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

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Exciting things going on in Branson in 2016!

Pitchers and catchers report to spring training this week, so spring is on its way! It’s also time to start thinking about vacation plans.  My husband and I have selected the week we will take our vacation this year, so we are starting to plan our trip.  Remember, summer is a busy time in Branson, so make your lodging reservations early! 

2016 is going to be an exciting year in Branson! There are three exciting new attractions being built in Branson this year that I thought you might want to know about.  Here are some details about these new attractions. 

The first big new attraction is a very large Ferris wheel that used to be at The Navy Pier in Chicago.  The Navy Pier is obtaining an even bigger Ferris wheel, so the old one had to go somewhere.  After the Ferris wheel was disassembled, it was shipped to Branson for reassembly.  The Ferris wheel will be located near The Tracks #4 location on Hwy. 76 that is next to Andy’s Frozen Custard.  This huge Ferris wheel will be a great focal point on the Strip. The views from the top of the Ferris wheel will be awesome. And the breeze will sure feel nice on a hot summer day!  I would like to ride on the Ferris wheel when we come to Branson this summer.  Unlike my husband, I’m not afraid of heights. Here's a video of the Navy Pier Ferris wheel from The Tracks: 



The second big attraction coming to Branson this year is Bigfoot on the Strip.  No, this is not the hairy creature known as Bigfoot - Bigfoot on the Strip is a 200-foot tall metal tower with three separate rides - an observation elevator, a free fall drop and two slingshots suspended above the ground.  The Bigfoot will be located on the Strip, near the old $1 Shop and across from The Tracks #5.  There will be food trucks located all around the Bigfoot.   You can read all about the Bigfoot here.  Here's an artist rendering of what the Bigfoot will look like:




The third new attraction in Branson is Fritz's Adventure, which will be located at 1425 W. Hwy. 76, close to Dixie Stampede. Fritz's Adventure is a large building that will bring the great outdoors indoors, with climbing, a zip line, sliding, swinging, parkour (yes, I had to look that up), and a restaurant.  It sounds like a place you could let your preteen and teenage boys run around in and burn off some energy while you relax in the restaurant.  Fritz's is scheduled to open in summer 2016.  

There are some other changes coming to Branson this year.  Dixie Stampede (the building and the show) is also undergoing some renovations, with a new set, new music, and new lighting.   You can read more about all the changes here.  Stone Hill Winery is under new management and has changed its name to Curling Vine Winery.  You can still take the free tours and taste the wine and juice.  It's a fun, free activity, especially on a rainy day. 

Don't forget to like this blog's Facebook page, which you can find here.  I will be posting special deals on the Facebook page, as well as news and other information.  

Thanks for reading! See you next time!

Diane

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Back from Branson 2015

We visited Branson this year the week of June 8.  We’ve been back from Branson for a couple of weeks now, but due to a wretched bout of stomach flu (me) and the busyness of life, I’ve just now finally had time to write a blog post about our trip.

It hardly rained all week that we were in Branson, which was a great relief since Accuweather had forecast rain for much of the week. The rain got pushed off until the following week, and those of you who live in the Midwest know about the havoc that all that rain created. 

We left home Monday morning to go to Branson.  Traffic was light on Highway 44.  There were intermittent patches of light rain, but nothing that impeded our travel. We stopped at the Dairy Queen in Lebanon for lunch.  The $5 lunch with a sundae is a great deal. You can’t eat at McDonald’s for that cheap. 

We stopped at the nice Welcome Center and after using the restroom, I picked up a Sunny Day Guide and a Best Read Guide so I could look through the coupons on the next leg of the trip.  I did find a coupon for $1.00 off for Hollywood Wax Museum.  Most of the coupons in the Sunny Day Guide and the Best Read Guide, however, don’t knock much off the price. Some don’t even save enough to pay for the Branson tourism tax.  It’s still good to look at them though, just in case.

We stayed at Lodge of the Ozarks again this year, thanks to a Groupon deal that gave us 2 Golden Corral vouchers for lunch or dinner every day.  We arrived at the hotel around 1 PM.  When we checked in, the clerk thought we had reserved two rooms. This was quickly rectified, however.  The clerk asked for a credit card for incidentals.  Since my son is now 18, there was a $5.00 charge per night for him to use the second bed, and $5.00/day for the breakfast buffet.  We gave the clerk my son’s debit card to pay for this, but she charged it to ours instead, a fact we thankfully noticed when we viewed our bank account online. Since I am on his account as well, I just transferred the money from his account back into ours. 

