Tuesday, July 20, 2021

2021 Branson summer trip review


We made our annual summer trip to Branson this year from July 2 to July 8.  We left on the morning of July 2.  Hubby likes to leave so early in the morning. It's like he's in a hurry to get to Branson.  I am too, but at most places, you can't check in until after 3 or 4 PM.  The traffic on Hwy. 44 wasn't too terribly bad, although it probably would have been bad in the afternoon with everyone headed to the Lake of the Ozarks. 

We usually eat a light breakfast before we leave and stop in the city of Pacific at either McDonald's or Hardee's to grab a breakfast sandwich.  However, neither restaurant was open for dine-in.  So we went through the Hardee's drive-thru and ate in the car in the parking lot. We stopped at the McDonald's in Lebanon for lunch, and they were open for dine-in.  

We stopped at the Conway rest stop.  I looked for the Best Read Guide in the area with all of the tourist information, but I couldn't find one. I did get a Travelhost magazine and other assorted brochures. We stopped at the Huck's in Ozark to fill up the car.  We arrived in Branson at 1 PM, which was an hour too early than the 2 PM arrival time I arranged with the owner of our condo.  So we drove to Walmart in Branson West to get groceries and other supplies.  

For this trip, hubby wanted to stay on Indian Point.  The last time we stayed on the Point was in 2018 when we stayed at Golden Arrow Resort.  Golden Arrow is now closed, however.  With the exception of our Memorial Day weekend trip last year when we stayed at the All American Inn, we have stayed at condos for the last few years.  We enjoy the comfort of not staying in a hotel room and our 24-year-old son enjoys having his own bedroom.  We booked a condo at Eagles' Nest Resort, which is the condo resort closest to Silver Dollar City.  The streets of the resort were all named for birds and our condo was on Woodpecker Lane.  It was a very nice condo and we especially enjoyed the screened-in porch that went across the back of the unit.  If you are interested in seeing where we stayed or in booking it for yourself, you can see the listing here.  

On Saturday morning, I wanted to go to Tanger Outlet Mall. I enjoy shopping at the Vera Bradley Outlet Mall and the Reebok outlet store. I was happy to discover that Tanger opened at 9 AM.  Last year, due to COVID, it didn't open until 11 AM.  The hubby and son insisted on going with me - I guess they thought I was going to stay there all day.  I shopped at Bath & Body Works, Vera Bradley, and Reebok. Then the son and I bought root beers at the A&W restaurant - they still have root beer that comes out of the spigot rather than fountain soda.  Hubby decided that he wanted a new pair of shoes too, so we went to Famous Footwear.  After that, we stopped at the Mickey Gilley Theater to pick up our tickets for the Texas Tenors.  We went back to the condo for lunch and to hang out for a while.  I had picked up a Branson Insider magazine at the theater and saw a 20% off coupon for the Escape Reality Magic Dinner Show.  I didn't have to cook dinner and we would see a show while saving money - that was a win-win for me. I called and made our reservation.  

We had to be at the Branson Central Theater at 4 PM. The first course started at 4:30 PM.   It was a three-course meal with salad, beef and gravy and a chicken breast, two entrees, roasted potatoes, steamed vegetables, and a brownie for dessert.  My son, who is a finicky eater, only ate the roasted potatoes and the brownie, so hubby ate his salad and we shared his beef and gravy.  The food was very tasty.  

The show was supposed to start at 5:45 PM, but it didn't start until 6 PM.  It was an enjoyable magic and illusion show, but I think the Rick Thomas show and the Reza show are much better than the Escape Reality show.  This show might be better on a bigger stage.  At the end of the show, Garry told the audience that the show is rated #2 on TripAdvisor and asked us to post good reviews.  This turned me off.  If I really enjoy a show, I will post a review, but I don't like being asked to do so.  Wanting to post a review has to be natural and not forced.  

