Great Midwest Family Vacation Town {Branson, MO}

I recently traveled to Branson, Missouri with a few other bloggers on a trip with US Family Guide courtesy of Branson Lakes Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. What was supposed to be a mom/daughter trip ended up being more of a family trip but in a way I’m glad the boys could come with because that gave me the chance to see how kid-friendly Branson was. I went into the trip thinking Branson was more of a place for adults but I left knowing that it is a perfect family vacation destination.

Branson is quite a drive from the Chicago area but do-able. Leaving in the afternoon meant the kids slept most of the car ride. Once we got to Branson we checked in to Thousand Hills Golf Resort where we were staying for the duration of our trip. The condo we stayed in was beautiful and bigger than my first apartment with a view of the golf course.

Condo at Thousand Hills Golf Resort

We spent our first day at Silver Dollar City. I started the day by riding their new record-breaking ride, Outlaw Run. It’s the first and only double barrel roll on a wood coaster, the only wood coaster to twist upside down three times, the world’s steepest wood coaster, and the second fastest wood coaster in the world. It was an amazing thrill! I spent the rest of the day with my kids riding “kiddie rides”, eating delicious food, and walking around looking at the 125+ booths of crafts during their National Harvest Fest.

Rides at Silver Dollar City

After a day at Silver Dollar City we went back to our hotel room, changed, and headed to Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede for dinner and show. The show was action packed and we loved watching all of the performers including the man who rode 2 horses through a ring of fire and the ostrich race. My boys even got to be part of the show as they chased chickens in the arena while about a thousand people watched.

Ostrich Race at Dixie Stampede

After a good night’s rest we headed to the Hollywood Wax Museum where my mom and the boys posed with wax figures of famous actors and actresses. Some of them looked so real!

My favorite wax celebrity at the Hollywood Wax Museum- so real!

 Our next stop was to The Track Family Fun Parks. With 5 locations spread along the main highway, there is something for everyone at “the tracks”. The boys loved riding Go-Karts by themselves and all of the kiddie rides. My favorite was racing Go-Karts on a couple of the best tracks that I’ve ever been on.

Go-Kart fun at The Track Family Fun Parks

Our evening consisted of a nice dinner cruise on the Showboat Branson Belle. We enjoyed delicious food while watching some great talent. One of the women performing had me amazed when she was playing the violin upside down while doing aerials! The comedian and magician was so good that I’m still trying to figure out how he did one of his last tricks.

Beautiful evening for a cruise on the Showboat Branson Belle

The next day was our last day in Branson. We spent our morning at the Titanic Museum. I found it interesting to learn more about this ship I had only known about from the movie. The boys loved all of the interactive exhibits.

Model ship we saw at the Titanic Museum

Before we left we stopped at the Christmas store and a local shop selling taffy. We had a great time together on our trip. If you are looking for a family-friendly vacation spot I recommend heading to Branson, Missouri. See more fun things to do at!

Wanted For Causing A Stampede {Wordless Wednesday}

(Disclosure: I received free tickets to Dixie Stampede where this picture was taken but I purchased this picture with my own money.)

Thousand Hills Golf Resort {Branson, MO}

(Disclosure: I received a free trip to Branson, Missouri and while I was there stayed at Thousand Hills Golf Resort courtesy of the resort. All thoughts are my own.)

After a long day of traveling, nothing feels better than coming back to the hotel room and relaxing before falling asleep in a nice comfy bed. While I was in Branson I was lucky enough to stay at an amazing resort called the Thousand Hills Golf Resort.

Thousand Hills Hotel, Golf Resort and Conference Center provides Branson lodging luxury, variety and convenience found nowhere else in Missouri. Whether you choose the secluded Branson cabins, the centrally located condos that surround the 18-hole golf course, or prefer to be on Table Rock Lake you will enjoy many features not found at competing Branson, Missouri hotels and resorts. All three of their Branson Lodging properties feature free wi-fi internet, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, exercise facility and hotel lodging loaded with special features.

