By Dave Woods
BRANSON, Mo. — Barb Culley and her husband came to Branson to share good times with old friends.
“We come down here for the camaraderie with our friends ... and the shopping,” said the 57-year-old Sioux City, Iowa, resident as she watched the recent Christmas Parade of Stars on the Branson Landing. “You’ve got to make it down here for the holidays.”
For three generations of the McKenzie family of Tulsa, Okla., coming to Branson’s Silver Dollar City for the holidays is a long-loved tradition.
“For the last 25 years or so, we do the same thing every year,” Cam McKenzie, 66, explained. “It’s absolute pure joy. We love Christmas in the Ozarks. It’s a special thing.”
The Branson holiday experience is relatively new to Betty and Alan McGallager, of Pacific, Mo.
The 60-something couple stood in line for almost two hours to get a good spot to view the lighting of Silver Dollar City’s five-story Christmas tree.
“We just found out about Christmas in Branson three years ago,” Betty McGallager said. “It starts the season off for us now; it makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. I’ve never seen a tree like that. I could not describe it to my friends, so I brought them with me this year.”
For the Culleys, McKenzies, McGallagers and many others, a trip to Branson during the holidays means more than shopping at the outlet malls and dollar stores. It’s about spending time with family and friends.
This year, more than ever, the town offers a wide variety of opportunities to make new friends and renew old acquaintances under the glow of millions of twinkling lights.
Silver Dollar City is serving up a spectacular Christmas experience, including its biggest light and sound show ever. The Branson Landing is bustling with shoppers from around the country and most of the usual shows have turned up the warm-and-fuzzy Christmas spirit.
Here’s a rundown of some of what Branson has to offer this holiday season:
Branson Area Festival of Lights
Drive-through display of Christmas lights and animated displays.
Where: Located off of Shepherd of the Hills Expressway and Roark Valley Road.
When: Open daily through Dec. 3. Hours are 5 to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 5 p.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday.
Admission: Per-vehicle admission starts at $10.
Information: (417) 334-4084.
Legends in Concert Christmas Show
Celebrity impersonators sing a variety of their classic hits and traditional Christmas favorites. Featured through Dec. 31 are Buddy Holly, Reba McEntire, Lionel Richie, the Blues Brothers and Elvis.
Where: 3216 W. Highway 76, Branson.
When: 3 and 8 p.m. daily (except Wednesday) through Dec. 23.
Information: (800) 339-3003 or www.legendsbranson.com.
Hamner Barber Wingsof Christmas Variety Show
A family-oriented variety show including comedy, music and holiday surprises.
Where: Off of Shepherd of the Hills Expressway.
When: 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday through mid-December (subject to change).
Information: (417) 334-4363 or www.hamnerbarber.com.
Dixie Stampede Celebrate Christmas Dinner Show
The longtime Branson holiday favorite includes holiday dinner, music, dancing, animal acts, horsemanship and a live nativity with camels.
Where: One mile west of Highway 65 on Highway 76.
When: 5:30 and 8 p.m. daily through Dec. 31 (closed Dec. 24 and 25). Call for additional show dates and times.
Information: (800) 520-5544 or www.dixiestampede.com.
Silver Dollar City’s “An Old Time Christmas”
In addition to the traditional attractions and entertainment, there is a daily tree-lighting ceremony, the Gifts of Christmas light parade, a living nativity, a Christmas parade and a stage production of “A Dickens’ Christmas Carol.”
Where: Indian Point Road.
When: Wednesday through Sunday in November; Thursday through Sunday in December (closed Dec. 24-25 and 31). Call for hours.
Information: (800) 831-4FUN or www.silverdollarcity.com.
Showboat Branson Belle Christmas Dinner Cruise
Dinner cruise on Table Rock Lake featuring Christmas music and a comedy show.
Where: 480O Missouri Highway 165 (a half-mile south of Table Rock Dam)
When: 4 and 8 p.m. daily through Dec. 31.
Information: (800) 775-BOAT or www.showboarbransonbelle.com.
Christmas on the Trail Dinner Show and the Trail of Lights
The traditional cowboy Christmas show includes holiday stories and a sing-along. The drive-through Trail of Lights features animated displays, life-sized Biblical characters and Victorian Christmas displays.
Where: 5586 W. Highway 76.
When: Dusk until midnight daily, through Dec. 31.
Information: (800) 653-6288, www.theshepardofthehills.com or www.trailoflights.com.
The Christmas Music of Mannheim Steamroller
A Mannheim Steamroller Christmas featuring selections from the new album, “Song.”
Where: The Grand Palace.
When: Through Dec. 8. Call for times and ticket prices.
Information: (800) 884-4536 or www.thegrandpalace.com.
Hans Christians Anderson’s “Snow Queen”
The retelling of the Hans Christian Anderson classic fairy tale features a “dance-drama spectacular” including huge puppets, ballerinas, opera singers and musicians.
Where: The Grand Palace.
When: Dec. 14-15.
Information: (800) 884-4536 or www.thegrandpalace.com.
The Spirit of Christmas, Starring the Osmonds
The family Christmas show filled with traditional holiday songs, costumes, dancing showgirls ... and The Osmonds.
Where: Branson Variety Theater.
When: Tuesday through Sunday through Dec. 8 (call for show times).
Information: (888) 462-7267 or www.bransonvarietytheater.com.
Andy William’s Christmas Show
Andy’s traditional Christmas show featuring his classic hits and holiday favorites.
Where: 2500 W. Highway 76.
When: 3 and 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, through Dec. 12.
Information: (800) 666-6094 or www.andywilliams.com.
Winter Wonder Landing
Branson Landing features more than 100 specialty shops and restaurants plus street entertainers, Christmas activities, Santa’s Christmas Tree House, the Water and Fire Fountain and light show, and other entertainment opportunities.
Where: 100 Branson Landing.
When: Santa's Tree House open through Dec. 24.
No. 1 Hits of the ’60s Christmas show, “Scrooge finds his Groove”
The classic “Christmas Carol” gets a 1960s twist.
Where: Jim Stafford Theater on Highway 76.
When: Through Dec. 15 (call for dates and times).
Information: (417) 339-1960 or www.1hitsofthe60s.com.
Branson Scenic Railway Ozark Zephyr
Holiday train excursions through the Ozarks are offered on a decorated train.
Where: Historic Downtown Branson, 206 E. Main St.
When: 9 a.m., 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. Monday through Friday; 9 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 2 and 5 p.m. Saturday. A dinner train is scheduled through Dec. 13. Closed Sundays and on Thanksgiving.
Information: (800) 287-2462 or www.bransontrain.com.
By Dave Woods
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