The next day was July 4.  We viewed our church's Sunday morning service on Facebook Live, then ate lunch at the condo before heading to town.  I had bought 2 vouchers for the Branson Ferris Wheel from radio station KKOZ.  My hubby is afraid of heights, so the son and I went on the Ferris Wheel.  The view was lovely from the top of the Ferris Wheel.  We bought the photo package because the photo was actually very good (see above).


After we went all the way around once, it was time to get out of the car, but the attendant asked if we wanted to ride again.  I did, but the son didn't - the arcade at the Tracks was calling his name.  We went there for a while, but it was really crowded.  So we decided to go to Andy's for frozen custard.  The Andy's coupon from the St. Louis Cardinals calendar that we've used in past years, however, no longer works at the Branson location.  But the frozen custard was as great as ever.  After Andy's, we went back to the condo for dinner and to rest up for our Silver Dollar City visit the next day.

On Monday, we went to Silver Dollar City.  We wandered around the stores on the square until the opening ceremony.  The son and I rode Fire in the Hole.  We then saw Sadie's Wild West Traveling Revue in the Boatworks Theater, which is the saloon show in a more outdoor location.  We then rode the train, which was entertaining as always.  We then went to lunch at what we thought was the Reunion Hall, but it turned out to be Molly's Mill.  We then went to the Grand Exposition area.  Our last stop of the day was to see Down by the Riverside at the Dockside Theater.  The Rivertown Ramblers were energetic and talented and I really enjoyed this show. 


We stopped at the ice cream shop in the main square for ice cream. After that, it was time to go back to the condo.  We had an easier time finding our car this time than we did during our last trip to SDC.  

On Tuesday, we went to Grand Village and did a little shopping, because we wanted to go to The World's Largest Toy Museum, but they didn't open until 10 AM.  Actually, the only places in Branson open earlier than 10 AM are restaurants.  We bought a Groupon deal that is almost always available.  The museum is actually in two buildings.  There is a BB gun museum - I have never seen so many BB guns in one place in my life.  There is a room with nothing but board games.  There is a large Barbie display.  If you played with a toy as a kid, it's probably here.  If you plan on going to the Toy Museum, prepare to spend at least two hours here, if not more.  After we left the museum, we went back to the condo to eat lunch and relax before we went to see "Jesus" at the Sight & Sound Theater.

We went to the 3:30 PM show at Sight & Sound.  The Sight & Sound productions are always excellent and high quality.  We picked the 3:30 show because we wanted to use our voucher for McFarlain's.  However, by the time we got to McFarlain's, there was a 45 minute wait time.  My hubby didn't want to wait that long, so we left McFarlain's and decided to go to Florentina's Italian Restaurant instead.  But the wait time for Florentina's was an hour.  We decided to try for Florentina's Wednesday night after we saw the Texas Tenors (since it was a 2 PM show) and we went to Pizza Hut on Green Mountain Drive to order a pizza, which took about 20 minutes, which we took back to the condo.  It appears that all the restaurants are short of help and so it takes longer to get seated and eat. 

On Wednesday, we went to Branson Landing.  We did some shopping at Bass Pro Shops (where I got another new pair of shoes), looked around at a couple of other stores, and then we went to Garfield's at 11 AM for lunch.  After lunch, we went to our favorite indoor mini-golf place, Coral Reef Mini Golf, on a Groupon voucher that is always available. Then it was time to go to Mickey Gilley's theater to see the Texas Tenors.  We have wanted to see the Tenors for years but their show schedule never lined up with our vacation schedule.  We bought a voucher from OzarksDeals.com that is now available again (but in limited quantity).

The Tenors were excellent singers and very personable.  It was a very enjoyable show.  They performed "God Bless the USA," and everyone stood up.  I wonder when we started standing up for "God Bless the USA" like we do for the Hallelujah Chorus, though.  Before the show, there were some older ladies behind us whining about the fact that there were so many people sitting together.  I had asked about social distance seating when I made our reservation; however, it appeared that things had changed.  The older ladies moved from behind us to some empty seats across from us.  

