovely RV park is located on Lake Taneycomo next door to Branson Landing.  There is a shuttle to Branson Landing.  The park offers free cable TV and free wifi.  If you are a member of the Good Sam RV club, you will get a discount.  There is a marina, and you can fish off of the dock. You can also bring your dog - this park is pet-friendly.

Branson KOA & Convention Center - The Branson KOA offers no only RV site, but there are cabins, cottages, and lodges for rent.  The park offers all the amenities of a KOA and you can also purchase discount show tickets.  If you are having a family reunion or a club meeting, a convention center is available.  There is also a fitness center and a freshwater pool. Your dog is welcome at the Branson KOA as well.

Musicland Kampground - This is the closest campground to Hwy. 76 (a/k/a "the Strip").  It is located directly north of the Titanic museum.  You could park your car/RV here and walk to many of the shows and attractions on the Strip.  The campground offers a swimming pool and free wifi and cable TV. Every campsite has a picnic table and there is also a laundromat.  Veterans and active military members get a discount here.

Oak Grove RV Park - This RV park is located right on Hwy. 165 three-quarters of a mile from the Strip.  It has all the usual amenities and has beautiful landscaping.  There is also a child play area and a meeting room.

This is just a sample of all of the RV parks/campgrounds in Branson.  If you want to find out about other campgrounds in Branson, click here.

Our Branson trip is coming up soon, and we're starting to get excited! Don't forget to follow this blog's Facebook page for discounts and other interesting articles about Branson. See you next time!

Diane

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Back from Branson 2016

We recently returned from a vacation week in Branson. As per my blog post here, I waited until we were home from vacation before posting my vacation photos on Facebook. If you follow this blog’s Facebook page, you will see that the photos at the top of the page have been updated with new photos.

We drove to Branson on July 2.  It took longer than normal to get there since we ran into several rainstorms as we were driving on Hwy. 44.  Plus, I guided hubby to the wrong exit to get to the restaurants in Lebanon for lunch and we had to backtrack. 

This is the first time in our many years of vacationing in Branson that we stayed for a full week.  We usually stay, at the most, four days in Branson and then come home.  However, we got a great deal for a week in a condo at Holiday Hills for close to the same price as the hotel we had originally booked.  So the hotel reservation was canceled and we stayed at Holiday Hills instead.

The friend who got us the condo called us while we were browsing at Books-A-Million in Branson Hills.  He had originally told us we couldn’t check in until 5:00, so we were killing some time at BAM.  He got us checked us in earlier, however.  And we were thankful since we had a longer drive than normal to get to Branson.

Holiday Hills was very nice.  We stayed in a 2 bedroom, 2 bath condo. The living room and both bedrooms had flat screen TVs.  There was a full kitchen with a dishwasher.  There were BBQ grills available. The master bath had a Jacuzzi tub. It would have been nice if there would have been instructions as to how to operate the Jacuzzi tub.  The timer knob was hidden behind the towels on the towel rack. 

Holiday Hills was on the other side of Lake Taneycomo on Mount Branson, about 5 minutes from Branson Landing.  It was a further distance from the shows we were attending, so we had to give ourselves plenty of time to get to the theaters we were going to.  If we were going to stay at a condo again, I would see if we could get a condo in town to be closer to shows and activities. We missed doing some of our favorite free activities because we couldn't leave at the spur of the moment. 

Holiday Hills has a giant indoor pool and hot tub.  The registration area was tastefully decorated in a rustic style.  There was a workout room in the registration building and a counter where you could purchase show tickets.  There was an activity center with a snack bar, an arcade, pool tables, and a ping pong table. There were games, DVD players, and movies that you could check out.  There was also a small movie theater and three movies were shown per day.

I only had two complaints about Holiday Hills.  We had to go to the registration area or to the activity center to access wi-fi.  The wi-fi signal wasn’t very strong, either.  I understand that some of the higher end condos at Holiday Hills have wi-fi, but ours didn’t. The pool didn't have towels available several times that I was there. I walked the treadmill in the fitness center (to get steps on my Fitbit), and there were no towels a couple of times that I was there as well.

