Branson, Missouri

Thanksgiving November 23 - November 25, 2006

by Paul Ridenour

Wednesday morning I get a call from Ellen McKinnon saying Mark was sick as well as their youngest son.  Dottie and I were planning on going to see the Mckinnons on Thanksgiving so now we had no plans.  When we were in St. Thomas a few days earlier, we talked about possibly going to Branson.  We had always wanted to see Andy Williams in concert.  I left Starbucks and was in the parking lot at Best Buy waiting for them to open.  I wanted to buy the new Beatles "Love" CD that came out the day before.  We saw the Cirque Du Soleil performance of "Love" this past summer.  In my car, I made some phone calls and got one of the last hotel rooms (smoking) in Branson and got tickets to Andy Williams and Yakov Smirnoff.  When Dottie got home from work, we packed.

Thursday November 23

We left home at 08:45 and arrived at the Cracker Barrel in Arkadelphia at 12:15.  After waiting over 45 minutes, we had a nice Thanksgiving meal and continued our drive to Branson.   We stopped at a Rock Shop about an hour or more away from Branson.  We arrived in Branson about 6 PM and checked into the Holiday Inn Express on Green Mountain Road, which runs south of Main Street (HWY 76).  The hotel clerk was an old guy who looked like Truman Capote.   He discouraged us from going to Silver Dollar City saying they will not let anyone in after 5 PM and it closes at 9.  We saw a brochure that said they closed at 10. He also discouraged us from really coming up to Branson saying there is nothing to do but shop and that 80,000 people would be coming into town on Friday.  We ate at Taco Bell at 7:30.  We decided to drive to Silver Dollar City and to check it out in case we wanted to go the next day.  Good thing we didn't listen to Capote, there were not many people there, we paid $20 to park up close, and they let us in at 8 PM.  The cost is $44 a person but since they were closing in two hours they gave us a $5 per person discount.  We are so glad we went.  Four million Christmas lights, shopping, a parade, the colorful Christmas tree changed colors to Christmas songs, and the train ride through the park made for a great time and plenty of time to see the park.  I took some great pictures of the lights.  It would turn out to be one of the best things we did the entire weekend.  It was a bit odd that we left Dallas on Thanksgiving Day and it was Christmas in Branson that night.  After Silver Dollar City, we drove through the two mile private "Trail of Christmas Lights" park which was about $4 a person.  At the end, we went inside the tower and saw all of Branson and Silver Dollar City.  The park was nice because it was around 11 PM and there were not very many people in the park.  We must have got home around midnight.  As you can see, a long but fun day.

Friday November 24

Brought Dottie the continental breakfast while she was getting ready.  I went to pick up the tickets for Andy Williams and Yokav Smirnoff from the Branson Tourism Agency. We left the room about 10 AM and went to The Butterfly Place.  I took a bunch of pictures.  We had lunch at Montana Mike's.  The steak and ribs cost about $31.  We shopped a bunch and drove around town.  The traffic was not bad at all.  We stopped in a music store that had lap harps in the window.  We played on the Hammer Dulcimer, Bowed Psaltery, and ended up purchasing a Mountain Dulcimer.  We wanted to eat dinner at McGuffrey's but the wait was over 45 minutes.  It is next door to the Moon River Theatre where Andy performs.  We ate at the fanciest Dairy Queen I have ever seen.  I was not that hungry for dinner because of Montana' Mike's so I just had a grilled cheese.  Andy Williams' tickets to his Christmas Show was $78 for two.  We bought a couple of Andy Williams' DVDs.    The concert was just great - www.paulridenour.com/andy.htm

Afterwards, we drove to the downtown harbor called Branson Landing.  The place has every store that every one else has but the street lights changed colors, everything was decorated in Christmas lights, and the water fountain changed colors and was choreographed to music.  The highlight of the water display was to Joe Walsh's song Rocky Mountain Way.  The Landing cost 400 million dollars.  Developer Rob Whittle of The Harbor in Rockwall could learn something from this place.  Of course, The Harbor only cost around $71 million.

Then we drove through to City Christmas Lights display.  We went in the wrong way so we saw it for free.  The cost was $8 a person or per car.

We got back to our hotel about 11:30 PM and were exhausted.

Saturday November 25

After the continental breakfast, we drove to see Yakov Smirnoff at 9:30AM.  The cost was $64 for two.  Yakov's a very funny Russian who loves America and our flag.  More on him later.  The show ended close to noon, and we drove to the Big Cedar Resort on Table Rock Lake to eat lunch.  We had been there back in 2002 when we rented a house boat and stayed on the lake for two days.  We got home about 9 PM.

Silver Dollar City

Geyser Gulch and Lake Silver, Silver Dollar City

Lake Silver, Silver Dollar City

Silver Dollar City train ride - telling of the Christmas Story from the Book of Luke

Silver Dollar City

The Trail of Lights

Branson's Mt. Rushmore - John Wayne, Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, and Oliver Hardy

Common Blue Morpho Butterfly

Moon River Theatre

Andy Williams' Christmas Show

Andy Williams

Branson Landing

Branson Landing

Branson Landing Bass Pro Shop

Branson - Saturday AM

Branson - Saturday AM in the fog

80,000 people made it a little crowded but it was not too bad

Yakov Smirnoff

Yakov signing merchandize and posing for photographs after the show