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A Christmas Carol at Silver Dollar City.

Ring in the Season With a Branson Christmas Getaway

If you’re looking for an easy trip to get in the holiday mood, Branson is just for you!

By Dwight Widaman

Like many families, memories of trips to Branson frame some of our most fun weekend getaways. While we love the beach and trips to the big cities like New York and Chicago, the Missouri Ozarks with Branson serving as the heart, offers something those other destinations rarely can–the great outdoors resplendent in changing seasons.

Silver Dollar City is transformed into one of the TOP 5 Christmas destinations as  picked by the national media.

Silver Dollar City is transformed into one of the TOP 5 Christmas destinations as picked by the national media.

One of our favorite seasons to visit Branson is the transition from fall to winter and November and December are the perfect months as the weather is still pleasant yet the area turns on the sights and sounds of Christmas. We’ve been taking our kids since before they were tall enough to ride the coasters at Silver Dollar City. Even today, with one daughter in college and another heading that way next year, a mention of a trip to Branson elicits delights and “Can I bring a friend?”

If you are looking for a fun-filled and easy weekend trip that’s the perfect gift for your family–a Branson Christmas getaway should be at the top of your destinations.

Most people think of a Branson vacation that includes lots of sunscreen. Did you know that all of Branson is open most of December? It’s true and the vast majority of the shows and attractions have Christmas themed entertainment that is respectful, even worshipful and unafraid to keep the name Christ in Christmas.

Well-appointed rooms at Myer Hotel's Holiday Inn Express on Green Mountain Drive.

Well-appointed rooms at Myer Hotel’s Holiday Inn Express on Green Mountain Drive.

Any trip should begin with lodging at one of the Christian-owned Myer family hotel properties (supporters of Metro Voice) and you won’t go wrong with any of them. We’ve stayed at each of the local hotel company’s properties from Comfort Inn & Suites to Best Western to their newest addition–Holiday Inn Express. Each property emphasizes convenient locations, countless amenities and exceptional customer service while focusing on great value in the upper mid-scale area. Holiday Inn Express has a more “urban” feel with modern colors and furnishings you would normally expect in a large urban setting.

Dixie Stampede keeps Christ in Christmas during their arena production----complete with sheep, camels and a donkey!

Dixie Stampede keeps Christ in Christmas during their arena production—-complete with sheep, camels and a donkey!

After check-in, there’s a ton to do your first day or evening. For us it is the Dixie Stampede because you get a show and dinner all in one! The Stampede is one of the most visited shows in Branson and over the years their show has changed so you’ll probably be surprised if you haven’t enjoyed it for several years. If you like eating a huge wagon train-esque meal, this is it. A whole rotisserie chicken, smoked barbeque pork loin, creamy vegetable soup, potato wedges, corn on the cob and homemade biscuits–all served without utensils. Plus you get dessert and free refills of your. Don’t worry–they have plenty of napkins.

Everyone who experiences Christmas at Dixie Stampede falls in love with all the fun and excitement of the fantastic performances during their spectacular extravaganza. Nothing compares to the way Dolly brings the Christmas season to life. Our hearts were warmed

You won't go away from Dixie Stampede hungry. Ask for extra napkins as there are no utensils!

You won’t go away from Dixie Stampede hungry. Ask for extra napkins as there are no utensils!

the simplicity of the message which touches your soul. From the romance of softly falling snow to the breathtaking live nativity scene, the Dixie Stampede is magically transformed into a holiday wonderland and the spirit of the season appears before your very eyes. Their live nativity scene is both dramatic and spectacular. Visit dixiestampede.com.

Silver Dollar City (SDC) is perhaps the main reason most families head to Branson. There are few words to describe the beauty and Christian hospitality of Silver Dollar City. An Old Time Christmas is one of the country’s most acclaimed festivals and runs through Dec. 30. SDC has been named by USA Today and the A & E Network as one of the top 10 places in the nation to have a bright Christmas. Sorry Kansas City’s Plaza Lights—Silver Dollar City’s lights have been named as “USA’s Best Holiday Light Show!”

Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" is brought to the musical stage with a production that any large city would be  proud to host. It's a favorite of our family!

Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” is brought to the musical stage with a production that any large city would be proud to host. It’s a favorite of our family!

Silver Dollar City is transformed into an evening wonderland with over four million lights and 1,000 decorated Christmas trees. This year, SDC has invested $1 million into their light parade and have added over 33 costumed characters for the kids Your kids of any age will be amazed by the dazzling Light Parade that glides through the streets of the City each evening, with colorful, musical floats. Additional festival highlights include; a dramatic presentation of the Living Nativity; The parade follows the lighting of the 5-Story Special Effects Christmas Tree on the Square, a towering icon with over 250,000 colorful LED lights that is the centerpiece of the Christmas on Main Street light and sound shows beginning at dusk each evening. The massive tree blazes in synchronization to the musical movements of Christmas songs — up to 100 light changes per second — while lights around the Square flash along with it, accompanied by surround-sound. We like to enjoy the parade and the tree with hot cocoa on the porch of Hannah’s Ice Cream Factory.

The festival also features an original musical production of the famous classic “A Dickens’ Christmas Carol”, with vanishing ghosts, revolving scenery, pyrotechnic special effects and flying spirits all accompanied by a live band. This version of the Dickens classic has become a tradition for our household and we rank it with the finest productions in Kansas City or St. Louis. In recent years, SDC has added a theatrical production of the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life which was voted the number one “Inspirational Film of All Time” by the American Film Institute. This stage production features unique special effects and a talented cast of 14 singer/actors.

