Wednesday, July 24, 2019

2019 Branson trip report

Here's my report on our most recent trip to Branson.

Monday, July 1
It was travel day.  Traffic on Hwy. 270 and Hwy. 44 was fairly light.  We stopped at Steak 'n Shake in Lebanon for lunch.  The service was great and the food was very good.   I even got my shake before the meal.

We arrived in Branson around 1:30 PM. We stopped at Branson Tourism Center to pick up our Haygood vouchers and our Runaway Mountain Coaster vouchers from a Groupon deal.  We got talked into a timeshare presentation at Wyndham for the next morning (the temptation of $160 in cash and a $25 certificate to a local restaurant was too great to pass up). We then went to Clay Cooper Theater to pick up the Haygoods tickets. We then went to Walmart to pick up supplies.

This year, we splurged and rented a condo at The Suites at Fall Creek through a TripAdvisor listing.  We arrived at the condo at 3:30 PM. The owner assigned us a code to use to unlock the door. The condo was very nice, with 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms, a living room/kitchen combo and a screened-in back porch that faced a pond, where we enjoyed watching some beavers during our stay.

We unpacked, fixed dinner, and relaxed.  I went up to the clubhouse to check out some of the amenities. The Falls has a nice game room and an indoor pool and hot tub. It also has a mini-golf course.

Tuesday, July 2
We went to the timeshare presentation at Wyndham, which was across the street.  It lasted for 2 1/2 hours.  The property was nice, but I would rather not pay that much every month for something I would only use once or twice a year.  I thought used car salesmen were pushy, but timeshare salesmen are worse.  We went back to Branson Tourism Center after lunch at the condo to collect our $160.00 and our gift certificate. The guy at BTC tried talking us into taking the Welk timeshare tour (for $200 in cash) but we said no and left.  If you go through BTC for anything, just say no when they ask you about taking a timeshare tour and be firm about it. We went across the street to Books-A-Million, where I bought myself the new Brad Thor book and my son a Stephen King book as a reward for wasting 2 1/2 hours of our vacation time. As we were leaving Books-A-Million, it started pouring down rain. 

We ate at Montana Mike's (with an voucher) for dinner.  The food was great and the service was excellent.  Since we had time to kill before the Haygoods show, we went to the Tracks location by the Ferris Wheel and wasted some money.  We then went to Andy's Frozen Custard for their wonderful, yummy frozen custard.

The Haygoods' show was great as always.  They up their game every year with new songs and new technology. They have a couple songs that they always perform, like "Dancing on the Ceiling" and "Cotton Eye Joe" but all the other songs are new. The Haygoods show is such a high energy show, it's no wonder they only have a few shows a week.  If we visit Branson during the Christmas season this year, I think I'd like to see the Haygoods' Christmas show.

After the show, we then went back to the condo.  The Cardinals, our favorite baseball team, were playing on the West Coast that week, so we got to watch some of the game before retiring for the evening.

Wednesday, July 3
Our first stop on Wednesday was at the Andy Williams Performing Arts Center to pick up our tickets for the Rick Thomas show that evening (another Groupon deal).

We had a Groupon deal for Greatest Adventures Mini Golf, so we played the two courses that morning.  Even though it was in the morning, it was still boiling hot.  There is a nice little restaurant at Greatest Adventures, so we sat in there and cooled off before playing the second course. I won the first round and hubby won the second round. After the second round, we went back inside and had a soda to cool off.

We went back to the condo for lunch and to relax before going out to dinner.  The couple who owns the condo we rented also owns the condo above ours. Mike, the condo owner, texted me and asked if there was a water leak in the kitchen area because the dishwasher in the condo above us was leaking.  I texted him back and told him we didn't have a leak.

We went to Florentina's Italian Ristorante (with another voucher) for dinner that evening.  We always enjoy going to Florentina's - the food tastes great (better than Olive Garden) and the service is excellent. I enjoyed my lasagna and I had enough to take home for lunch the next day.

We attended the Rick Thomas: Mansion of Dreams show on Wednesday night.  I think Rick's show is the best magic show in Branson.  This year's show was even better than Rick's show two years ago.  Rick is very personable and has a great rapport with the audience.  His illusions are fantastic and his Great Pyrenees dogs are beautiful.  You can pet the dogs in the lobby after the show and they obviously love all the attention.

After the show, we went back to the condo and watched the Cards game until we were tired enough to go to bed.

