An Old Time Christmas at Silver Dollar City

In the week before Christmas, I was struck with a bit of the bah-humbugs. Our kids are old enough that the traditions of their early childhood are fading away, and the loss of my mom in 2013 led to the loss of some family Christmas routines, as well. Christmas just wasn’t feeling the same.

To make matters worse, the weather has been entirely wrong. With temperatures in the 50s and 60s, it feels more like spring than winter. There is no walking in a winter wonderland, no “let it snow, let it snow, let it snow,” no white Christmas to dream of. In fact, I’ve been trying to convince my family to run away to Colorado for Christmas break so the kids I could play in some snow.

Just as I was ready to throw out the Who-pudding and cancel the roast beast, our family made a trip to Silver Dollar City’s Old Time Christmas, which helped revive my Christmas spirit.

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For those unfamiliar with it, Silver Dollar City is a theme park in Branson, Missouri. Long before the town became famous for its many country music shows, Silver Dollar City was one of the earliest attractions. In the 1950s, developers built an 1880s town near the opening of a large cave. Early visitors toured the cave, watched Ozarks craftspeople, and enjoyed the scenery, often leaving with silver dollar souvenirs jingling in their pockets.

In the half century since, Silver Dollar City has grown into an award-winning theme park full of shows, rides, food, and family fun, all set in the natural beauty of the Ozarks hills. Though it is enjoyable to visit the park any time of year, the Christmas season is my favorite, as the park gets transformed through the magic of Christmas lights.

“There are dark shadows on the earth, but its lights are stronger in the contrast.” ~Charles Dickens

Buildings are covered with rows and rows of tiny bulbs, setting them all aglow.

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Trees turn into giant amoebas in the sky when their branches are outlined with twinkling lights.

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In the center of the town square, a 5-story tree’s rhythmic lights dance in time with the booming Christmas carols.

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As the days grow shorter and shorter, Christmas lights help us conquer the long, dark nights.

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You really can’t feel like the Grinch for long when Silver Dollar City makes you feel like a child again.

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Simply walking around in the park is lovely; however, there’s much more to do than that.

As long as the weather is warm enough, the rides are open, including several roller coasters. I was eager to tempt my fate on Outlaw Run, the craziest roller coaster I’ve ever ridden. Your brain cannot even make you nervous about the double barrel rolls or huge drops ahead because your cart is screeching along the track so quickly you can’t even think! This world-renown wood coaster is a must-do. My kids didn’t think so, unfortunately, leaving me and my husband to conquer the coaster alone. It was literally breath taking!

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Old Time Christmas Top Ten

Though we didn’t do all of these on this trip, here’s a list of some of the fun things your family can do at Silver Dollar City’s Old Time Christmas:

1. Sing Christmas carols as you ride the old-time steam engine train through the Ozarks woods. We all know from the movie Elf that the “best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loudly for all to hear.” The Cox family is tone deaf, so we spared the other park visitors from our caroling.

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2. Eat! Our family enjoyed apple dumplings, hot chocolate, oversized chocolate chip cookies, and my personal favorite, the succotash skillet with chicken, potatoes, okra, and peppers. This isn’t your typical theme park junk food–it’s actually tasty!

3. Get a picture with Santa. The park has a whole Santa area with crafts and more. My kids wouldn’t go near the real guy, but I got them to pose with a statue, at least. The look on my older son’s face tells you what he thinks of his mother’s requests.Silver Dollar City20151224-13

4. Take in a show. This year’s productions included the classics It’s a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Carol, and I’ve heard they are great. There’s always the saloon show if you want something less Christmas-y.

5. Drink some wassail as you watch the nighttime parade of lighted floats and glowing characters. Watch illuminated snowmen, princesses, trains, and more march by.

6. Shop for gifts. You might even find one or two for yourself. In addition to the typical theme park goodies, Silver Dollar City also has handcrafted items created by real craftspeople. I admired some adorable camper trailer pin cushions, even though I don’t sew.Silver Dollar City20151224-15

7. Play! There are rides for every age and fear level. The park has done a great job of adding attractions over the last few years, providing lots of variety and fun. Little kids will especially love the new Fireman’s Landing play area. Big kids will love the roller coasters.

8. Enjoy the old-time essence of the park. When you go in the cozy log cabins and smell the kerosene lamps, you really do take a step back in time. Sometimes, you’ll stumble upon a fiddler or storyteller. Be sure to visit the Wilderness Chapel during the daytime for a great view of the Ozarks.

9. Enjoy some of the fun attractions from earlier decades. My younger son likes the shoot out in the Flooded Mine, and you can get yourself creeped out on the indoor roller coaster called Fire in the Hole. On this trip, we had fun with the simple pleasure of stomping across the swinging bridge and walking through the weirdly-entertaining Grandfather’s Mansion. I have photos of myself in this jail from over three decades ago, and it’s fun to take the same picture of my boys.

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10. Visit the attraction that started it all by taking a tour of the cave. I’m not a cave fan, actually, but it really is a neat one, and it doesn’t make you feel as claustrophobic as most caves

This barely scratches the surface of all the things you can do. You can do some of these or none of them and still have a great time. Silver Dollar City is truly entertaining for the whole family, and its Old Time Christmas festival is not only a local favorite, it has won national awards and recognitions for the special experience it offers.

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I’m thankful to have Silver Dollar City as part of my family’s Christmas traditions. This year, more than ever before, I needed to jump start my Christmas spirit. Linking arms with my boys as we walked through the twinkling wonderland did just that!

Merry Christmas from our awkward family to yours!

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8 years ago

I had a good time. It wasn’t typical Christmas weather, but it was great roller coaster weather.

8 years ago

so fun! We went to Dollywood at Christmastime once, years ago….I think it’s run by the same people these days; at any rate, it had the same millions of lights + roller coasters at night thing going on :). But it’s 4 hours away, so it’s not an every year thing for us.