It’s Branson’s Firsts that Paved the Way

The city of Branson has come a long way since Reuben Branson first opened the area’s only post office and general store in 1882.  A trip to this special city just isn’t complete unless you take the time to learn about and visit Branson’s “firsts” that are the roots of what is now one of the country’s most popular tourist attractions.

Shepherd of the Hills HomesteadShepherd of the Hills

Branson was formally incorporated as a city in 1912, but the story really began in 1896 when minister and writer Harold Bell Wright traveled to the Ozark hills in hopes of regaining his health. Taking shelter from the flooded White River at the home of John an Anna Ross near Mutton Hollow, Wright ended up staying with them for the entirety of the summer. During his stay in the Ozark mountains, he wrote of his experiences and the lives of the settlers there through the novel “The Shepherd of the Hills” which was published in 1907. The publication of his book resulted in the piqued curiosity of people all over the country, who ended up traveling to the Ozarks in order to experience firsthand what Wright had recorded in his novel. Tourism to “Old Matt’s Cabin” and the homestead increased and eventually it was developed into an attraction for visitors, featuring outdoor performances at the Old Mill Theatre beginning in the summer of 1960. Today, the Shepherd of the Hills Outdoor Drama and Homestead Tours draw thousands of visitors to the place that Wright first described in his novel.

Silver Dollar CityMarvel Cave

According to the official website, what began as “an accessory to a hole in the ground” in 1894, has been transformed into one of the top theme parks in the world. Branson’s first theme park started as nothing more than a pleasant area for visitors waiting for a tour of Marvel Cave. The Herschend family gained ownership of the cave and came up with the idea of recreating an 1800’s mining town as they made above-ground improvements to the land surrounding the cave and showcased the traditional crafts and natural beauty of the Ozarks. In 1960, they opened Silver Dollar City which was “named for the promotional idea of giving visitors silver dollars as change.” Word-of-mouth lead to the growth and expansion of Silver Dollar City and by 1998, more than two million visitors had made their way to the theme park. Today, it covers more than 100 acres with rollercoasters, festivals, musical productions, a Culinary & Craft School, traditional craftsmen of the Ozarks and so much more.

Historic Owen TheatreHistoric Owens Theatre in Branson, MO

Branson’s first theatre was built by Jim Owen, who was mayor of Branson for 12 years. Also the owner of a successful Ozark float fishing operation, he built the Historic Owen Theatre on Commercial Street in Historic Downtown Branson because he wanted to provide additional entertainment for the fishermen and others he took out on the White River for lavish float trips. The theatre, built in 1935, was also known as the Hillbilly Theater and became a place for locals, celebrities and visitors to gather after their trips down the river. Today the theatre is “Branson’s House of Comedy,” hosting nine different shows and two attractions including A Neil Diamond Tribute, Improvmania and Southern Gospel.

The Baldknobbers Jamboree ShowBaldknobbers

This show first began in 1959 when the Mabe brothers took on the name of an old Ozarks vigilante group, “the baldknobbers,” and began entertaining visitors with music and comedy in their lakefront, downtown Branson location. As The Baldknobbers grew in popularity, they also grew in size and in 1968 they built the Baldknobbers Theatre on 76 Country Boulevard. Currently, they are the longest running show in Branson and are credited with setting the standard for all that Branson has to offer. The show has evolved throughout the past 55 years, and second and third generations of the Mabe family still continue to provide visitors with wholesome family entertainment that perfectly represents the Ozarks.

Presleys’ Country JubileePresleys

The Presleys first began performing in the underground caves of the Missouri hills. When audiences from all over the country began to outgrow the caverns, they moved to a stretch of asphalt right outside of town (which would one day become the Branson Strip) and built Branson’s first live music theater in 1967. Today the strip is packed with theaters featuring various performing artists, music and comedy but Presleys’ Country Jubilee can claim the title of the very first one, and even after four generations, they continue to entertain visitors with gospel, country and comedy that people of all ages can enjoy.

 

Discover the Humble Beginnings of Branson at the Harold Bell Wright Museum

Harold Bell Wright MuseumLooking for an interesting museum to visit while you’re in Branson? The Harold Bell Wright Museum is full of interesting artifacts and history that made Branson the major tourist attraction that it is today.

One of the most widely read authors from the 20th century and the first to become a millionaire from his writing, Harold Bell Wright is the author of the famous novel “The Shepherd of the Hills” which was first published in 1907.

A story of God, love and the struggles of life, this novel is set in the Ozark Mountains during the 1800’s and still resonates with readers today as it did more than a hundred years ago. After the novel became popularized, people traveled from all over the country to see the Ozarks as described in Wright’s work.

At the Harold Bell Wright Museum you will be able to one of Wright’s original manuscripts, his gun collection, his woodworking tools, original paintings and you’ll even get to read a letter written to the Wright family from President Reagan expressing thanks for Wright’s influence in his life.