Thursday, July 4
Our first stop this morning was at Yakov Smirnoff's theater to use our Groupon deal to pick up tickets.  On the way back, we stopped by the Runaway Mountain Coaster to use our vouchers before the temperatures got too hot. The ride up the hill wasn't too bad.  I had a difficult time maneuvering the mountain coaster, however.  If I went too slow, I had a hard time making the turns and if I went too fast, it felt like I was going to fall out of the coaster.  I think this might just be a young person's ride, for my son really enjoyed it.  We went back to the condo to relax and have lunch before attending the Yakov show that afternoon.

We have visited Branson for many years, but we have never seen Yakov's show.  I thought it would be an appropriate show to see on Independence Day, considering the fact that Yakov emigrated to this country from Russia and our ancestors emigrated to America too.  The most enjoyable part of Yakov's show was when he spoke about when he lived in Russia and then emigrated to America.  I think the show started to drag when he started talking about earning his doctorate degree.  We did buy a DVD/book combo so we could laugh some more at home.

We went back to the condo and fixed dinner.  After dinner, we drove over to the clubhouse and checked out clubs and golf balls to try out the complex's mini-golf course.  Even though it was evening, it was still very warm.  The mini-golf course needs some work - the felt is wrinkled and missing in places.  There was a sign in the game room that stated that a new mini-golf course was coming in 2019.  Maybe it will be remodeled in the fall?

We drove back up to the clubhouse parking lot later to see if we could see the fireworks display at Chateau at the Lake. Not seeing much of anything, we went back to the condo and sat in the screened-in porch.  Suddenly, we started seeing the fireworks display. After it was over, we went back inside and watched the news until we were sleepy enough to go to bed.

Friday, July 5
This was our last full day in Branson and it was time for our visit to Branson Landing.  We got to Branson Landing at 9:30, so we were lucky enough to get a very close parking spot at Belk. We saw that the Paula Deen restaurant was still under construction.  If we visit Branson during the Christmas season, maybe by then it'll be open.  We visited the Five and Dime store until it was time for Bass Pro to open.  Hubby bought himself two new pairs of cargo shorts that were on sale and the son bought a mug.  I didn't find anything I wanted, though.

We wanted to visit the Cardinals Clubhouse store, but when we got there, we discovered that another store was there.  I was sad - I knew I could have found something in there to buy. We walked up and down the Landing until it was time for lunch at Famous Dave's BBQ.

We got to Famous Dave's BBQ right when they opened at 11:00 AM. (Hubby likes to eat lunch early.)  The decor was great, the food was tasty and reasonably priced, but our waitress had an attitude like she really didn't want to be there.  Maybe it had to do with the gift certificate that I had put on the table - perhaps she thought she wasn't going to get a good tip. 

We left Famous Dave's after lunch and left the Landing to go back to the condo before that afternoon's activities.  And it's a good thing we did.  I went to put my purse on the kitchen counter and noticed there was water on the counter and on the kitchen floor. Water was dripping from the ceiling in the kitchen.  I texted Mike and told him that there was water dripping from the ceiling. He immediately called me.  Phil said that there was water coming from around the air conditioning vent and the light fixture in the second bathroom. There was also water leaking from the AC vent in the second bedroom. Mike texted me and said he was trying to reach his maintenance guy.  He offered to get us another room for the night, either another condo at the Falls or a hotel room. The maintenance guy came and showed me a photo of what had happened - the toilet in the condo above us had sprung a leak.  He went upstairs and shut the water off to the toilet.  Eventually, the dripping stopped.  We took the bath towels and mopped up the water on the floor of the second bathroom.  I texted Mike and told him not to worry about getting us another room since we were headed home the next day and we didn't want to pack everything up and pack it up again to go home the next day.

We then went to the IMAX to see the latest Spiderman movie.  During the movie, I got a notice on my Apple watch that Branson was under a severe thunderstorm warning. When we got out of the movie, we noticed it was pouring down rain. We then went to McFarland's Family Restaurant (another voucher) for dinner.  We had to wait a little while to even be seated - evidently, the hostess didn't want to seat us and she kept looking for a waitress to seat us.  I wasn't really all that hungry - I was still full from all the popcorn we ate during the movie. But I ordered dinner anyway.  It took forever to get our food and our waitress wasn't very friendly or helpful. Poor service twice in one day!  There must have been a full moon. 

After dinner, we went back to the condo and starting packing up to go home.  Despite the water incident, I did enjoy our stay at the condo and we'd rent it again.  I enjoyed the screened-in porch, where I would drink my coffee and read my Bible in the mornings.  Here is the link to the TripAdvisor listing for the condo, in case you're interested in renting it:

Saturday, July 6
Sadly, it was time to leave Branson and go back home.  I'm counting down the years until I can retire and move to the Ozarks permanently.  We had a great time this year and I can't wait to go back!

