Should We Go to Branson Or Not?

I debated for awhile whether we should spend several days or even a week in Branson.  Branson is one of the most visited tourist destinations in Missouri and there is lots to do there with the music shows and Silver Dollar City being popular draws.  We were interested to visit, but not sure if we wanted to fight the crowds.  I was also eager to get to Arkansas for fall color time and before cold weather might set in.  Just when I decided we would skip it, we found there were no openings in Northwestern Arkansas because it was the weekend of a large art and craft festival held in that part of the state.  Since we would have to stay some where else for several nights we went to Branson after all.

One of our favorite travel aids is the GPS map system I use on my IPhone.  We find this so indispensable that I don’t know how we ever traveled without it.   Since we are now always traveling to new areas, we really need the directional help to find the best and fastest route to towns, RV parks, attractions, restaurants, stores, etc.  I love, love this modern device!  Although the GPS rarely lets us down, on occasion it takes us on roadways we don’t expect.  Our drive from Carthage to Branson turned out to be one such case.

During our travels, we prefer to stick to the less traveled roads.  For this trip we chose a route away from the major highway and boy was it.  GPS took us on back roads that were often tiny county roads that felt like a roller coaster!   The reason for the roller coaster ride was that we were driving into the Ozark mountain region.  The scenery was lovely and roller coaster roads can be fun, but I was a little nervous since we were pulling a trailer.  We also had no idea where we were headed as GPS had us turning from one county road to another.

The signs on the roads also amused us.  We traveled on Roads M and N but all of a sudden we found ourselves on Road ZZ.  Were we nearing the end of the road?

We arrived to Shenanigans RV park in Branson, a lovely wooded site secluded from the town but on a terraced hill.   It was a little more difficult to get our trailer situated and I felt “perched” but it worked out fine.  Mark parked the truck in the back of the trailer.  He laughed and said he parked there to keep the trailer from rolling down the hill.

During our stay here we did not hear road or train noise but we did hear a different sort of noise, a whooshing or vacuum sound.  We soon found out that the noise came from a heart stopping thrill ride – the Bigfoot Action Tower that drops riders in a 200 foot free fall.  On the other side of the tower is the super sling that launches riders up into the air flipping them upside down a few times.

At night I could make out the very top of the lighted Bigfoot tower above the trees surrounding us.  When I mentioned the weird, ongoing sound to the RV owner she said that she was very upset about this new addition to Branson.  Since they live in the park upstairs from the office, the tower lights will shine into their home once they lose the tree cover in winter.  The frequent sound from the ride was also an annoyance to the park owners.   She said there was nothing they could do about it as the company that owns the ride had a right to build.  I felt sorry for them as their lovely, secluded spot was now disrupted.

Mark and I ventured out for dinner the first night we got there traveling near the main road or strip that has the music shows and other attractions.  Traffic was backed up in both directions, so we were glad we took a different route and decided to stay away from the popular sights on that road.  Branson provides so many activities for families it is mind boggling with many of them along or near the main entertainment strip.  I had planned to reserve a music show or two for us to see while there but before leaving our RV site in Carthage, I had the brainy idea to get tickets for Silver Dollar City, the popular amusement park outside of town.  The park features rides but is also well known for music shows and craft demonstrators.  During this time was the fall festival and there was supposed to be an additional 100+ crafters at the park.   It sounded like it would be fun to go there for a day and I hoped it would not be as crowded during the fall as it is in the summer when families are vacationing.

The morning after we arrived in Branson we drove over to Silver Dollar City finding after a few miles bumper to bumper traffic which continued to the park.  Once we arrived, we had to go to Parking Lot 7 and then take the tram to the park entrance.  What should have been a very short drive from Branson was turning into an ordeal just to get into the park.  Once I got through the line to pick up our reserved tickets, we joined the hordes.  It was now clear that coming on a Saturday in fall was no less crowded than summer.  Silver Dollar City looks different than other amusement parks because of its setting in the mountains with many trees and old time buildings and decorations, designed to make you feel that you are back in the late 1800’s.  The walkways in the park are narrow and a little hilly, not conducive for the 30,000 people we heard were there that day.

We did our best to enjoy the jovial atmosphere and see what the crafters were making.  The picture above is one of my favorite stops, the candy kitchen and peanut brittle demonstration where two ladies really put some muscle into spreading the freshly cooked and poured brittle.

The knife demonstration was quite popular and I pressed into the crowd to see the blade being crafted with the heated stone.  I finally gave up when peering over many shoulders became too difficult and made my way over to the nearby lye soap demonstration where I found I was the lone spectator.   The young woman was busily stirring the heated mixture and pouring it into molds.  For some reason, the making of lye soap must not be as popular as knives.  Watching this brought back a memory from decades ago of my lone attempt to make soap with my friend Rhonda while we were both stationed in the army in Germany.  We cooked the soap outside in Rhonda’s yard and got it made, but it was quite a process.

There were a number of crafters to visit including a blacksmith, a potter, a wood carver, whittlers, wood turners, quilt makers, weavers, glass blowers, sculptors and a famous chuck wagon cook.  In the picture below, a wood turner has his lathe allegedly powered by a young man turning a giant wheel. Mark thought it was bogus and all for show – he said there was undoubtedly an electric motor underneath.

We headed to one of the quietest areas of the park where the Homestead Pickers play in a little wooden shed with stage in a forest setting.   The bluegrass music was fairly good and we had a place to sit and relax for awhile.

The food at Silver Dollar City is supposed to be “award winning.”  There are  some interesting offerings that you don’t see at the usual amusement parks like big cast iron skillets with a harvest meal of ham, potatoes, green beans, carrots, squash, etc.  The line at the Fry Bread shop was not as long as some places so I got a maple bacon fritter with jalapeños for a snack which was quite tasty although definitely not a health food.

Mark’s usually hearty appetite was non-existent on this day and he didn’t try any of the tempting food choices.  I guess Silver Dollar City sucked it out of him.  He even refused to pay the $3.50+ for a Diet Coke, his beverage of choice.

Leaving Silver Dollar City was easier than going there and we made it back to our trailer much quicker.  The next day, Sunday was very rainy and we stayed in enjoying the peace and quiet.  That evening was one of the highlights of our Branson stay, a gorgeous sunset after the rain stopped.

On Monday morning we left Missouri for Arkansas, a state we had not traveled in before that I had been wanting to visit for some time.

Thanks for reading!  In my next post I will talk about our visit to Northwest Arkansas.

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