Browsed by
Tag: Missouri

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

Step Into History at the Titanic Museum in Branson

Step Into History at the Titanic Museum in Branson

 

If you’ve ever driven down Highway 76 in Branson, Missouri (something I do several times a week), you’ll know it’s impossible to miss the Titanic Museum Attraction as you pass.

 

Branson Titanic Museum

 

I visited once waaaaay back when it first opened (about 10 years ago, I think?) and then again recently. They’ve definitely added a lot to their collection since my first visit, and a few things have changed. I’ll fill you in on all of it!

 

One note before we begin – Photos and videos are not allowed inside the attraction, so pardon the lack of photos taken by me in this post. (I have borrowed a few from the media section of their website so that you will have some visuals!) They said that it’s for copyright reasons, and it does preserve the reverent atmosphere, but it did lessen my enjoyment a little bit. There are a few spots that would be fantastic for a photo (the Grand Staircase and Captain’s Wheel, for example), so I wish that they at least allowed photos in select spots. If you’re a curious sort like me, you may want to bring a pen and paper along. Since I couldn’t take photos of things and people I wanted to look up more info on, I jotted down notes instead.

 

 

Titanic museum branson grand staircase
Image via the Titanic Museum Attraction media page.

 

(As a side note, I think the no photography rule is a newer one, since I remember being able to take photos the first time I visited. There are quite a few photos on TripAdvisor, but I’m a rule follower so I didn’t take any during my visit.)

 

 

Upon entering, you receive a boarding pass (Mine is above) with the name and brief story of a real passenger, as well as a listening device for the audio tour. As you tour the museum, you can keep an eye out for photos and stories about your passenger, and find their name on the memorial wall at the end to see if they survived or not. For the audio tour, most exhibits have a number that can be typed into your device to play information. The audio content expands on the written descriptions, and sometimes includes stories from survivors. Some exhibits and artifacts have a second number, which is for the kid’s version of the audio tour.

Most of the exhibits are permanent, but they also have temporary ones that last for a few months. During my visit, there was a collection of fashion designed by Lady Duff Gordon, one of the first class passengers.

 

 

The second one from the left reminded me a lot of this dress from the Titanic movie:

Not the same cut, obviously, but similar colors and the same thick ribbon empire waist. I’d guess that the movie’s costume department took a lot of inspiration from Lady Duff Gordon’s designs!聽You can check the Titanic Museum Attraction’s website to see what the current rotating exhibit is before visiting.

Touring the museum takes about 90 minutes for the average visitor – someone who stops to read a fair amount of the info and examine the exhibits and artifacts, but not to read and listen to every word. You’ll find life-size recreations of the accommodations, including a third class cabin with tiny little bunk beds, authentic recovered artifacts including life jackets, and an interesting display that shows the difference between the first, second, an third-class dinnerware and menus.

 

Image courtesy of the Titanic Museum’s media page.

 

Image via Titanic Branson’s media page.

 

In addition to the artifacts, you’ll find some interactive exhibits. In one area, you can try to balance on the sloping surface of the deck as the ship tilted to steeper angles while sinking, while another spot offers the opportunity to see how long you can hold your hand in 28-degree water, which is the temperature the water was when the ship sank.

 

Sloping Deck at Branson Titanic Museum
Image via the Titanic Museum Attraction media page.

 

As you exit the museum, you’ll find a small gift shop with an array of memorabilia and an impressive selection of Titanic-related books.

Books about the Titanic in the Titanic Museum the gift shop

 

A few cool notes about the Titanic Museum Attraction in Branson:

*They offer early admission for guests with autism once a week so that they can have a more comfortable touring experience.

*There’s an education guide on their website with ways to incorporate lessons in almost every subject around the Titanic. It would be a fantastic resource for home schoolers! There’s also a scavenger hunt you can print out so kids can search for the answers as you explore.

*They just started a podcast that tells the stories of the passengers.

