Browsed by
Tag: attractions

Incredible Artifacts and Interactive Fun at Shipwrecked Treasure Museum in Branson, MO

Incredible Artifacts and Interactive Fun at Shipwrecked Treasure Museum in Branson, MO

Located at the Branson Landing, the brand new Shipwrecked Treasure Museum in Branson, MO just had its official ribbon cutting ceremony last Thursday. This interactive treasure museum is filled with fascinating artifacts recovered from miles beneath the ocean’s surface!

 

Branson shipwrecked treasure museum

 

I received complimentary museum admission to facilitate my review.

Whether you’re a history buff, a pirate enthusiast, a rare coin collector, or just a fan of visiting museums while on vacation, Shipwrecked Treasure Museum offers something for everyone. I loved learning the stories behind each exhibit, and it’s crazy to look at artifacts like a piece of pottery that was literally underwater for thousands of years!

Read More Read More

Hollywood Wax Museum in Branson, MO

Hollywood Wax Museum in Branson, MO

 

I recently had the opportunity to visit the Hollywood Wax Museum in Branson, MO and wanted to share my experience with you guys!

 

Hollywood Wax Museum Branson MO

I received complimentary admission in exchange for an honest review.

 

I recruited my friend Debbie to come with me – this kind of attraction is best with a friend who is totally ready to take a bunch of silly photos with you. It’s a great rainy-day activity, and will appeal to a pretty wide range of ages. (I don’t think small children would get much out of the experience, but kids old enough to recognize the celebrities and enjoy getting their photo taken will probably enjoy it.)

 

It’s almost impossible to miss the Hollywood Wax Museum as you’re driving down Highway 76 in Branson, which is the main street where most of the live music shows are located. In addition to the eye-catching King Kong above, the exterior features a Mt. Rushmore-style sculpture featuring classic stars:

 

rushmore faces on branson 76

 

There are a few different ticket options available. You can buy a ticket for just the Wax Museum, which at the time of posting is $22.99 ($12.99 for kids), or you can purchase an All Access Pass that also includes admission to Hannah’s Maze of Mirrors, the Castle of Chaos 5-D ride/game experience, and Shoot for the Stars Mini Golf, all of which are on-site and range from $13-16 each if purchased separately. The All Access Pass is currently $29.99 ($19.99 for kids), so you get a lot of extra entertainment for just a few dollars more! I even have a Branson Hollywood Wax Museum coupon that you guys can print out – it gets you $2 off each All Access Pass for up to six people! Score!

 

Castle of Chaos Branson MO

 

We went fairly late in the evening and wound up spending about two hours in just the Hollywood Wax Museum, but hopefully I can return at another time and write about the other three attractions. They all get good reviews on TripAdvisor, and your pass is good all day so you can always do one attraction in the morning, come back for another in the afternoon, and two more in the evening.

 

 

The Hollywood Wax Museum has exhibits spread out across two floors. (You can choose stairs or elevator to access the upper level.) Most rooms feature celebrities that all fit a certain theme, from classic Hollywood with Audrey Hepburn and Judy Garland to country music superstars including Dolly Parton and Willie Nelson. I like that they offer wax figures from a pretty wide range of eras and genres, so your teens can get just as excited about Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift as grandma does about taking a photo with Frank Sinatra. (Or hey, maybe it’s Grandma who’s the Bieber super-fan and your 10th grader is into Old Blue Eyes. You get the idea!)

 

A few more classic stars:

Read More Read More

An Evening Aboard the Showboat Branson Belle

An Evening Aboard the Showboat Branson Belle

 

I live right on Table Rock Lake (as you probably know since I’m always Instagramming lake sunsets) but it’s been ages since I’ve seen it from the perspective of being out on the water instead of standing on the shore.

Showboat Branson Belle entrance

Thanks to Silver Dollar City Attractions for inviting me to check out the Showboat Branson Belle! I received a complimentary dinner cruise in exchange for sharing my experience with you guys.

