Reasons to visit Branson during the holidays.

Reasons to visit Branson during the holidays.

Branson, which is tucked away in the picturesque Missouri Ozarks, goes all out for Christmas. Everywhere you turn in the town is adorned starting the first week of November, featuring more than 1,500 decorated trees and drive-through lighting displays. The main attraction is Silver Dollar City, a recreation of an Ozarks town from the 1880s with a million lights, live Christmas entertainment, seasonal delicacies, thrilling rides, and skilled artisans on display.

The majority of Branson’s 100 live performances—presented at 40 theaters—offer seasonal productions. A skating rink that rivals the one at New York City’s Rockefeller Center is among the other family favorites.

More than 1,500 Christmas trees

Christmas trees are a long-standing tradition, but Branson takes it to the next level by welcoming guests with 1,500 trees at its hotels, restaurants, and tourist attractions, earning it the moniker “America’s Christmas Tree City.” Others are as innovative as the designers who designed them, like the enormous centrepiece at Branson Landing with its animated lights synced to music. Many are traditional with the typical lights and selection of ornaments.

With “trees” fashioned from more than 500 go-kart tyres and wine bottles (at The Track Family Fun Parks), recycling takes on a whole new meaning (at the Hilton Branson Convention Center). Nearly 10,000 real cut crystals from a 16-foot chandelier from an old theatre have been used to adorn the Branson Community Tree, which is located on 76 Country Boulevard right next to the Ferris Wheel. The most amazing entertainment, however, can be found at Silver Dollar City, where a mind-blowingly advanced animated music and light extravaganza is displayed on an 8-story tree.

Silver Dollar City

The region’s most breathtaking holiday destination, “An Old Time Christmas,” is held in this reproduction of a town in the Ozarks from the 1880s. Every nook and cranny of the Silver Dollar City theme park is filled with stunning 6.5 million bright lights, or the equivalent of nearly 700 kilometres of strung lights, which cast a fanciful spell everywhere you look.

A Christmas parade, a living nativity, a Broadway-style Christmas variety play, a retelling of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” a sing-along steam train, Santa’s cottage, and seasonal fare like glazed ham, prime rib, and smoked turkey are all featured in addition to the high-tech 8-story tree. And that’s on top of Silver Dollar City’s standard offers, which also include more than 40 rides and attractions suitable for people of all ages, Marvel Cave (the location’s original attraction), craftsmen showcasing their abilities, and stores, all in a wonderful forested environment. There is so much to do here that you’ll want to stay all day.

Drive-through Christmas displays

This safe, socially-distant activity is a popular with carloads of families as several drive-through Christmas decorations illuminate the season. For more than 30 years, Shepherd of the Hills’ Trail of Lights has been illuminating the night as it winds over 160 acres and ends with a cup of hot cocoa.

Santa makes appearances on weekends throughout the 1.5-mile Lights of Joy route, which has 250 decorations on both sides and a tunnel of light and nativity scene.

Given that this is a real zoo, it is not unexpected that Let There be Lights at Promised Land Zoo includes illuminated exhibits of secular and religious figures as well as animals ranging from monkeys to reptiles. While some of the live animals can be seen in their enclosures if you arrive before dusk, you should definitely check out the real, live reindeer.

Christmas shows

It’s no surprise that Branson, which has 40 theatres and 100 different live shows, makes a big deal out of Christmas given how popular shows are there. Many theatres produce unique plays especially for the holidays, such as The Hughes Brothers Christmas Show or Silver Dollar City’s adaptation of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.”

Other productions, like the Presleys’ Country Jubilee and the Baldknobbers Jamboree Show, which are both credited with introducing Branson to the entertainment industry more than 60 years ago, add holiday music to their regular schedule. There are dinner performances (such as Dolly Parton’s Stampede), tribute bands, illusionists, magicians, comedians, acrobats, and music ranging from gospel to the top hits of the 1950s through the 1980s.

A Christmas parade, a living nativity, a Broadway-style Christmas variety play, a retelling of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” a sing-along steam train, Santa’s cottage, and seasonal fare like glazed ham, prime rib, and smoked turkey are all featured in addition to the high-tech 8-story tree. And that’s on top of Silver Dollar City’s standard offers, which also include more than 40 rides and attractions suitable for people of all ages, Marvel Cave (the location’s original attraction), craftsmen showcasing their abilities, and stores, all in a wonderful forested environment. There is so much to do here that you’ll want to stay all day.

A ride on the Polar Express

All aboard for a train ride to the North Pole that aims to capture the wonder of the children’s book and movie “The Polar Express.” The Branson Scenic Railway treats guests to a reading of the novel and a snack of cookies and hot chocolate before departing from the depot in Branson’s historic downtown.

At the North Pole, Santa gets on the train and visits each car to present each passenger with a unique gift. Families are urged to dress in pyjamas, exactly like in the imagined Polar Express, to get into the holiday atmosphere.

Christmas shopping

Branson is well-known for its Christmas shopping since it is a year-round shopping destination. Silver Dollar City showcases craftsmen at work and handcrafted goods ranging from blown glass to leather goods, while Tanger Outlets offers discounts at businesses like Chico’s and Helzberg Diamonds as well as Disney.

Santa’s Wonderland at Bass Pro Shops and specialised shops, restaurants, and activities (a zipline over Lake Taneycomo, anyone?) may be found downtown at Branson Landing. A trip to Branson wouldn’t be complete without stopping at Dick’s Oldtime 5 & 10, which has been in operation for 60 years and is jam-packed with everything you could possibly want.

Skating rinks and snow tubing

Branson doesn’t get much snow or ice, but that doesn’t mean you can’t skate figure eights there. In order to provide a true ice skating experience, Ice Skating at The Wheel collaborates with The Holidays on Ice. The rink is the same size as The Rink in New York City’s Rockefeller Center and is situated next to the Branson Ferris Wheel and Community Christmas Trees.

The artificial Winter Wonderland Ice Rink at Big Cedar Lodge is located in a picturesque setting above Table Rock Lake. Try Snowflex tubing at Wolfe Mountain if skating isn’t your thing. You can ride a synthetic course down a 400-foot series of hills.

Adoration Parade

When it comes to their annual Adoration Parade, which is now in its 72nd year, Branson isn’t afraid to keep “Christ” in Christmas. The evening celebration, which takes place on the first Sunday in December, starts with the lighting of the largest nativity scene in the area, which stands 28 feet tall.

The Adoration Parade is a traditional, non-profit parade of high school marching bands and floats that is supported by local churches, clubs, and organisations. It unites residents and tourists while winding through Branson’s historic Downtown.

Can’t attend? Throughout the holiday season, the Adoration Nativity Scene serves as a light for passersby, shining brightly on a bluff overlooking Lake Taneycomo and Branson Landing.