Thanks for reading! See you next time!


Monday, December 17, 2018

Ring in the New Year in Branson

Two weeks from today is New Year's Eve. Where did this year go?  The older I get, the more time flies, it seems.

Have you ever thought about ringing in the New Year in Branson?  This year (2018), New Year's Eve is on a Monday so you could take a nice four day trip to Branson to close out the Old Year and bring in the New Year.  Since this is the quiet season, hotel rates are cheaper now. 

Silver Dollar City will still be celebrating an Old Time Christmas until December 30 so if you didn't get to visit SDC during Christmas season, you still have a chance to see all the beautiful Christmas lights and shows.  If you didn't get what you wanted for Christmas, there will be after Christmas sales at the outlet malls and other shops.

On New Year's Eve, there are several special New Year's Eve shows for you to choose from.  These shows are listed below, and if you double click on the title of the show, you will be taken to that show's website.  Since New Year's Eve is only 2 weeks away, you may want to call the theater directly to make sure that there are still seats available. Most shows start later in the evening so you can enjoy a New Year's Eve dinner before the show.

Legends in Concert - Send out the Old Year in style with performances from your favorite tribute artists.  Most tickets come with a box lunch and the VIP experience features a steak and lobster meal.

All-Star New Year's Eve Show at the Americana - This show comes with a Big D's BBQ dinner, one of the best BBQ places in Branson.  I couldn't tell from the website who will be performing that night, however. 

Showboat Branson Belle - Cruise on Table Rock Lake on the Showboat Branson Belle and bring in the New Year with a dinner and a show. 

Silver Dollar City New Year's Celebration - SDC rings in the New Year with a radio show production, a dance party and an appearance by the Cleverlys.  Plus, all of the Christmas lights will still be up, adding to the festive atmosphere.

Motown Downtown - Ring out the Old Year and celebrate the 60th anniversary of Motown with this show.  It's over by 9:00 PM, so you could go to another show after this one or go out for a New Year's Eve dinner. 

Hughes Brothers - The Hughes Brothers put on some spectacular shows and New Year's Eve is no exception.  You get your choice of either a box dinner or fine dining. 

Clay Cooper-Haygoods - You get 2 shows for the price of one at this New Year's Eve show, plus snacks and a balloon drop at midnight.  There is also a cash bar for those who would like a little stronger drink. 

Hamners' New Year Eve Fiesta Party - This family-friendly event features the Hamners Unbelievable Variety show and Mexican food to nosh on.  You can't go wrong with that.

Chateau on the Lake New Year's Eve Celebration - For a classy New Year's Eve, visit the Chateau on the Lake's New Year's Eve party with a cocktail party, dinner and dancing, and a champagne toast at midnight, along with fireworks. 

Thanks as always for reading!  I'm wishing you a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year (and many trips to Branson!


Thursday, November 29, 2018

2018 Branson Christmas trip report

We visited Branson during the Christmas season for the first time this year. My husband worked in the retail field, and vacations were verboten during the months of November and December. My husband had to retire for health reasons last year, so this year, we finally got to take a Christmas trip to Branson. We took our trip the weekend before Thanksgiving weekend because we figured that Branson would not be as busy then as it would be after Thanksgiving weekend.

There was a snowstorm in the St. Louis area the day before we were scheduled to leave on vacation. The city we live in received 3.5” of snow. By Friday morning, however, the highways were clear. We ran into some rush hour traffic on Hwy. 270, but Hwy. 44 was easy to drive.

We had lunch at Steak & Shake in Lebanon, MO. It’s right off of Hwy. 44, so it was easy to get back on the highway. We had great service and good food. We stopped at the welcome center outside of Conway to use the restroom and to pick up a Sunny Day Guide and a Best Read Guide, along with other Branson brochures.

Our first stop in Branson was at the Branson Travel Group headquarters at Green Mountain Drive and Wildwood Road to redeem our Groupon for our hotel stay. We used this Groupon last summer for our annual Branson trip. This Groupon was only available in February, so we snapped it up quickly for our Christmas trip. This Groupon came with two tickets to a show at the Jim Stafford Theater and a game of mini-golf for two at Wildwood Miniature Golf. We did have to buy an extra show ticket/mini-golf ticket for our son.