 

I’m a fan of dinner shows when you’re visiting a city like Branson for two big reasons:

1) It eliminates the hassle of picking out a place to eat, figuring out how much time you need to get there, eat, and get to your show on time, and dealing with the traffic on your way from one to the other. Nobody wants to cut an awesome meal short because you’re running late for your evening entertainment plans, and nobody wants to miss the beginning of a show because your waiter was slow bringing the check. Having both in one place saves so much stress!

2) Dinner and the show are both included in your ticket price, which can be a big money saver if your’re traveling as a family or group. The average live show in Branson currently runs around $30-40 per adult, so the Showboat’s prices are really reasonable for both dinner and entertainment! (The prices below were from my cruise towards the end of 2017 and the Showboat website lists the same prices for summer 2018, but they may be slightly different if you’re visiting after that.)

Showboat Branson Belle ticket prices adults children priority

 

Getting There:

The Showboat Branson Belle is located a little bit outside of the main tourist area of Branson, right on one of my favorite walking trails. (The one that runs from the Dewey Short Visitor’s Center to State Park Marina literally cuts right through the Showboat’s parking lot. I’d recommend allowing at least half an hour for a scenic lakeside walk before or after your cruise if the weather allows!) It’s also just a few minutes away from Chateau on the Lake, one of the most luxurious hotels in the area. If you’re staying in a hotel along the 76 Strip, it’s about a 15-25 minute drive when there’s no traffic.

 

 

I was on the 4 o’clock dinner cruise, for which boarding begins at 3 p.m. Arriving early not only means times to check out the cute shops and lake views near the dock, but means you can be towards the front of the line to board the boat, which means a bit of extra time to look around and snap some selfies with the lake in the background. (A souvenir photo is taken when you board, but nobody ever brought mine to the table so I sadly can’t offer feedback on the pricing or quality.) Seating is assigned on your ticket, so there’s not a big hurry, but the boat does depart on time, so don’t be late!

Boarding takes awhile (I think I was in line around 20 minutes), but the water in Table Rock Lake is usually really clear, so a lot of the people around me in line were entertained by watching the fish as we waited. There were some MASSIVE ones visible just below us, and I finally figured out why – there’s a little machine selling fish food there! Those guys are pretty smart to hang out beneath a regular food source instead of venturing out into the rest of the lake where they might get caught!

 

The FOOD!

Shortly after boarding, dinner is served!

 

Everyone is served the same meal (see note about vegetarian and vegan options on the Showboat Branson Belle below), which consisted of the following for my cruise:

  • Salad
  • Dinner Roll
  • Pot Roast
  • Honey Citrus Chicken
  • Sugar Snap Peas with Carrots
  • Garlic Mashed Potatoes

I’m not much of a meat eater but I tried a little of each dish so I could report back, and both the beef and chicken were moist and tender. (Confession: I took them home to my cats.)  I can’t eat salad, so I basically just ate the mashed potatoes and dessert. If I return, I’d definitely order the vegetarian option.

 

Dessert is a frozen lemon berry pie, which was quite good even though I’m not usually a fan of lemon.

If you purchase the upgraded Chef’s Menu tickets, you get to choose from a selection of entrees including steak, trout, and pork chops and have four desserts to choose from, so this may be the way to go if you have picky eaters in your group.

 

Vegan and Vegetarian Options on Showboat Branson Belle: Alternate dinner options are available for those looking for vegan, vegetarian, or gluten-free meals.

The vegetarian meal is a lasagna cheese roll with marinara sauce and vegetables, and the vegan option is a baked potato with Tuscan vegetables. Yes, sorry vegans, I know being offered a veggie plate gets old, but given that they have to prepare everything on the ship, I get why they don’t offer something a little more interesting.

(I forgot to get details on the gluten free meal and what the vegan dessert is! Sorry!)

