Thursday, December 19, 2013

A Holiday Weekend in Branson, With Pictures.

Hunter encounters an angel.  Find out where, at the end
of this story.
Few cities turn up the volume for Christmas the way Branson, Missouri does. This longtime mecca of Ozark entertainment is a great spot for enjoying shows, shopping and taking a neat ride year-round. But when the holidays come around, it's purely magic.

My mom and my daughter Hunter and I traveled to Branson in November to enjoy the sights, sounds and savory tastes of the town. And shopping, of course. In fact, we managed to bring home a lot of bargains on the shopping front. However, you probably don't want to hear about the great $6 jean sale at Vanity Fair or about my neat new pair of Reeboks. You want to see Hunter in action. Who wouldn't want to see Hunter?

On this visit, we stayed at the Radisson, located just off The Strip (Highway
76) about a block east of Grand Village.  Our room was on the end of the floor,
which meant we were at the end of a hallway.  Neat perspective, huh?
Our room was on the northwest corner of the building, with so many
Our first stop was the Titanic, a half-scale replica of the famed
ship.  Because of the specific rules, we could not photograph
inside the museum.  But this is inside the entrance.  The first
thing you encounter is a wall of ice reminiscent of an iceberg.
As Hunter could tell, it was cold.
Shortly after we arrived, it occurred to both my mom and I that maybe the Titanic wasn't the best idea for a child of nearly five.  Would it be traumatizing?  We decided to focus on Hunter's experience.  She instantly fell in love with these rascals.
This is Molly and Carter, the King Charles Spaniels who represent the 10
dogs aboard the Titanic.  They were asleep when we came by, but Hunter
grasped onto the idea of pups on the ship and searched for dog-related
stories everywhere we went.  There are interpretive questions throughout
the exhibit focusing on these beloved pets -- and she found every one.
There was a lovely young man who talked with us before we headed up the
gorgeous replica staircase, all decked out for the holidays.  He paid special
attention to Hunter and made her feel like a princess.
A disclosure -- my mom and I did find it odd to see
a Titanic stateroom decorated for Christmas.  The
singular journey happened in April 1912.  But
Hunter thought it was charming.
Of course, we had to take advantage of this
iceberg photo op.
From there, it was off to White River Landing to board the Showboat Branson
Belle.  We had a few minutes, and Hunter spied something she wanted at McAdoo's.
It only took a few minutes for a lovely lady
to personalize Hunter's own parasol.
There wasn't a cloud in a sky for this noontime sailing.
Before boarding, Mom and Hunter fed the
enormous catfish on-hand below the boat.
We were treated to the pickpocketing antics of Mike Bliss before lunch.
Lunch was salad with sweet vidalia
onion dressing, a corn roll...
beef roast and honey mustard glazed
chicken with mashed potatoes and
Hunter's lunch: penne pasta in marinara with mozzarella
and applesauce on the side.
Mom also got a couple of the
specialty beverages -- a mug
of cappuccino
and a strawberry smoothie.  I stuck
with the coffee and plain iced tea.
For dessert, the adults have a slice of Golden Brittle Lemon Berry Torte...
while Hunter enjoyed the confetti-sprinkled ice cream cake
with chocolate sauce.
After lunch, Hunter wanted to see more of the ship.
She marveled that we were already out in the middle
of Table Rock Lake.
We climbed to the deck on top, where we could see
a panoramic view of the lake.  Hunter was thrilled
to watch the paddlewheels working.
We even climbed up to the pilot house and had a visit with the captain.
Then it was time for the show.  We headed downstairs, took our seats and
listened to The ShowBelles go through their routine.  Hunter was polite
and respectful, but when Julie McClary-Davis took the stage and started
playing the piano, Hunter sat up and took notice.  She was enthralled with
Julie's master pianoship.  I suppose the fact that Hunter's recently started
piano lessons didn't hurt!
She was equally stunned by violinist Dean Church, who can play a fiddle
in ways I've never seen done before -- on his chin, his knee, behind his knee,
you name it.
After our ride on the Showboat, we took a little break and then headed to
Grand Village, home to one of our favorite Branson restaurants.  There's no
place in Arkansas quite like Mel's Hard Luck Diner.  You never can tell who you'll
see there... even a certain Jolly Old Elf taking a break for a patty melt.
He's got good taste -- the patty melts are good.
Hunter, of course, was all about some more applesauce along with macaroni
and cheese and our fries.
You don't go to the Hard Luck Diner just because of the food.  You go to
hear breakout would-be stars sing arias from Phantom of the Opera to you...
or country music hits... or tunes that will get your bobby sox a rockin'.
See what I mean?
With evening upon us, it was time to head out to Silver Dollar City to
experience An Old Time Christmas.

