The American Bus Association (ABA) and
the National Tour Association (NTA) consistently vote Branson as
a top motor coach destination. Bank Travel magazine and
Group Travel choose Branson as one of the top U.S. destination
for their clubs. The Recreational Boating and Fishing
Foundation’s (RBFF) Take Me Fishing Campaign rate Table Rock
State Park in the list of top 100 Family Friendly Places to Boat
and Fish in the U.S.
Silver Dollar City was named one of the top 10 best
theme parks in the world by
Why all the accolades? One short visit to
Branson told me why it consistently ranks so high for travelers
of all kinds. It has it all.
|Baldknobbers perform in Branson
You like shows? Branson has more seats
than Broadway, over 57,000 throughout the dozens of theaters.
You can attend 100 different live shows each season from pop,
rock ‘n’ roll, country,
classical, gospel, illusionist and Broadway-style musical
productions. Shows offer performances morning, noon and night.
You want it: Branson has
We visited several and I'm hard pressed
to pick a favorite. I loved them all for different reasons.
Many shows include a
blend of several types of entertainment like music and comedy.
One that combines the two perfectly is the Baldknobbers. The
name comes from a group of vigilantes that roamed the area
during reconstruction and met atop the mountain balds. They
struck terror into the hearts of the lawless during the 1880s.
Their story is told in the play
Shepherd of the Hills
which is yet one more production offered in Branson. However,
the only thing the Baldknobbers might strike today is your funny
bone. The comedy portion of the show is performed by
Tim Mabe, who portrays
"Droopy Drawers, Jr," a toothy sloppily dressed character
originally created by his father and one of the founding member
of the Baldknobbers, Jim Mabe,
and Jerl Adams
who is a toothless, flaccid faced "Hargus Marcel" who portrays a
dour character but is so hilarious he is often laughing at
himself. The jokes
are corny and clean but the delivery will have you rolling in
The music portion, which is the largest
part of the show, will strike a few cords in your heart. Our
show raised the curtain with a rousing rendition of "Orange
Blossom Special." The main cast is onstage playing their hearts
out while Mike Ito strides up the main aisle to the stage
playing the fiddle portion. Mike is from Tokyo, Japan –last
place I would expect a country musician to hail from. He just
about makes his fiddle talk and is no slouch on vocals. His
versions of "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain" and "El Paso" are so
good you could close your eyes and envision Willie Nelson and
Marty Robbins on stage.
The rest of the cast are equally good.
Patty Mabe, wife of "Droopy Draws, Jr., does a soulful version
of some of Patsy Clines favorites. Rob Blackwood, the band's
drummer is the son of the famous gospel group, the Blackwoods.
He has performed on stage with celebrities like Johnny Cash and
June Carter, Dolly Parton, Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers,
Kenny Rogers, the Oak Ridge Boys, Conway Twitty , Loretta Lynn,
and other big name musicians. Dean Holman, playing steel guitar
and dobro, has appeared on the Grand Ole Opry and played at
Carnegie Hall. In 2001, he was awarded the George D. Hay
(founder of the Grand Ole Opry) Musician of the Year award. The
rest of the band has equally great musical credentials and live
up to your highest expectations.
Even while waiting for the performance
and during intermission, you are entertained
by Bob Leftridge who plays guitar and sings with a bit of
comedy tossed in.
The band was established in 1959 by Jim,
Lyle, Bill and Bob Mabe, The Baldknobbers Show is Branson's longest
On the opposite end of the spectrum you can be wowed by the
special effects in Jonah,
currently in its first season at Sight and Sound Theater.
Sight and Sound Theater
is Branson's largest; surpassing even the 4,000-seat Grand
Palace. The story is the well known Bible story of Jonah and his
dilemma, comparable to things we all face in life just
|Showboat Branson Belle
The cast is not in the forefront. In fact
we tried to find out the actor's name (or actors since it is
preformed twice daily except Sunday and Monday) and could not
get a name. The music and dance scenes rival Broadway
productions. The scenes that call for animals use real live
ones. It is fascinating to see horses, camels, donkeys and other
animals prancing across the stage. However the production gets
it s highest kudos from me for its special effects.