We then proceeded to the Andy Williams Performing Arts Center to redeem our Groupon for that night’s show. The Groupon description said that I needed to redeem the voucher at the ticket office on the day of the show, but the lady at the ticket window said that we could have made advance reservations. I wish I had known that beforehand; I would have called ahead and obtained better seats.

We then went to the hotel (Stone Castle Hotel and Conference Center) to check in. The lobby was beautifully decorated for Christmas. Check in was quick and easy. We were given a map of the property with our room highlighted. Stone Castle was completely booked on Saturday and Sunday, so breakfast was served in both buildings 1 and 2, and then only in building 2 on Monday and Tuesday of our stay. We enjoy staying at Stone Castle because it has indoor corridors, a great breakfast buffet, and it has a close proximity to all Branson activities. The rooms are clean and there are a refrigerator and an ironing board and iron for guests to use. Plus, I also like that the vanity is located outside the bathroom. It is more efficient to get ready that way.

After unloading and unpacking all our gear, it was time to relax for a while. Dinner on Friday evening was at Florentina’s Italian Restaurant. We had a voucher from KY3/Half Price Ozarks for $20.00 of food for $12.00. Our server was very attentive and brought me a drink refill before I even asked for it. He took our voucher right away too. Our meal was delicious and hubby and I agreed that Florentina’s food is much better than Olive Garden’s.

We went back to the hotel and got ready for the Andy Williams Ozark Mountain Christmas Show. The doors opened at 7:30 PM for the 8:00 show; however, there were a few bus tours there and it took a while to get everyone checked in, get their photo taken, etc. The doors should have opened at 7 PM in order to get everyone seated before the show started.

The show itself was very good. Jimmy Osmond (who now owns the PAC) was the host. He still sings well, even though his jokes were corny. Jimmy dedicated the Christmas version of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” to Roy Clark, who had died the previous week. AYO – Voices of Glory was awesome. The young lady who sings with them was excellent. It’s hard to believe she’s only 19 years old.

The Lennon Sisters still sound great after all these years. They had some of their granddaughters on stage with them. And the ice skaters added a wintery touch to the show. There were lots of videos of the Osmonds on the Andy Williams Show in the 1960s.

We stayed after the show so I could get my photo taken with Jimmy. I also purchased a CD of songs by Jimmy to give to my friend Lisa, who’s a huge Osmonds fan. I had Jimmy autograph it for her. I mentioned to Jimmy that she was a big Osmonds fan and he cracked that that made two of them. 

Saturday started with breakfast. Hubby and I left the son at the hotel and ran some errands. We went to the Jim Stafford Theater to pick up our tickets for the 3 PM Taylor Reed show. We then went to Walmart to pick up lunch supplies and some other items we needed. I’m so thankful there are stores we can purchase items at in case we forget or need something.

 After lunch, the son and I headed over to the Tanger Outlet Mall to do some shopping. We dropped off our coupon from Travelhost at the customer service office and received a little red coupon book and some 20% off coupons. I was searching for a new pair of athletic shoes. I wear an 8W and it is really hard to find good shoes in that size at a reasonable price. I figured that since Tanger was an outlet mall, the selection might be better. I went to the Nike store, the ASICS store and Famous Footwear but couldn’t find a pair I liked. I did score a really cute red purse at the Vera Bradley Outlet store. It was on the clearance rack for 70% off and I was able to use one of my 20% off coupons, so I purchased a $98.00 purse for $18.00. Now that’s a deal!

The son and I returned back to the hotel to pick up hubby and we then went to Andy’s for frozen custard. The temperature was 60 degrees on that Saturday, so it was warm enough to eat custard. We then went to the 3 PM Taylor Reed show at the Jim Stafford Theatre. I noticed at the concession stand that they now sell alcohol, probably because of the Jimmy Buffett Margaritaville tribute show there on Friday nights.

We had seen the Taylor Reed show several years ago, but it was the only show at the Jim Stafford Theater that fit our schedule and we didn’t want to waste the free tickets that came with our Groupon deal for the hotel. Taylor has a good rapport with the kids, but he can be a little snarky sometimes. The illusions were very good, however. It wasn’t the worse way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

After the show, we went to McFarland’s Restaurant in the Branson IMAX complex for dinner. The store area/lobby for the movie theater was beautifully decorated with a large Christmas tree and other Christmas lights. We once again had a voucher from KY3/Half Price Ozarks for $20.00 of food for $12.00. Our server was good and the food was great, as it always is. McFarland’s is one of our favorite places to eat in Branson.