For a historic walk through time, visit the Harold Bell Wright Museum, located at 3609 W. 76 Country Blvd., in the same building as the World’s Largest Toy Museum.

For more information or to buy tickets, visit http://www.bransonshows.com/activity/buyHaroldBellWrightMuseumTickets.cfm.

Plan Your Destination Wedding in Branson, Missouri

belleAre you planning a wedding? By now you’ve probably realized that picking a venue is one of the most important and sometimes one of the most difficult decisions you and your significant other will have to make. If the two of you have decided on a destination wedding, tropical Florida or the Bahamas isn’t the only option. Have your affordable, destination wedding right here in Branson, Missouri where you can choose from various unique venues nestled in the heart of the Ozarks. The possibilities are endless, so consider some of these amazing Branson venues for your big day.

Showboat Branson Belle

Whether it’s just the reception, ceremony or both, host your guests aboard the majestic Showboat Branson Belle. This unique, floating venue provides several packages for the bride and groom to choose from, while also providing a customizable package to suit your individual style and budget. Whether you choose to exchange your vows in the beautiful gazebo, surrounded by lush gardens at White River Landing, dance the night away on the top deck or book an exclusive private voyage for you and your guests, your wedding is bound to be a grand celebration on board this 278-foot beauty. For more information, visit http://www.silverdollarcity.com/showboat-branson/Guest-Information/SBB-weddings.aspx or call 800-417-7770.

Shepherd of the Hills

Weddings at the 113-year-old Morgan Church inherently take on a traditional feel with the antique pews, wooden floors and simple architecture. Located at the Shepherd of the Hills Historical Homestead, your package will include a commemorative certificate of your event, two passes to the Vigilante Extreme ZipRider for the bride and groom, a flower bouquet and a unity candle set. Additional services include a 90-minute session with a professional photographer and bubbles for the post ceremony festivities. For more information visit http://theshepherdofthehills.com/weddings-at-the-morgan-church/ or call Traci at 417-332-4971.

Big Cedar Lodge

Big Cedar Lodge is the perfect venue for the nature-loving couple. Choose from a host of indoor and outdoor locations onsite for your special day including, the Garden Chapel, Top of the Rock Chapel, Grandview Lawn, Workman Room and Patio, Lady Liberty Yacht and more. Each location at Big Cedar can accommodate different amounts of guests, so finding one to suit both your style and guest list shouldn’t be a problem. Featuring an abundance of lodging options for family members who are traveling for your big day, a variety of amenities, a culinary and catering team and professional photographer, Big Cedar Lodge provides you with everything you need and more for your special day. For more information, visit http://bassprocorp.com/BPS/Userfiles/23/file/BCLWeddingBrochure2013.pdf or call 800-225-6343.

Titanic

Get hitched aboard the beautiful and historic Titanic Museum and book an intimate package for just the two of you or have a private wedding ceremony and reception for 100 guests or more. Packages not only feature the one-of-a-kind venue but may include the ordained Titanic Captain to officiate, a wedding coordinator, music, a professional photographer with photo package and admission to the Titanic Museum Attraction afterwards. For more information, visit http://www.titanicbranson.com/titanic-weddings/titanic-branson-wedding-packages.php or call 800-381-7670.

Mount Pleasant Winery

Have your wedding at Mount Pleasant Winery, surrounded by the beautiful views of Mount Pleasant Estates which rest atop the bluffs and overlook the Missouri River Valley. With bridal packages, an exceptional catering team, an array of local hotels nearby and spectacular photo ops for you and your bridal party, this winery is one of Branson’s best. For more information, visit http://www.mountpleasant.com/pages/Weddings-%26-Receptions.html or call Mark at 636-482-9463 ext. 231.

Experience the Thrill of the Vigilante Extreme ZipRider at the Shepherd of the Hills

Vigilante Extreme ZipriderMy dad has always told me that I’m an adrenaline junkie and I have to agree with him. So when I was presented with the opportunity to try out the Vigilante Extreme ZipRider at the Shepherd of the Hills, there’s no way I was turning it down!

I’ve been ziplining before, but this time was different. There was no harness fitting, no 10 minute orientation, no worrying about what would happen if I suddenly panicked and forgot how to use the brake — instead, it was a relatively worry-free experience. The ziprider is different in that all you have to do is sit in a seat, wait for the experienced staff to securely strap you in, and then you’re ready to fly.

When I signed up for this adventure, I was dressed in business casual attire and heels … clearly not prepared at all, but the staff was friendly and more than welcome to answer any questions I had and offered to store my heels in the small pocket attached to the back of my ziprider seat. This little pocket is a lifesaver for any sunglasses, shoes, cameras or phones that you don’t want to lose during your ride, so make sure to utilize it.

Vigilante Extreme ZipriderOnce you’re situated you’ll launch your flight from the top of Inspiration Tower, 170 feet up in the air, and soar through the sky above the trees where you can enjoy the magnificent views of the beautiful Ozarks terrain. You’ll reach speeds of up to 50 mph as you zip down the line towards your landing point a half mile away.

