I had heard the city’s name before, but knew nothing anything about it.
But it was the Labor Day long weekend and we wanted to find a place to visit that was within a reasonable driving distance of Omaha. A friend suggested Branson, so off we went!
We arrived late at night, well after the sun went down. The Highway 76 “strip” looked very much like a cut-down version of Vegas. There was plenty of brightly coloured neon signs, interesting looking places to visit, and people wandering around despite the 11pm time. No showgirls and casinos, though.
I’m not a huge fan of the showgirls or casinos, so I didn’t miss their absence. I did, however, miss the glass of wine that I would normally enjoy with a restaurant meal. This place, unfortunately, seems to not believe in the consumption of alcohol.
Where the “Bible Belt” starts and ends in the US is a bit of a mystery to me, but Branson certainly was not shy in proclaiming it’s Christian allegiance. Christian music played in every venue we attended, including the hotel and the McDonalds. Being a follower of Jesus, you’d think that this would be heaven on earth to me, but it wasn’t. And it’s hard to explain why. I guess my best explanation is that I believe that faith (of any persuasion) should come from a personal conviction, not because it’s the socially accepted norm. Whether it’s at a church in the US or a synagogue in Israel or a mosque in Afghanistan, it’s easy to go with the flow because that’s what’s expected of you in the society you happen to live in. But that’s not true faith. That’s religion. And we all know what Jesus thought about the “religious” people of his day. For me, faith is a deeply personal relationship with the Creator of the Universe who loves me so much that he sent his son to die for me. And you. It is not a mega-million dollar facility that advertises its lead singer with neon signs. Rant over.
As has become our tradition, we stayed in the local Best Western hotel. We were lucky enough to have enough points in our rewards account, making our weekend’s accommodation free. It turns out, that even with the free accommodation, Branson is an expensive place to visit.
Before our trip, I did my usual online research, trying to find the best price for the various attractions that we wanted to include in our weekend. It is VERY difficult to nail down prices. 2-for-1 ticket websites abounded during my internet research phase, and once we arrived, “discount tickets available here” kiosks seemed to be located on every corner. But as the cliche goes, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Timeshare, and “resort opportunity presentations” seem to be the name of the game in this town.
One website offered a free book of coupons, but when I contacted them, they wouldn’t give it to me unless I booked all my show tickets through them. (So it’s not really a free book of coupons, is it?) Others could give me a substantial discount on tickets, but only if we attended a two hour presentation on a resort in the area. It’s not timeshare, they insisted. They would give us $200 at the end of it, they promised. Um, OK then. Let me figure out how I can get out of the conversation politely. Oh screw it, I’m just going to say no and hang up.
Suffice to say, if we had the time and the patience to endure multiple sales and timeshare presentations, we could quite easily have had a week full of attractions in Branson completely free. However we didn’t have the time, and we certainly didn’t have the patience, so our trip ended up costing quite a bit.
Branson is the home of the shows, and on the Labor Day weekend that we travelled, no less than 35 shows were playing in various venues across the strip. There was no way that we could see them all, and a lot of them didn’t particularly strike our fancy. So we chose a few shows and a few other things to suit our family and had to leave the rest for another time. Here’s where we went (with links to the individual reviews):
- The Butterfly Palace
- The Showboat Belle of Branson
- Dixie Stampede
- White Water
- Adventure Ziplines of Branson
In all, we had a fabulous time in Branson. It was an interesting town with a unique vibe.