On Sunday afternoon, we went to Branson 2 for 1 Tickets to buy a voucher for our son to attend that afternoon’s show, which was Sunday Gospel Jubilee at the Grand Country Music Hall.  We picked up our tickets at the box office and while we were waiting for the show to start, we browsed the various shops at the Grand Country complex.  As for the show, the musicians were great (which included the great Randy Plummer), but I had a difficult time understanding the vocalists.  I took voice lessons in college and diction was highly stressed. My voice teacher would be shaking her head if she had heard the vocalists.
Ticket deal:  KKOZ radio voucher (purchased from a friend who couldn't use it), Branson 2 for 1 for single voucher.

The next day was July 4th.  The show that day was an afternoon show, Hot Rods and High Heels at the Clay Cooper Theater.  The last time we attended a show at Clay's theater was in 2012.  Clay has remodeled the seating area of the theater - the seats are more comfortable than the last time we were there.  We saw Clay himself before the show talking to someone in the seats across from us. This show didn't disappoint - it was very high energy, and the singers/dancers were talented. There were stages on both sides of the theater, and these were used in various numbers, as well as the extra video screens.  There was lots of music from the 1950s and early 1960s.  I highly recommend this show.
Ticket deal:  KKOZ radio voucher; bought extra ticket at theater ($3.00 off coupon in Travelhost magazine)

That night, the son and I decided to drive to Hollister to see the fireworks.  All went well until we got into the traffic jam leaving the show.  Somehow I got turned around the wrong way and we were headed south on Hwy. 65 rather than Hwy. 76 east. After another couple of wrong turns, we finally made it back to Holiday Hills.

July 5th was a slow day. We hung around at the condo all day until it was time to go to our show for the evening, which was Presleys' Country Jubilee.  We had always wanted to see this show, but could never find a voucher or coupon deal, until someone on the 1Branson.com forum posted about a radio station that had vouchers for Dixie Stampede. That was sold out by the time I could make a purchase, but they had a voucher for Presleys' so we decided to purchase it. When I called to make our reservation for the show, Melanie told me to come early for the 7:15 gospel sing-along in the balcony. Our 19 year old grumbled about attending, but we made him go anyway.  Big Clayton played the piano wonderfully, sang well, and entertained us all. The balcony was full.

The show itself was excellent.  The Presleys are very talented musicians and vocalists, and you could tell that they really enjoyed performing.  Herkimer and Cecil were very funny, especially the routine where Herkimer came out on a Segway with a podium on it, on which was a U.S Presidential seal. Herkimer announced that he was running for president and Cecil was his VP candidate.  I told hubby they missed a great marketing opportunity - there should have been Herkimer/Cecil 2016 t-shirts available for purchase in the gift shop. They would have probably sold out.  But what party would they be candidates for? Ah, the Odd Fellows Party!

Of all the shows we attended, the Presleys' show was my favorite.  You can see why they have been one of the top shows in Branson all these years.  We went on a Tuesday evening, and the theater was at least three-quarters of the way full.  That's pretty good for a Tuesday evening.
Ticket deal:  KTTN radio voucher (this deal is still available, as of this writing), extra ticket purchased at the theater ($3.00 coupon in Travelhost magazine)

July 6th was another laid back day at the condo until it was time for dinner.  We had a Groupon deal for Little Hacienda and the Rock and Roll Revival show at the Jim Stafford Theater. You could select between Little Hacienda or La Piazza for the dinner portion; we thought our voucher would go further at Little Hacienda.  We were going to use the voucher at Little Hacienda first, then pick up our tickets at the theater.  The food at Little Hacienda was very good and the service was excellent.  The only problem came when it came time to pay - they wanted to keep my voucher, even though I needed it for the theater.  I ended up having to download the Groupon app on my phone so I could redeem the theater part of the voucher.  If I had known, I would have printed two vouchers instead of one.