Be sure to let your server know if you want one of the alternative meals as soon as they greet you and offer drinks – things move pretty quickly and that’s really the only time to get a request in. I’d been considering requesting the vegetarian dinner, but felt like I missed my chance and didn’t want to inconvenience my super-busy server.

 

 

The showboat’s house band plays instrumental music during the dinner service, which was a little different from the style of dinner show I’m used to where you eat while the main show is happening. (I worked at Dixie Stampede, now called Dolly Parton’s Stampede, when I was in my late teens/early 20s, and the cues for various courses to be served are pretty much built into the show there.)

 

The Entertainment:

I grew up in Branson at a time when being a local meant free admission to pretty much any show, so I’ve seen a whole lotta Branson shows in my day!

The show aboard the Showboat changes on a pretty regular basis, which is fantastic if you visit Branson often, since there’s always going to be something new to see. In addition to the standard dinner cruises, there are Pirate and Princess cruises for kids, Southern Gospel Cruises to correspond with the dates of the Southern Gospel Picnic at Silver Dollar City, and a whole new show for the Christmas season.

For my cruise, the show rotated between a few different acts: A singer named Cassandre who started off with Carol King songs, a five piece male group called The Showmen who did a medley of Billy Joel songs, comedy magician Christopher James who also served as Emcee, and Rhythm, a dance group with super fancy footwork. Towoards the end there was a huge medley of songs from movie soundtracks and Broadway shows that involved every performer and countless costume changes. So much fun! (Sorry my show photos aren’t spectacular – Being about a dozen rows back in a dark theater makes it hard to capture crisp images.)

 

The Showmen

 

Rhythm

 

It was clear that whoever put the show together understood how to appeal to a wide range of people. It’s hard to go wrong with famous movie songs, for example, and a good magic act appeals to any age group. I give this show a thumbs-up if you’re looking for something that will entertain everyone in your travel party.

Seating for dinner and the show is divided into three levels, but the boat is small enough that you’re going to have a good view from pretty much any seat. I was down on the floor level, but I went up to the top during intermission to see how it looked from there:

 

 

Stunning Lake Views:

One of the highlights of the cruise is intermission, when the show takes approximately a half hour break and you can take the opportunity to wander around the boat and take in the scenery. The boat moves very slowly, so you don’t travel all that far during the cruise, but this area of Table Rock Lake is so picturesque that there’s not really a need to go very far.

Showboat Branson Belle deck

View from the deck of the Showboat Branson Belle dinner cruise

 

 

I cruised in October, so by the time we returned to the dock it was almost sunset. It looks like there’s an 8 p.m. cruise in the summertime, so that would probably work out where you caught the sunset during intermission. That would be stunning!

Sunset from the Showboat Branson Belle

 

What to Wear to Showboat Branson Belle: Like most shows in Branson, MO, the dress code here is pretty casual. Some guests dress up a little (think casual dresses or nice pants and a button-down shirt for men), but there are plenty of people in jeans, too. A souvenir photo is taken of your group right after boarding, so you may want to keep that in mind when planning your outfits. The most important thing to plan for is the portion of the cruise that you’ll be walking around out on deck taking in the stunning lake views. You may want to bring along a light jacket, especially for evening cruises, since even in the warmer months the lake breezes combined with the moving boat can make things a bit chilly.

 

The Showboat Branson Belle is currently in the middle of their 2018 season! You can learn about all of the different types of dinner cruises they have on offer this year on their website.

Love the beautiful lakes that surround the Branson area? Check out my stay at Bar M Resort, which offers charming cabins right on Table Rock Lake that are ideal for a family reunion or fishing trip!

Celebrating Fall at the National Crafts & Cowboy Festival at Silver Dollar City

Celebrating Fall at the National Crafts & Cowboy Festival at Silver Dollar City

I grew up in Branson, MO, so long days of water rides at Silver Dollar City were a fixture of my childhood summers. This was long before cell phones were a thing (except those giant Zach Morris phones that were bigger than your head), so it was a huge deal when my best friend and I were finally old enough to go off by ourselves for several hours at a time and then meet up with mom when it was time to go. The ultimate tween version of freedom!