The Vigilante Extreme ZipRider features an automatic braking system at the end that not only stops you from flying off into the forest, but also adds an extra little “kick” to the conclusion of your flight, so I rode carefree, with my hands and legs outstretched instead of clutching a brake as I neared my landing.

To all my fellow adrenaline junkies out there, or just those who want to try something exciting and new, the Vigilante Extreme ZipRider is a fun way to start off a visit to the Shepherd of the Hills Homestead. So definitely stop by next time you’re in Branson!

Inspiration Tower is located at 5586 W. 76 Country Blvd., Branson, MO 65616, just a three minute drive up the road from Cracker Barrel.

For more information or to get your tickets, visit http://www.bransonshows.com/activity/buyVigilanteZipRiderTickets.cfm.

 

 

Capture the Natural Beauty of the Ozarks at The Shepherd of the Hills Inspiration Tower

Shepherd of the Hills Inspiration TowerInspiration Tower is by far one of my favorite places to go in Branson.

Although I haven’t worked up the nerve to try the Vigilante Extreme Ziprider yet, I just can’t get enough of the absolutely breathtaking views from the tower on a clear, sunny day in Branson.

Whether you’re an Ozarks native or just visiting for a few days, getting the bird’s eye view of the landscape’s rolling hills, lush foliage and the beautiful lakes is something worth taking the time to do. You can even see out to Arkansas mountain ranges on the horizon. Bringing a camera is a must.Shepherd of the Hills Inspiration Tower

If you haven’t already, I would encourage you to read the “Shepherd of the Hills” novel by Harold Bell Wright so you are able to fully appreciate everything you see across the Ozarks mountains.

His novel highlights the mountain folklore and seamlessly blends fiction with non-fiction to captivate readers with the Ozarks lifestyle of the 1900s and a tale of the outdoors, God and human nature.

Inspiration Tower is a fun way to learn more about the history of the Branson area, and it will deepen your understanding of local landmarks and attractions for the entirety of your vacation!Shepherd of the Hills Inspiration Tower

For more information or tickets, visit http://www.bransonshows.com/activity/buyInspirationTowerTickets.cfm.

 

Goings on this Weekend in Branson

otcThere are a smattering of dynamite, festive events happening this weekend in the Branson area. Take your friends and family down to Branson for one of these limited time events and don’t miss out on the best that this season has to offer!

Trail of Lights at Shepherd of the Hills

Not only is Shepherd of the Hills offering their famous Christmas on the Trail Chuckwagon Dinner Show, the “Trail that Nobody Knows How Old” has been transformed into a winter wonderland. Come enjoy this two and a half mile long ride featuring different characters and colors!

White Flight Exhibit at the Butterfly Palace

During this holiday treat, the Butterfly Palace is decked out in poinsettias, twinkling lights, and filled with thousands of little white butterflies. A truly spectacular Christmas experience, the White Flight Exhibit is something you don’t want to miss this season!

An Old Time Christmas at Silver Dollar City

“An Old Time Christmas” is still underway at Silver Dollar City and this festival promises to turn any scrooge attitude into a cheerful, holiday spirit. Dine, enjoy performances, ride, and shop at this year’s spectacular Christmas festival.

Here are a list of one of a kind activities in Springfield as well:

Free Carriage Rides at the square in Downtown Springfield from November 23- December 14.

Folk Art by the Springfield Symphony at Juanita K. Hammons Hall for the Performing Arts only November 23

Ozark’s Beerfest at Springfield Exposition Center on November 23 only

Romeo and Juliet at Craig Hall Theatre, Missouri State University, November 21-24

Food Friday: Sons of the Pioneers Chuckwagon

Chuckwagon TrailBranson is home to many exquisite restaurants and eateries, as well as some very unique dinner theaters. Sons of the Pioneers Chuckwagon provides a unparalleled dinning and entertainment experience.

Serving only the best cowboy dinner of Roast Chicken and Barbeque Beef, the Chuckwagon offers a smorgasbord of food to satisfy any member of your family’s appetite. Meanwhile, enjoy the musical, and often comedic performance of the Sons of the Pioneers.

Playing at the historical Shepherd of the Hills farmstead, this group has a long-rooted history in the formation of western music. The original members of the Sons of the Pioneers were Roy Rogers, Bob Nolan, and Tim Spencer, who forever altered the outlook on western music, appearing in over 90 movies. American society’s perception of western music and the ‘singing cowboy’ were formed largely due to these iconic men.

Today, Sons of the Pioneers keep the nostalgia and magnificent sound of the west alive through their sensational performances. They have been designated a “National Treasure” by the Smithsonian Institute, among many other accolades.

With melodically haunting sounds reminiscent of camp-fire days, it’s no wonder this show is among Branson’s most beloved dinner theater options.