Our next stop was Branson, Missouri, nestled in the foothills of the beautiful Ozark Mountains. We’d heard about Branson being a popular tourist destination with wonderful shows. When we pulled in, our impression was quite different, and we were thankful we were there to see family.
To quote Mike, “There are beautiful mountain views, but it looks like someone went crazy with a big can of Cheese Whiz.” At first glance, he was right. There was billboard pollution literally everywhere. Advertisements for shows, attractions, new apartment complexes, and resort hotels littered the roadside and were distracting and often obstructed beautiful views surrounding the city.
After big, amazing, and wonderful squeezy hugs when seeing our oldest daughter, Dani, and her main man, Aaron, our surroundings were forgotten. We hadn’t seen her in almost a year, so there was a lot of catching up to do.
The first thing ‘the kids’ did was take us downtown to get a glimpse of Branson proper and brought us to Pasghetti’s–a typical touristy restaurant. I don’t recommend the place for the food. Our homemade ‘pasghetti is much more delicious (and more economical), but it is a cutesy place on the outside and well decorated with a relaxing atmosphere on the inside. It’s a hard place to miss–there is a humongous spaghetti and meatball with a giant fork and a neighboring green pepper adorning the large building. We had to take time to get ‘cheesy’ pictures.
We also saw the huge King Kong on one of the downtown buildings and passed many restaurants, show theaters, the Titanic attraction, and the other typical tourist traps.
After spending some time in Branson, we realized there was quite a lot in the area to see and do. Dani and I have a long history of loving roller coasters and wild rides. Our first day together we visited Silver Dollar City, an amusement park set in a lush, green valley. The park has many roller coasters, bluegrass bands, and country craftsmanship exhibits. It’s a perfect place for family fun and offers something for every age. There are a lot of up-and-down hills to navigate among the forested park, but the landscaping and surrounding views are gorgeous. Dani and I enjoyed our day together screaming and laughing on the roller coasters. Below are some views of the park.
Silver Dollar City also provided excellent hands-on instruction on useful activities, such as milking a cow:
I introduced Dani to geocaching while we were there. This took us on a hiking adventure to Lakeside Forest Wilderness Area. We hiked three or four miles through forest seeing snakes, deer, rabbits, squirrels, and birds. We found three geocaches, but still did not see the entire area. We missed Old Soldier’s Cave and the bluff trail. It’s a location we plan to revisit so we can see the entire wilderness area. It’s a lovely park that is entirely natural–I highly recommend discovering this hidden gem while in the area.
While Branson does have many touristy areas or “money pits,” as we call them, there is so much more to experience and see. What I did notice about the mountain city was the appreciation and dedication to America’s veterans. Every business proudly offered veteran discounts, employees shook hands and thanked veterans for their service, and the music and atmosphere was very patriotic. While shopping at a local Wal-Mart, a young man, approximately eight or nine years old, looked up at my large and imposing husband and said, “May I shake your hand, Sir? Thank you for your service.” It brought tears to our eyes to see his sincerity and sense of purpose.
The longer we stayed, the more we could appreciate about Branson and the surrounding area. Of course, seeing Dani almost every day was worth every second we spent there. We also got to see locations we would have glazed over had we stayed a shorter amount of time. There will be more Branson experiences in future posts. The very best times involved the faces below:
Have you been to Branson? What were your favorite places to see?
Safe travels to you.