My family stayed in one of the one bedroom condos. The living room and bedroom had a view of the golf course. The condo also had a balcony with table and chairs for relaxing or eating outside.

When I walked into the condo for the first time I was amazed at the size of it. It was larger than my first apartment!

The main living area featured a kitchen, dining room, and living room. There was a closet with a washer and dryer off of the dining room which is perfect for families staying a while.

I liked the fact that there was a full kitchen complete with small appliances. Eating out can be expensive so running to the grocery store and cooking your own food is an easy way to save money while traveling.

The living room had a pull-out couch which we used during our stay. There was also a large TV with a DVD player so we ran to Redbox and got a couple movies for the evenings.

The bedroom was really spacious. It contained a large bed, 2 nightstands, and an armoire with a television. The bedroom had a “his” and “hers” closet and a sink area w/ mirror which is nice for getting ready in the morning when someone is in the bathroom. The two door bathroom was off the bedroom and featured a nice Jacuzzi tub.

The features of the condo units include:

  • Swimming Pool
  • Whirlpool Jacuzzi-Type Tub
  • Private Patio or Deck
  • Spacious Living Room
  • Fully-Equipped Kitchen
  • DVD Player
  • Televisions in all bedrooms
  • Cable Television
  • Premium Channels with ESPN, HBO
  • Pull-Out Sofa Sleeper
  • Washers and Dryers
  • Soaps & Detergents
  • Iron with Ironing Board
  • All Major Appliances
  • AM/FM Alarm Clock Radios
  • All Linens Furnished
  • Electronic Door Locks
  • Free WiFi Internet

The condos sound like they’d be expensive but they are really affordable and comparable in price to normal hotel rooms. The smallest unit starts at $74/night. The one bedroom condos start at $115/night. There are also 2, 3, 4, and 5 bedroom condo and town-home options that sleep anywhere from 2-12 people.

If you will be traveling to Branson, Missouri I recommend staying at the Thousand Hills Golf Resort. Learn more about the resort here.

Showboat Branson Belle {Branson, MO}

(Disclosure: I received a free trip to Branson and tickets to the Showboat Branson Belle while I was there. All thoughts are my own.)

While in Branson we had a chance to go on the Showboat Branson Belle which was a dinner show cruise. I wasn’t sure what to expect entertainment-wise because I had never been to a dinner show on a cruise. I thought maybe I’d find some good singers or acts but I was blown away by the excellent talent that was featured.

Janice Martin astounds audiences with her gravity-defying performances. Her show is extraordinary and original – a master musician and acrobat/aerialist, doing both at the same time. You will be amazed! The ShowMen, hailing from all across America, feature musical selections spanning the decades from Gershwin to the Beatles to the Black Eyed Peas. You’ll love their powerful harmonies and stand-out solos. Returning this season is comedian and magician Christopher James as the ultra-funny Master of Ceremonies. Completing the LIVE entertainment experience is the Rockin’ Dockers Band.

Janice Martin

I was amazed as I watched Janice play the violin, then the piano, then sing, and then play the violin while doing aerials. And she didn’t just do everything…she did it all well. I sat marveling over how someone could have mastered all that she has.

The ShowMen

I enjoyed the selection of music that was played. I am not a country music fan so I’m glad that all of the music played was not country. The ShowMen were wonderful and I loved how all of their voices blended together.

Christopher James

As for magician Christopher James, I have to say that he is one of the best magicians I’ve ever seen. The biggest surprise came during the end of the act and I’m still scratching my head trying to figure out how he did what he did. He also kept us all laughing throughout his performance.

No dinner show cruise is complete without food! We were sitting in the Captain’s Row so we had choices of steak and seafood to enjoy. I enjoyed the Mate’s Choice meal which consisted of a Kansas City strip steak, grilled shrimp scampi, garlic mashed potatoes, and seasonal veggies. The dinner was a nice change from the chicken I had been eating for dinner most of the trip. Dessert was flavored cheesecakes. I loved that they had a kid’s menu even though I didn’t see many kids on our evening cruise. The boys even got a special ice cream cake dessert covered in chocolate sauce, sprinkles, and gummy bears.