It’s been several years since I’ve been to the 1800s themed park, so I was thrilled to be invited to visit and check out the National Crafts & Cowboy Festival, just one of many festivals and events offered at the park each year.

National Crafts & Cowboy Festival at Silver Dollar

Thanks to US Family Guide and Silver Dollar City for providing complimentary admission in exchange for sharing my experience with you guys!

My original plan was to arrive a little before the park opened at 10 a.m., but then Mother Nature was like, “Those are nice fall plans you have there. It would be a shame if anything… happened to them.”

Note the lovely temperatures the rest of the week. Boo-urns. Sadly that 67 degrees at 3 pm turned out to be an overly optimistic forecast. It never got above about 56.  Felt more like the Christmas festival than fall!

 

One Big Tip for Visiting Silver Dollar City: Arrive Early. To get the most out of your visit, plan on arriving

Read More Read More

Turpentine Creek – A Sanctuary for Lions and Tigers and Bears! (Oh My!)

Turpentine Creek – A Sanctuary for Lions and Tigers and Bears! (Oh My!)

 

You guys know I’m 100% a cat lady, so when I was offered the opportunity to visit a big cat sanctuary, I was all over it! Bring me all the kitties, please!

Turpentine Creek is different from most attractions in that they wish they didn’t have to exist. The animal sanctuary, which is located in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, takes in big cats whose owners pass away or realize they’re not equipped to care for them, or from other exhibits that close down. Unlike some animal attractions, these guys aren’t being taken away from their natural habitats or being bred for exhibition, they’re being rescued from unsafe situations and being given a forever home.

Every animal’s story is different, and their enclosures are equipped with signs that fill you in on their background.

Although Turpentine Creek focuses on big cats, to quote one of the tour guides, “We’ve recently branched out into bears.” (No idea why, but that phrase tickled me.)

 

They’re working on new enclosures for the black bears that will have trees they can climb in the center so they can get their climbing fix without being able to get over the fences. The grizzly bear already has a pretty fancy place to live, complete with his own pool and waterfall, since they’re not built for warmer temperatures!

 

Um, can I live here?

Thinkin’ about Bear Stuff

Speaking of the enclosures, I want to mention up front that I didn’t manage to capture how nicely designed they were in my photos. (Let’s be honest, I was mostly thinking, “Ooooh, kitty!”) Each area is well thought out with plenty of space to roam around, and features that mimic what they’d play with or relax on in a natural habitat. Due to how much it costs to build a new enclosure, they do sometimes wind up needing to do a switch-out process where, to use an apartment metaphor example, two male tigers get the big fancy penthouse-style space today, then tomorrow they go into a smaller studio-style area and the two females get the big space. Given that just before my visit they’d taken in 30+ animals from an animal attraction in Colorado that had been shut down, it seemed like a pretty solid way to accommodate the new arrivals until resources are available to give everyone their own fancy place. They avoid mixing animals that didn’t grow up together to avoid scary hierarchy fights, so they won’t just add a new cat to a pair that already lives together.

I took a Google Maps screenshot that hopefully provides a better idea of how much space the big cats get to run around in. There are a few cars at the top of the pic for scale, and you can see the grey fence outlines throughout.

 

(I come from a Disney World background, where we build entire African-style savannas as animal environments, so my standards are pretty high. These guys obviously aren’t working with Disney’s budget, but they do a great job of providing happy, comfortable homes for the animals they rescue.)

Also, I did my best to minimize the fencing in photos, but it’s worth noting that there are two pretty serious fences between guests and animals. It creates a nice “in-betweeen” zone that ensures nobody can throw something into their environment, or anything else along the “well, that was really dumb” line of guest behaviors.

As a cat lady, this place is totally up my alley. (alley cat?) For instance, I finally got to learn…

Ohhhhh.