We went back to the hotel to get ready for the Tony Orlando Great American Christmas show. Tony only had two Christmas shows scheduled in Branson this year (for the first time in 5 years) and as luck would have it, they were both on the weekend that we were there, so of course, we had to go. These tickets are the only ones I paid full price for, because I wanted to make sure we actually could get tickets to the show (since there were only two of them) and because I wanted to select specific seats, because of my husband’s knee problems. I went to the Mansion’s website and bought our tickets there.

In all the years we have been visiting Branson, we had never been to a show at the Mansion Theater. The theater is very big and beautifully appointed. The concession area needs some work, however. It needs to be bigger and there needs to be more than one. The line at the concession stand was long, although it moved fairly quickly. The seats are probably the original ones too – they were faded, narrow, and the seat was lumpy. I have lots of junk in the trunk, but the seat was still uncomfortable. The handicapped ramp to the lower level needs to be better marked as well.

The show was excellent. Even our 22-year-old son enjoyed it. It was an hour and a half long, with no intermission. Tony started with a few Christmas songs. Then he sang some of his hits from the 1970s. Finally, Santa showed up on the stage. Santa scolded Tony for not having a Nativity scene on stage. Tony and Santa talked about Tony’s childhood and about the true meaning of Christmas. There was a series of songs from 1950’s artists played by actors with large plastic heads that represented each artist. I think this segment of the show could have been cut and replaced with something else and no one would have probably missed it.

Tony’s band was excellent – you could tell they had played together for quite some time. At the end of the show, Tony introduced Mickey Gilley and Barbara Fairchild, who were in the audience. Tony’s show really emphasized the true meaning of Christmas, the birth of Jesus Christ. It really helped put me in the Christmas spirit. We took a wrong turn coming out of the Mansion parking lot, however. We drove on Shepherd of the Hills Expressway by Sight and Sound Theater and got a great view of the Branson Gift of Lights drive-through light show. We ended up on Roark Valley Road (the blue route) which we followed to Hwy. 76. All roads in Branson lead somewhere; you just have to follow the road until you get to another road and then you’ll get your bearings. That’s what I told my hubby, although I don’t think he believed me.

Stone Castle offered a special Christmas story with guest readers from the Clay Cooper Theater and other shows on Monday, Tuesday, Friday and Saturday nights at 10:15 PM in the lobby of building 3. Hot wassail and Christmas cookies were served; sadly, however, we didn’t get back home from either weekend show in time to participate.

Sunday was the day we went to Silver Dollar City (and my birthday). In the morning, we watched our church’s Sunday morning worship service on a live stream. We ate an early lunch and headed out to SDC.

The park opens at 12 PM, but the chains at the main square that lead to the other parts of the parks didn’t come down until 1 PM. It was a cold, rainy day that Sunday, but there were lots of people in the park. We admired the huge Christmas tree in the town square. We nosed around in the general store and sat in the Wilderness Chapel to warm up until the chains were removed.

We decided we wanted to see the 2:00 PM showing of “Dickens’ A Christmas Carol” at the Opera House, and so did a lot of other people. The line snaked all the way back to the entrance to Wildfire. 

The production of “Dickens’ A Christmas Carol” was excellent. It contained many songs from the Kelsey Grammar version of “A Christmas Carol” and the “Thank You Very Much” song from Albert Finney’s “Scrooge.” I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house when Tiny Tim sang.

We were hoping to catch the 3 PM showing of the saloon Christmas show, but when we got there at 2:45 PM, the sign was up stating that the theater was full. We never did get back to see the saloon show. The saloon show will be our first stop the next time we make a trip to Silver Dollar City during the Christmas season.

We went to the Carousel Barn and saw Rudolph, Clarice and the Bumble, and some elves. You could have your photo taken with the characters (for a fee). There were t-shirts and souvenirs available for purchase.

We made our way to the Riverfront Playhouse to see the Living Nativity show. By this time, the son and I were pretty cold, so we went to a nearby vendor and used our refillable mugs to buy hot chocolate and a pretzel to eat while we waited to enter the theater. The Living Nativity show was narrated by an angel. It was only about 15 minutes long. The acting was good and there were a few musical numbers.

The hubby wanted to eat an early dinner (like at 4 PM), so we headed to the Lucky Silver Mine Christmas Buffet to eat dinner. Our waitress used our refillable mugs for drinks. When I mentioned to our waitress that it was my birthday, she wished me a happy birthday and told me I should go to the General Store and tell them that it was my birthday. I would then get a list of special deals for my birthday.  We went back to the general store to look around some more, but I forgot about speaking to someone about my birthday specials.