We tried Florentina's again after the Tenors and the wait time was only 15 minutes.  A lady sat down next to me and asked, "Weren't you at the Tenors?" I replied that we were, and she realized that she had been at "Jesus" with us too.  We got to talking, and she said she was from the state of Washington and that this was her first trip to Branson.  A newbie! Later, I stopped by her table on my way back from the bathroom and told her about this blog and its Facebook page.  I gave her the card with my Cardinals blog information on it and wrote the link to this blog for her on the back of the card.  If you're reading this, I am so sorry but I have forgotten your name.  I hate getting old and forgetful. 

The next morning, we left Branson for home.  We had a very enjoyable trip and I am already planning our November trip to Branson.  Thanks for reading! 

Diane



Friday, December 4, 2020

2020 Branson Christmas trip review

In Branson, even the Titanic
wears a mask! 
We recently returned from our record third trip to Branson this year. We love Branson at Christmas time, and we found some great deals, some of which are still available - just click on the link and you'll be taken to the deal. 

We arrived in Branson on a Friday.  For those wondering about masks, yes, masks are required everywhere in Branson. You must wear them unless you're eating or drinking, or at your seat during a show. There are large signs (like the ones on the highway that warn of detours) that state "FACE MASKS REQUIRED."

Our first stop when we got to Branson was at the Walmart on Branson Hills Parkway.  It was packed.  We got to the condo (the same one where we stayed for our June trip) and unpacked all our stuff. We went to Montana Mike's for dinner. We were seated on the bar side and there was a guitarist playing and singing. He was very good and he took requests. The waiter told us he was one of the performers from the tribute shows at the IMAX. It made for a very enjoyable meal.

After dinner, we went to the "Let There be Lights" drive-thru tour at the Promised Land Zoo. We had purchased the OzarksDeals.com voucher, but it would be worth the full price. There are lots of beautiful light displays. At the end of the tour, you can park your car and go to the gift shop to enjoy free hot chocolate and see Santa. You can purchase items at the gift shop. I purchased a "Jesus is the Reason for the Season" long-sleeved T-shirt.  We saw a reindeer.  I kept calling him all the names of Santa's reindeer until he finally stood still and allowed me to take his photo.  
On Dasher, on Donder, on Comet -
oh, just what is your name?

It rained for most of the day on Saturday. I went to the Tanger Outlet Mall in the morning. I wanted to go to Bath & Body Works and the Vera Bradley factory outlet store. I had to wait a bit to get into B&BW.  They were only letting in so many people at a time.  I had no problem finding parking at B&BW, but when I tried to get a parking spot near Vera Bradley, I had no luck. I circled the parking lot for 20 minutes. I guess everyone figured that since they couldn't do outdoor stuff,  they may as well go shopping. I gave up and went back to the condo.

We went to Wonderworks Saturday afternoon. We had a Groupon for the VIP package, which is no longer available. If we hadn't had the Groupons, I wouldn't have gotten the VIP package. All the VIP package is an activity book where you find the answers to the questions and when you complete the answers, you take the book to the cafe on the first floor. for a prize - it's just a bag of popcorn. There are 10% off coupons in the book for the cafe and the gift shop. You could probably purchase the VIP tickets for the kids so they could do the activity book and the regular tickets for the adults. There were also lockers you could rent so that you could dump your coat.  We enjoyed Wonderworks, although we old folks didn't even attempt the rides. There was a booth where you could test your pitching skills.  I discovered that I would never make it as a major league pitcher.  It was crowded, although everyone wore their masks.  there was a photographer who took photos, although there was no pressure to purchase the photos.  There are cafes on the first and fourth floors.  

We went to Florentina's Italian Ristorante on Saturday evening. It was excellent, as always. The menus were paper rather than regular menus, and the tables were socially distanced.  I had my Florentina's favorite, the lasagne.  That evening, we saw the Hughes Brothers Christmas show and it was fantastic. Unlike most of the other Branson Christmas shows (half regular/half Christmas), the Hughes Brothers show is all Christmas (except for a rendition of "Simple Gifts" in the second half - I never thought that was a Christmas song).  The first half of the show was secular (non-religious) Christmas music, and the second half of the show was sacred (religious) Christmas music.  I loved the second half of the show where Santa talks about teaching the children that Christmas is about Christ and it wouldn't be Christmas without Him. Santa also spoke about the colors of Christmas and what they stood for.  If you weren't in the Christmas spirit after leaving the show, you surely are related to Ebenezer Scrooge. No bah humbugs here, just lots of Christmas cheer! 