I paid the extra few more dollars for the premier room and it was well worth it.  The room was bigger, it was decorated in a rustic fashion, and it had a flat screen TV and a refrigerator.  It was a much nicer room than the economy room we had last year, and it was on the first floor. 

We used our Golden Corral vouchers for dinner Monday night.  We didn’t have anything planned that evening, so we walked over to the Tracks location right down the street from the hotel.  There was a Tracks coupon in the spring Silver Dollar City Times for a $20 play card for $10, so I brought that with me, and we spent an hour or so playing video games.  We then went to Andy’s Frozen Custard and then back to the hotel.

On Tuesday, we went downstairs for breakfast.  The buffet was located in the La Piazza Italian restaurant which is attached to the hotel.  The food was good and consisted of oatmeal, grits, scrambled eggs (real, not powdered), bacon, sausage, and biscuits and gravy.  Drink choices included regular and decaf coffee, orange juice, and water.  Now my guys can’t drink orange juice because it interferes with some of the medicine they take, so I asked the hostess about milk.  I think she was confused because she brought me butter instead.   Parents with children want milk for their children to drink with breakfast.  If you do decide to stay at the Lodge and you want milk for breakfast, get a room with a refrigerator and go to Walmart and buy milk to bring to breakfast.  I mentioned the milk issue on my review on TripAdvisor, but as of right now, I haven’t received a reply from the hotel. 

We then drove to Branson 2 for 1 Tickets to buy a voucher for 1 ticket for Hamners’ Unbelievable Variety Show for that evening. I had bought a Groupon deal for Hamners, but it was only for 2 adults, so we needed an extra ticket for the son.  We were going to go straight to the theater to get the tickets, but unfortunately, I left the Groupon voucher back in the hotel room, so we had to drive back to our hotel room to get the voucher.  We went to the theater to get the Hamners tickets and then came back to the hotel for a little while. I walked across the street to the Caravelle and got our tickets for Liverpool Legends for Wednesday night. The lady at the ticket office was very nice. Hubby likes aisle seats so he can stretch out his legs and I could have gotten aisle seats in row 1, but that's a little close for us.  I did see a sign in the concession area that said they only accepted cash for concession items, so I made a mental note of that.  We used our Golden Corral vouchers for lunch on Tuesday. 

We went to Hollywood Wax Museum in the afternoon.  The last time we went there (in 2004), the son was 7 years old and he screamed the whole way through the museum. I think the wax figures scared him. Now that he is 18, he is much better behaved.  There are not many deals for HWM. Besides the coupon I mentioned earlier, the only other one I could find was if you ordered your tickets on the HWM website, you could save $3.00 per ticket, or you could pay $5.00 extra per ticket and visit all three attractions (HWM, Castle of Chaos, and Hannah’s Hall of Mirrors). The guys weren’t interested in visiting CofC or HHM, however. 


Before you enter the museum, the staff photographer takes photos of you in King Kong's hand that you can buy if you like them. Hubby didn't like them. The wax figures are a lot more realistic looking than the last time we were there.  I ended up taking photos with my phone (I couldn’t find the camera I knew I brought – I found it when I was unpacking), and the quality of the photos weren't all that good, since the lighting is low – I guess they don’t want the wax figures to melt.  It was really crowded when we were there also, which made it harder to get good photos as well.  I felt like we were being rushed through.  If we decide to go there again, I would go when the doors open at 8 AM, so maybe we wouldn’t feel so rushed.  We were only there about an hour, so spending $60.00 for one hour feels like a waste of money to me. 

We then went to the Back to the 50's Mini Golf course. I found coupons in the Branson Insider newspaper for $4.00 each, which is half off. Back to the 50’s is a little 18-hole golf course next to the Cakes & Cremes shop.  It’s a fun little course, but it doesn’t have a lot of shade trees.  If you decide to go, I suggest going in the evening when the temperatures are a little cooler.  You can then go to Cakes & Cremes for ice cream after. 

