I have fond memories of visiting Branson, Missouri and Silver Dollar City https://www.silverdollarcity.com/theme-park as a child. And now it is so much fun to return with my own children to build new memories that I hope they will treasure as they grow up also. We love visiting for lake fun in the summer but more than anything, I delight in Branson during the holidays. They boast more than 6.5 million lights and it is absolutely breathtaking!
If you are visiting Silver Dollar City for their Old Time Christmas, going on a weekday is ideal. The crowds grow larger as you get closer to Christmas. We’ve visited on both weekdays and weekends in November and December and it makes a huge difference in the crowd size. That said, if you know that going in, you will have a wonderful time no matter when you visit. But if you go on a weekend in December and the weather is sunny, expect long lines and big crowds.
Three Day Itinerary Branson Christmas (Friday-Sunday)
Day 1 (Friday)
Driving from Kansas City to Branson, it’s about a 3.5 hour drive. We hit the road by 9 a.m. If we are carpooling as a family, we leave a car in the well-lit parking lot of the Belton Police Department. Our most recent stay included renting a house at Antlers Resort https://www.antlersresort.com/ at Indian Point on Table Rock Lake. This place is amazing and they are continuing to add more rental homes. It is pricey but if you are traveling as a large family, I would recommend it highly. Last year, we stayed with 10 people and rented the upper half of one unit. This year, we had a group of 14 and rented the entire house. We easily could have invited 5-10 more people and there would have been plenty of room. It’s clean and modern with a lovely view of Table Rock Lake. Staying at Antlers Resort in the colder months is great because it has an indoor pool and hot tub which is perfect after a long day at Silver Dollar City. We haven’t stayed here in the summer yet but my kids have been begging to because the outdoor pool looks lovely with a small slide and lazy river. You can check out my Instagram stories here https://www.instagram.com/adventuresinmomlife_/ to see Branson Fun in my saved stories. My kids take you on a tour to show you the incredible bunk bed room and other highlights from Branson.
We decided to split up SDC into two days to make it more leisurely and allow us to have dinner and swim in the evening. My family has season passes which are a great value. The rest of my family bought two day passes through www.discoverbranson.com. They emailed the tickets and I was able to easily show the barcode as we walked through the gate without needing to print the tickets. If you are going for two days, I would definitely recommend this option.
Lots of questions about these amazing light up hats. Such a fun find and only $11! Here in a link to shop all of my looks at https://www.liketoknow.it/adventuresinmomlife
On our most recent visit, we were able to get an early check-in, drop our stuff and make the short 5 minute drive to Silver Dollar City. The proximity to SDC is perfect when staying on Indian Point because you can avoid the crazy crowds coming into SDC from the north. SDC has convenient shuttles so no matter how far away you park, you can catch a shuttle right to the park. You will want to expect it to take you 20-30 minutes from the moment you drive into the park until the time you actually hand your ticket over to get in. If you want to be one of the first on a particular ride, I would recommend arriving 30 minutes before the park opens to be standing at the rope ahead of rope drop. It’s also nice to arrive early during the holidays because it allows you to stroll leisurely in to see the decorations and take photos.
On the day of our visit, the park opened at 1 p.m. We visited in mid-November before the biggest crowds and we were delighted that Friday we barely waited in line for any rides. Our game plan is always to steer right at the giant (gorgeous) Christmas tree and head for the rides Time Traveler and Thunderation. My kiddos love Time Traveler. It is a fun one. It has the right balance of scary and thrilling without throwing you all around. Thunderation is nice because it’s a roller coaster with a lower height requirement. My 4 year old was proudly able to ride it. It’s pretty rough and bumpy and is not my favorite but I happily ride it numerous times with my kids.
Depending on the show schedule, the glass blowers and blacksmiths are nearby. I like breaking up the rides with taking in shows and watching the craftsmen. The glass blowers are the biggest hit with my kids. It amazes me to see this and my kids delighted in hearing and watching this incredible process.