We had time to kill before going to the theater.  We parked at the theater. and then went to Andy's Frozen Custard for some yummy ice cream.  After that, we walked over to the arcade at the Tracks and played some games.  We stood and watched the Branson Ferris Wheel (photo above).

We then went over to the theater to get our tickets.  I had made reservations for this show since I had an extra Groupon for the extra ticket. We were in the fifth row, and it was really close to the stage. I had to look up to see the show.  The Jim Stafford Theater has been remodeled since the last time we were there.  It looks much classier, but the seats could have been a little wider.  Maybe I'm getting old, but the music was very loud. 

The music was classic rock from the 1960's and 1970's.  The Lionel Richie aspect of the show puzzled me, however, since I thought Lionel was R&B and not rock.  The guy who did Jerry Lee Lewis (who looked amazingly like Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin, except this guy's hair was shorter) was amazing.  If you like classic rock, you will enjoy this show.  
Ticket deal:   Groupon (the deal is still running as of this writing)

On the morning of July 7th, we decided to use our Groupon voucher for Branson's Wild World.  We decided to get there when they opened so it wouldn't be as crowded.  The building that BWW is in didn't look all that big on the outside, but there were lots of animals to see on the inside. The gator on the left looks like he's used to posing for photos. There were stingrays, small sharks and plenty of snakes and lizards.  There were even some wolves and singing dogs.  The black light golf course was part of the Groupon deal, so we played the 9 hole course.  

I enjoyed seeing the animals, but the facility was dark and needed some fresh paint in parts.  I would not pay full price for this attraction if at all possible. 
Ticket deal:  Groupon (the deal is still running as of this writing); extra ticket at facility

After we left Wild World, we then decided to go to Cici's for lunch.  Cici's is a new pizza restaurant and arcade on the 76 Strip near the Jim Stafford Theater.  They had a nice buffet of salad, soup, pasta, pizza and dessert, and the price was reasonable. 

We then went back to the condo for a little while until it was time to go to McFarland's Family Restaurant in the Branson IMAX complex.  The food and the service were great, as usual.  We had a voucher from Half Price Ozarks that we paid $10.00 for $20.00 of food.  That put a nice dent in our bill.  

We then wandered through the many stores in the IMAX complex.  I picked up our tickets for Smoke on the Mountain at the box office. We had heard good things about this show for many years, so when I found a good deal, we decided to go. The Little Opry Theater is a small, intimate theater. Even if you were sitting up on the top row, you would still be able to see the show quite well.  We were sitting in the third row on the aisle.  We thoroughly enjoyed this show, with its mixture of gospel music and comedy.  June was my favorite character. She reminded me of myself when I was younger.
Ticket deal:  KKOZ radio voucher, Branson 2 for 1 for the extra ticket

On July 8th, we went to Branson Landing and to Bass Pro Shop and the Cardinals Clubhouse. On our way back to the condo, the low tire light came on the dashboard. We got to the grocery store across the street from the condo and saw that the tire on the front passenger side was low. We decided to drive to the Conoco station.  While attempting to fill the tire, the sensor came off the valve stem. Thankfully, there was a tire store right next door to the gas station.  The owner brought the jack over to the car,took off the tire, took it to the tire store, repaired the tire (there was a rock in it), and brought the tire back to the car. He only charged us $10.00, but hubby gave him an extra $5.00 for curbside service.  

We then hung out at the condo until it was time to go to town to see The Magic and Comedy of Taylor Reed.  A sudden downpour of rain fouled up the traffic on Branson Landing Boulevard, so we backtracked into old downtown Branson and got on Main Street/76, went around on Gretna Road and then reconnected with Hwy. 76 at the intersection with Titanic. We made it to the Jim Stafford Theater in the nick of time, at 2:50 PM, and the show started at 3 PM. We got our tickets at the box office, purchased refreshments, then got to our seats just in time for the show to begin.  