The activity on Sunday was Silver Dollar City. We took advantage of the $45 flash sale that SDC held earlier in November. We usually park in Lot C, but we couldn't choose where to park - we either had to park in the paid parking lot or the lot where you were directed to park (which turned out to be a problem later). We couldn't find the tram stop, so we walked all the way up to the park entrance. We had to wait in line to get our temperature taken before we could enter the park.  We were issued wristbands if we passed the temperature test.  

There were no indoor shows - they were in all the existing outdoor theaters, except for the saloon show, which was in an outdoor area called the Plaza Stage, which was behind the Red Gold building.   The show was shorter than what we were used to seeing, although that was good because it was mighty cold sitting back there.  There were very few trees to block the wind.  

We wandered around the park and visited various stores and craftsman demonstrations in order to keep warm.  You could use your refillable mugs, although you were given a cardboard cup and paper straw, and you had to pour it in the refillable mug.  The paper straw wasn't very sturdy and fell apart if you didn't drink your soda fast enough.  

We went to the Rivertown Smokehouse for dinner.  There was a wait to get to the counter to order but you got your food as soon as you ordered it.  The BBQ meat was very good, but the side dishes weren't very big.  

We wandered around some more until it was close to the time for the tree lighting at 5:30 PM.  There were boxes painted on the asphalt on the parade route that showed you where you couldn't stand, for social distancing.  Unfortunately, people crowded along the length of the parade route and ignored the signage.  The SDC folks should really patrol the parade route and tell people who are in the boxes they're not supposed to be in to move out of them.  

The tree lighting was spectacular.  The animatronics were just gorgeous and the music was perfect.  There were lots of oohs and ahs from the crowd.  The tree lighting was only about 15 minutes, and we waited for the parade.  It was the same parade that we had seen a couple of years ago, but we enjoyed it anyway.  

After the parade, there was a mass exodus (including us) out of the park. I wanted to stop for a souvenir (I wanted a 60th-anniversary magnet), but hubby was tired, so we trudged out to the area where the trams were waiting. An employee asked where we were parked.  I told her that we were directed to the left to park, so she told us to go to tram 5.  The trams are socially distanced (every other row) and cleaned after every trip.  

We got off of the tram at what we thought was our stop.  We walked around for 20 minutes trying to find our vehicle.  I remembered that the Maps app on my Apple phone has a function called Parked Car.  I pulled it up to show my husband.  "This blue dot is where we are. The blue dot with the car on it is where the car is." It was across the road, about 100 ft. away.  We went back to the tram stop and talked to the driver.  He took us to the parking lot where our car was and dropped us off.  We drove back to the condo, tired from a long day.

Monday was our last day in Branson, and it was shopping day.  I went to Walmart on Green Mountain Drive to pick up something to make for dinner Monday night and something quick for breakfast on Tuesday morning.  I also bought heel cushions for my shoes as my left heel was killing me after our hike through SDC and the parking lot the day before.

Our first stop was Grand Village.  We enjoy looking through the boutique stores.  Hubby bought another Branson sweatshirt.  I bought a perpetual desk calendar at the Thomas Kinkade store.  There were some beautiful trifold Christmas cards at the Kinkade store that I really wanted, but they were $20 and hubby thought they were too expensive.  I found a Christmas themed mask at the Peter Engler store.  And we always enjoy browsing at the retro toy shop and the Kringles Christmas store.  

We had an OzarksDeals.com voucher for Mel's Hard Luck Diner at Grand Village (no longer available), so we went there for lunch.  Sarah Joy was our waitress.  She was very sweet and attentive.  We ordered the onion rings for an appetizer and they were the best onion rings I've ever had - crunchy and firm on the outside and tender on the inside, and just the right temperature.  I had a bacon BBQ cheeseburger and fries.  The waiters and waitresses sang and our waitress had a very lovely voice.  We left her a nice tip.