We went to Danna’s BBQ for dinner on Tuesday evening. The son got the cheeseburger and fries, which he said was very good, and the hubby got the pulled pork plate, although he didn't care for the cole slaw.  I got the BBQ nachos, and I just wanted the meat and the cheese. It was not as good as the last time I had it; there wasn’t enough meat for my taste.  The last time we were at Danna’s, they served Luzianne iced tea, which I love.  However, they have switched over to Camellia ice tea, which I have had before, and I dislike it intensely.  I had to get a Coke instead.  It will be a couple of years before we come back to Danna’s, I think. 

Hamners' Unbelievable Variety Show was really good. The place was packed - everyone must have used the Groupon deal that we used to get tickets.  The Russian gymnasts were very good. Jeff Brandt is an incredible impersonator. I especially enjoyed his version of “My Way” while impersonating the famous artists who performed it.  The ventriloquist was hilarious. Tamra Tinoco is still a very good singer, but I didn't care for the gospel number she performed. There are other gospel songs that are better. The Hamners' magic acts were incredible. I highly recommend this show.

On Wednesday morning, we went to the Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery before it got really hot.  We then went to Branson Landing. We parked on the Bass Pro end of the Landing rather that the Belk end of the Landing, like we usually do. It was rather warm, so we stuck with just going to Bass Pro, the little souvenir shop, and the Cardinals Clubhouse.

Wednesday's lunch was from Pizza Hut.  I ordered a dinner box online.  I drove over to the Pizza Hut location on Green Mountain Drive to pick up the pizza.  The nice cashier gave me plates, forks, and napkins, since I explained we were staying at a hotel.  We hung out in the hotel and watched the Cardinals-Rockies baseball game until it was time for dinner at Golden Corral again. 

On Wednesday evening, we saw the Liverpool Legends show.  We really enjoyed the show, and a review will be forthcoming.  It was so nice being able to walk across the street to go to the show rather than fight traffic to and from the show.  We had hoped to go to the 3 Redneck Tenors show at the Lodge on Thursday evening, but funds were low.  That would have been even more convenient. 

Thursday was Silver Dollar City day.  Price Cutter sells $40 tickets to Silver Dollar City that can only be used on Thursdays. I went to the Price Cutter on Hwy. 76; however, I was told that they didn't sell the SDC tickets, but Country Mart on Hwy. 248 did. So I drove over them to purchase them.  

We got to the park in time to see the opening.  I always shed a tear when I see the veterans help raise the flag. We walked through the park, since we hadn't been there since 2005. The son rode Outlaw Run and proclaimed it awesome. He and I rode Fire in the Hole.  We strolled through the park and visited the new Fireman's Landing. It was very nice.  Hubby and I went on the covered fire wagon ride.  

Upon leaving Fireman's Landing, we saw where to get in line to see the Harlem Globetrotters show. We waited 45 minutes in line to get in.  It was an entertaining show, and the players stayed after the show to sign autographs and take photos.  

After we left the Globetrotters' show, we ate lunch at the Lumber Camp. After lunch, we decided to ride the train.  It was a nice way to sit down and cool off for a while. Hubby and son walked through Grandpa's Mansion. Due to the way the shows were scheduled, we didn't get a chance to see the saloon show.  We then went to the homestead area to see the animals, the Wilderness Church and the one room schoolhouse.  By this time, it was 3 PM and we were tired.  We stopped by the gift shop to buy souvenirs and then went back to the hotel.  

We used our last set of vouchers at Golden Corral for dinner. After dinner, we went back to Andy's for one more ice cream cone and then went back to the hotel.  

On Friday, we ate breakfast at the buffet and checked out of the hotel.  Highway 44 was busier on Friday. It was warmer than Monday too.  We stopped for lunch at McDonald’s in Sullivan.  We arrived home around 2 PM.

That's all for now! Thanks for reading! See you next time!

Diane

Thursday, May 21, 2015

That rainy day feeling again

If this were a perfect world, it wouldn’t rain when you’re on vacation in Branson. It would only rain after 10 PM and every day would be bright and sunny.  Then you could have all the outdoor fun you wanted.