Taylor was a finalist on America's Got Talent. He made a helicopter appear on AGT, which he recreated during the show.  Taylor was very entertaining.  His illusions were very good.  I enjoyed how he pulled some kids on stage to perform with him. This is a good show to take your kids to if they like magic, especially since if you purchase an adult ticket, you can get 2 children's (age 2-10) tickets free.  Taylor signed autographs and conversed with everyone who attended the show. He was very personable.  His Texan accent was charming.  
Ticket deal:  Ozarks Auction via Half Price Ozarks; Branson 2 for 1 for the extra ticket.

We left Branson on Saturday and went back home.  We made many new memories. I am looking forward to next year's trip.

Sorry to take so long to write this - there was a bad storm last Wednesday and the electricity was out for a couple of days.  Thanks for reading - see you next time!  

Diane


Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Organization for a great vacation in Branson

Are you one of those who have a running countdown on your work calendar as to how many days are left before vacation?  (Guilty as charged.)  Don’t you find that the closer you get to vacation, the longer the days seem to drag – until the day before you leave, and then somehow there’s just not enough time to get everything done?  The day before you leave for vacation need not be frantic.  Let’s break down our preparations to a more manageable schedule.  Let’s call the day you leave for Branson V-Day, short for Vacation Day. 

Six months before V-Day:
Designate a folder in your favorite email account for vacation-related emails.  My email folder is titled Branson 2016.  Whenever you get an email relating to your vacation, just move it to the special folder.  It will be easier to find if you need it. Plus, if you  have a smartphone, you’ll be able to access the folder on the fly.

V-Day minus 30:
Dig out your Branson Organizer and clean out any expired items.  If you’re a more recent reader of this blog, you may not know what a Branson Organizer is.  Click on this link and find out what it is and how to set it up: http://bransononyourbudget.blogspot.com/2011/07/getting-it-all-together.html

If you have a pet that you’re not taking with you to Branson, be sure to set up a kennel stay for him/her. You may have to set this up earlier than a month in advance.  If you’re not taking your pet to the kennel, arrange for someone to come to your home and check on your pet while you’re gone.

Make sure you have all radio station vouchers in hand.  Depending on where you live and where the radio station is, any vouchers ordered now may not get to you before you leave on vacation.  You should know by now which shows you want to see. If you find a last minute voucher you want to purchase, make sure it is a print on demand voucher or a Groupon. 

Now that you know what shows you want to see, call the theaters and make reservations.  If you have radio station vouchers/Groupon deals, mention that you have those when you make your reservation.  If you need extra tickets besides the vouchers (most vouchers only cover 2 tickets), see if you need to purchase them now or if you can make the reservation and buy the ticket when you get to Branson. If you can buy later, go to the Branson 2 for 1 Tickets website and see if they sell vouchers for the show you want to see.  You can purchase a half voucher at 2 for 1 if you have an odd number of people in your family like we do. 

Early reservations are great to get the seats you want, especially if you need wheelchair accessible seats or other special seats.  We like aisle seats as opposed to center seats.  My hubby likes to stretch out his legs since he has arthritic knees, and there are not as many people to crawl over in order to go to the bathroom. If the box office asks if you want front row seats, ask how close they are to the stage.  Some front row center seats are flush with the stage, so you have to scrunch down in your seats and bend your head back in order to see the show. That’s not very comfortable.  Make sure you write down the confirmation number that the box office gives you. 

This year, I have made envelopes for each show to put my show vouchers in.  I’ll make up a fake show to show you what I put on my envelopes:

The Larry & Joe Show
August 16, 20____, 2 PM
Rising Eagle Theater, (888) 888-8888
Confirmation #1234567

I have the phone number of the theater on the envelope in case I need to change my reservation or (God forbid) I get lost.  Once I put the envelopes in order of the dates of the shows, I will put the envelopes in the Show Vouchers folder of my Branson Organizer.  On the day of the show, I will take out that day’s envelope and put it in the glove compartment of my car. I will then take it to the box office and pick up my tickets, which I will then put in the envelope.

