As experiences rise to the top of more families’ wish lists, holiday getaways offer a fun and meaningful way to make memories together. Branson, located just five hours from the Oklahoma City metro, got its start because of a still active attraction, Marvel Cave! Today, Branson is now home to a diverse selection of family-friendly attractions and, beginning each November, the city amps up the excitement as a holiday hot spot where cheerful celebrations mix with old-fashioned charm.
There is no shortage of festive activities to enjoy in Branson at Christmastime.
Experience An Old Time Christmas at Silver Dollar City
Silver Dollar City is best known for the park’s Wild West shows and high-speed rides that sit atop Marvel Cave. But the park has also received accolades for its annual holiday festival, An Old Time Christmas, which is a five-time winner of USA Today’s 10Best Best Theme Park Holiday Event in America. Over 6.5 million twinkling lights; a show-stopping, special-effect-laden five-story tree; festive shops; tasty treats and high-action productions usher in the cheer.
Twice each evening, families can enjoy Rudolph’s Holly Jolly Christmas Light Parade, featuring colorfully costumed characters, including Rudolph as Grand Marshall. Joining in the parade is the iconic Bumble the Abominable Snow Monster, towering moose and elf characters, marching wooden soldiers and more.
To top off the fun, festival-goers can take in an all-new production, Coming Home For Christmas. A live four-piece band performs songs set to Christmas scenes filled with all of the nostalgia that makes this time of year so sweet.
A variety of rides remain open through the holidays as weather permits but they often have to close early in the evening due to dropping temperatures. If you have some rides in mind, download the park app and plan to get in line sooner rather than later.
The star of the show, in my opinion, Christmas in Midtown Light Spectacular lives up to its name, filling more than an acre with 1.5 million LED lights illuminating walkways and buildings. You are completely surrounded by lights and endless spots to snap the perfect holiday pic.
Take in a live show
Branson is well known for live entertainment and its famous strip is lined with theaters hosting a variety of productions including limited-engagement shows, touring performances and long-standing Branson staples like Dolly Parton’s Stampede. Christmas takes center stage in this extravaganza filled with silly antics, an elaborate live nativity, playful audience participation games and even an indoor snowfall.
And off the main drag, an 1800s-style showboat, the Branson Belle, welcomes pajama-clad families for Santa’s Pancakes & Pjs Cruise aboard the riverboat for a ride around Table Rock Lake to enjoy breakfast, kids’ activities and live entertainment.
Show prices vary, and given the destination’s popularity, many of the most popular shows tend to sell out quickly. Early booking is recommended.
Explore an entire city of lights
Just like many cities in our metro, organizations throughout the Branson area set up cheerful light displays for families to enjoy. Shepherd of the Hills Homestead, open Nov. 1 through Jan. 2 has more than 160 acres of lights, a North Pole Adventure walk-thru experience and a drive-thru light display, plus several holiday shows.
Soar up high to enjoy a bird’s eye view of Branson’s famed corridor and the Ozark Mountains on the Branson Ferris Wheel. The structure itself puts on a festive synchronized light show and offers spectacular views both day and night. The ride is slow moving making the trip to the top perfect for all ages. The storied wheel was once at Chicago’s Navy Pier and made its way to Branson in 2016.
Where to stay
The Chateau on the Lake Resort welcomes guests with plenty of Christmas cheer including sweet decor and even holiday movies in their on-site movie theater! The beautiful lobby is elaborately decorated all year round with cascading waterfalls and Koi ponds, but during Christmas, the common spaces are adorned with huge gingerbread houses, Santa repelling down from the lobby’s multi-story ceiling and lots of Christmas trees.
Amenities include adjoining rooms for larger families, indoor and outdoor pools, tennis courts, a spa as well as an on-site restaurant and sweet shop.
Not traveling to Branson during the holidays? Here are five anytime-of-year Branson things to do:
Take time for some fun at The Track Family Fun Parks
On its quest to be a family-fun destination of choice, Branson has plenty of family-centric attractions. The Track Family Fun Parks dot the strip. From a high-rise go-kart track to arcade games, thrilling rides, classic bumper cars, mini golf and even a zip line, you can fill an entire day with fun! During the holidays, the park has an ice skating rink and the “We all SHINE On” community Christmas tree.
Bonus – Stop in for lunch at the park’s new restaurant, Fuel. Fresh American classics are the star of the menu with delicious options such as BBQ nachos, flank steak fries and the towering Heavy Metal High Rise burger named after the high-speed go-kart track nearby.
Explore the Strip
Historic Highway 76, better known as the Branson Strip, is the central hub of activity. When the sun goes down, the neon lights turn on! Travelers are sure to find plenty of sights to see and things to do on the strip.
Punch your ticket at the Titanic Museum and other unique museums
Branson offers a lengthy list of museums for families to enjoy. Whether you journey aboard the Titanic, catch your favorite stars at the Hollywood Wax Museum or find something unique at the World’s Largest Toy Museum, you won’t have to look hard to find something to match your family’s interests.
At the Titanic Museum Attraction, visitors embark on a first-person journey of the ship’s fateful maiden voyage. With the name of a real passenger in hand, see real artifacts from the ship and recreated rooms that immerse families in what it was like aboard the infamous ‘unsinkable ship’. Audio tours for adults and kids offer additional information and interesting facts. Each year, the museum highlights a different group of passengers and 2023 will be all about the children aboard the Titanic.
Take a trip down memory lane at Dick’s Old Time 5 and 10
Open since 1961, this authentic dime store is filled with quirky treasures, vintage toys and one-of-kind gifts. And bonus: It’s located in historic downtown Branson where you can enjoy a variety of restaurants, retails shops and entertainment including a water fountain show at Branson Landing.
Tour the Deep at the Aquarium at the Boardwalk
As one of the newest attractions in Branson, the Aquarium at the Boardwalk takes you on a journey of the oceans of the world. You certainly can’t miss the massive octopus sculpture atop the museum that is modeled after a giant Pacific octopus. Then, inside, there is a jellyfish infinity room, a huge coral reef teeming with tropical fish, a climbable kelp forest and touchable pools, plus a Submarine Adventure, which is a 5D submarine ride to the bottom of the ocean.
About the Author: Born and raised in the Oklahoma City metro and a graduate of the Gaylord College of Journalism at the University of Oklahoma, Lindsay Cuomo has worked for MetroFamily since 2014 covering local stories, people and events. Lindsay is a mom to three school-aged boys and calls Moore, Oklahoma home.