Our next stop was Branson Landing.  Bass Pro Shop had a Black Friday week sale.  We parked in the Bass Pro Shop parking lot, but we had to park a far distance from the side door.  Two of the Black Monday specials were $10 hooded sweatshirts (hubby and I both got one) and $10 fleece jackets (hubby got one).  We walked to the town square to look at the huge Christmas tree there and watched the fountain show.  We had a coupon from our St. Louis Cardinals calendar for BOGO free for Andy's Frozen Custard, so we stopped there on our way back to the condo.

After we finished our sundaes, I decided it was early enough in the afternoon to go back to Tanger Outlet Mall to see if I could find a parking spot so that I could go to the Vera Bradley store. I had to wait outside in line to get in - they were only letting so many in at a time.  I had a 25% off birthday coupon and I had birthday money from the attorneys I work for, so I wanted to use it.  I found a tote bag, a mask with polar bears on it, and I got a free ID card case for my birthday present.  I then walked over to the Reebok store next door, where the whole store was 60% off. I got a new pair of comfy shoes to wear.  It's really hard to find size 8W athletic shoes and I got this same pair of Reeboks during my Christmas trip last year.  


That night, we saw Dean Z's Rockin' Christmas Show at the Clay Cooper Theater.  It was Dean's first Christmas show of the season because of his and his wife's bout with COVID. We enjoyed this show very much. It was high energy, the band was hot and tight, and Dean has Elvis' moves down to a T. It was not a first half regular music/second half Christmas music like a lot of the Branson shows - the non-Christmas music was interspersed in between the Christmas songs.

Dean's back-up band has a 4 man brass section, a keyboardist, a guy playing string bass, a guitarist (Dean's brother), a drummer (who turned out to be Matt Gumm - he has a show at Clay's theater) and 3 backup singers called the Deltatones (one of whom was Dean's wife). I really liked how he kept acknowledging the band and asking us to applaud for them. That's a sign of a classy performer. Not only did Dean have Elvis' moves down pat, but he also did a great Mick Jagger imitation, lip and all. Dean didn't forget the true meaning of Christmas - he and the Deltatones did a beautiful acapella rendition of "Silent Night." I now want to see Dean's Elvis show next summer when we return to Branson.

If you're on the fence about visiting Branson because of COVID, don't be afraid to visit.  There is a mask mandate with no current ending date.  Everyone in the stores, the restaurants, and the theater workers are all wearing their masks.  Seating in theaters is socially distanced - it is recommended you call the theaters to make reservations so that you and yours will have seats, especially for popular shows such as the Haygoods and the Hughes Brothers.  If you're worried about staying in a hotel and being around others, rent a condo or a cabin. That way, you can cook your own meals if you don't want to go to restaurants.  We live in Illinois and Missouri is the only place we can actually eat inside a restaurant these days.  This has been a rough year for a lot of folks.  A vacation does a lot to lift everyone's spirits.  If you can't get to Branson before Christmas, most of the Christmas shows and Silver Dollar City are open through the end of the year.  

Thanks as always for reading! It is always appreciated. Don't forget to follow this blog's Facebook page for deals and news on Branson.  From our family to yours - 


   

Saturday, June 13, 2020

2020 Branson trips review

Yes, you saw that title right - trips, as in plural.  We have made 2 trips to Branson already this year, approximately 2 weeks apart. The first trip was on Memorial Day weekend.  The second trip was this week (June 8-12).  

The family camp that we usually attend on Memorial Day weekend was canceled due to COVID-19. We decided since we couldn't go to the camp that we would go to Branson instead. The reason I didn't report on the Memorial Day trip right after it happened is that we live in Illinois and at that time, Gov. Pritzker strongly urged Illinois residents not to go to other states because of COVID-19.  I didn't want to get turned in for leaving the state.  