The first act ends with the scene where
Jonah had just been tossed from the storm ridden ship. Second
act begins. Lights go off. Curtain goes up. You find yourself in
an underwater setting. The huge whale swims out over the
audience in the lower level seats. Giant lighted jellyfish
descend over the balcony. The entire theater is filled with
swimming fish and other creatures that inhabit the deep. It is
an indescribable scene. My words cannot do it justice. You just
have to visit Branson and see for yourself.
Speaking of water, you can get out on Table Rock Lake on the
Showboat Branson Belle and see a great variety show. You
can choose from a lunch or dinner cruise at either noon, four or
eight PM. We choose the dinner cruise and were mesmerized by
host/comedian/magician Christopher James before and during our
meal. He recruits audience members to help in his illusions.
They leave you wondering, "How did he do that!"
|Janice Martin and the Showmen on
Showboat Branson Belle
The meal was superb. It's a full three
courses and you have several choices. My prime rib was perfectly
cooked and so tender. After you eat, you have some time to
wander around the paddleboat and even visit the captain at the
When you return to the theater be
prepared to be blown away by the talent. There is Janice Martin,
the world's only aerial violinist. She is equally good on her
violin as she twirls and twists far above the stage as she is
while standing center stage.
The Showmen are a group of five talented
male singers and dancers who have all the moves perfected. Their
song range is versatile ranging from Motown to Rock to
patriotic. The singers are backed by Showboat's signature live
band, the Rockin' Dockers. You just can't sit still.
For a more participatory type of theater, check out the Little
Opry Theatre for a showing of
Smoke on the Mountain.
The show is set in North Carolina in 1938. The audience becomes the
congregation as Pastor Mervin Oglethorpe interacts with the
Sanders Family Singers at Mount Pleasant Baptist Church's
Saturday Night Gospel Sing.
|Scene from Smoke on the
It is hilarious! The interaction between
the "mother" and her "twins" is worth the admission by itself.
The older sister "June", signs since she cannot sing. For the
most part she uses standard sign language but the exaggerations
and emphasis "signs" will have you laughing so hard you will
need to rush to the restroom to check your undies. For me, she
stole the show. The old-time gospel music is moving even if you
are not a religious person.
There are so many shows and theaters that
you will have to make some hard choices unless you decide to
move to Branson. Shepherd
of the Hills was the play that started it all so you will
want to see that one. So many greats have theaters there and
Shows may be why many people visit but it
not the only reason.
|One of the many rides at Silver
Silver Dollar City leads the list of
parks. It's so huge and contains so many varied types of
entertainment: shows, rides, dining, crafters, classes and the
unbelievable Marvel Cave that began it all. It deserves an
article of its own and will have one in the next issue.
Branson's White Water offers 13 acres of
tropical adventure filled with nearly 7,000 feet of slides, lots
of rides and attractions and two million gallons of water used
in every conceivable fashion from thrill slides like
KaPau Plummet to a refreshing swim on a hot day.
The Track Family Fun Parks have four
parks in Branson that offer anything from a nice tame game of
miniature golf to a fun bumper car ride and, for the ultimate
thrill seeker, the Skycoaster , a cross between skydiving and
|One of the Ducks in Table Rock
There is so much outdoor fun in Branson
it's hard to visualize it all. The Ride the Ducks Tour is one
way to get a good overview of land and water attractions. Our
driver was knowledgeable and witty. When he hurls full blast
from land into Table Rock Lake it is an unforgettable
experience. Our driver, Captain Trapp,
even let some of us
drive in the water. One of the most moving parts of the route is
the tour of former American military vehicles perched high on
Baird Mountain. The tours go rain or shine but if, unlike real
ducks, you prefer to stay dry they are covered.