Lucas trying to balance a spoon on his nose like the magician was directing everyone in the audience to do.

I had the kids with me and although I think this cruise is geared more towards adults it is still appropriate for kids and both boys behaved pretty well during it. The acts are family friendly. The music had Lucas dancing at points (both in his seat and out of it). The magician mesmerized the kids like it did the adults. Also, if the kids got restless they could walk around the boat. I brought the boys’ tablets so that kept them occupied while they were waiting for the cruise to start and during some of it. Lucas, my son with Autism, spent most of his time lining up the sugar packets then gathering them in a teacup, then lining them all up again. It was a nice quiet activity for him to do and it didn’t bother anyone that he was standing and on the floor some of the time.

Overall, we had a nice experience. The show does go late so if you have kids I’d recommend an earlier showtime. If you get there early make sure to checkout the area by the lakefront. There are a couple little shops and plenty of green areas to walk around in.

(Disclosure: All images (other than last three) courtesy of Showboat Branson Belle. I received tickets for free but all thoughts are my own.)

The Track Family Fun Parks {Branson, MO}

(Disclosure: I received a free trip to Branson, Missouri and free day passes to The Track Family Fun Parks. All thoughts are my own.)

When we were in Branson last weekend we did a lot of fun things but none was more exciting for the kids than riding go-karts at The Track Family Fun Parks. I’ve driven many go-kart tracks in my life and I have to say that these were the most exciting tracks that I’ve ever driven on. One truly felt like a rollercoaster at points and another track had me positive that my go-kart was up in the air.

My two favorite tracks were the Heavy Metal High Rise (pictured above) and the Wild Woody. The Heavy Metal High Rise was four stories high! When we were driving down from the fourth story I felt like I was flying in the air at some points. It was awesome! Wild Woody (pictured below) was also four stories high but felt more like a wooden rollercoaster than a go-kart track. There is one point that you can’t see what’s over the hill and as soon as you speed over it you are headed down. It was exciting!

The Track Family Fun Parks’ rides are split between 5 locations, all located on the central highway that goes through town. We spent most of our time on the kid rides at tracks #5 and #3. Many of the go-kart rides the kids had to ride with an adult and it was a nice feature to have double go-karts that featured two wheels so the kids could feel like they were driving.

The boys took turns riding with me and the other half of the time they rode with their Nana.


There were a few that they could drive on all by themselves. They really liked this!


When the boys were done riding the go-karts they got special stickers that said “first time driver”.

The Tracks Family Fun Parks had a lot more than just go-karts. They had indoor arcade games and other outside kiddie rides.

I really appreciated that the rides were long. They are all on timers and lasted about 5 minutes so you really can get your money’s worth on these rides.

The staff was really nice, too. The one man operating the train ride saw that Jacob was upset about not being able to be in the engine to toot the whistle so he promised Jacob that he could go again and ride in the engine part the second time. It’s little things like that that really makes a difference when out and about with the kids. This man understood that Jacob was having a difficult time and stopped a full-on meltdown from happening with just a few words.

Other rides included a kiddie ferris wheel, bumper cars, and bumper boats. We loved spraying each other on the bumper boats and the cool water was welcome on the hot day.

Overall, we had an amazing time at the Tracks Family Fun Parks. There is plenty to do and with four locations, one could spend a whole day playing! I look forward to going back the next time I am in Branson.

(Disclosure: As stated above, I received free passes to the park but all thoughts are my own.)

Jake & Luke’s First Acting Audition {Wordless Wednesday}

Can you guess which child probably wouldn’t have gotten the job?

(Disclosure: I received tickets to the Hollywood Wax Museum in Branson, Missouri but purchased this portrait with my own money.)

Titanic Museum {Branson, MO}

(Disclosure: I received a free trip to Branson, Missouri and tickets to the Museum while I was there. Thoughts are my own.)

It is said that the best way to respect and honor those who gave their lives is to simply tell their stories. This is what the Titanic Museum is around for. It’s a tribute to the ship and the 2,208 passengers and crew members that were on the Titanic when it sank in 1912. The Museum has two locations, one in Branson, MO and one in Pigeon Forge, TN. I visited the location in Branson.