If you have little ones, you might enjoy continuing down to The Grand Exposition. This is the least interesting area for my kids, ages 4-7, but I think it would be perfect for ages 3-4 or kids who are a bit older and don’t love the big rides. We skipped this area this time and headed toward Powder Keg. In the top three rides for my kids, it’s Time Traveler, Powder Keg and Outlaw Run.
We rode Powder Keg with little to no line and right next to that, stood in line to see “A Dickens Christmas Carol.” I would recommend getting in line at least 30 minutes prior to any show and even earlier to guarantee a seat. The shows at SDC are very popular. It’s a nice way to escape the cold and relax your feet.
From the Opera House, you could ride Powder Keg easily, they are side by side. And then it’s a short walk to ride Fire-In-The-Hole. I remember riding this as a kid which makes it so fun and surreal to take my own children.
From here, it was dark, so we took the opportunity without the crowds to stroll through Christmas in Midtown and take in the beauty of 1.5 million lights. The pictures are beautiful but it is even more incredible in person. This is a perfect time to ride the Frisco Sing-Along Steam Train. I love it at night to take in the beauty of the lights. This makes for a wonderful end to day 1, capped off with swimming and hot tub time back at our rental home.
Day 2 (Saturday)
During a visit on Saturday last year, the park stopped allowing entry by mid-afternoon because of record crowds. We didn’t want to run into that, so we wanted to be at the park at opening on Saturday. While Saturday was much busier than Friday in mid-November, it wasn’t nearly as busy as we expected. We started our day 2 in the same way as day 1 because my kids wanted to hit Time Traveler first. This ride can have very long waits because it doesn’t seat a large number of people on each ride so we thought it would be a wise idea to start here. From Time Traveler and Thunderation, we walked across the Swinging Bridge back and forth and then back down the path to allow the kids to explore the Half Dollar Holler tree house area. They rode the carousel and we walked across the short cut down to the Riverfront area. Here, you can take photos with Rudolph and Santa. Make sure to check the times and expect lines. They do take professional photos you can buy but also allow you to take your own, which is nice to avoid the added expense.
From here, it’s a short walk to the Fireman’s Landing area and this is such a fun zone for little ones. We got to watch my nephew ride his very first rides and it was so precious seeing his delight as he felt like such a big boy riding with his big cousins. He loved Up the Ladder, Lucky’s Dizzy Dogs, Fire Spotter and the Fireman’s Frenzy. These rides are so cute and perfect for the young ones. There is one big ride back in this area, which is FireFall. I loved this one, similar to the Detonator at Worlds of Fun, where you drop from eight stories. It definitely gets your heart racing and my 7 year old loved it. He did get nervous right before we shot into the air and desperately reached for my hand which melted my heart.
After Fireman’s Landing, we made our way back toward The Giant Barn Swing and Outlaw Run. Jonathan, age 7, was just tall enough for Outlaw Run and excited to try a new ride. Whoa, this one is exhilarating! It quickly shot to the number one ride on our list, even ahead of Time Traveler and Powder Keg. Outlaw Run is a giant wooden roller coaster. They had two cars running so the line moved fast and we rode this one twice because it was that good. As we got strapped in, Jonathan asked me if it went upside down. I told him I doubted it since it didn’t have an overhead harness. Well, I was wrong. You do 5 corkscrew type loops. Thankfully, he loved every second. But this is definitely not one to have your kids ride unless they want to and are ready for a wild ride. We didn’t ride The Giant Barn Swing because the back and forth rides make me sick so we opted out on that one and headed for Powder Keg.
I’m not sure Powder Keg will ever grow old. The anticipation of blasting off is good every time. And for the little daredevils, even though it says you need to be 48 inches, you actually only need to be 42 inches tall as long as you are riding with a supervising companion. Roen rode this at age 5 and felt like a boss being able to ride such an exciting ride. He held my hand the entire time and I just watched his sweet face laugh in delight the entire ride. The ride itself is a blast but the views from the top are another reason to ride. You can see Table Rock Lake and the rolling hills around. It’s incredible at sunset and in the dark during Old Time Christmas where you can see all of the lights from a birds-eye view.