Another scenic overview tour is the
Branson Scenic Railroad. It takes you on a 40-mile roundtrip
excursion thru Ozark foothills and tunnels. A narrator explains
the history of the places you pass through. The raised cars give
you an over the top view as you travel in luxury reminiscent of
the golden age of the railroads.
For the more daring, there are numerous
zip lines offering you a chance to swoop across the land like a
bird in flight.
Getting out on Table Rock Lake can be accomplished in many ways.
Indian Point Marina has most options covered.
You can rent anything
from a little Waverunner up to a 12 passenger pontoon boat. Want
to see what is under the surface? The dive shop can rent you
gear or even train and certify you.
|The Scenic Railroad and historic
When you get hungry, mosey over to the
area's only Floating Café. The owner, Andy, will make sure you
get your fill. We had breakfast there and would not have need a
lunch for quite a while after. It's
so much fun to just watch the fish and turtles swimming past the
dock. Table Lake's water is so clear you can see them perfectly.
There are dozens of other marinas as
well. Fishing can be enjoyed as simply as tossing a line off the
lake's banks or as elaborately as doing a day on any of
Branson's three pristine lakes: Table Rock, Taneycomo and Bull
Shoals. All three lakes have camping and RV parks and public and
private boat docks/launch areas. It's Fisherman Heaven
|Titanic Museum is exact half size replica
is the Gatlinburg model but both "ships"are identical)
Branson is overflowing with museums
including two antique car museums, the largest toy museum in the
world and many others.
One of my favorites is the Titanic
Museum. It's a hands on interactive look at one of the greatest
disasters of the 20th century. The exterior is )a half-sized
replica but that is only the tip of the iceberg (pun intended.)
It's when you step aboard that the real ship comes to life for
you. You are issued a boarding pass in the name of one of the
real persons that sailed on that fateful voyage. My pass said I
was Helena Baxter, widow of the infamous Diamond Jim Baxter.
Helena, traveling with her adult daughter and son, was one of
the lucky survivors. She traveled first class in the second most
expensive suite onboard.
There is much to marvel at in this
museum. One of my favorites is the exact replica of the Grand
Staircase. It makes you feel as if you were aboard on that
The newest exhibit is a tribute to the
eight musicians who perished that night. There were two bands
aboard, the Salon Orchestra composed of five men and the Deck
Band consisting of three. The exhibit with a picture of each man
and a little about him. A "crew member" played a moving tribute
to the musicians when we visited.
The museum spent over four million
dollars on the artifacts. The care and thought that went into
the creation of the /titanic Museum make it a must see for
anyone visiting Branson.
Bonniebrook Gallery, Museum, and
Homestead introduces you to the life and work of Rose O'Neil,
creator of the Kewpie Doll, artist extraordinaire and activist.
Ripley's Believe it or Not is filled with
the odd and unusual. There's the Hollywood Wax Musuem with all
your favorite actors and the Butterfly Palace and Rainforest
Adventure. There is no way to tell you about all of Branson's
museums. There are museums for just about everything in Branson.
It's another reason to go see for yourself.
Anyone can find a place to stay that suits their style or
budget. RV parks, camping, lodges, motels or hotels. High budget
with all amenities or just a inexpensive place to lay a weary
head after a day of fun, Branson has them all.
|Lobby of the Lodge at Ketter
Center from the balcony
Keep checking American Roads for an
Inn Roads article on
the Villages at Indian Point where we stayed. It rates a full 10
on the Wow Scale.
Another unique place to stay is The
Keeter Center. It's a rustic lodge with all amenities including
fine dining located in Point Lookout about four miles form
Branson. What makes it so unique is that it is part of the
College of the Ozarks,
alternately known as "Hard Work U" because of its work instead
of pay policy. Students work at the lodge, museum, mill or other
places that are part of the campus to earn tuition and room and
board. This is another place that will have its own story in an
This just touches on a few of the many
things to do in Branson but if I haven't given you a good reason
to visit Branson, you have to be a "stay at home person."
Branson is a place with something for everyone.
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