I then went into the Christmas in Midtown area to take lots of photos. I have never seen so many Christmas lights in one place in my life! After I was done taking photos, I met up with hubby and son.

We decided to wait for Rudolph’s Holly Jolly Christmas Parade. Tracy Heaston played piano in the gazebo before the parade started. Despite the fact that it was cold and damp, Tracy played magnificently, even without gloves. There’s no way I could play piano outside in the cold and damp.

We found a good place to stand right at the edge of the marked strip for the parade. Rudolph led the way in a lit up car. There were nine floats, which included Santa and Mrs. Claus, and finally, a stained glass Nativity float. The parade was about 15 minutes long.

I asked hubby if perhaps we could try to catch the saloon show or the “It’s a Wonderful Life,” but he said that his knee was hurting badly and we needed to go back to the hotel. We stopped in the Hospitality House and we each bought a sweatshirt. We then caught the bus back to the parking lot and drove back to the hotel. The next time that we visit SDC during Christmas season, hopefully, hubby’s knee will be better and we can stay at the park longer. We also missed going on the train.

On Monday morning, we went to Branson Landing. The shops don’t open until 10 AM, but the 5 and 10 cents store next to Bass Pro Shops opens at 9:30 AM. So we looked around in that store to warm up until Bass Pro opened. Hubby bought a hooded sweatshirt, but I could not find one in my size, so I settled for a new plastic coffee mug with a lid.

We then looked around several of the stores at the Landing. We bought some things at the Cardinals Clubhouse since they had a great sale of buy 2, get one 1 free (of equal or lesser value). We then went to Branson’s Festival of Trees, which was located in a store across from H & M, to see all of the beautiful Christmas trees and wreaths. There was even a tree decorated like the Bumble.

We went back to the hotel to eat lunch. After lunch, we went to the Grand Village shopping center. I was on the hunt for a commemorative Christmas tree ornament to mark our first visit to Branson during Christmas season. I couldn’t find anything suitable at Silver Dollar City, or maybe I just didn’t look in the right place. I found some ornaments at Dickens’ Christmas Store that could be personalized, so I bought one with three figures in a car and had the lady at Dickens personalize it for us.

We went to dinner that night at Montana Mike’s, with yet another voucher from KY3/Half Price Ozarks for $20.00 of food for $12.00. The waitress was very sweet and very efficient. Our food was served quickly and it was hot. My steak was done just the way I ordered it. It was an enjoyable meal. 

It was dark by the time we were finished with our dinner, so we went to our last activity, the Let There Be Lights drive-thru trail at Promised Land Zoo. We had vouchers from KY3/Half Price Ozarks for $5.00 each (the deal is still available as of this writing). There were lots of lovely animated lights, including a lighted up version of the 12 Days of Christmas. Some of the real animals were still outside and we could see them in the fenced areas. At the end of the trail, you could get out of your vehicle and have hot chocolate and visit with Santa.

Hubby’s knee was bothering him again, so we decided to just drive back to the hotel. We spent the rest of the evening hanging out in the hotel room and packing our suitcases so we could leave the next morning.

If you have never been to Branson during the Christmas season, I highly recommend it. There is Christmas all around in Branson – the lights, the shows, the Christmas trees. And the real reason for the season – the birth of Jesus Christ – is emphasized. Thanks as always for reading and I wish for you and yours a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!


Sunday, July 15, 2018

Branson trip report 2018

We made our annual summer trip to Branson the first week in July.  We did some new things this year and revisited some favorites as well. Click on the links to be taken to that website. 

We left home on Sunday morning.  Traffic on Hwy. 44 was light, probably because it was a Sunday.  We stopped in Pacific for breakfast sandwiches, since we ate a light breakfast to avoid doing dishes.  We stopped in Lebanon for lunch at Burger King, which is close to the interstate exit.

I used the GasBuddy app on my phone to report gas prices and to check on gas prices. This is a very handy app to have whether you're on vacation or not. Thanks to the wonderful gas mileage that my new vehicle gets, we didn't need to fill up the gas tank until we got to Casey's in Ozark.

We stopped at the nice rest stop outside of Conway.  There is a room in the rest stop with brochures, catalogs, etc. and a lady that tries to steer you to a timeshare place in Branson to purchase show tickets, but it was closed since it was Sunday.  It must have been one of ex-Governor Greitens' budget cuts.

