A Branson Christmas

Tens of thousands of twinkling lights and a plethora of festive shows make Branson a top destination for the holidays.

It’s hard to believe that a small town like Branson ranks with London and Rome as a Top 10 holiday destination. Yet travel guru Pauline Frommer, daughter of Frommer’s guidebooks and Budget Travel founder Arthur Frommer, included it in her 2006 list of most memorable holiday destinations.

Branson is known as a magical place where Christmas begins the day after Halloween. Its festive shows, bustling shopping and twinkling lights draw hundreds of thousands of people each year.

Tinsel Tunes 

“Christmas begins when Andy Williams says it does,” joked country singer Larry Gatlin in early November, before launching into a Christmas carol with the legendary Lennon Sisters, who became famous in the 1960s on the Lawrence Welk Show—a popular weekly program those hovering near middle age are sure to remember.

Indeed, Andy Williams’ Christmas Show is one of the most successful shows in Branson, with the crooner donning Christmas sweaters and singing carols with a talented cast. If anyone knows how to entertain at Christmas, it’s Williams. His popular Christmas shows ran for eight years on television, and he recorded one of the best-selling Christmas albums of all time.

Branson also attracts such innovative acts as the surreal fairy music of Manheim Steamroller and the Spirit of Christmas—a song-and-dance tribute to the season with the Osmond Family (don’t count on seeing Donny and Marie, though). In 2007, Tony Orlando brought his Christmas show to Branson.

Theme Park Celebrations

Silver Dollar City’s Old Fashioned Christmas is the premiere destination for Branson visitors. In 2007, the amusement park with an 1880s theme unveiled a musical five-story special effects Christmas tree that danced and twinkled in unison to Christmas carols. Combined with the tree, more than 720,000 lights adorn the park. Each evening, the Holiday Light Parade weaves through the streets of Silver Dollar City and features Santa Claus in a sleigh.

Another highlight of Silver Dollar City is A Dickens’ Christmas Carol, a light-hearted, snappy adaptation of the classic by Charles Dickens. Special effects include vanishing ghosts, revolving scenery, pyrotechnic special effects and scenic projections.

True to Tradition 

But Branson doesn’t just rely on an overabundance of Christmas lights and pure commercialization to wow tourists. The city’s adoration parade is the oldest one in Missouri. Since 1948, the city has come together to celebrate the story of Christmas with a lighting of the nativity scene overlooking Lake Taneycomo at dusk, followed by a parade with no celebrities or business leaders as its focus. Branson prides itself on having a true old-fashioned Christmas parade, sans commercial sponsors.

There are certain times of the year to visit Branson, and Christmas is one of the best. You can both experience the slickness of a Broadway show and have a cup of cocoa in a lodge and reconnect with family. It’s the best of both worlds.

Destinations: Missouri, Branson

Themes: Amusement Parks, Family Travel

Activities: Arts and Entertainment, Parks and Playgrounds