*While most of the museum is kept at a comfortable temperature, when you walk across the starlit promenade deck outside of the captain’s quarters, you’ll notice a distinct chill in the air. I noticed that a nearby thermostat was set to 52 degrees to create the feeling of actually being out at sea on a cold night without making visitors uncomfortably cold. Just a cool example of attention to detail.

*I was surprised to learn that a lot of the crew members were very young – like 14 or 15. Makes sense since this was long before labor laws, but that’s definitely not how I’ve ever pictured the crew.

 

 

Be sure to take a moment to pose for some photos outside of the museum before you leave! It’s built to scale and looks so realistic that you can almost forget you’re right in the middle of the Branson 76 Strip.

 

Overall, this is a sort of difficult experience to describe. I can’t call it “fun” given the tragedy that it comes from, but it is definitely interesting and worth doing.聽To learn more, visit the Titanic Branson website or visit the Titanic Museum Attraction Facebook page, which posts the latest info and photos from both the Branson and Pigeon Forge museums.

 

Trail Riding in Branson, MO at Pot A Gold Stables

Trail Riding in Branson, MO at Pot A Gold Stables

In my opinion, almost any beautiful walk can be even better if you’re watching the scenery from horseback.聽As much as I love hiking, almost every time I’m walking through the woods I think, “This would be so much better if I was riding.”

 

 

Back in July, I was browsing the #explorebranson hashtag on Instagram in search of fun new things to do, and got SUPER excited when a post from Pot A Gold Stables showed up in the feed. I had NO idea there was a new trail riding place near Branson! If you read my blog often, you might remember that I’ve been taking Hunter/Jumper (English) riding lessons for a little over a year, but I haven’t had the chance to go trail riding in a couple of years, so a relaxing trail ride through the Ozarks sounded perfect!

 

 

Pot A Gold Stables is located just across Lake Taneycomo from Downtown Branson on the same property as the Sycamore Creek Family Ranch, which serves as an event and wedding venue. Although the ranch is off the beaten path, it’s easy to find. From the Branson Landing area, you just cross the bridge and only have to make two turns after that – about a ten minute drive. The final road leading up to the stable is gravel, but it’s pretty smooth for a gravel road and my little car had no problem with it. There’s parking just a few steps from the barn, which is super convenient!

 

 

All of THAT said, I was still late getting there for my ride.聽馃槀聽I had only glanced at the map and thought I’d be taking a totally different highway to get there, and only discovered when checking directions right before I left that it was a good 15 minutes farther away from my house than I thought. Oops! Thankfully I’d been planning to leave early anyway, so I still arrived well before the actual start time. Most of the other guests were already paired up with horses by that point, though, so I’m glad I wasn’t any later! (You do need to make reservations for your ride so the trail guides know in advance how many people to expect and thus how many horses to have ready. That also means that if you’re running a few minutes late like I was, they know to wait for you. Definitely aim for being early, though. Nobody wants to be the guy who everyone had to wait for. And allow some extra time for traffic if you have to drive through Branson!)

Pot A Gold Western Adventures offers one, two, and three hour trail rides, which I LOVE. It’s so hard to find a barn that offers rides longer than one hour! If this is your first time on a horse, you’ll probably want to stick with an hour, but if it’s something you’ve done before and know you like, definitely go for the two hour ride! For me, an hour on horseback just flies by, so I’m all about the 2 and 3 hour options!

 

Adorable donkeys also live on the ranch

 

They also offer 20-minute lead pony rides, which are great for kids that are too young to join in the regular trail rides but want the chance to try it out. (Kids need to be at least 6 to go on the regular rides, and riding on the same horse as a parent is not allowed for safety reasons.)

On the opposite end of things, they don’t have a weight restriction to ride but you do need to let them know if you’re over 250 lbs when you make the reservation so they can have a horse ready to accommodate you. I know that can be a delicate subject to bring up to a stranger, but both you and the horse will be way more comfortable and safe!

