Story by Ammie Bryant, Editor and Pascha Franklin, Contributor
We all call Stillwater home, but sometimes we need to get away for a bit to relax or seek a bit of adventure in a place not quite so close to school and work stress. We can think of few places better than Branson this time of year. Just a quick four-hour trek northeast and you’ll discover an Ozark Mountain town rich with Christmas spirit.
Because Branson is such an easy drive from Stillwater, it’s safe to say that most long-time Oklahoma residents are familiar with the family-oriented entertainment found nestled in the mountains of southeast Missouri. Highway 76 is lined with theaters featuring diverse live music from classic pop, rock & roll, disco (yes even disco!), country and western, bluegrass, and gospel. You’ll also find magicians, comedians, acrobats, and even a ventriloquist or two. The variety of entertainment available has earned this city of 11,500 residents the title of “The Live Show Capital of the World.” Nearby Table Rock Lake and the surrounding Ozark Mountains offer plenty of outdoor recreation opportunities as well. So it’s not surprising that so many people seek out Branson for fun and relaxation.
It’s easy to find something that just about anyone will enjoy throughout the year, but during the holidays Branson’s spirit shines bright like that storied Star of Bethlehem from over two thousand years ago. This community’s enthusiasm for the holidays is downright infectious and sure to fill even the biggest Scrooge among us with the Christmas spirit.
America’s Christmas Tree City
Proud of its Christmas spirit, Branson boasts more than 150 different Christmas trees in over 70 locations throughout the city limits, laying claim to the title of “America’s Christmas Tree City.” The trees include traditional evergreen trees decorated with lights, trees made of lights, natural trees covered in lights, and other creative trees like one made of Wine Bottles located outside Level Steakhouse at the Hilton Branson Convention Center or the Christmas tree made entirely of poinsettias located at the Butterfly Palace & Rainforest Adventure.
With more than 35 theaters, hosting nearly 100 shows, the sheer volume and variety of shows available in Branson is mind-boggling. We won’t pretend to be experts on them all, but we will share with you the shows that we had the delight of viewing while visiting in early November for the kick off of the Christmas season in Branson.
Start your day with Santa’s Pancakes & PJs Cruise on the Showboat Branson Belle. Beginning Nov. 4th through Jan. 1st, the Showboat Branson Belle is decked out for the holidays, with a morning breakfast cruise designed just for kids and their families. Children are provided with a map that guides them on a search for the sugar plum fairy, and takes them to various stations including: face-painting, completing a Christmas wish list, and a visit to the Captain’s wheelhouse. Then all gather in the ship’s dining theater for a pancake breakfast, music, and stories. Afterwards, the kids get to visit with Santa on the deck before disembarking back at the dock. Visit SilverDollarCity.com/showboat-branson for more information.
In the evening, plan to see The Andy Williams Christmas Extravaganza. While Andy Williams is no longer with us to host the show in the theater he founded, he passed the torch to a worthy successor, Jimmy Osmond. Fun and family-friendly, the show included live music, dancing, magic, comedy, and one one of the funniest ventriloquists we’ve ever seen, Steve Hewlett. With Jimmy serving as MC, The 5th Dimension wowed the audience with hits that included “Up, Up and Away,” and “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In.” Illusionist Rick Thomas amazed the crowd and kept them on their toes with his unique brand of magic woven together with music and dance. Visit AndyWilliamsPAC.com for more information.
Take a step back in time to your childhood at the World’s Largest Toy Museum. While touring this one of a kind attraction, you are sure to glimpse the ghosts of Christmas past in the form of toys that once delighted on Christmas mornings of past decades. From walls built of board game boxes to bb guns, dolls, trains, farm toys, Stearnsy Bears, and more, it’s easy to get lost in the maze of displays and nostalgia of the toys found at the World’s Largest Toy Museum. Visit WorldsLargestToyMuseum.com for hours of operation and admission prices.
Silver Dollar City’s “An Old Time Christmas”
Another must-see for any visit to Branson is Silver Dollar City and this is even truer at Christmas. With over 6.5 million lights, Silver Dollar City provides a transcendent holiday light experience. With an amazing light display, over 1,000 decorated Christmas trees and Rudolph’s Holly Jolly Christmas Light Parade, it’s easy to see why a visit to Silver Dollar City has become a family tradition for so many who live in the area.
If you are planning a holiday getaway, add Silver Dollar City to the top of the list of options this year. While you are there to see the lights, there are plenty of rides, shows, and of course the many craftsmen and women who make Silver Dollar City such a great place to step back in time and experience nineteenth-century life in the Ozarks.
So. Much. Food. And all of it is delicious! It’s hard to pick our favorite food, but Silver Dollar City is definitely at the top of our food destination list. Start with a visit to Eva & Delilah’s Bakery where seasonal treats like molasses cookies and gingerbread men “taste like Christmas” according to Stillwater native, 13-year-old Lydia Franklin.
Other holiday goodies can be found throughout the park including traditional Thanksgiving and Christmas meal staples like Turkey, Ham, Prime Rib, Fried Chicken, dressing, and chicken and noodles. You’ll also find giant cast iron skillets where you can watch craftsmen make a 100-year-old family succotash recipe provided by one of the park’s employees.