Every time I watch big cats, (especially tigers) I’m struck by how similar their behavior is to my little guys. These two young tigers giving each other baths is 100% like what happens at my house on the daily:

Turpentine Creek White Tiger Siblings

 

Let’s backtrack a little bit to give you guys a better idea of how a visit to Turpentine Creek goes!

The sanctuary is a short drive outside of historic downtown Eureka Springs, about 15 minutes. There’s plenty of parking (big difference from downtown!). Tickets are regularly $20 for adults, $15 for teens, $10 for kids, seniors and veterans and under 3 is free, but you can sometimes find discounts on sites like Groupon.

Admission includes a guided tour that lasts around 45 minutes, plus the freedom to wander around part of the sanctuary (see below) as much as you’d like. They offer a trolley tour for an extra $5 if you’d prefer not to walk, but the trolley option is complimentary for guests with mobility disabilities. There is a lot of stopping to listen to the guide speak on the walking tour, so as long as you’re comfortable walking about half a mile very slowly, you’re likely to be ok. (I always try to include info that will help people determine if they can handle the physical aspects of an attraction, but if you have specific questions, feel free to ask!)

 

This map is from Turpentine Creek’s site, which has a page where you can check out their brochures and maps! It’s a great resource if you’re considering visiting.

After purchasing your tickets, you’re given a time and place to meet for the guided tour. Until then, you’re free to wander the area marked with a black line above. I think I had around 20 minutes before my tour time, which felt like plenty of time to explore that area. It’s worth noting that the exhibits you see along the red line on the map are only accessible while on the tour. (I’m guessing this is for safety reasons? It would probably take a lot of resources to monitor guests and ensure safety if you were free to explore the whole sanctuary on your own. It’s big!)

I spent a lot of my pre-tour time watching this guy take a bath. 😍

 

 

black leopard Turpentine Creek

I didn’t get a very good pic of this kitty, but I loved him because he’s basically a slightly larger version of my Bear.

A better pic from the Turpentine Creek website:

 

And my own Bear, whose vet has said that he looks just like a panther he used to treat.

 

Very fierce, much terrifying.

(Fun fact – One of the bears at Turpentine Creek is named Huggy, which has resulted in me calling Bear “Huggy Bear” way more often than he’s probably comfortable with. 😂)

My tour guide patiently put up with all of my crazy cat lady questions (“Hey, do tigers get hairballs?”), and gave us a ton of info about the animals. I think the tigers were my favorite,  because like the wildlings they are, as we would divert our attention from them to listen to the tour guide talk, they’t take our distraction as the opportunity to stalk us.

Turpentine Creek tiger

Kitty invites you to (be) dinner.

 

One of the white tigers spent several minutes sloooowly creeping up on us, which was super fun to watch.  It started way up the hill and gradually made its way down. Our tour guide did what’s lovingly known as a “butt dance” – apparently they look for animals that are distracted by eating or drinking water, aka a head down position, to sneak up on. That went a little like this:

 


Well… that worked!

 

Turpentine Creek offers an option where you can stay in lodges, bungalows, or tents at the sanctuary. The lodges are styled to look like a safari lodge you’d stay in while visiting Africa, which I dig since I’m a sucker for pretty much any kind of theme suite. What’s really cool about these rooms, though, is that you’re able to hear the cats roaring and such throughout the night! Definitely on my list of places I’d like to stay on a future Eureka Springs visit.

I’d definitely recommend adding Turpentine Creek to your trip plans if you’ll be visiting Eureka Springs or Northwest Arkansas in general! You can learn more about them on their website, or follow on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. I mean, be honest… your life needs more cat videos in it.


 

I’m also happy to answer any questions you might have about planning a trip or anything else about my visit that I didn’t cover!

I received complimentary admission to Turpentine Creek in exchange for sharing my experience. No other compensation was received, and everything above is my honest opinion.