Branson usually has temperate falls so roller coaster rides, like Outlaw Run, provide summer fun in the fall foliage.

Branson usually has temperate falls so roller coaster rides, like Outlaw Run, provide summer fun in the fall foliage.

Don’t forget the great rides and attractions—Fire-In-The-Hole (a Widaman favorite), Frisco Sing-Along Steam Train, Grandfather’s Mansion, Marvel Cave and some great coasters: Thunderation, Wildfire and the new ground-breaking Outlaw Run!—-a new and thrilling wooden coaster that will have you levitating out of your seat if you don’t hold on!  It is perhaps one of the best roller coasters in the U.S. Even Anita loved it. Even in temperatures down to 42 degrees, guests can soar into the night on the park’s coasters and rides, including the. Fine craftsmanship is also showcased, as the park’s 100 demonstrating craftsmen create one-of-a-kind handmade holiday items, from blown glass ornaments and angels to pottery dessert platters. One of my favorite stops is the Ironsmith’s Shop. We arrived at SDC when it opened and there were virtually no lines! Don’t forget the pork rinds and this year, you can make your own shores onsite! For information visit silverdollarcity.com.

After enjoying a day at Silver Dollar City there’s time to enjoy great family shows. Our recommendation begins with The Haygoods–a family of amazing singers and musicians who are known for their ability to entertain numerous generations–including teens! That’s why The Haygoods are now the number one show in Branson–and for good reason! USA Today calls them “tremendously talented musicians” and the Springfield News Leader describes the show as “pure musical talent meets cutting edge performance.”

The Haygood family's show entertains young and old. You won't want to miss one of Branson's most popular entertainment options!

The Haygood family’s show entertains young and old. You won’t want to miss one of Branson’s most popular entertainment options!

The family of five brothers and one sister features over 20 different instruments with tight vocal harmonies, high-energy choreography and a passion for making sure every one in the audience is entertained. Their show tranforms into something new for Christmas so, if you’ve seen them before, make sure to catch their festive and fun Christmas offering. For info visit www.thehaygoods.com.

After the Haygoods you’ll need a good night’s sleep and then it’s on to Sunday.

Reserve Sunday morning for a leisurely breakfast and then head to the pool where the kids can swim and we can enjoy a cup of coffee or take in the Jacuzzi.

Don’t stay in the pool too long. There’s lots to do on Sunday afternoons before you head home. Consider a trip to The Track where you’ll find mini-golf, fast go-carts (fast ones for “teens and adults only” or all-age carts) other rides and arcades.

If cruising the lake is your thing, you’ll want to experience another attraction–Showboat Branson Belle’s great Christmas excursion. The ship departs at noon, 4 and 8 each day.

Decorated with lights and garland for the holidays, the 700-seat Showboat Branson Belle is the largest inland passenger ship in the nation. Guests can stroll the four decks of Branson’s grandest lake attraction for unique views of the lake and hillsides in lights and then take a seat in the dining theater for the show.

After your cruise there’s still time to spend at one of the outlet malls to catch up on your shopping.

Ram, owner of India Clay Oven, with Emma, Anita and Hannah. It is some of the best Indian specialities we've eaten anywhere in the world.

Gurmit Ram, owner of India Clay Oven, with Emma, Anita and Hannah. It is some of the best Indian specialities we’ve eaten anywhere in the world.

And while everyone knows that Branson is filled with endless buffets of chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy and steak, if your tastes run with a little more sophistication, you’ll have to try out Branson’s first Indian restaurant–India Clay Oven located at 2005 W 76 Country Blvd. The restaurant says they proudly follow the tradition of fine Northern Indian food. This distinguishing and enriching cuisine from India has been recognized for its infusion of coconuts with intoxicating flavors that have brought a little of the far east to the deep south of Missouri. Served in a warm and inviting setting, their entrees range from under $14 to $18 and they have a weekday lunch buffet. Call ahead to reserve a table at 417-973-0044, because they are one of the hottest new places in the Ozarks. Want to try several things? Have them serve your party “family style” with everyone picking something off the menu that appeals to them then pass them around the table. For our party of six we chose five entrees and garlic naan bread. We recommend Chicken Tandoori, Chicken Tikka Masala, Butter Chicken, Lamb Korma and Balti Shrimp Curry. There’s plenty to share and it won’t break the bank! During the week they also have a lunch buffet.

Gurmit Ram, the owner, works with his sons (Jit is the host) to make it the most enjoyable dining experience you’ll find in Branson and you can tell he enjoys each guest—chatting and joking with diners and helping you find just the right entrée for india-clay-ovenyour spicy (or non-spicey) tastes. You’ll cherish the conversation and laughter this family meal elicits. It was some of the finest Indian dishes we have ever enjoyed made all the more enjoyable by the family who waits on your every wish! Visit indiaclayovenbranson.com.

There’s so much to do in Branson and every taste of music, entertainment, attraction—-and now food–can be satisfied.

We guarantee that the money spent in Branson will be some of the best-spent vacation budget during the year. You’ll create Christmas memories that your family will treasure for years but we guarantee this will not be your last trip to Branson during the holidays.