(Originally written in 7/2015 – content verified and updated 4/2018).
For years I would make sporadic visits to Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri. First, as a child with my grandparents and later as a teen and young adult. Then once I moved away from the Midwest I went a good twenty years without visiting before going back again in the mid 2000’s. I’ll never let it go that long again and since then, whenever I find myself in the vicinity of the Ozark hills, I try to make time for a visit to this wonderful theme park. There is just something I love about this place that keeps me coming back. Maybe it is their standard of quality. Or their attention to authentic detail and immaculate cleanliness. (And this is coming from a girl raised on Disney – so these are HIGH marks!) Or maybe it is their fearlessness at upholding patriotism, God, and morality. All I know is I truly love the place and here are some especially wonderful things about the park that, in my opinion, should NOT be missed!
My EIGHT FAVORITE things to do at SILVER DOLLAR CITY
ONE – Arrive EARLY at the park. The lower part of the park, where the rides are located, opens an hour AFTER the upper portion or “square”. Various shops are open on the square at this hour, as well as numerous shady spots to sit and sip coffee, eat a cinnamon roll or just watch the crowds arrive. But my FAVORITE part of the square is Molly’s Mill Restaurant. This is the perfect spot to fortify yourself with a hearty buffet breakfast of biscuits and gravy, scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, and more. It is rather average food, I must admit, but there is just something about sitting in a dining room with gingham curtains and a working water wheel that screams COUNTRY! And that is what you are about to embark on, a day full of COUNTRY charm!
TWO – After breakfast, be sure to find a shady spot on the square in front of the General Store for the park’s daily opening ceremony and recognition of veterans in the crowd. They are invited to be a part of a special parade while the crowd sings You’re a Grand Old Flag as the veterans carry the flag to the flagpole located in this area. The flag is raised and everyone recites the Pledge of Allegiance followed by singing the National Anthem. And the park is then officially OPEN! Come on, how can you NOT love that?
THREE – I also love the trees and shade and EXTREMELY hilly terrain one must traverse in order to navigate the park. The pathways are steep, but after all, you are in a “holler”. (A holler is Ozark-speak for a hole or hollowed out part of a mountain. Or it could be to shout loudly if you are using it as a verb.) The benefit of all these hills is that they allow you to eat biscuits and gravy, homemade apple turnovers, kettle corn, funnel cakes, twisty taters, and all of the other country goodies the park has to offer and STILL be in a daily calorie deficit when you leave. Yeehaw to that!
FOUR – And then there are the Sons of the Silver Dollar. This vocal group that performs at various locations around Silver Dollar City features cowboy songs, bluegrass, comedic medleys, and southern gospel tunes. I LOVE these guys and if you appreciate impeccable harmonies, you will too! Be sure to check your daily performance guide when you visit for their locations and show times. Members have come and gone over the years but the entertainment value consistently maintains the same high standards. I DARE you to sit through one of their sets without smiling and tapping your toes!
FIVE – And while I LOVE all of the modern roller coasters to be found in the park (those that will surely lure a whole new generation of SDC converts), my favorite ride is Fire in the Hole. It is a “dark” coaster of sorts and built in 1972, it was the first “thrill” ride in the park. You will definitely see a few bad reviews for this ride but those are from folks who don’t GET it. It is quintessential Silver Dollar City and has somewhat of a cult following. The ride is a trip through an Ozark town that has been set ablaze by Ozark Baldknobbers. (Baldknobber = a vigilante in the Ozark hills of Missouri during the 1800’s. They got their name from the bald hills found throughout the region.) The ride is full of twist and turns, kooky audio, and country chaos. It is a bumpy ride with little padding under your rump (think Matterhorn at Disneyland) and is rather dated, but fun nonetheless – especially if you rode the ride when you were a kid. The ride culminates with a final drop in the darkness and a splashy ending with everyone “hollerin'”, FIRE IN THE HOLE!!
SIX – If you visit Silver Dollar City only ONCE in your life, you must take the tour of MARVEL CAVE. Silver Dollar City exists because of Marvel Cave. The entrance to the cave is in the Visitor’s Center that you must walk through upon entering the park. The tours are included in your admission price into the park and last about 60 minutes. The tour is spent descending and ascending approximately 600 stairs, ducking through tunnels, and squeezing through passageways (more calorie burning – Yay!) with names like “Tall Man’s Headache” and “Fat Man’s Pass”. It was originally called MARBLE Cave because in the dim lights belonging to the first explorers, the limestone walls appeared to be marble. Tours started in the late 1800’s and news of the magnificent cave spread.
In the 1940’s, the Herschend family leased the cave for 99 years and soon after built the 1880’s mining town of Silver Dollar City around its entrance, officially opening the theme park in 1960. You see and experience all of the usual cave peculiarities during your tour. The cathedral room (Marvel’s is as tall as the Statue of Liberty!). There are stalactites and stalagmites (stalactites hold TIGHTLY to the roof and stalagmites just MIGHT make you trip over them – a handy way to remember which is which – you’re welcome). You’ll see cave bacon, a few bats (if you’re lucky!), and experience the state of total, black darkness when the lights are extinguished, accompanied with running commentary and corny jokes by an informative tour guide. The whole experience is a great way to add to the lore of a recreated mining town full of moonshine and baldknobbers!
SEVEN – Silver Dollar City is the perfect place to pick up one-of-a-kind gifts made by craftspeople showcasing heritage crafts from a bygone era. These are REAL DEAL artisans and have been a part of the park’s tradition since it opened in the 1960’s. Demonstrations by resident craftspeople such as woodcarving, soap and candle making, blacksmithing, weaving, pottery making, and glass blowing are only naming a few and can be witnessed on every visit. During the Fall Harvest and Cowboy Festival (one of several festivals held throughout the year) traveling artisans from around the country are added to the park’s talented repertoire making it the ideal time to shop for holiday gifts. Add to this the aroma of roasting corn, succulent meats turning on a spit, and pork rinds popping in a vat and you know Fall has arrived – an excellent time for a visit!
EIGHT – And finally, my very FAVORITE time of year to visit is in December. Christmastime is WONDERFUL at Silver Dollar City! The Travel Channel and Good Morning America have both recognized the park’s annual Christmas festival as one of the best holiday light shows in America. A five-story Christmas tree complete with special lighting effects set to music, a Christmas parade, and Broadway-style productions such as A Dickens’ Christmas Carol and It’s a Wonderful Life (these are outstanding productions as good as any you will see in NY or elsewhere!) set the mood for an old-fashioned Christmas. Shopping, hot chocolate, Christmas carols, while bundled up in coats, mittens, and scarves and surrounded by over five million twinkling lights – it just doesn’t get much more Christmas-y than this!
Encompassing more than 100 acres, featuring over 40 rides and attractions, a multitude of shows and entertainment, craftsmen, dining, and shopping – the park has SO much more to offer than listed here – but these are my TOP EIGHT. Remember when you visit to appreciate the park for exactly what it is – good, clean fun. Sure, there’s a degree of hokey-ness and a definite “cheese factor” at Silver Dollar City – that is intended. But this park will leave you with a feeling of wholesomeness, patriotism, and a restored feeling of goodness in a crazy, crazy world. And a healthy dose of THAT is good for everyone!
Have YOU ever visited Silver Dollar City? What are some of your traditions that you have to do or see on every visit? Share in the comments below!