When we got to the museum we were greeted outside by the “crew” of the ship. They gave us cards that had a name and story on it and told us it was the real name of someone on the ship. We could look for our name throughout the museum and I thought that was a really great way for people to connect personally with the experience.

We were also given personal listening devices to listen to more about the exhibits in the museum. Children were given their own as well and had special numbers so their stories were more age-appropriate. Upon entering the museum we stood inside the beautiful lobby where we saw a picture on the wall of how large the ship was compared to other things including the Statue of Liberty and the St. Louis Arch. The thing on the ceiling that looks like a fan was actually the smallest propeller on the ship {it doesn’t look like it in the picture but it is huge}.

There were many displays in the museum. There was a wall of ice you could touch and see what the iceberg might have felt like. There was a large model of the ship when you first walked in that was interesting to look at.

New this year, the Museum has a special children’s exhibit honoring all the children that were on the ship.

The boys were able to see what kinds of toys children played with years ago and see pictures of all of the children. We learned that the youngest survivor was an infant that the mother wrapped in her jacket and that baby grew up and just passed away a few years back.

I loved seeing the rooms on the Titanic. Above is where the 3rd class passengers stayed, four to a room and below is a picture of the rooms the 1st class passengers stayed in.

The boys enjoyed the interactive exhibits towards the end of the museum. They could sit in a rescue boat and listen to stories of passengers that lived. They could stick their hand in a vat of water that showed them just how cold the water was that fateful night. Most of all they enjoyed climbing up the different ship decks that showed what angle the ship was sinking at during different times of the night. They found it very hard to climb up and hold on when the ship was at the steepest angle.

This is a press photo- not my kids :)

Overall, we enjoyed our trip to the Titanic Museum and learning more about the Titanic than what was in the movie by the same name. I really liked that the Museum featured plenty for kids and wasn’t just for adults.

(Disclosure: I received free tickets to the Titanic Museum. Opinions are my own.)

Hollywood Wax Museum {Branson, MO}

(Disclosure: I received a free trip to Branson and free tickets to the Hollywood Wax Museum while I was there. All thoughts are my own.)

I got to hang out with the stars of Hollywood today! Okay, so they were really made of wax but some of them looked so real. In fact, Samuel L. Jackson’s wax figure looked so much like a real person that I stood there staring at the eyes waiting for them to blink. I thought maybe I was being punk’d and it was really him in between all those wax figures! {It wasn’t….}

Samuel L. Jackson

My mom saw a few characters that she wanted to pose with including Tom Hanks, Dolly Parton, Leonardo DiCaprio and the genie from I Dream of Jeannie.

With Leo on the Titanic


Posing just like Jeannie

The boys got in on the action, too!

Making silly faces

Here are a few of my favorite wax characters:

Judy Garland


Jamie Foxx


The 3 Stooges


Morgan Freeman

There were even monsters! Here are two famous ones:

Frankenstein and his bride

So many celebrities! Which celebrity would you like to see at the Hollywood Wax Museum?

(Disclosure: I received tickets to the Hollywood Wax Museum but all thoughts are my own.)

Silver Dollar City {Branson, MO}

(Disclosure: I received a free trip to Branson and free tickets to Silver Dollar City while I was there. All thoughts are my own.)

Since becoming a mom I hadn’t been on an amusement park ride more exciting than a kiddie rollercoaster so I was really excited to spend a day at Silver Dollar City Attractions in Branson, Missouri. This park is home to Outlaw Run, the world’s first and only double barrel roll on a wood coaster, with a 720-degree (double) barrel roll. It’s also the only wood coaster to twist upside down three times, the world’s steepest wood coaster with a first drop of 162 feet (more than 16 stories) at 81 degrees, and the second fastest wood coaster in the world, reaching a top speed of 68 miles per hour. I had a chance to ride Outlaw Run and wow! What an adrenaline Rush! It was a great way to start my day at Silver Dollar City. There are over 30 rides at Silver Dollar City.

