Location: Branson MO
Military Discount: Yes
Rating: ***** (5 stars)
A trip to Branson isn’t complete without visiting one of the theme parks. We chose White Water, because (a) the girls love anything to do with water, and (b) there were less height restrictions compared to Silver Dollar City (where the roller coasters live).
As a military family, White Water is extremely good value. Military kids under 12 were FREE. Yep, completely free. I didn’t read that little tidbit anywhere online, so it was quite a pleasant surprise (as was the lack of a queue at the front gate ticket office). For the military adult tickets, we could choose either $5 off a one day entry, or buy one day and get the second free. Military discounts are only available at the gate – not online or over the phone. The gate price was even better than buying at the Military ITT office on base.
We spent $6 (and $10 deposit) on a small locker to keep our backpack with towels, dry clothes and sandals. And the bottle of sunscreen.
I brought long sleeved rash shirts for the girls to wear over their bathing suits. I had intended on wearing a rash shirt myself, and realised when we arrived in Branson that I neglected to pack it. Sigh. No matter, I figured that I’d be OK just putting sunscreen on. Oh how wrong I was. Every 90min or so, I coated myself with sunscreen – often enough that hubby would incredulously say “you want to put sunscreen on again?” I still ended up very sunburnt on my back and shoulders. I’m not sure if it rubbed off on the slides, or if the brand that I purchased (Walgreens 30+) is just poor quality, but I’m still feeling the pain.
The actual park was well designed, nicely landscaped and pleasant to walk around. It wasn’t huge enough to get lost in, but had enough attractions to hold our attention for the day. We went on the Labor Day long weekend – the last weekend they are open for the season and supposedly one of the busiest weekends of the year. There were plenty of people around, but the lines weren’t insanely long. In the morning, we could often go straight back on a slide without waiting much at all. I guess most of the population of Branson goes to church on Sunday mornings! The place got busier around lunch-time and for the rest of the afternoon, we had to wait to get tubes and mats for the various rides. Still, it was nothing like the horror of Disneyland when it comes to queues!
My favourite ride was the Raging River Rapids – a dual slide that you sit atop of tube to ride. The blue side plunges you into darkness for the majority of the ride, with small light holes along the side, giving it a space age feel. The tan side has a few more openings, but it also has some completely dark twists and turns to completely disorient you before plunging you under a waterfall and out into the bottom pool. I loved it!
The food was typical American theme park fare. If you can stomach it, the Domino’s style pizzas were the best value at around $16 for a family size. I opted for a grilled chicken sandwich and had whilst waiting for it, had visions of a chicken breast seared to perfection, sitting atop fresh tomato and lettuce with perhaps a slice of cheese and drizzle of mayo. What I ended up with was a 4cm x 4cm x 1cm piece of dry chicken on a squished hamburger bun. Yummy. In hindsight, the salads or wraps (only available at a few of the food kiosks) would have been a better choice.
In all, we had a fabulous day, and when it was time to go, the kids were very reluctant to say goodbye to the park.
Tips for a great day at White Water:
- Wear a rash shirt and save yourself the pain of sunburn.
- Use a strap on your sunglasses to hold them on your face. If you don’t, they’ll make you take them off and hold them going down all the slides. I’m not exactly sure why, as I think sunglasses would be more prone to falling from my hands than from my face, but rules are rules.
- Read the height/ tube type restrictions at the bottom of the ride before lining up. At the bottom of Pipeline Plunge, there was a clear sign stating that the double tubes are for one adult and one small child only. Tons of teenagers took the double tubes and lined up (ah, young love….), only to be told that they weren’t allowed to use them and they had to go back down the bottom again to get the correct tubes.
- Small lockers are available for $6 (and $10 deposit) to keep towels, dry clothes and sandals. And the bottle of sunscreen.