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Believe It or Not, Branson Offers Something for Everyone

 By Rita Cook (ritacook@wwwiz.com)

 If you thought Branson, Missouri, was just for senior citizens on road trips, think again.  Admittedly, I was a little unsure what to expect
when I packed my bags and flew into Springfield, Mo., one recent weekend, but it didn't take long for the town to win me over.

Known as ``The Live Music Show Capital of the World," Branson has more than 30 theaters that host more than 60 shows. So no matter who you are or what
you enjoy, you should be able to find something for your taste.  It's easy to get around too, check out a tourist map at http://www.bransonmaps.com/.  I took in three shows
while I was there: The Jim Stafford Show, The Mel Tillis Show and Broadway on
Ice performed at the Andy Williams Moon River Theatre.

Jim Stafford proved he still has that humorous edge reminiscent of his show
in the 1970s, ``The Jim Stafford Show."  Remember, ``Spiders and Snakes" and
"Wildwood Weed"?  Well, even if you don't remember the songs, Stafford's show
is not one to miss.  There's even a 3D segment at the end of the second act.
Mel Tillis' show, certainly the most ``country" of the
shows I saw, was fun and entertaining. Tillis has written more than 1,000 songs
during his career so he's an old pro.  Nevertheless, this is how Mel introduces himself nowadays: ``I'm Pam's father," he says deadpan.  That's Pam Tillis who has made a name for herself in country music lately.  Pam performs during the show on occasion, and Tillis' other daughter and her son usually perform with him too.  The young boy
especially has the enormous talent of his grandfather.

Then there's Andy Williams Broadway on Ice, another must-see while you're in
Branson.  Williams doesn't do any skating, in fact he was nowhere around the
ice, but several Olympic skaters perform in the most recent show featuring
Broadway show tunes. 

While you're at the theater, you might also notice the art hanging on the
walls.  Williams has his private modern art collection on display including sculptures, rugs and oil and acrylic artwork. Two or three shows are probably all you'll really need and you can even order tickets online at http://www.missourilovescompany.com/.

Then it's time to move on to some outdoor fun.  Visit http://www.bransonnow.com/ to get a list of all the things
you can do in the area. One place to start is Silver Dollar City. Silver
Dollar City is full of rides, a cave where you can enjoy spelunking, lots of
food and entertainment.  Silver Dollar City recently added a ride
called BuzzSaw Falls, which is 2,263 feet long and covers six acres.  And
if that's not enough, its flume speed is 16 feet/second and its coaster speed
is 51 mph.  Silver Dollar City continually host events throughout
the year so check the Web site for information pertaining to the time you'll
be visiting.

Lodging isn't a problem in Branson.  You can find a complete list of
accommodations at http://www.bransoninfo.com/.  There are plenty of hotels on the ``76
Strip" where all the action is usually taking place.  Or there are the quiet,
serene cabins at Table Rock Lake. I stayed at the Chateau on the Lake.  The Chateau is a true Ozark experience overlooking Table Rock Lake.  The hotel was voted ``Best of the Ozarks" in 1998.  The hotel offers wide range of activities on the grounds.  There are all sorts of water sports from scuba diving to parasailing to pleasure cruises around the lake.  There's also an 18-hole golf course and a salon and spa.

While you're on the water, the Showboat Branson Belle will whisk you around
the lake, feed you and offer a show with some surprising talent.  The Cirque
Fantastique was a fun lunchtime experience with a graceful ballerina
performing a stunning trapeze routine and two children, 13-year-old unicyclist Anthony and 12-year-old Vanya flying through the air.  The show is
the mastermind of Andrei Soumiatin, the ballerina Marina's husband. The Branson Showboat is an authentic 1890s-style paddlewheeler launched in
1994 using bananas as a lubricant for the nine-second slide into the water.

Don't expect to go hungry in Branson.   Restaurants in the area range from
fast food to fine dining overlooking the lakes. You'll find everything from Italian to Mexican to anything in between.  One restaurant you won't
want to miss is the Dixie Stampede.  Actually, it's more than a restaurant; it's a
dining experience.  First you're seated either on the left or the right side
of the huge arena.  One side is the south and one is the north and you're
going back to the Civil War.  There's lots of hearty competition while you
eat and watch a show that involves racing pigs and ostriches, Belgian Draft
horses and Quarter horses. There are 32 horses in all.  Dinner is a singing, dancing extravaganza.

After the shows and the food and the trips to the riverboat and theme park, don't wrap it up yet, there's still fishing: trout in the cold water and bass in the warm lake. 
Go-carts and arcades also dot the area.

If you're in the mood to get silly, take a duck ride.  These ducks are by far
the most fun I've ever ridden.  Who wouldn't enjoy quacking and making duck
noises at passersby on the way to Table Rock Lake.  The driver might even let
you take the wheel and earn your Honorary Captain License.  The duck rides
will take you down Highway 76 without a care in the world.

Finally, when it's time to relax, enjoy yourself while you shop at the three outlet
malls and hundreds of specialty shops.  For coupons and more Branson
information take a look at http://www.bransonaccess.com/.  No matter your age or
entertainment preference you can find it in Branson.  No longer just for
older people looking for a show, Branson is for kids of all ages just
looking for a great time.

 

Rita Cook is a freelance travel and entertainment writer, as well as the freelance editorial director of ``Insider" magazine.  She lives in Los Angeles and her most recent project, besides traveling, was producing a feature-length mockumentary called ``Marty & Virginia."

 

horiline

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