Branson is a fantastic place to kick off your Christmas celebrations. There’s a bounty of things to do and see in this tourist town. From food to lights and gingerbread creations, here are 8 reasons to visit Branson this season.
1. Follow the Christmas Tree Trail
For years now, Branson has been trying to position itself as the nation’s Christmas tree city. The Branson Christmas Coalition rallied businesses and encouraged them to put up gorgeous trees at their businesses all over town and created a Christmas Tree Trail. I love this for several reasons. First, it’s free! You can download a map of tree locations and drive around the city at your own pace.
This year, they are highlighting trees that are 20 feet or more or part of a cluster of trees. There’s an amazing array of styles. Ripley’s Believe it or Not has a tree made out fake eyeballs. The Track Family Fun Parks has one made with 500 go-kart tires. The Hilton Branson Convention Center has a 10-foot tree made from wine bottles. You must venture inside to see it, but it’s stunning. The Community Tree, 3335 W. 76 Country Boulevard, in front of the Ferris wheel, is a great selfie spot. It’s incredibly festive. Pink Jeep Tours has a giant pink light tree on their roof. This alone is worth a trip to Branson.
The coalition is also encouraging business to put up a ton of lights. Two spots you’ll want to check out are Chick-fil-A and the Steak'n Shake on Main Street.
2. Silver Dollar City’s Old Time Christmas is perfect for holiday fanatics
Silver Dollar City’s Old Time Christmas is my favorite theme-park festival because I am a Christmas maniac. Every year gets better and better. This year, they have 6.5 million lights. There are tunnels of dazzling lights, more than 1,000 trees around the park, buildings outlined in lights, etc. It’s magical. I love their eight-story tree in the town square. There’s a Christmas parade that melts my heart. Just FYI, you will have to line up 45 minutes in advance for the parade if you want a good spot.
Plus, with all the shops it’s a great place to find unique gift items. And the cinnamon bread is a must. The gourmet mac and cheese is spectacular, not what you’d expect from a theme park. The shows are surprisingly good. Honestly, we had been several times and never bothered to watch a show and once we saw A Dickens Christmas Carol, we were so impressed. Plus, there’s a new show this year Coming Home For Christmas (haven’t seen it yet) but it has a cast of 14 singers and dancers. We’ve made great memories there as a family.
3. Take in a show (and watch for deals)
Branson has an abundance of shows. Our personal favorite is Dolly Parton’s Stampede, which includes dinner. Dinner far exceeded our expectations in quantity and quality. They serve a four-course dinner that includes dessert.
My daughter loves horses and more than 30 charge through the arena. The performers stand on horses, leap through flames — it’s really a spectacle for children. There’s even some unexpected magic. And singers have gorgeous voices. The Christmas show is the best, but it is a splurge for us. Tickets for adults are $69.99 (an adult is anyone 10 or older) ages (3-9) $34.99 and 2 and younger are free. They can also accommodate some dietary restrictions, such as dairy, vegan, gluten and peanuts. When you buy tickets online you can specify.
There are plenty of other shows in Branson and I recommend checking Groupon because I often find deals for different shows there. For a list of Christmas Shows: https://www.explorebranson.com/article/branson-christmas-shows.
4. Check out the gingerbread village at Chateau on the Lake
This has been a long-standing tradition in our family. Every year, we stop in to see the impressive village constructed out of gingerbread. It is designed by pastry chef Erika Stobaugh, and requires 300 pounds of powdered sugar; 120 pounds of egg whites; and a whopping 600 pounds of candies, cookies, pretzels and crackers. It takes a team of culinary professionals 175 hours to create this village that glows with lights, Santas, and tiny details. Spend some time taking it in because the magic is in the details.
Another attraction at the Chateau is the life-size nativity set which was made by the Fontanini family in Italy. Each piece is hand-made and signed, and it was purchased for $125,000. It’s free to walk around. They have a nice café if you want to grab a slice of cake and coffee.
5. Ice-skating and tours at Big Cedar
Big Cedar Lodge is technically in Ridgedale, but it’s close enough. A gorgeous place to visit any time of year, during the holidays there are more than 2 million lights on the property. They have an ice-skating rink centered around a mega 25-foot-tall tree. Ice-skating is $20 per person and include skates. The mechanical tree is set to music and lights.
There are tram tours around the property ($20 per person) and self-guided drive-thru tours. Book the drive-thru tour online and save $10. They strongly recommend booking in advance online. Free for Big Cedar Guests with hang tag. Sunday-Thursday is $35 per car, $50 for mini-van or mini-bus. Friday-Saturday is $45 per car or $60 for mini-van or mini-bus. Season passes are $100.
6. Find great gifts of all kinds
Branson has fantastic shopping opportunities. Tanger Outlet is a great spot to find good deals, you just must deal with crowds because it’s very popular. The Branson Landing has a plethora of options and is always beautifully decorated for the holidays. I’ve scored some great deals there. I love the fountain show which is choreographed to Christmas music and had red and green lights.
Downtown, Dick’s 5 & 10 is charming. This is an amazing place to find old fashioned candy (ideal spot for gifts for the grandparents), collectibles, sports items, unique toys and random stuff. There are more than 250,000 items for your shopping pleasure. The Branson Craft Mall is a good spot to score handmade craft items. The Grand Village Shops has a variety of specialty shops with locally made items and an incredible Christmas store where you can find gorgeous ornaments.
7. Take time for a great meal
There’s an array of good food in Branson. Love barbecue? Gettin’ Basted and Big D’s are my two favorite barbecue joints. Dimitri’s Greek Gyros and Deli on Main Street downtown makes amazing gyros. Capone’s Speakeasy downtown has excellent steaks, burgers, cocktails and ambience.
Thai Thai on the strip is a perfect lunch pick. Arandas Tacos on the strip is authentic Mexican that has basic ambiance, but great food and prices. The Branson Landing has many options, some of my favorites are Mellow Mushroom and Cantina Laredo.
8. Slip into your jammies and ride The Polar Express
We don’t do this anymore because our kiddo is older, but she loved it when she was young. You board a train with a mission to go pick up Santa. The Polar Express is read aloud, and everyone gets hot chocolate and cookies. There are carolers and Santa visits every car and gives each child a bell.
If you go at night, you will pass some pretty Christmas lights, which is another perk. Tickets for adults start at $47; children 2-12 are $37.
This article originally appeared on Springfield News-Leader: Christmas events to check out in Branson, Missouri in 2022