 

 

I got super lucky with weather the morning of my ride! It was overcast and even sprinkling a little on my drive there,聽 but the rain stopped before it was time to ride and we got to enjoy the cooler temperatures that came with it. It started out at about 72 degrees and hit the upper 70s by the end of my two hour ride. (For the record, rides still go out as long as it’s not raining too badly. They do reschedule if the weather conditions are going to make things unsafe, though.)

 

A few horseback trail riding tips if you haven’t been before:

 

What should you wear for a trail ride, and what should you bring along?

Definitely wear long pants – jeans are probably going to be the most comfortable. I know shorts might seem like a good idea when it’s hot, but trust me, they’re not. Not only do legs rubbing against your saddle get painful, but you’re riding through the woods where branches and bushes can scratch bare skin. Jeans are your friend!

Closed toed shoes are another must. Boots are great, but tennis shoes will work just fine in a pinch. I actually tend to ride in a pair of $30 boots from Target most of the time. Something with about a 1-inch heel is ideal, because that keeps your foot from slipping through the stirrup. Avoid anything with an actual 2+ inch heel, though.

(As a side note, there are several great thrift stores in Branson, so if you’re visiting and want to pack light, you could easily find jeans and boots for a few dollars and then just re-donate them before you leave town.) Depending on the weather, you may also want to bring a hat or sunglasses and a light jacket. Be sure to bring a bottle of water (saddle bags are available so you can bring it with you on the ride), and if it’s a hot day, you might want to bring two! Tips for your trail guides are not required but are definitely appreciated, so you may want to bring some cash as well.

Children are required to wear helmets, but older teens and adults can choose whether they’d like to or not. The horses are very well trained and used to beginners, but even with the best trained animal there’s always a chance something could happen. I always wear a helmet when I’m riding English, but generally don’t for Western. Just go with whatever you’re more comfortable with!

 

Pausing by the lake for photos

 

To be honest, I’m back an forth on the idea of bringing your phone along. One of the guides on my ride was awesome about taking photos for people and texting them to them, and you can always ask to have a photo taken on your horse before you start or end your ride. I did bring my phone along because I’m very comfortable on horses and experienced enough to judge when I feel safe taking it out to snap some photos. In general, though, it’s better to focus on the ride and keep both hands on the wheel, so to speak. Nobody wants to have to drop a billion dollars on a new iPhone because it fell out of your pocket and the horse stepped on it. (Seriously – even with 30+ years under my belt, I’ve dropped my phone on a trail ride before. I’m super lucky I heard it fall or I probably never would have found it!)

 

 

Let’s get back to my actual experience, though! I wound up riding a super sweet little mare named Izzy. I could tell from the beginning that she was super chill and I’d be able to just relax and enjoy my ride, which is exactly what I’d been hoping to do! A funny side note – she was over a foot shorter than the horse I usually ride for jumping, so when it came time to get off her it was like, “WHOA, there’s the ground already!” I gave her lots of love post-ride and asked the guides if it would be ok to give her some of the horse treats I keep in my car (What, everyone does that, right?) as a reward for her hard work. We became instant buddies.

 

 

The trails at the ranch are absolutely beautiful. You get to ride through the woods, along Lake Taneycomo, through big open fields, and even down a path that winds through a patch of bamboo that’s like 12 feet high! Most of the ride is very relaxed and easy, but there are a few challenging parts mixed in for a little excitement. The location also makes it a perfect place to spot wildlife. We saw baby deer on my ride, but bald eagles, herons on the lake, giant groundhogs, an other Missouri wildlife are also common.

 

 

The horses are all very well trained and beginner-friendly. A lot of horses would freak out at things like passing a big tractor or seeing a deer jump out, but nothing bothered these guys. Another common issue with trails horses is being barn sour (not wanting to leave the barn and wanting to run when they’re getting close to home), but the Pot A Gold horses stayed relaxed the whole time. At the same time, if you actually do have riding experience, you’ll notice that they don’t just mindlessly follow the horse in front of them like a lot of trail horses do. I played around with giving Izzy some very subtle cues while we rode, and was pleasantly surprised by how well she listened to me.