V-Day minus 3 days:
Go to the United States Post Office website at usps.com and put a vacation hold on your mail for the time you are gone.  Make sure to check the box that says for them to deliver all the accumulated mail; otherwise, you will have to go to the post office and pick up all your mail, which would really be inconvenient if you don’t get home until after the post office closes. 

If you get newspapers delivered to your home, go to the website for that newspaper or call customer service and put a vacation hold on your newspapers.  You might want to read the newspaper for the morning that you leave; if so, don’t put that day on your vacation hold.  Our local newspapers give you the option to either have a vacation pack of papers delivered on your return, donate them to Newspapers in Education (for schools) or get a credit on your bill.  Most newspapers have websites with just about most everything that is in their print edition, so you may want to just get a credit on your bill. 

Contact a trusted neighbor and tell them that you are going out of town on vacation.  Give him/her your cell phone number and ask him to call you in the case of fire, weather damage or theft at your home.  If the trash collection service comes on a day while you are gone on vacation, ask your trusted neighbor to bring your trash can(s) to the curb and put them back after the trash has been picked up.  Be sure to tell your neighbor that you’d do the same for him/her if they need you to. 

V-Day minus 2 days:

Gather up all the luggage that you take on vacation.  Make sure that all zippers work, handles are firmly attached, etc. 

Make sure that laundry is caught up. 

Purchase any food/drinks that you may be taking with you. 

I like to make sure my house is clean before I go on vacation. I hate coming home to a messy house.  It’s easier to unpack your luggage in a clean house. 

V-Day minus 1 day:

Pack everything you’re going to be taking to Branson. Don’t pack the car until tomorrow, however.

Fill up the gas tank in your car.  Check all the tires, including the spare, to make sure they are inflated to the proper air pressure.  Check all the fluids, like the radiator (including the overflow tank), windshield wiper fluid, brake fluid, and oil. Check the air filter.  If it is dirty, the air conditioner won’t run as efficiently as it should.  You wouldn’t want to be stranded on the side of the road because you didn’t do the necessary maintenance. 

Clean out the car.  I like to wash and vacuum out the car before I go on vacation.  It’s easier to pack a clean car, and I feel more comfortable on a road trip in a clean car.

Make sure all the dirty dishes are washed, dried and put away.  You don’t want to come home from vacation with a house full of bugs.   

Get a good night’s sleep!

V-Day!
If you have timers that you set on your lamps, make sure they are plugged in and ready to go.

If you eat breakfast at home today instead of on the road, make sure all breakfast dishes are washed, dried and put away.

Load up all your luggage in your car.  Put your Branson Organizer under your front seat for easy retrieval.  Check the house one last time to make sure lights have been turned out and the toilet has been flushed. 

Make sure all doors and windows are locked in your house. 

Make sure that everyone is in the car and their seat belts are on. 

Now you’re ready to go!  Start your engine and drive to Branson!

That’s all for now! Thanks for reading and see you next time!


Diane

Sunday, May 15, 2016

I'll drink to that in Branson

For those of you who are visiting Branson unencumbered with kids (and also if you're the proper age), there are places to visit in Branson and the surrounding area where you can learn about and sample alcoholic beverages.  Click on the names of these attractions and you will go to their websites. 

Curling Vine Winery (f/k/a Stone Hill Winery) - If the kids do happen to be vacationing with you, this is a family friendly winery.  You can learn about how champagne is bottled, then go to the wine tasting room, where you will learn about various kinds of wine.  There is grape juice for the kids.  You can go to the gift shop and buy a bottle of your favorite wine to take home with you. 

Mount Pleasant Winery - Mount Pleasant is only a half a block from Curling Wine Vinery.  They offer free wine tasting as well, except for the Estate wines, which cost $5.00 to try.  You can bottle your own dessert wine for $9.95.  You can also take a self-guided art tour.  If you're interested in learning more about wine than just a casual tasting, you can take the Wine 101 class for $9.99 where you can learn about pairing wine and food.   