We decided that we wanted to stay on Indian Point this year.  It had been 10 years since we had stayed on the Point, due to financial issues.  We chose to stay at Golden Arrow Resort.  It had lots of great reviews on TripAdvisor and Yelp.  And the price was right - we reserved online and only had to pay the first night's rent as a deposit.  July 4th week is one of the most popular summer weeks to vacation in Branson, so I like to get our reservations in early.  I made our reservations in February.

We arrived at Golden Arrow at 1 PM, which was earlier than the normal check-in time.  There was a phone set up on the porch with a number to call to check in.  The owner's wife came when I called and she checked us in.  She went over the resort rules and gave us the wi-fi ID and password.  We had real door keys since this is an older resort.

We were in unit 116, which was the end room.  We stayed in a studio kitchenette with 2 queen size beds.  It had an electric stovetop, a full sized refrigerator, and a microwave.  It was one big room with a sliding glass door and a small deck on the back.  After we got all of our luggage inside, hubby and I made a trip to the Walmart in Branson West for food and other supplies.

We put everything away and although there were some plates and pots and pans, I realized we had forgotten to purchase plastic silverware.  There was also no serving utensils, such as spatulas and serving spoons.  I told hubby that we needed plastic silverware and he said that he didn't want to drive back to Walmart.  There are a couple of convenience marts on the Point.  The closest one was at the Cottage Resort, but they were out of plastic silverware.  So I drove up to the Deer Run convenience store. Thankfully, they had plastic silverware.  There were also 2 dogs behind the counter, which I found interesting.  Since I had no serving utensils, I improvised by using two plastic knives to turn the bratwurst patties I was cooking for supper.

Monday was our day to pick up tickets/vouchers for tickets and make some other stops.  I had made reservations for the Presleys a couple of weeks before, so we stopped there first to pick up our tickets.  Our next stop was the Walmart on Hwy. 76 to pick up serving utensils and a plastic measuring cup so I could make mac and cheese.

Our next stop was Branson 2 for 1 Tickets to pick up vouchers for Pierce Arrow Decades.  After that, we went to Branson Landing.  We went to Bass Pro Shops and several of the other stores.  We ate lunch at Garfield's.

Our last stop at Branson Landing was at Parakeet Pete's Steampunk Balloon.  I found a great Groupon deal for the balloon - $11.00 for 2 people.  The son and I rode in the balloon - hubby is afraid of heights.  It was a slow ride to the top and the balloon made a 360-degree turn, which led to some spectacular views.  There was a nice breeze up that high, which cooled us off some. The ride lasted only about 10 minutes, so I'm glad I didn't pay more than I did for it. The son and I were the only ones riding on the balloon.

Our next stop was the Pierce Arrow Theatre to get tickets for Wednesday afternoon's show.  After that, we went back to Golden Arrow to cool off and rest for the rest of the day.

On Tuesday, we stayed at Golden Arrow until after lunch.  We had a Groupon deal for Wild Wood Miniature Golf.  We played there for about an hour.  It looks like an easy course, but it wasn't.  Wild Wood is an indoor golf course, so it was a good way to keep cool.

We had an hour to kill until we could go to the Branson Famous Theater to see Reza: Edge of Illusion, so we went to the Grand Village shopping center.  We visited several stores, but the one we enjoyed the most was the Dickens Christmas Store.

Reza's show was very enjoyable.  He was very down to earth and performed some spectacular illusions.  He was friendly and worked well with the children selected to perform with him.  This was our first visit to the Branson Famous Theater but it was obvious that it was an older theater.  The seats are narrow and not very comfortable.  The theater was about half full for a Tuesday afternoon, probably due to the KY3 deal (which we used) and the Groupon deal.  When we came out of the theater, we discovered that it was raining, with some pea size hail.  After we left the theater, we went back to Golden Arrow for the evening.  I went to the pool and the hot tub to relax after supper.

After lunch on Wednesday, we went to a place that I had wanted to go for a long time, the Shrine of the Holy Spirit.  It is located right next door to the Mansion Theater on Expressway Lane.  There is a chapel in the middle (which was locked when we visited), a gift shop and a bookstore (which was also closed).  The chapel is surrounded by a large wall with panels that had Scriptures engraved on them.  We stopped in the gift shop and chatted with the cashier.  I purchased a few items, including a refrigerator magnet, my favorite souvenir.

After we left the Shrine, we visited Andy's Frozen Custard for some yummy frozen custard.  We then walked over to the Tracks, where we went to the arcade and blew $30.  All we had to show from all of our tickets was a travel dominos game.  I think that was the last time we will visit the arcade for a while.

