BRANSON, Mo. —
Tuesday night will mark the first time in many years that I haven't spent New Year's Eve in Branson. I'm a little bummed out by it.
No worries, though. I have good seats in the corner of the bar at Club 609 as well as dinner reservations at another local hot spot. But my heart and thoughts will be in Branson when the band strikes up "Auld Lang Syne."
I've spent a lot of time in Branson during the past month, seeing Christmas shows and researching theaters and attractions to see what they will offer on New Year's Eve. There are plenty of shows and parties for those lucky enough to escape to the heart of the Ozarks during the middle of the week.
Though my list does not include every opportunity to get your NYE party on, it does have some of the best bets for a great time on New Year's Eve -- Branson style.
Legends in Concert at Dick Clark's American Bandstand Theater is always a great NYE celebration. After all, Dick Clark was the king of New Year's Eve for decades. Six different acts will perform, and gourmet boxed dinners and cocktail service are available.
The AB Grill has reopened, as has its bar. The show starts at 9:30 and includes party favors and a great lineup of entertainment. Call 1-800-641-4106 for the show lineup.
- The Starlite Theatre's New Year Eve show stars Larry Gatlin and The Gatlin Brothers. I saw the Gatlins recently and had forgotten how many songs they made famous. Hors d'oeuvres and sparkling punch are on the menu. Doors open at 7 p.m., and the show starts at 8 p.m. Call 1-866-991-8445 for reservations and prices.
- In the mood for a country kind of new year's party? Check out the celebration at Pierce Arrow Theater. The show begins at 9 p.m. and includes snacks, special guests and comedian Jarrett Dougherty. His cast of characters and the Pierce Arrow Quartet will make you laugh and sing in the new year. Call 417-336-8742 for show information.
Want to party the night away? Check out the happenings at Branson Landing. Many of the landing's bars and restaurants, such as Ernie Biggs Piano Bar and Waxy O'Shea's Irish Pub, know how to party. I spent my last New Year's Eve at Ernie Biggs, and it was a crazy scene.
Both places will be packed and are only for those who really want to party on NYE. Amateurs need not apply.
Want to ring in the new year with some international style, but don't feel like staying out late? The Acrobats of China featuring the New Shanghai Circus offers two early shows on New Year's Eve that are perfect for families.
A suggestion: Take the kids to the Acrobats show early in the day, then hit the town later with the adults. Many hotels offer childcare and parties for kids. Just ask when making reservations.
- Dixie Stampede, much like the Acrobats, offers two shows early in the day on NYE for those who don't want to be out late. Thundering horses, trick riders and a full meal will keep families entertained as they welcome in 2014. I've always loved the pig races -- it's a Woods family tradition. Call 1-800-520-5544 for information.
- Have you ever celebrated New Year's Eve afloat? Here's your chance. Check out the Showboat Branson Belle's New Year's Eve Table Rock Lake cruise. The special cruise offers a three-course meal, show, party favors and a fireworks show at midnight, weather permitting. The Belle departs at 8 p.m. and returns to the dock at 12:30 a.m. Call 1-800-775-2628 for reservations.
- Another Branson favorite is the special Grand Jubilee NYE show at Grand Country Music Hall. Emcee Mike Patrick, comedian Jim Dandy and the New South quartet will welcome in 2014 in grand style. The show starts at 9 p.m., and finger foods and beverages will be served during intermission. Party favors, a live countdown to midnight and a balloon drop are planned. Call 1-888-514-1088 for information and reservations.
For a complete list of Branson's New Year's Eve shows, lodging and attractions, go to www.ExploreBranson.com.