Lindwedel Wine Garden - If you're interested in tasting wines in the great outdoors where the grapes grow, Lindwedel Wine Garden is the place.  The vineyard offers live music on Sundays in May and June.  You can also host parties and weddings at Lindwedel.  

If you enjoy alcoholic beverages with more of a kick, there are two places you can visit to see how liquor is made.  

Missouri Mountain Moonshine - This is located at Branson Landing.  There are various types of moonshine you can sample before you purchase.  You can also eat yummy BBQ as well. There are other cocktails available as well as moonshine, and you can purchase t-shirts to commemmorate your visit.  

Copper Run Distillery - At the Copper Run Distillery, you can sample rum, moonshine, and whiskey.  It's the first legal distillery in the Ozarks since Prohibition ended in 1933.  Other cocktails are available for purchase, as well as non-alcoholic beverages.  If you need a place to hold a special event, there is a lounge available to rent.  Copper Run is located in Walnut Shade, Missouri.  

Most of the higher end restaurants in Branson offer alcoholic beverages.  If you're looking for some late night fun after an 8:00 PM show, head to Branson Landing and to Waxy O'Shea's Irish Pub or to Ernie Biggs Dueling Piano Bar and Grille.  

I hope this gives you some ideas about fun adult things to do on your Branson vacation. Thanks for reading! See you next time!

Diane

Friday, April 15, 2016

Lions, tigers and bears, oh my!

Are you and your family animal lovers?  Branson and the surrounding area has lots of attractions with animals for you to enjoy.  At these attractions, you can see and even feed animals that you don't see every day.  Here's a list of all the great places where you can see animals in the Branson area.   If you click on the name of the attraction, you will go to that attraction's website.

Branson's Wild World has over 180 animal species, including wolves, sharks, turtles, snakes and a baby kangaroo.  You can even feed the sharks. After you visit with the animals, you can also play an optional game of 3D blacklight mini golf.

National Tiger Sanctuary - This animal attraction is located north of Branson in Saddlebrooke, off of Hwy. 65.  You can take guided tours, feeding tours, or spend a day with the director, depending on how much you want to spend. There are lots of beautiful tigers, lions, and other wild animals here and if you want, you can donate to the cause.  I would really love to pet and stroke those beautiful big cats.

Promised Land Zoo is located on Shepherd of the Hills Expressway.  Our family visited PLZ two years ago and enjoyed seeing all the animals. It's free to feed the parakeets, or you can pay an additional fee to feed more exotic animals. There are also lectures about some of the animals.

If  you're interested in prehistoric animals, visit the Branson Dinosaur Museum.  You can see life-sized replicas of dinosaurs, dig for fossils in the dirt, see a fossil exhibit and visit the learning center.

Wild Animal Safari is located in Strafford, Missouri on Hwy. 44. You could stop here on your way to Branson or on your way home from Branson.  It is a drive-through animal park with 70 different animals. You can also take a bus ride through the park with a guide.  There are small carnival rides available if your youngsters need to burn off some steam. You can buy tickets at the website and save a little money.

Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge is located in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, which is a few miles southwest of Branson. This refuge also provides lifetime care for rescued tigers and lions and other wild creatures. There is lodging available on the property.  You could combine a trip to Turpentine Creek with a trip to the Great Passion Play in Eureka Springs.

If you're interested in exotic animals but don't prefer to see them live and up close, you can see taxidermied animals and fish at the Ralph Foster Museum, which is located on the campus of College of the Ozarks.  The taxidermied animals are mounted in realistic environments, except for the taxidermied fish - they're mounted on the wall.  Look for the large swordfish.

Groupon and Half Price Ozarks often have deals for tickets for most of these animal attractions.  I post many of these deals on this blog's Facebook page, so keep an eye out for them there.

Thanks for reading! See you next time!

Diane