 

Pot A Gold’s Branson location is currently closed for the season because riding in 30 degree weather is no fun for anyone, but if you’re planning to visit Branson in 2019, be sure to put it on your list of Missouri adventures, as the current plan is to re-open in March!

 

I need to add an important note here at the end: I received a complimentary trail ride in exchange for sharing my experience with my readers- pretty standard for travel blogging, but I actually started working for this company about a month after my first ride. I wrote most of this post right after the trail ride and before I started working there, so I’m glad I preserved my original opinions fresh after the experience before I started viewing everything through an insider lens! I tried to primarily only use photos from that first ride, too, but I did end up adding in a few photos from later rides just to flesh the post out a bit. I’m working on another post about my experiences during my first season of guiding trail rides, but I wanted to keep this post in the pure, unbiased view of a guest. Hope that makes sense? Either way, feel free to fire away with questions whether they’re about trail riding in Branson or trail riding on vacation in general or working with horses or anything else and I’m happy to answer!

 

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Pot A Gold (@potagoldstable) on

(Yes, that’s me “Woo-hoo!”-ing on Polka Dot in the back. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve seen plenty of Polka Dot!)

 

You can find Pot A Gold Western Adventures on Facebook and Instagram聽(you’ll spot me in a few pics there!), and learn more on their website!

Fantastic Caverns

Fantastic Caverns

 

A fun fact that most people don’t know: Missouri is FULL of caves. Over 6,000 of them, to be more specific. Only 16 offer tours, and one of those, Fantastic Caverns in Springfield, Missouri, offers a ride-through tour on a tram.

Fantastic Caverns is America’s only ride-through cave. This is a BIG deal – there are only a handful of ride-through caves in the entire world! I love exploring caves but most require visitors to be in pretty good shape physically, since you’re likely to be stooping down to fit through low passages, climbing stairs and inclines, and generally on your feet for around an hour. The pathways are sometimes narrow, low, and inclined in order to preserve as much of the natural environment as possible, but this makes them inaccessible to a lot of people – those with mobility disabilities, elderly visitors, small children who can’t walk through on their own, etc. So while I totally understand why not every cave can offer a more accessible tour, it’s awesome that there’s at least one cave that pretty much anyone can visit comfortably!

As you guys might have noticed, I always try to include as much info as possible to help travelers with disabilities or other special circumstances plan their trips, since I know that can be hard to find. If you have any questions that I don’t cover, feel free to reach out in the comments or email! (And yes, the trams have ramps so they’re wheelchair accessible! You may want to check with them if you have a chair that’s especially wide or tall, though.) I just learned while browsing their Facebook that the tour is even dog-friendly, so this is also a perfect choice for anyone with a service dog or even just a well-behaved furry traveling companion!

As you might remember from my summer posts, this spring and summer have been SO HOT, so I started looking around for local attractions that doubled as a great place to cool off. The Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau was kind enough to send me a press pass that allowed me to visit Fantastic Caverns so I could report back to you guys with some honest feedback and tips for visiting.

 

 

Getting To Fantastic Caverns:

Ignore what Siri is telling you to do. She doesn’t know your life. Follow the signs instead. (Basically, if GPS tries to send you on a weird loop to the west of town, ignore that and either take Kansas Expressway up past the fairgrounds or use I-44 exit 77. ALL of the Fantastic Caverns signs say exit 77, so of course my phone yelled at me when I didn’t take exit 75 like it wanted me to.) Just be prepared for the fact that you’re going to feel like you’re heading out into the middle of nowhere and driving a few miles down farm roads. Caves don’t really keep visitor convenience in mind when they’re forming.聽馃槀

 

馃幎聽I saw the sign, and it opened up my eyes…聽馃幎

 

Fantastic Caverns Tours:

The cave is open almost every day of the year (closed Thanksgiving and December 24th & 25th) from 8 a.m. until around dusk (so 4 p.m. in the winter and 8 p.m. in the summer) and tours go out about every 20-30 minutes, so you can arrive whenever you’d like and you probably won’t have much of a wait before your tour departs. I had about 15 minutes, which gave me time to use the restroom, browse the gift shop, and check out some of the educational material in the waiting area. (They have some really cool books that you can flip through!) There’s also a vending machine with bottled soda, tea, lemonade, and water available at really reasonable prices (as in $1 – $1.50). In fact, all of the gift shop prices seemed really reasonable. They had baseball caps for $5, and lots of cool gemstones for around $1-2 each.

 

These agate pieces were $1.50. They also had turquoise and rose quartz (among others) for 99 cents.

 

When tour time rolls around, everyone boards a tram that holds around 30 people. Here’s a peek at what those look like:

 

The tour guide is also your driver, so sitting towards the front can make it easier to hear, but the cave acoustics are pretty good so I don’t think sitting towards the back will affect the ability to hear what’s being said much, if at all. I sat at the front of the large part of the tram, and I did notice a bit of a fuel smell up there. (The trams are powered by clean-burning propane in an attempt to preserve the cave as much as possible.)

The tour travels a path carved out by an ancient river and makes a loop that goes about half a mile into the cave and then back out in a sort of horseshoe shape. The lower part of the cave system, which is much larger and contains creatures like cave crayfish and tri-colored bats, is not visited during the tour.

 

A Bit of Fantastic Caverns History:

Although the cave was discovered in 1862 by a farmer and his dog, it wasn’t explored until 1867 when twelve women answered an ad seeking people to investigate the cave. Can we pause and acknowledge how badass those women were? Can you imagine going into a big dark cave with only candlelight and NO idea what you might find in there? The women wrote their names on the cave walls, and those were eventually traced over to preserve them. You’ll see them on the tour!

 

The caverns served as a speakeasy during prohibition, and in the 50s it became a popular concert hall due to the awesome acoustics. The room pictured below is known as the Auditorium, and was the site of countless concerts.

 

 

The jeep-driven tours began in 1961, and have been going strong ever since. I visited once on a school trip in the late 80s or early 90s, but didn’t remember much from that visit , so I was excited to see what was waiting below ground.

 

The Tour!

The cave tour takes approximately one hour and is a fantastic introduction to caves. I thought they did a great job of teaching about caves – how different formations grow, the history, etc – without overwhelming visitors with too much info.

One amusing note:聽 You’re welcome to take as many photos as you like, and the guide mentioned that flash photos are allowed. I tried that in one spot, but I should’ve known better! If you’ve ever tried to take a flash photo in a super humid place, you already know what happened.

Majestic, isn’t it?聽馃槀

Here’s almost the same photo without the flash:

 

The lighting in the cave is designed to illuminate the cool formations (In 2017 they replaced their incandescent bulbs with LEDs for environmental reasons), so you’re likely to get pretty good photos without the flash, especially when the tram is stopped, which is often. However, the mix of dark cave and lighted formations probably isn’t going to result in phenomenal photos if you’re using your phone or a basic point-and-shoot camera. The pics in this post were taken with my dinosaur of an iPhone 5s. I didn’t get any amazing shots, but overall the quality was pretty decent given that I was photographing things that were usually 20+ feet away in weird light. Also on that note, if you don’t know, caves are wet. Don’t bring in a camera that you’re not ok with an occasional large drop of water falling on.

Take a look at those formations above and then consider this: they grow at an average rate of one cubic inch per 100 years. And those guys above? They’re pretty big. For scale:

Tour guide near formations for scale.聽

There is one formation that they know the exact age of! Back in 1941, this concrete cylinder was added to the cave. (We were told why, but I’ve completely forgotten.) Since it reaches through the roof of the cave and allows water in, formations started to grow around it. Sorry for the bad photo, but again, caves aren’t awesome lighting for pics! But the little formations that reach out from the pole are now 3/4 inch long. After 77 years. Just something to keep in mind when looking at the huge ones in other photos!

