Tag Archives: Branson Missouri

Branson by Day…

“Elvis” on stage as part of the “Legends in Concert” show at Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Theater in Branson, MO. Photo by Richard Varr

By Richard Varr

Earlier this month, I visited Branson, Missouri, the family-friendly and so-called Live Music Show Capital of America.  It was my second visit in as many years.  Branson comes alive nightly with entertainment ranging from country music and hillbilly-inspired comedy shows to magic and acrobatic acts, to name a few.

So what’s to do in the daytime?  Here are some highlights:

  • Inside Marvel Cave, Silver Dollar City. Photo by Richard Varr

    Hike down 50 stories underground within Marvel Cave – my recommendation as a must see at Silver Dollar City, Branson’s 100-acre, tree-covered theme park in the heart of the Ozark Mountains.  What started with cave tours in 1894 and an Ozark Village attraction in 1960 has evolved into this shaded playground with gyrating roller coasters and turbulent water rides.  Performers entertain daily on many stages, and resident craftsmen carve wood, blow glass and snip leather, among other trades.

  • Old Matt’s Cabin. Photo by Richard Varr

    Visit Old Matt’s Cabin and see the play, The Shepherd of the Hills in the outdoor amphitheater- style Old Mill Theatre.  The play is inspired by a book with the same name that actually tells the story of how Branson began.  In the late 1800s, ailing Christian minister and author Harold Bell Wright was passing through the area while on his way to a warmer and drier climate.  Delayed by a flooded river, he took notes on the friendly folks he met – notes that would soon become a historical fiction novel. Published in 1907, The Shepherd of the Hills showcases the conflicts and drama of the early settlers’ rugged lives.  Soon after, visitors streamed into the area to see the landmarks Wright wrote about – places like Dewey Bald Mountain, Mutton Hollow and the 1884 Old Matt’s Cabin on the homestead where the author resided and returned to for eight years.  The play brings the past to life with nearly 100 performers, thundering horses, a flock of sheep and even a blazing log cabin.

  • View from Inspiration Tower. Photo by Richard Varr

    On the same grounds as Shepherd of the Hills, ascend (by elevator) the 230-foot Inspiration Tower where Ozark Mountain views extend for miles and even into Arkansas on a clear day.  For an added thrill, soar down the Vigilante Extreme ZipRider, a half-mile-long cable ride to the ground.

  • Outside the Sight & Sound Theatre. Photo by Richard Varr

    Through the end of the year, Branson’s new Sight & Sound Theatre is featuring Joseph, an original, epic musical production of the biblical, 4,000-year-old story.  Performed on three enormous stages, this truly inspiring production includes live animals and 20-plus foot high Styrofoam statues of majestic pharaohs to set the scene of ancient Egypt.  I wouldn’t miss it.

  • On Lake Taneycomo. Photo by Richard Varr

    Hop a fishing boat for a scenic boat ride on Lake Taneycomo, one of the Ozarks’ popular waterways.  Thanks to a successful fish restocking program, Lake Taneycomo is ideal for trout fishing.  The river-like Taneycomo snakes through Ozark valleys eastward, skirting Branson’s Historic Downtown and Branson Landing with its boardwalk and retail shops.

  • Showboat Branson Belle on Table Rock Lake. Photo by Richard Varr

    Walk or bike the 2.2-mile Lakeshore Trail along Table Rock Lake from the Dewey Short Visitor Center to Table Rock State Park.  In between is the berth for the lake’s iconic watercraft, the 1890s paddlewheel-style Showboat Branson Belle.  The riverboat chugs along at only six miles per hour around scenic vistas during its two hour performance/dinner cruises.

  • Titanic attraction. Photo by Richard Varr

    This year is the 100th anniversary of the Titanic tragedy.  On Branson’s Highway 76 strip, you can’t miss seeing half a ship – half the Titanic at half scale.  The ship’s bow replica, skirting a pond with an adjacent makeshift iceberg, is actually the impressive façade of Branson’s Titanic Museum attraction, touted as the world’s largest permanent Titanic exhibit.   With more than 400 artifacts once onboard including menus, silverware, letters, postcards and an original life jacket, the museum celebrates the lives of the passengers and the ship itself.  Exhibits include re-creations of the captain’s bridge, luxury and lower-class cabins, and the impressive Grand Staircase with its rounded skylight.

For more information:  www.explorebranson.com

The ‘Rising Table’ in Branson

By Richard Varr

Which table is the “Rising Table at McFarlain’s Family Restaurant in Branson, Missouri?” Photo by Richard Varr

It looked like any other restaurant table.  But when I started eating my Eggs Benedict one June morning in family-fun Branson, Missouri, I soon noticed my breakfast was almost in my face.  YIKES!  My table had apparently risen to my neck – I felt like a baby in a highchair.  And when I asked, “What’s the deal with this table?” all I got were a few laughs from my server and staff.

As it turns out, I experienced the so-called Rising Table at McFarlain’s Family Restaurant, where staff and fellow patrons love to play a practical joke on customers – including me.

“When the food hits the table, we turn on the hydraulics and it gradually rises as you eat,” says restaurant general manager Jason Roberts.  “Most people are usually too busy eating and don’t recognize it until it’s kind of up to your chin as they’re shoveling it in.  They look underneath the chair to see what’s going on.”

One of McFarlain’s “Rising Tables.” You’d never know it… Photo by Richard Varr

That’s exactly what I did, as I was looking for maybe a switch to turn it off.  I didn’t find anything, but did notice the table’s central metal support rod had a rising inner extension, reminding me of a hydraulic lift in a car repair shop.

“They usually notice when it’s risen six or seven inches.  They’ll think their chair is shrinking,” adds Roberts.  “The server will finally have to ask if they need a highchair because they’re not getting it.  That’s even funnier.  They’ll say, ‘Oh my gosh it did rise, we had no idea.’”

Those who can laugh off the joke get a “Certificate of Membership” to McFarlain’s Rising Table Society.   Located in Branson’s IMAX Complex, the restaurant has five such tables – two downstairs and three upstairs.  And yes, they look like normal tables.

So if you come to McFarlain’s for its home-cooking or country breakfasts, be wary of where you sit.  “The excitement is the unknown,” says Roberts.  “At most places, you’d never expect your table to rise.  It’s quite shocking to people who’ve never had it, and once the joke’s been played on them, they try to bring in friends and get a good laugh at their expense.”

“A lot of people come to Branson for something unique, and we offer a little piece of that.”

For more information:  www.bransonimax.com

 Getting to Branson

Branson Airport. Photo by Richard Varr

Newly developed Branson Airport is believed to be the largest privately-owned commercial airport in the country.  Three airlines – Air Tran, Frontier and Branson Air Express – offer nonstop flights from Houston, Atlanta, Orlando, Baltimore/Washington, Chicago, Denver, Austin and Nashville.

Carved atop Ozark foothills, the airport opened in May 2009 after an estimated 12 million cubic yards of earth was moved to flatten the mountaintops to create a runway, taxiway and terminal area.

For more Information:  www.flybranson.com