Most people, however, have to schedule their vacation when their work schedule dictates.  As such, the weather may not cooperate with your plans when you’re in Branson.  So it’s always good to have backup plans for a rainy day.  Below are some ideas for rainy day activities in Branson.  Click on the underlined and bold words and you will go to the website for that activity.

The IMAX entertainment complex -   The IMAX complex is located on Shepherd of the Hills Expressway, close to its intersection with Highway 76 (the “Strip”). The IMAX theater not only shows adventure movies in IMAX format, it also shows new releases in the IMAX format.  Avengers: Age of Ultron probably looks awesome in IMAX format.  The IMAX complex also has some small retail shops you can shop in.  You can have a good home cooked meal at McFarland’s Restaurant.  The Little Opry Theater is also in the IMAX complex, and you can see some fun shows there.  You could spend a whole day at the IMAX complex.

Museums – The Branson area has several museums that you can visit.  You might even learn something you didn’t know before. 

The Titanic museum is located at the corner of Gretna Road and 76.  There are lots of exhibits and it takes a while to walk through. You can have your photo taken on the Grand Staircase.You will be given a card with a name of one of the Titanic passengers and you can find out at the end whether your passenger lived or died. You can’t miss the building – it looks just like the front half of the boat, and the infamous iceberg is also there. 

The World’s Greatest Toy Museum and Harold Bell Wright Museum is a brightly colored museum located on Hwy. 76.  It has a collection of all the greatest toys.  The Harold Bell Wright Museum is a separate museum (with a separate admission) in the same building.  Harold Bell Wright wrote the book The Shepherd of the Hills, which started the Branson tourism industry over 100 years ago. 

The Ralph Foster Museum is located on the campus of the College of the Ozarks, which is a short drive south from Branson.  This museum has 3 floors with all kinds of interesting items, including the car from the Beverly Hillbillies TV show.  In addition, the admission price is a bargain - $6.00 for adults and free for high school age and under  If it's not raining too hard,  you can also tour several of the other buildings on campus.

Ripley’s Believe It or Not Odditorium – Have you ever seen a two-headed calf?  Or a Cadillac with a heart shaped hot tub in the trunk?  You can see these and even more exotic items at Ripley’s.  You can’t miss the Ripley’s building – it looks like it was split in two by a New Madrid fault earthquake. 

The Branson Auto and Farm Museum – The men in the family will enjoy this museum, since it has classic automobiles and farm implements for them to drool over (not on).  Some of the classic autos are for sale, so you ladies might want to make sure that the credit cards are safely locked up.   

Hollywood Wax Museum – This building is located on Hwy. 76.  Look for King Kong climbing up the front of the building.  As its name indicates, there are wax figures of lots of famous people in the museum.  In the same complex with the Wax Museum are the Castle of Chaos and Hannah’s Hall of Mirrors.  You can buy a combo ticket for 2 or more of these attractions. 

Shopping – You can shop and stay dry at Tanger Outlet Mall.  There is a Books-a-Million store at Branson Hills that I could spend all day in, since I love to read. 

Grand Country complex – This complex is connected to the Grand Country Inn on Hwy. 76.  Look for the giant violin.  There are many activities in this complex, including the Grand Country theater, the indoor miniature golf course, the waterpark, the new Fun Spot with games and activities, Papa Grand’s Pizza, the fudge store and a souvenir store.  Also located in the Grand Country complex is the Grand Country Buffet, which in my opinion is the best buffet in Branson. At the front of the lot near the street are an ice cream shop and an outdoor miniature golf course, although if it’s raining, it probably won’t be open. 

Shows – Lots of shows in Branson have morning and afternoon matinees.  To save money on last-minute show decisions, visit Branson 2 for 1 Tickets on Hwy. 76 (the purple building), purchase your vouchers and head to the theater to get the tickets.  Who knows – when the show is over, the rain might be done. 

When we visited Branson last year, there was 1 day that week that it rained all day.  I looked at the Accuweather forecast for Branson for next month, and it appears that it will be raining at least part of every day that we will be in Branson.  I was hoping to go to Silver Dollar City since we haven’t been there for 5 years.  Hopefully, the weather forecast will change before we get there. 

Thanks for reading! See you next time!

Diane