Midwest Vacation Meccas

Branson is a relatively new top drive-to spot, but the Wisconsin Dells remains a family favorite as well.

We took a family vacation through Missouri when I was about 10 years old and made a stop in Branson to see Silver Dollar City, the main attraction there at that time. What I remember most is getting a bag of plastic souvenir silver dollar coins (wishing they were the real deal instead), thinking the place was a live version of the cornball country television show Hee Haw, and loving the beautiful scenery of the Ozark Mountains.

This was back before Branson became the mega destination that it is today, with dozens of hit shows and attractions—many created specifically for families, particularly those with parents who are nostalgically familiar with the big entertainment acts of the 1970s—and millions of visitors each year.

Recent openings have included Branson Landing, a major shopping attraction anchored by the Hilton Promenade hotel in 2007, and the Noah’s Ark spectacle, which features dozens of live and animatronic animals, in 2008. Announced this week are plans for a Beatles Museum, courtesy of Louise Harrison, George Harrison’s sister and founder of the hit Branson show Liverpool Legends The Ultimate Beatles Experience, in spring 2009.

Like our Branson writer Suzi Parker points out, the destination does still have a reputation for being kind of hokey, but that image is fading as the city must be doing something right to keep attracting all those tourists and converting skeptics, like Parker. Read more about Branson’s changes in her main feature, and learn about some of the city’s more interesting things to do and see in her accompanying pieces on the Titanic Museum, Branson’s family-friendly shows and the city’s Christmas extravaganza.

Additional New Inspirations and Features

Another longtime Midwest mecca that has experienced a renaissance is the Wisconsin Dells, a place we visited at least three or four times in my youth. Check out Cindy Richards’ coverage of Dells water parks in her main feature, along with side articles on the rest of the area’s activities, where to stay and eat, and the nearby town of Baraboo, for circus lovers of all stripes.

We also cover the power of the pedal in Biking Portland, mother-daughter sailing lessons in Florida, father-son baseball getaways and a Baltimore college visits piece.

Travel Advice

This week Back Page columnist Amy L. Hatch covers what to do when trapped on the tarmac with kids, while additional columns take a look at the best audio tours, tips for planning for special needs travel and our weekly Travel Deals column.

I’m back from Beijing and attempting to get over the jet lag—hence the straight-to-the-point letter this week. You can read about some of my adventures attending the Olympics at our blog, TravelMusings. See you next week with coverage of Maui and the Big Island of Hawaii.

Happy trails!

Donna M. Airoldi
Editorial Director

Destinations: Branson

Themes: Family Travel