Earlier this year, I left a job that I'd been at for 18 years for what appeared to be an excellent opportunity. However, my position was eliminated during the third week of May because of COVID-19.  We decided to go ahead and take the Memorial Day trip anyway.  I needed a rejuvenating trip to the Ozarks. 

As long time readers of this blog may know, we usually take our summer trip during the July 4th week. Thankfully, the firm that I left in February is hiring me back for my old position.  I don't start until June 15 and I didn't think that they would let me go on vacation two weeks after my restart date.  So we decided to go this week instead. 

Rather than comment on each trip at length, I thought I would use categories and split each category by the date of the trip. If you see a word in bold print, that is a link to the Groupon deal or in the lodging section, or to the condo we stayed at.  

Lodging

Memorial Day trip
Since this was a last-minute trip and we wanted to spend as little as possible, we decided to stay in a hotel.  We found a good deal on Priceline for the All-American Inn.  It is located off Hwy. 165 next to the Yellow Rose Inn, which is now a Ramada.

We chose this hotel for its location, its price, interior corridors, and a free breakfast buffet. However, due to COVID-19, the free breakfast buffet was not offered, but we could get room service if we wanted.  The room was a typical hotel room.  Our room was room number 101 - we must have been the first to reserve a room. The hallway was warm, so I turned on the hallway air conditioner.  The room was warm when we checked in, so I turned on that air conditioner as well.  The owner should have done this before we checked in, I think.

The only other problem we had was the shower.  The water was scalding hot.  We let it run for a while, hoping it would cool off, but it never did.  I had to use a washcloth to wash off with, and I decided to wait until we got home to wash my hair.  

June trip
We had our usual condo reserved for the July 4th week. I would have asked the owner if we could switch weeks, but this week was already partially booked, so I had to cancel.  I did find a very nice condo on TripAdvisor.  The son was happy that the TV in his bedroom had a PlayStation 4.  

The condo was located in the Greens at Thousand Hills, near the golf course.  It was located right off of Green Mountain Drive, and it was close to everything without being on the Strip.  It had a lovely kitchen with granite countertops and there was even a Keurig machine.  All I had to do was bring my favorite K-cups.  There was a small outside patio with a barbecue grill.  We enjoyed our stay at this condo. 

Shows

Memorial Day trip
We only saw one show during this trip - Anthems of Rock, at the King's Castle Theater.  It was the first performance ever of this show, which was exciting.  In all our years of visiting Branson, we have never been to the opening night of a show.

We had never been inside the King's Castle Theater before.  It had medieval decorations in the lobby.  The seats were very nice and comfortable, and the seating area was huge.  Social distancing was maintained, and there was no one else sitting in our row but us.  

The singers were very good and the choreography was excellent.  The music selection was from the 1970s, the 1980s, and the 1990s.  The video screens showed the album covers of the songs that were being performed. There wasn't a live band - there was a backing track.  That may matter for those of you who dislike shows without a live band. There were a few songs during which one of the singers played an electric guitar on stage, however. If there had been a live band, there wouldn't have been room for the dancers.

June trip
We had bought tickets for Rock 'n Roll Royalty, but it was canceled because of a cast member having emergency surgery. We didn't know it was canceled until we arrived at the Americana Theater. Since we bought our vouchers at Branson 2 for 1, they did not have our phone number to let us know the show was canceled. We took our tickets back to 2 for 1 and exchanged them (and added some funds) to see the Hughes Brothers show on Thursday night.

On Wednesday night, we saw Raiding the Country Vault at the Americana. The music was very good and the tidbits on the slides about the country artists were very interesting. However, the grammar Nazi in me (I'm a legal assistant) cringed at the typos on the slides - for example, Tammy Wynette's title slide read Tammy Wynett and Charlie Daniels read Charlie Danials. There was no intermission and no meet and greet after the show.


