By Cliff Locke
When we decided to go to Branson in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri, all I heard was country music and backwoods. I mean, after all, the Beverly Hillbillies was filmed there, you know the episode when they went home to the hills? So what could be there that I actually wanted to see? But, as always, I gave in to what the rest of the group wanted and said, “Sure lets vacation in a small, country music lovers’ dream town.”
I couldn’t have been more wrong!!!
Branson is a hopping place with so many fun things to do; I was like a kid in a candy store! But where should we start? The newest attraction in Branson was the Navy Pier Ferris Wheel from Chicago’s Navy Pier. It stands 150 feet tall and has 40 gondolas and at night lights up the sky with an incredible 16,000 LED lights!! Then it was on to more adventure at the mile-long Runaway Mountain Coaster, as it pulls you up to the top of the mountain, which is actually a very scenic ride, and then releases you to control your own brakes as you fly back down, at up to 30 miles an hour, to the bottom of the mountain. I was glad that they took our pictures along the way because no one will believe this is in Branson.
Branson was founded as a live music destination and it will not disappoint there either. Still known for some country music, Branson has so many more diverse genres of music. Sure, Roy Clark from Hee Haw was the first famous entertainer to open a theatre here. Then he convinced Andy Williams and other entertainers to move here and open theatres too. Today Branson has over 30 live music theatres and actually boasts having more theatre seating than Broadway!!
The Haygood’s Show was the show we decided to see and we were not disappointed. From the moment we walked into the theatre, we could tell that it was going to be an awesome show. Everyone we talked to had said it was the best show in Branson or that it came highly recommended by multiple people in town. I didn’t know what to expect. I have pretty high expectations on live shows. All I can say is “Wow!” The family of five brothers and one sister all play a wide variety of instruments and dance and sing too!! Their high energy made for an awesome night of entertainment.
We returned to our hotel at Chateau on the Lake, with views of Table Rock Lake that could take your breath away. The sunset over the lake made for a very elegant dinner while reminiscing about our full day’s activities. How could the next day be any better?
I woke with the enthusiasm of a kid, excited to see what the day would bring. Our first stop was breakfast at Billy Gale’s. You better be hungry when you arrive because you are served a stack of pancakes the size of the plate. And you get all the fixins, too! It was well worth the short wait.
Then on to another well-praised show, Red, Hot n’ Blue, we were told that takes you on a musical journey through the decades starting in the 1920s and working its way to today. They are considered the hardest working cast in Branson, each one of the cast doing at least one to two others shows a day. The costumes rivaled anything I had seen on the Broadway stage and they had over 100 costume changes. No wonder they are considered the hardest working show in Branson. After the show, the cast comes out to shake hands and meet all of the guests. One of them actually told us to try the Vigilante Zipline, so that was our next stop.
The views from Inspiration Tower were amazing and the tower itself is 230 feet high and the Vigilante glides down from the top!! I am not a heights kind of person, but it was exhilarating!!
I caught my breath and we were off to Ride the Ducks. Table Rock Lake has 879 miles of shoreline and I knew I wanted to be on the water at some point during this vacation. Ride the Ducks takes you on a wacky excursion through the mountains and ends with a splash into the lake. We did get wet, but I didn’t mind. It was well worth it as we floated out in our old army duck boat. The captain regales you with many interesting stories, some I didn’t quite believe, but it was all in good fun.
As we drove the Famous 76 Strip past the go-cart tracks and the giant transformer at Ripley’s Believe it or Not plus past the huge meatball at Pasghetti’s Italian Restaurant, I was glad that I had not been closed minded and decided to give Branson a chance. I realized it wasn’t just country music and backwoods, it was fun. Family fun! And I can’t wait to return to try out all the things we didn’t get to see and do!