After two amazing days, we were ready to stroll through the lights one more time and grab a seat for the Rudolph’s Holly Jolly Christmas Light Parade. The parade is so festive and cute. We like to view it from the stone benches on Hugo’s Hill Street close to restrooms and Flossie’s Fancies where my kids like the corn dogs, chicken tenders and I love the funnel cakes.
The most crowded spot we experienced over two days was trying to depart right after the parade. Hundreds of others seemed to have a similar game plan so next year, we will try to do one or two more things after the parade. We enjoyed the easy tram ride back to our car and the less than 5 minute drive to our place and capped off another great day with swimming and the hot tub.
Day 3 (Sunday)
On our final day in Branson, we enjoyed a fun morning at our rental house with a family foosball tournament and a walk down to the waters’ edge. My kids love throwing rocks into water and the setting was stunning. It was a crisp and cool morning and I love the fresh air and the sound of crunching leaves. We also saw several beautiful bald eagles gliding above the lake.
We checked out at 10 a.m. and made our way to Wolfe Mountain Branson Zipline https://wolfemountainbranson.com/ to experience their Snowflex. We did this last year for the first time when our kids were 4 and 6 and had an amazing time. It’s a beautiful setting nestled in the trees about 15 minutes north of Branson. We booked the Family Rate online from this page where you click “Book Family” https://wolfemountainbranson.com/snowflex-park/. They have a darling store where you check in and a short, easy walk to get your tubes. They give you a very short and simple safety briefing and you are on your way to spend one hour tubing. You ride up a little conveyer belt while holding your tube. It’s nice that you don’t have to walk up the hill, especially if you are toting small children and multiple tubes. Our first year, they let us have our small children on our laps but have since changed the rules and everyone has to be in a tube. You can link tubes so it’s easy to stay together as a family if you choose. You can link up to 8 people together, which makes for a great time for a group small or large group to enjoy this together. Kids as young as 3 years old can do this. It’s not strenuous so older folks can enjoy it as well. I would caution to not sit your bum all the way down in the tube so as to not have your bum hit bumps on the way down. This is one of our very favorite family adventures. And you can see and hear the delight from all here…
We love stopping on our way home at https://www.blaaacksheep.com/ Black Sheep Burgers in Springfield, Missouri. So yummy! The downtown location has a gorgeous mural right across the street. This location is more of a sit down style. The Sunshine location has a drive-through and is great for a quicker stop.
Other Branson Adventures
Welk Resort Branson Hotel
In other trips, we have stayed at https://welkresorts.com/branson/ Welk Resort Branson hotel and the kids loved this. We stayed here in the warmer months and enjoyed the pools, one with a water slide that the kids went down numerous times.
Pirate Mini Golf at Pirate Cove Branson
We also recommend the https://www.piratescove.net/locations/missouri/branson/. This mini golf is incredible and one of our favorites we have ever been to. The course is beautiful and well maintained. It was extremely busy when we visited over Labor Day Weekend, but because of the waterfalls and the setup, it didn’t feel loud or crowded. Our entire family had an amazing time and we can’t wait to return!
Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery Branson, Missouri
We also really enjoyed the https://nature.mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/places/shepherd-hills-fish-hatchery Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery. This was educational and very interesting to learn about the Table Rock Dam and the hatchery itself. The kids really enjoyed the free conservation center with the opportunity to see a two-headed snake and several other animals. They also enjoyed helping to feed the fish. We spent about an hour here and you could easily spend more or less time depending on your family.
Marvel Cave in Branson, Missouri
Marvel Cave https://www.silverdollarcity.com/theme-park/Attractions/Rides/Marvel-Cave at Silver Dollar City is also an incredible adventure. It is part of your admission to SDC and if you have time, it’s a must do. This is something we will likely visit every other year. My entire family learned a lot and really enjoyed the tour. We had ages 3 to 75 in our group and everyone enjoyed it. You do venture down a lot of steps so this might not be enjoyed by very small children (or parents who will carry them) or those afraid of heights or small, dark spaces. This adventure brought out the explorers in our kids and I was surprised and delighted at their ability to do the entire tour on their own without the need to be carried.