From Springfield, MO and Lamberts (in the town of Ozark, MO) it was just a short hop on down to Branson, MO. This was our first visit to the Ozarks and we expected it to live up to its rustic reputation. We envisioned a small rustic town with a few theaters lining Main Street, where we could walk from place to place on the wooden sidewalks and enjoy a sarsaparilla at a local café or slip into a theater for some nostalgic Lawrence Welk or singing cowboy. Instead we got a town full of glitz and tourists. The population of Branson is around 10,500, but it serves a regional population of around 80,000 and hosts around 8 million visitors a year. The result is a cosmopolitan small city that sprawls over sixteen square miles (16.2) and has shopping, restaurants, and of course premier entertainment! It reminds one of Vegas sans casinos rather than Deadwood sans entertainment.
|Aerial view of Branson, MO|
We stayed at the Treasure Lake RV Resort, itself a sprawling resort covering many acres. Unfortunately, our campsite was situated at the far end of the park, and, therefore, it added 15 minutes to any drive … just to get out of the park.
|Treasure Lake Park|
For the first time since leaving on our trip in June, we really felt we were on vacation … you know, where you plan too many things to do and leave more exhausted than when you arrived. Even with all that we did here, we only scratched the surface … there was a lot more to experience.
We started off with the classics. A trip to see the “Sons of the Pioneers” followed by the play “Shepherd of the Hills”. The “Shepherd of the Hills” play is based on the book by the same name by Harold Bell Wright. The play has it all: romance, bad guys, good guys, and even a ghost. The set is outdoors and features live animals, square dancing, gunfights, and even a burning cabin. Wright’s book began bringing tourists to Branson well before the various and sundry theaters were built in the area. It was the area’s original tourist attraction.
|Sons of the Pioneers venue|
|Sons of the Pioneers on stage|
|Scene from "Shepherd of the Hills"|
We took the train ride out of Branson, north into the hills of the Ozarks. The forests’ trees were changing colors and it was a beautiful trip.
|Getting ready to ride the train|
|Aerial view of fall colors in Ozarks - (borrowed from the net)|
|Fall in the Ozarks (borrowed from the Internet)|
We each ended up with a favorite show. I liked “Always Patsy,” a cute play about Patsy Cline that featured most of her best songs wrapped within a nice story about her relationship with one of her biggest fans. Lynda like “The Oakridge Boys.” What can you say about the “Boys”? Their hit, Elvira, celebrated its thirtieth anniversary in 2010 and they put on one heck of a show. Their voices are just as strong as ever and they still enjoy entertaining.
|Always Patsy -- Did I mention that I became part of the performance?|
|The Oak Ridge Boys doing "Elvira"|
We attended a great dinner theater called the “Dixie Stampede.” Owned by Dolly Parton, this theater has a huge inside arena and features horseback riders, wagon races, buffalo (bison), and longhorn cattle. It is a really great show with a huge meal… each person gets a whole chicken. Everything is eaten with the hands, which puts everyone at ease. The audience is encouraged to cheer and jeer loudly and to stomp their feet … this one was just plain fun (would make a great Thunderbirds visitation!).
|Here's the meal at the Dixie Stampede (From their web site)|
|Carriage races at the Dixie Stampede - from their web site|
We ended our visit with a trip to Silver Dollar City. Finally we found our quaint rustic town with all sorts of crafts being made live including blacksmithing, broom making, basket weaving, knife making, candle making, and a whole lot more. We were worn out completely by the time we left and slept very soundly for most of the following day.
All in all, our Branson experience was just great. We had a great time and would certainly return for another few shows.
Until next time … Keep doing what you love.