Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Christmas in the Ozarks: Silver Dollar City

Instead of starting off 2012 with a New Years Resolution post, I have an even better surprise for you! Katie is a friend of mine that I made when studying in Italy and I am super excited that she is guest posting for me! When you finish reading, go check out her site where you can read about her adventures as a college student and see where she has traveled while abroad. Enjoy!

Hi! I’m Katie. I’ve been a blogger for almost a year now! I started blogging at La Vita e Bella to document my amazing study abroad experience. That’s where I met Stephanie, when we had a food class together in Florence!  It’s also where I became obsessed with blogging. I started a new blog about my life this past August at Life Of Katie I hope you’ll check it out!

I live in a town just outside of Springfield, Missouri. That’s in Southwest Missouri, in the area known as The Ozarks. I live about an hour‘s drive from Branson. I’m sure you’ve heard of Branson. Everyone knows Branson: The shows, the gospel music, the shopping outlets, the old folks . . . It is what it is. If you’re living in the Ozarks, you’ve got to embrace it.

My grandparents live in Jefferson City, but they make the three hour drive to Branson several times a year. It’s become a bit of a tradition for them to come to Branson just after Christmas and spend several days between Christmas and New Years. They stay in a timeshare, and my aunts, uncles, and cousins come down and spend some time there as well. The main Branson attraction, at least for us: Silver Dollar City.

Silver Dollar City is an old-fashioned 1880’s-themed park that opened back in 1960. There are numerous things to do at SDC. There are roller coasters: Wildfire, Thunderation (I cried the first time I was finally tall enough to ride it with my mom—it was terrifying. Haha.), and Powder Keg (0 to 60 in 3 seconds). There’s a creepy ride called Fire in the Hole, SDC’s first roller coaster. It still freaks me out. There are water rides: The American Plunge and The Lost River (the best ride on a hot summer day). The Giant Swing might be my favorite—it’s huge! The Flooded Mine is a ride where you shoot laser guns at targets and try to get the most points. Geyser Gulch, a huge water play area, is a great place to be during the heat of the summer. You can take a ride on the Fresco Silver Dollar Line Steam Train, where you ride through the park and are held up by train robbers. (“THIS—is a stick up!” is said by one of the robbers holding up a stick. Classic.) You can tour Marvel Cave, a cave discovered in 1869. 

There’s an old schoolhouse, a church, a swinging bridge. You can watch glassblowers and blacksmiths and woodcarvers, basket weavers, taffy-pullers, candle makers, and potters at work. (Did I mention that all the employees dress like they’re from the 1880s?) You can walk through Grandfather’s Mansion—a fun house. There’s a carnival area in the park with rides like the Pirate Ship and the Teacup Ride. 

There are all kinds of shows to see: The Saloon Show, The Homestead Pickers, and various shows in the Opera House, The Dockside Theater, The Gazebo, The Amphitheater, and so on.

Food options include pork rinds, funnel cakes, veggies and potatoes and meat cooked in giant skillets, fried foods, refreshing root beer, ice cream with strawberries in the summer, hot chocolate and hot wassail in the winter. Kettle corn, roasted drumsticks, nut brittles from the candy store. As you walk around the park, you are greeted with smells of all kinds of delicious food wafting through the air.

Throughout the operating season (March through December, I think) are different festivals: World Fest, Kids’ Fest, Bluegrass and BBQ, An Old Time Christmas. Though I love coming to SDC in the summertime, I think my favorite time of year there is Christmastime. The park is decorated with around 4 million lights and a five story Christmas tree. There is a parade at night, right after the must-see lighting of the enormous tree.

Some of my favorite childhood memories take place at Silver Dollar City. I remember Mom packing up lunches in a cooler and snacks in our fanny packs. (Yes, I had a bright pink fanny pack that I actually wore.) I remember loading up the van and bringing an extra change of clothes for the ride home, because my first outfit would always be soaked by the water rides. My family would drive down to Branson, park the car, take the tram to the entrance, and spend literally all day walking up and down the hills of Silver Dollar City. 

Mom would usually buy a big bag of kettle corn or a funnel cake to share. We would ride as many rides as possible (and as many times as possible), only stopping to watch a show or if we needed to rest our feet. We had contests on the water rides to see who would get the wettest. I always loved the doll shop (I’m not sure if they have it anymore) and the bookstore, and watching the ladies in the candy shop make peanut brittle. They also used to have (and I’m not sure if they do anymore) a little petting zoo with goats and sheep (I think) and baby bunnies. When it got dark and we were too tired to continue, we’d head back through the park, wait in line for a tram heading towards our parking lot, and I would be fast asleep by the time we drove out of Branson. 

This year, I’m 20. I drove down to Branson myself. I didn’t bring any snacks. I didn’t wear a fanny pack. I met my grandparents, aunt and uncle, and four of my cousins at the entrance of the park. We got there around noon, when the park opened. The rides opened at 1, and my cousins and I spent about three hours walking around and riding rides. 
Some shops in the city

The Christmas tree before the lighting

The Old-Fashioned Church

Wildfire Roller Coaster
My cousins and I being silly
Chance pointing the way to the Giant Swing
The Giant Swing!

Chance, Me, Whitni, and Hance

We made sure to get all the good ones in: Wildfire, Powder Keg (twice), Thunderation, Fire in the Hole, The Giant Swing, and four of the carnival rides. We were “rided out,” by later in the afternoon, and I made sure to get some hot chocolate. (SDC’s hot chocolate is the best, and I have to get it when I come at Christmastime.)

Hot Chocolate: A tradition
We met up with my aunt and uncle later on, after Grandma and Grandpa had left. We went through Grandfather’s Mansion, watched a show at The Opera House, and then we waited for the Christmas Tree to light up before heading home.
The Christmas Tree at Night

Christmas Lights Everywhere
Christmas Lights Everywhere

Christmas Lights Everywhere
Silver Dollar City is just as old-fashioned, just as fun, and just as magical as it always has been. If you ever find yourself down in the Ozarks, make sure to spend a day at this theme park. I’m positive you will leave with memories that will last a lifetime.
Big Lighted Wreath at the Silver Dollar City Entrance
Thanks for reading about Christmas at Silver Dollar City! You can read Stephanie's post about Christmas in another (slightly bigger) city here

Thanks so much for guest posting on my blog Katie! Don't forget to check out her awesome blog, Life Of Katie, and leave her some love!


Maddy said...

Never heard of Silver Dollar City, but it sounds like a great time for the whole family! The food sounds amazing and not like all the other amusement park food.

meg said...

How cool. Love the pictures.

Happy New Year!

Couture Carrie said...

Lovely and festive post!
Will go check out her blog now :)


Cafe Fashionista said...

Ohmigosh these photographs are so enchanting! The Christmas tree after the lighting is EXQUISITE! :)

Krysten @ Why Girls Are Weird said...

Oh my gosh, the pictures are so pretty!

Oh to Be a Muse said...

lovely guest post. I'll have to check out Katie's blog!