We arrived just in time for the Holiday Light Parade.  The square was packed,
and this cool blue-lit tree was "dripping" with "icicles."
We made it just in time to squeeze in a front row spot for Hunter -- a real
treat, since there were a lot of cool characters to give her a high-five.  Look
at the neat lights on the toy soldier.

Santa won't be any trouble for Air Traffic Control to spot with this sleigh.
Wonder how that patty melt was treating him.  I was still full!
I cannot emphasize to you just how many people were on the square to
see this parade... and the parade continues throughout the park, several
times a night.
As I said, Hunter was fully engaged and seeing
nothing but this parade.
It went on...
and on...

and on...
and on...

and finally ended with a rolling nativity and winged angel.  Once it passed,
we stepped out and followed the parade down the hill.  We even waved
to others gathered to watch... and they waved back.
We wandered the park until we reached the Grand Exposition, where I tried
to encourage Hunter to ride.  She saw the Magnificent Wave Carousel and
said "nope."  Same to the coasters, to the Mighty Galleon and to the Racing
Regatta.  I finally convinced her to go on the spinning Tea Party ride and the
Elephant March.  Can't take the camera on those.
Hunter was relieved when that ordeal is over. I
suppose I'll never be the mom standing white-
knuckled beside the more adventurous rides while
she tries them out.
Of course, Hunter has hollow legs and an incredible
appetite, so after leaving the Grand Exhibition and
wandering through the Frisco Sale Barn, it was time
for a snack.  I went for hot spiced nuts.
Hunter was all about a potato on a stick.  Actually, these spuds were ready
for twisting and frying.  If you look close, you can see Hunter's face in one
of the potatoes.

It was kind of nice after such a busy day to relax on a bench and enjoy the
millions upon millions of lights that bedeck the park.
No visit to Silver Dollar City is complete without a visit to the candy store.

At the end of it all, Hunter's favorite ride ended up being
the tram ride out to the parking lot -- no loops, no twists,
just a slow ride. 
The next morning we went over to The Butterfly Palace.  This edifice sits
above the western end of the 76 Strip -- a round domed building.
To say that Hunter loves butterflies is like saying puppies
like puddles.  She really digs looking... and she's of the right
age now where she doesn't try to catch them.

There are dozens of different varieties of butterfly throughout
the exotic butterfly aviary -- such as this Golden Helicon.
Butterflies emerge from their chrysalis state in a special incubation room.

Of course, what's exploring without a pith helmet
and binoculars?
The butterfly bench at the end of the exhibit area is a favorite of ours.  Mom
and Hunter looked for more butterflies in front of the poinsettia tree.
She really got into exploring.

And then there was this statue... except it's not a statue.  It's a performer.  I've
seen similar performers in New Orleans, but this lady was excellent.

Thing is, Hunter's a big Doctor Who fan... and I believe she was convinced
that this was a Weeping Angel... and hence she would not take her eyes off it.
I have to admit, she was mesmerising.

At the top of this post, you see the angel reaching out to Hunter.  It was a very magical moment.  It's all part of a yearly celebration they call White Flight -- and if you have a young one that's interested in butterflies, this is a must-stop.

I wish we could have stayed in Branson longer... but our schedules didn't work out that way.  I'm looking forward to taking Hunter back now that she's old enough to appreciate far more of the city and its attractions.  If you're interested in checking Branson out, click here.

1 comment:

  1. What a fun trip! It looks like all of you had a great time. We keep saying.....


Be kind.