Saturday, June 7, 2014

Ozarks Trip Day 4

After a good night's sleep, we woke up ready to spend two full days in Branson.  We started out with breakfast at the restaurant on the property, which was part of our all inclusive package.  This was a full sized buffet with pretty much anything you could want for breakfast.  The wait staff were all extremely nice and we were starting to forget about the horrible receptionist from the night before.  Before breakfast, I visited the Grand Country ticket office (all shows on property were included in our package) to see if we could get tickets for the 10am Amazing Pets show.  They did have seats open for us, so we took our time at breakfast, then wandered over to the show.

No pictures allowed during the show, which they were quite serious about.  The trainer is Valery Tsoraev from Russia and he reminded me of someone from the PBS show, Circus.  I thought this family was probably 9th generation circus or something.  I've since looked him up and it turns out he joined the circus when he was 16.   Nonetheless, when people were trying to video the show, Valery would stop what he was doing, motion to an usher, and stare the person down with a "the Russian mob is going to hunt you down and smash your kneecaps and your ipad into a thousand bits" look.  I get it, this show is their livelihood and if the whole thing is online, people won't pay to see it.  I would not want to be on Valery's bad side though.

The show is entertaining, but just a tad too long.  It lasts about 2 hours and one and a half would be perfect.  As we watched cats and dogs walk across balance beams, jump through hoops, push barrels and dance on their hind legs, the girls repeatedly oohed and aahed and clapped in glee.  The comedian between breaks kept the adults laughing.  Overall, a great family show.   Our all inclusive package got us "free" popcorn and drinks for the show.  Not quite sure why Sedona is making a face at me, once the show started she was nothing but laughs.

Thanks to the sanfu the previous day, we went to pick up our Dixie Stampede tickets after the show so we would be sure not to miss it again.  We weren't scheduled to go until 5:30, but the much mentioned awful hotel employee made it sound like they HAD to be picked up hours ahead of time. 

Turns out that's not exactly true (surprise, surprise).  There IS a pre-show, and it's entertaining, but it's not required.  If you want to walk in shortly before the show, you can indeed pick up your tickets, get in and just watch the main show. Random horse statue in the lobby:
Flowers out front.  It was a really sunny day, so we had a hard time taking pictures with our eyes open.
Tickets safely in hand, we headed back to the hotel for our included lunch buffet.  Lunch was even better than breakfast.  Salad, fruit, cornbread, rolls, meatloaf, fish, chicken, pizza, Chinese food, chicken pot pie, plenty of sides, ice cream bar...basically, plenty for everyone to eat their fill of food they actually liked.  Once again, the staff was super nice.  They all made an effort to engage the kids and ask where they were from and what they had been doing on vacation.

After lunch, we headed to the Titanic museum.   Hwy 76 is the main drag through the touristy part of Branson, so as we drove down it to get to the museum, there were quite a few sights to see:

The Titanic museum was a recommendation from a friend and it did not disappoint.  Unfortunately, no pictures are allowed inside, so all I have is what the outside looks like
Inside, there is a lot of information that's really interesting and a ton of exhibits.  You are given a boarding pass when you enter that assigns you a person who was actually on the Titanic.  They match it up pretty well, you get someone of the same gender and similar age.  This helped keep the kids engaged, because they were always on the lookout for information about "their" person and how they would have lived on the ship.  The kids did lose interest at times, but there was always something to pull them back in.  At the beginning there is a giant block of ice so you can "touch the ice burg", you can pretend to shovel coal in the broiler room, there are replica rooms set up so you can how different ticket classes would have slept, and a replica grand stair case to walk up.  Once you make it to the top, you can pretend to steer at the ship's wheel while looking through the windows, then walk "out on deck" where it's freezing cold and everything is dark with twinkling stars above you.  Then there are tilted decks to walk on so you can see what it would be like to try to hold on and a replica life boat to sit in.  Towards the end, you can tap out a message in morse code and try holding your hand in water as cold as the ocean would have been that night.  Lastly, you go through the memorial room, where you find out if your person lived or died and what life was like after the Titanic for them if they lived (we all lived, but my person had a rather tragic existence and died a few years later).  Then there is some information about the discovery of the Titanic wreckage.

After the Titanic, we made our way over to the Dixie Stampede for our 5:30 dinner and show.  Again, no pictures allowed.  I thought I could maybe show you pictures from their website, but they're all copyrighted too, so you'll have to look at the website directly if you want to see.  We came in late and caught the very end of the pre-show.  The part we saw involved a juggler on a raised stage in the center of the room.  Did I say juggler?  More like ultra-juggler.  The last part of his act was standing on a flaming ladder, balanced on a flaming slack line while juggling lit torches.  Sedona was (unfortunately) in total awe.  She did breathlessly exclaim, "that's so dangerous" so hopefully she'll at least leave out the fire part when she gets the bright idea to try it.

Immediately after the pre-show, everyone filed into the arena and found their seats.  We were on the front row and the girls were shocked and excited to find there was no silverware at all and we were expected to eat with our hands, bang on the table and stomp our feet during the show.  The meal is served in stages, but all together, it's completely HUGE.  You start out with a biscuit and creamy vegetable soup (a soup my veggie hating kids actually liked).  The show quickly gets underway and you settled in for 2 hours of non-stop entertainment and eating.  I can't really adequately describe the show and their website doesn't do it justice.  I was worried about dust/dirt in the air since we were in front, but they have what's basically a damp sand arena floor and it wasn't a problem.  The show is set up as a brief history of the move west, then a competition between the north and the south (you're seated on one side or the other and cheer for your "team"), then the two sides coming together and celebrating America.  The show includes everything from trick riding to bison running through the arena, aerial dancing to square dancing on horses, lumberjack competitions to a kid's chicken chase, wagon races to a Gomer Pyle type comedian interrupting the show.  It was very entertaining and the kids absolutely LOVED it.  They were amazed at what they were seeing the entire time and they wanted to go back the next day.  Buying these tickets outright is pretty expensive, but it's worth it.  I honestly have not seen that level of excitement in the girls since we were at Disney World.  As the show progresses, you are served different courses in the meal.  The girls were amazed when an entire cornish hen was set on their plate.  They were at a bit of a loss on what to do with that with no forks.  I got them started and then they dug in.  At the end of the main course and sides, each person is given a warm wet towel to clean up before dessert.  There are also packaged towelettes on the table if you really want to clean up before then

At the end of the show, we walked back to the car, which involves passing the stables and being able to see all of the horses up close.  Back at our hotel, we took advantage of our "free" mini golf option to visit a different course (an indoor one this time because it was raining outside).  By then it was about 9pm and what else do you do at 9 o'clock at night on vacation but buy fudge and stay up late eating it?

I thought I could fit both Branson days into one post, but it appears we were quite busy, so let's save day 5 for another post!

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