After our visit to the Tracks, we had some time to kill before the show, so we went to Tanger Outlet Mall.  There are a lot of stores in that mall.  You could probably spend a whole day shopping there.  We visited several of the stores and then left for the Pierce Arrow Theater.

The show we attended that afternoon was Pierce Arrow Decades.  It was an excellent show, covering music from the 1960s through the 1980s.  You could tell that this quartet had sung together for a long time - their voices blended very well and they had a great chemistry.  The comedian, James Sibley, was hilarious. Our son (age 21) was one of the youngest at the show and Sibley had a great time picking on him, but the son was a good sport about it and shook his hand after the show.  It was a well-paced show.  We are discussing seeing the regular Pierce Arrow show next year. The Pierce Arrow Theater is a very nice theater with comfortable seats and very nice restrooms.

After the show, we went to McFarland's Family Restaurant in the Branson IMAX complex for dinner.  We had 2 $10 certificates from Half Price Ozarks and surprisingly, they took both of the vouchers.  That cut some money off our bill.  We had great food and great service. We then visited a couple of shops in the IMAX complex and then went back to Golden Arrow.

We were hoping to see the fireworks display at Chateau on the Lake from Golden Arrow.  There was a small clearing facing Table Rock Lake across from our room, so after it got dark, we carried our lawn chairs over to it and saw not only the Chateau on the Lake display but the Hughes Brothers' display, the Hollister display, and (I think) the Branson Belle or the Top of the Rock display as well.  And we didn't have to fight traffic either.  We met our Golden Arrow neighbors and found out they were Kansas City Royals fans, so we discussed baseball for a while.  Here was our view, daytime version (ignore the large sign, this was taken from across the street):

On Thursday morning, we went to the IMAX theater to see "Ozarks Legacy and Legend" for free using a coupon I picked up at Branson 2 for 1 Tickets. The theater was nice and cool and the seats were comfy, which made me sleepy.  The movie was okay, for a freebie.  It was shown in the IMAX theater, and I remarked that Jurassic World would have looked really scary on that big screen.  After the movie, we went to Steak 'n Shake for lunch, at the location near what used to be Celebration City.  We had great service and got our food and shakes promptly, unlike the service we've received at other Steak 'n Shakes as of late. 

After our lunch, we visited Curling Vine Winery for the wine tasting.  We went to the wine tasting there several years ago (when it was Stone Hill Winery), but our son wasn't old enough for wine tasting.  He is now, so we decided it was time to revisit.  The films at the beginning were dated - in fact, they were the same ones we saw the last time we were there.  We then went into the wine tasting room.  The young man in charge of the wine tasting was very knowledgeable, however, and was able to answer any questions asked of him.  After the tour, we went back to the cabin to rest up and refresh ourselves for the evening's activities. 

We went to dinner at Montana Mike's.  There was a photographer there who wanted to take our photo, but we told her no.  The restaurant is much bigger on the inside than it looks on the outside.  The service was prompt and the food was great. We had $20 certificates from Half Price Ozarks and like at McFarland's, both certificates were accepted. We would come here again. 

We drove around the parking lot of the Best Western next door to get turned around to go back on Hwy/ 76 and I noticed that there were two parking spots where you could plug in an electric car to charge it up.  This was the first time that I have seen electric vehicle charging spots in Branson. I'm sure there are more. If you know where are vehicle charging parking spots in Branson, please comment below. 

Our show for Thursday evening was Presleys' Country Jubilee.  We saw this show 2 years ago and really enjoyed it, so we thought we'd see it again.  I found no ticket deals for the Presleys, but their prices are reasonable.  We went to the 7:15 PM singalong with Clayton, which is held in the balcony upstairs.  Clayton is an excellent pianist and he knows how to work a crowd.

The Presleys' show is a great mix of music and comedy.  The musicians and vocalists are extremely talented and the music is great without being slick.  Herkimer and Cecil were hilarious, as always.  It started to rain and storm heavily during a Herkimer/Cecil routine and Cecil said, "I didn't call for any sound effects!" He didn't miss a beat.  The house was packed for a Thursday evening. We enjoyed the show and were glad we went.

After the show, we went back to Golden Arrow and caught some of the Cardinals game on TV while packing up some of our belongings for the trip home the next day.

We left Golden Arrow for home on Friday morning.  I left behind the serving utensils for the next guests since we didn't need them at home. If we stay at Golden Arrow next year, I'll make sure we bring serving utensils and measuring cups. 

Traffic was once again light on Hwy. 44 on our return home. We had a great time in Branson and we'll do it again next year! 

Thanks for reading! See you next time!


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!


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!


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!