On Thursday night, we saw the Hughes Brothers Show.  This is my favorite show that we have seen this year.  The harmonies, the musicianship, and the choreography were all top-notch.  The first number was "The Greatest Show" from The Greatest Showman. My son is seldom impressed by musical numbers but after that song, he told me, "That was amazing!" There was even a little comedy thrown in.  The kids, young and older, were very talented as well.  If we go back to Branson for a Christmas trip, we are going to see the Hughes Brothers' Christmas show.  There was an intermission and there was also a meet and greet after the show, although the performers stayed on the stage and the audience members stood on the floor. 

Attractions

Memorial Day trip
We didn't visit any attractions on this trip. There were very few attractions open. The son and I did go to Simply Red Salonspa to get haircuts. At that time in Illinois, a dog could get a haircut but humans could not. I hadn't had a haircut since mid-February and my hair was super long. 

June trip
We visited the Titanic Museum for the first time since 2006. I found a good deal on Groupon, which is still available.  Our reservation was for 9 AM. We had to wear masks and stay 6 feet away from other visitors. We opted to use the audio tour players. If memory serves me, you used to have to pay extra to use the audio tour players. We went because the violin that was played on the deck of the Titanic before it sank was on display, and I wanted to see it. My third class passenger (Sophia Abraham) survived, but the passenger and crew member that my hubby and son had did not. l purchased a very nice jacket in the gift shop for only $30, and of course, I had to purchase a refrigerator magnet, which is our go-to souvenir.

Restaurants

Memorial Day trip
We went to Saint City's Sports Bar & Grill Friday evening.  We had a Groupon for this visit, which is still available. It was the first time we had eaten inside a restaurant since the end of February - in Illinois, you still can't eat inside a restaurant. The food was great, the tables were 6 feet apart, and the employees all wore face masks.  The son and I played pool while we waited for our food. 

We went to Branson Landing on Sunday and had lunch at Garfield's. The employees wore masks but we were not required to wear masks. 

On Saturday evening, we went to Florentina's Italian Ristorante, one of our favorite Branson restaurants.  We had an OzarksDeals.com voucher, which is unfortunately no longer available.  The tables were all spread out 6 feet apart and all employees wore face masks.  There were paper menus.  The food and service were excellent as always. 

On Sunday evening, we went to Crazy Craig's Cheeky Monkey Bar on a Groupon that is still available.  The food was great and the service was good, but someone was smoking cigarettes or there was smoke from the BBQ smoker and I am highly allergic to cigarette smoke.  

June trip
Since we were staying at the condo, we ate there for dinner.  The only time we went out for dinner was Thursday evening when we went to the Grand Country Buffet.  We hadn't eaten there in a long time and we'd only had the breakfast buffet.  Due to COVID, only one of the buffets and salad bars were open.  The food selection would have probably been better if not for COVID.  That was the only thing that disappointed me.  The employees all wore masks and only every other table was used.  

Other fun stuff

We went to Coral Reef Indoor Mini-Golf on both trips on a Groupon deal which is still available.  The golf course has been redecorated in a Jimmy Buffett-style theme.  There is a very large chair for novelty photos.  You can purchase show tickets at Coral Reef.  There was a mini-arcade. Drinks are also available for purchase.  

We also visited Grand Village and Branson Landing. I visited the Tanger Outlet Mall twice.  The IMAX complex will not be open until July 1.   Silver Dollar City and White Water are opening to the public on Monday.

If you're still trying to decide whether or not to visit Branson this summer, I would encourage you to go.  The traffic is lighter.  Employees of all restaurants, shows, and attractions are wearing masks, and sanitizing methods are being employed.  Visitors do not have to wear masks unless they want to, except for some of the stores at Tanger Outlet Mall.  There are lots of hotel rooms and vacation lodging available.  Most stores are open for shopping. Let the beauty of the Ozarks calm and soothe your soul, like it does mine.  

That's all for now! Thanks for reading!

Diane

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 OzarksDeal.com 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 OzarksDeal.com 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 OzarksDeals.com 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:  https://www.tripadvisor.com/VacationRentalReview-g44160-d10233414-Relaxing_family_escape_w_pools_wifi_patio_more-Branson_Missouri.html#

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!

Diane



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!

Diane

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!

Diane

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!

Diane