If your hometown has been letting you down in the Christmas jollies department, a trip to Branson, Missouri can’t help but get you in the mood to make merry. Starting in November, the Branson shows (and there are 100 of them in 50 theaters) shift to Christmas-themed performances, and you’ll see big production numbers all dressed up in tinsel, stars, Santa hats and glittery red and green color palettes.
Other local tributes to the holidays like the Shepherd of the Hills Trail of Lights display should not be missed.
Silver Dollar City Themepark at the Holidays
While little twinkly lights are everywhere, no place is more festively outfitted than the Silver Dollar City themepark, newly expanded to feature 6.5 million tiny light bulbs that blaze as part of “An Old Time Christmas” festival. The expansion includes a nine-story high tower of lights plus a train ride and much more. The festival also features a Christmas light parade, a five-story Christmas tree tricked out with 345,000 LEDs that twinkle to music and other special effects, holiday dining and more, every Thursday through Sunday (plus a few Wednesdays) through December 30.
A ticket here will allow you to ride the rides, see two original musical productions, wander the park, and tour the underground caves (the original attraction in this area). Make a point to see the Broadway-style musical version of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” It’s a lively affair with elaborate sets and a cast of talented singers and is well worth the short wait in line to get in.
Then turn the kids loose, if they’re old enough, to check out the thrill rides on their own – they’re found on the perimeter of the park. You can wander through the park on its little winding walkways, checking out the crafts booths where craftspeople work on wooden furniture, candle making, blacksmithing and glass blowing.
There are plenty of shopping opportunities, as you might expect, and all kinds of food. We especially liked the succotash and the homemade ice cream. When it’s dark, line up for the Christmas light paradel ed by Rudolph with dozens of costumed dancers, and that lighted Christmas tree show timed to music.
Top Branson Musicals for the Kids
Branson Missouri is famous for its many theaters. At any season you may catch a 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, Elvis, Temptations, Opera or other tribute show, done very well. Musical variety shows like the Andy Williams Variety Show and the Hughes Brothers Show are perennially popular, and they do have special shows over the holidays, but we find that kids can only sit and watch so many music shows.
If you only see one, the most engaging music show for the entire family is the award-winning Six, consisting of a group of six brothers who bring a funny, edgy and more modern spin to the Branson theater scene. They have the requisite beautiful a capella singing voices and stunning harmony arrangements, but their beat box accompaniment and amusing banter shifts this show into a much more hip and exciting realm.
There are non music-oriented shows, too, and a couple of big spectacles that are especially delightful for children are the action-packed Janice Martin Cirque featuring a violin-playing trapeze artist, and the thrilling New Shanghai Circus with its Chinese acrobats.
Branson Feels Like the Holidays All Year Long
Branson is a town with visitors that swing wide and deep when it comes to demographics. Visit in the spring or fall and it’s solid oldsters — the tour bus and gray-haired crowd with a few multigenerational families thrown in.
But in summer, the place swarms with families and a fairly healthy dose of retirees who come to see the shows. During school holidays, families show up again and at Christmas time, it’s especially fun for all ages.
Branson is packed with other family friendly activities, no matter what time of year. here’s a drive-through light display of animated Christmas scenes, as well as more active bike rides or horseback rides through Dogwood Canyon Nature Park and a few areas offering zip line tours.
For the sedate there are sightseeing boat rides such as the Showboat Branson Belle with a variety of themed sightseeing and dining cruises year round. At Christmas, you can catch the live show with holiday-themed musical selections, comics and dance bands, plus a blend of classic and contemporary holiday favorites through New Year’s. The enromous and fun paddle-wheeler also does a weekend Christmas adventure for toddlers and young ones called “Santa’s Pancakes & PJs” cruises. Dressed in pajamas, kids can be part of a treasure hunt through the ship and encounter elves, fairies and supervised activity stations like face painting. Before you return to port there’s a pancake breakfast with The Man himself — Santa.
For a lower key aquatic experience, try the Ride the Ducks Boat and Land Tour. Branson also boasts a small dinosaur museum for your younger travelers, an excellent Titanic museum, the Branson Scenic Railway and more.
Trip Planning Details for Branson Family Vacations
Where to stay is an easy choice in Branson because there are so many options. The two Hiltons of Branson are right across the street from each other and from Branson Landing with its shops, restaurants and bars. Downtown Branson is a couple of blocks away and the show strip is a short drive away. Their large hotel rooms, connecting rooms, one-bedroom suites and one-bedroom condos are quite comfortable for families.
To learn about tickets for each of our favorite shows, check out the variety of family friendly hotels, plan your stay or find more general information, visit the Branson tourism website.
This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question, and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.