The very first family vacation I remember taking as a child was to Silver Dollar City in Branson, Mo. I was about 7 years old, and my only strong memory of it was getting my first baseball bat there. They had a shop where the bats were made from scratch and they would carve your name into it.
I had that bat for years; in fact it might still be in our garage somewhere. In high school Chad Anderson, Kevin Ash and I would go over to the little league baseball fields off 12th St. in Moore and play home run derby. Generally we’d use Chad’s aluminum bat as it generated more dingers but occasionally we’d use the wood bat with “Matt” carved into it.
That’s really my only memory of Silver Dollar City from my youth, but Missy has a stronger connection to the place. Growing up a little closer to Branson than I did, her family made frequent trips there. There’s not a spot in the whole park that Missy couldn’t tell you a story about — something that happened there, a different ride or attraction that used to be in that location, etc. So Missy really wanted SDC to be a part of our family, and it truly is a great place for the whole family to make some lasting memories.
We’ve gone many times over the years but for 2019, since we don’t have a big summer family trip planned, we decided to get a season pass. Every couple of months SDC has different themes which include new shows or attractions, so Missy tentatively planned four separate trips to the park, the first of which was last weekend.
It’s a solid five-hour drive, and we made it up there with only one stop (the Missouri welcome center at the border has clean bathrooms and a playground for the kids to let some energy out). For this trip we decided to stay at the Silver Dollar City cabins, which were really perfect for our family. The cabin was small but it had everything we needed, and it was only about a mile away from the park. There was a loft with three beds, with another bed downstairs. We had a gas grill outside and a small kitchen with a fridge and a microwave. We arrived Thursday evening and grilled up hot dogs and smores while soaking in the perfect weather and beautiful Ozark mountain scenery.
Our plan was to put the kids to bed upstairs in the loft while Missy and I did some Netflix and chill downstairs. But naturally the kids were being stinkpots and refusing to go to sleep or even be relatively quiet, so we scrapped the whole setup and moved both boys downstairs with me while Missy moved into the loft with the girls.
The park itself is only open for eight hours a day, and that goes by super quick when you have as much on your to-do list as we did. On Friday we had perfect weather again. In the morning we rode a bunch of rides. Our kids’ personalities really came out when it came to what they wanted to ride.
Addison was an amazing big sister and was willing to accompany any of her siblings on just about anything they wanted. She chickened out of the super-mild roller coaster Fire in the Hole but otherwise was willing to go on just about anything.
Myra won the Most Brave award I gave out at the end of the day. There wasn’t anything she wasn’t excited to try out and she loved all of it. She was also a great big sister and helped out the boys.
Maddux loved the Dumbo ride, with elephants that fly in circles. A button allows you to control how close to the ground the elephants go. But Maddux, true to his form as our shy kid, wasn’t much into trying anything he wasn’t sure about.
On the other hand, Hawk wanted to try out everything he was big enough to ride. I took him on Fire in the Hole with me, and while it was a little scary for his liking he had a great attitude about it and it didn’t keep him from trying out other rides. His favorite was the Racing Regatta which went in a pretty fast circle.
We paused for lunch and visited the Foods of Wonder, which is one of their seasonal features this spring. Missy and I split some fancy nachos that included tri tip steak and an avocado cream sauce. Of course later in the afternoon we had to grab a bag of kettle corn, which SDC has always done extremely well. I’d characterize SDC’s food prices as “I’ve seen worse.” It’s cheaper than Disney World or a Major League Baseball game but with four kids you’re going to drop a decent amount of money even if you pack peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch like we did. I literally had $6 cash in my wallet at the end of this trip.
After lunch we changed into our swimwear and took advantage of the great weather to do all of the water attractions. The first thing we wanted to do was the lazy river but it was shut down for renovations. That was unfortunate but we were still able to do several other rides. I like the one where you can shoot water at people on the sidewalk or on other boats but they can also fire back at you. Myra’s favorite ride was the classic log ride. Missy took the girls on it and SDC screwed us out of $15 by taking such a perfect picture of them that we had to buy it.
We stayed in the water section until the park closed and then headed back to the cabin. Everyone was so tired that we didn’t have the usual bedtime issues, we all just passed out.
On Saturday Chad’s family drove up from Clinton, Mo. to join us at the park. It was only about a two-hour drive for them and we were excited to spend the day with them. The only problem was a high chance of rain in the forecast. Somehow, it never rained a drop. Instead, we got attacked by the biggest pollen storm I’ve ever seen. The morning was really bad — everybody was coughing and sneezing. By the afternoon it had gotten a lot better. We all took the train ride around the park, the same one involving about 5000 corny jokes and a pair of fake train robbers holding up the train to tell more corny jokes. Chad said he remembered the same routine from when he visited as a child 30 years ago. But the kids love it and it’s a nice way to get off your feet for half an hour. We stayed until the park closed and then stayed an hour later than that for the nightly show they put on in Echo Hollow. Although it’s usually pretty good, none of us were overly impressed with this edition.
It’s something of a Sunday tradition of ours to stop at Lambert’s just outside of Springfield for lunch on our way home and we talked the Andersons into joining us. Chad had never been before and described it as “Cracker Barrel on crack” which is pretty accurate. They just keep giving you food. It does taste good though, and when you’re on vacation you can eat whatever you want.
The drive home was as smooth as the one out there (thanks, Honda Odyssey movie player) and it was a great experience for our family. Looking forward to a few more long weekends like that one throughout 2019.