 

 

Here’s one more to give you the scope of how old some of these cave formations are:

 

The smaller stalactites seem unremarkable until you think about how it took them almost a millennia to get THAT big. It was also fascinating to learn that we were 90-120 feet below ground! It never felt like we were descending much, but the entrance to the cave is set into a hill, so you’re a good 30-ish feet? (I’m estimating) underground from the beginning.

 

Although you’re WAY underground, the cave is high and wide enough in most places that I doubt anyone would experience claustrophobia. You do go under a few low ceilings where taller people need to watch their heads, but there are no tight, enclosed spaces on the tour. (Passages can often be cramped on walk-through tours, so again, this is a great option for those worried about doing a cave tour for that reason.)

 

 

While we’re talking about possible worries, there is one brief part where the tour guide turns off the lights so that you can experience total darkness. There’s so much ambient light now that the only places you can truly experience total darkness with ZERO light is deep within a cave or way down in the ocean. The darkness is maybe 10-15 seconds? There were some small children in our group and they seemed to handle it well (The guide had them count down 3…2…1… to the lights going out, which I think helps), but if you’re traveling with kids you know them best – if they’re hardcore afraid of the dark, just keep this in mind. There are also brief demonstrations of what exploring by candlelight would have looked like, but otherwise the tour has plenty of lighting.

(I’m trying co cover all of the bases for anxious adventurers, but if I’ve left anything out feel free to ask!)

 

 

It’s about 60 degrees inside Fantastic Caverns year-round, so keep that in mind when planning your visit! It’s a perfect way to cool off a bit on a super hot summer day. I wore jeans and a 3/4-sleeve top and was perfectly comfortable. I almost brought a jacket since I worried I’d be cold, but it never felt chilly in there – just pleasantly cool.聽 (Maybe the lack of wind helps?)

This was one of my favorite spots. It’s called the Breakdown Room, because the ceiling has fallen in several times. It looks pretty sound now- look at that super sturdy column holding things up on the left!聽馃槀

 

 

Souvenir photos of your tour group are taken inside the cave, and are available at the end of the tour for $12. (I believe they were 5×7’s in a cardboard folder-style frame.) Afterwards, you’re free to wander the visitor’s center, and there’s even a 1/2 mile trail down to a spring that I really wish I’d had time to check out! (There was a huge storm rolling in around the time my tour ended, so I was hoping to make the hour drive home before it hit. I totally failed at that!)

 

 

As you’re leaving, there are again signs to point you back towards I-44 and Kansas Expressway, which I appreciated since you really are kind of in the middle of nowhere. There’s also a really nice park called Ritter Springs Park just down the road. I stopped for a few minutes and found that there’s some great playground equipment and what looked like a gorgeous trail that I sadly didn’t have time to explore due to the aforementioned impending storm.

A little extra info: Tickets are聽$24 for adults, $17 for children, and kids under 5 are free. This is a little higher than most other local caves I’m familiar with (Talking Rocks in Branson West is $19 for adults, Onyx Cave in Arkansas is $8, and Cosmic Cavern in Arkansas is $16), but the perk of getting to ride through is worth the extra cost, if you ask me, especially if it means your whole travel group gets to do something together vs. some family members or friends having to sit it out.

Fantastic Caverns is just a few minutes from Dickerson Park Zoo, which I wrote about a little over a year ago (that post is here!) so if you’re visiting Springfield, the two would be a perfect combination for a day of educational fun!

Check out the Fantastic Caverns Website for more history and updated info on hours, visit their Facebook page for lots of great info and videos, and of course, Instagram for pretty pictures.

Feel free to ask me any questions that I missed answering down in the comments I’m planning to write about some other caves in the Ozarks soon, so if there’s anything you’d like to know, just ask!

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.)聽 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聽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:聽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!