words: Sara Martin
images: courtesy Explore Branson and Silver Dollar City
Silver Dollar City
Silver Dollar City, the award-winning theme park in Branson, transforms into a Christmas wonderland from November 3 through December 30. From strolling among 6.5 million lights and trying out some of the park’s rides to seasonal shows and shopping at the Home of American Craftsmanship, a day at the park is a magical way to enjoy the holiday season. Highlights of the park’s Old-Time Christmas celebration are a five-story special effects Christmas tree and a nightly light parade featuring Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer, lighted floats and nearly fifty costumed characters meandering through the streets of Silver Dollar City. The park’s special seasonal menu has everything from festive walk-away treats to holiday harvest buffets and just about everything you can imagine in between.
Branson is famous for its live shows and the holiday lineup. From a Cirque Christmas show with the world’s only aerial acrobatic violinist to a quartet harmony, the holiday performances are as dynamic as they are spectacular. The Andy Williams Christmas Extravaganza, at the theater that honors a man synonymous with television Christmas specials of yesteryear, is back for its twenty-sixth season. The late Andy Williams is the crooner who reminded us that Christmas is “the most wonderful time of the year,” and they really pull out all the stops at his theater, which is now owned by Jimmy Osmond. With singing, dancing, prancing reindeer and more, this show features the Moon River Orchestra performing everyone’s favorite holiday songs.
Branson’s Scenic Railway provides visitors an opportunity to step inside a classic Christmas tale aboard the renowned “Polar Express.” After boarding an authentic locomotive at the 1906 Branson depot, visitors to The Polar Express will experience a similar journey with character reenactments, a reading of the classic book, a visit with Santa, and plenty of hot chocolate and cookies. Families are encouraged to come dressed in their pajamas, just as the children did in the original story.
Christmas light displays can be found shining brightly throughout this Ozark Mountain town. The Branson Ferris Wheel not only provides a bird’s-eye view of the town’s holiday lights, but the ride also comes complete with its own holiday-centric soundtrack and 144,000 LED lights. Driving tours include Let There Be Light!, which features a two-mile LED display, Santa and live reindeer available for photos, a Christmas Village with a Nativity petting zoo, and Christmas movies. Branson’s Gift of Lights, the area’s traditional festival of Christmas lights, includes a Magical Mile with the Twelve Days of Christmas, and a Nativity Scene. Also enjoy the Trail of Lights, a two-and-a-half-mile route through the historic Shepherd of the Hills Homestead.
College of the Ozarks
At College of the Ozarks, students bake a whopping 25,000 fruitcakes annually in the Fruitcake & Jelly Kitchen. The tradition of producing these famous fruitcakes on campus dates back to 1934, and today it helps students offset the costs of their education. The kitchen is open for public tours, and fruitcakes are available for purchase Monday through Friday, 8am to 5pm.
World’s Largest Toy Museum
Whether you’re one or 101, you can make your dreams come true at the World’s Largest Toy Museum, where more than a million dolls, trains, teddy bears, action figures, collectibles—and everything else you remember from your earliest Christmases—are all in one location.
What holiday trip would be complete without shopping for those on your Christmas list? Specialty shops, outlet malls and unique-to-Branson experiences are ready to help you put presents under the tree. Dick’s 5 & 10, one of the country’s last remaining authentic dime stores, should be renamed Stocking Stuffer Central because there’s not much this place doesn’t have. And Silver Dollar City’s Jingle Bell Junction has everything you need to make the season bright, including more than 35,000 ornaments.
Branson’s lodging options provide warm accommodations for when you’re ready to settle in for a long winter’s nap. From national-brand hotels to independent inns, cabin and condo rentals, and vacation homes, many of the lodging offerings participate in the holiday festivities. The renowned Big Cedar Lodge resort is offering a “Happy Holidays Package” which includes two nights’ lodging, a Christmas photo session, a breakfast buffet and tickets to the resort’s newest holiday scavenger hunt activity, Sleigh Bell Scurry.
If you don’t make it in time to celebrate before Christmas, don’t worry! Many of the Ozark Mountain Christmas festivities continue through January 1. The last two days of the year are focused on fun for the grown-ups and ringing in the New Year in style. Several of the live music theaters have blowout celebrations, and the Chateau on the Lake Resort Spa and Convention Center hosts a cocktail party with dinner, dancing, a champagne toast and a fireworks display over the lake.
If you’ve never experienced this Ozark Mountain town during the holiday season, make sure to put it at the top of YOUR Christmas list this year.
To learn more, visit ExploreBranson.com.