Outlaw Run! This is a view from the train ride. See how the coaster goes upside down? I was brave and rode that ride!

After that ride we headed over to the Grand Exposition area where the kiddie rides are located. The great thing about all the rides for the kids was that they were all big enough that the adults could ride, too. The boys loved that I could sit with them on the rides but Jacob also loved finding rides that he was big enough to go on all by himself. My little boy is growing up!

Big boy on the carousel

Jacob’s favorite ride was the flying elephants where you could push a button and go up or down. Lucas loved the teacup ride. My favorite ride that we all went on was “Fire in the hole”, an indoor rollercoaster that went through a dark building and had a couple drops that you couldn’t see coming. There was also a train we took around the park that included a stop at a staged interactive show in the woods.

The teacup ride that Lucas enjoyed.

There were plenty of other things for the kids to do as well. There was a climbing area where the children could climb up steps, through netted areas, and down through obstacles. There was a sand area for children to play as well. If you wanted a memory from the park that your child could take home with you, there was a store where children could make their own stuffed animals.

The climbing area for the kids

If you are not into rides that’s ok because there are plenty of other things to do at Silver Dollar City as well. There are over 40 live shows every day, ranging from Western Stunt Shows to string bands to cooking. There are craftsmen all throughout the park so you can watch them create works of art that are sure to become treasured by your family as heirloom keepsakes.

We had an extra special time because the National Harvest Fest is going on through October 26th. Over 125 visiting craftsmen from around the country have all come to one place. There is so much to look at! One of my favorites was a woman that was making art out of barbed wire!

Barbed wire art

During your day of fun there is plenty to eat. The park serves buffet breakfast and lunch for those who are really hungry. The ladies in the buffet were extremely friendly. Jacob had cantaloupe at breakfast and at the lunch buffet was looking for the cantaloupe and was upset that he didn’t see any on the buffet. Overhearing him, one of the ladies went back into the kitchen and got some from the refrigerator. It’s small things like that that sometimes mean the most and that’s definitely a story I will retell often :) There are also over a dozen restaurants serving food throughout the park. I stopped at a store where they made delicious apple items and got a hot apple turnover smothered with homemade apple butter. Yum! They also had some spiral potatoes with different seasonings that I wanted to try.

Overall, we had a great day of old-fashioned fun at Silver Dollar City! It is truly a place that has something for everyone and the whole family can enjoy. We spent about 6 hours there and didn’t even see half the park. I’d love to go back there again soon to ride more of the adult rides and see some of the shows that they have.

(Disclosure: I received free tickets to Silver Dollar City but all thoughts are my own.)


Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede Dinner Show {Branson, MO}

(Disclosure: I received a free trip to Branson, MO and free tickets to Dixie Stampede while I was there but all thoughts are my own.)

Looking for a live show in Branson, Missouri that the whole family can enjoy? You have to visit Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede Dinner Show to watch one of the best live shows that the town has to offer while eating dinner as you watch it. I took my kids and my mom to see the show.

I was told to arrive a little early for the show because there is a pre-show that is included in the ticket cost. After viewing all of the horses in their stable areas we got our tickets and some snacks and sat down in their Carriage Room. A juggler by the name of Josh Casey performed many tricks and got us laughing with his jokes. My favorite juggling trick was when he juggled 3 items that were on fire while he hopped on a pogo stick.

Once the preshow was over we headed into the main arena. The arena was split in half- one side was the “North” and one side was the “South” and there was friendly competition throughout the show. The show was action-packed and based around one story line with fun features though out. I loved watching the horses and the racing ostriches. My mom liked watching all of the competitions between North and South. Jacob seemed to love the act that had one man, standing with his feet on two horses and jumping with the horses through a ring of fire.

Image from Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede

I think Luke’s favorite part was when he was part of the show himself. My two boys and two other kids were chosen to go into the arena, in front of about 1,000 people, and chase chickens trying to catch them. I’m proud to say that my two boys brought the victory home for their team. In return for their hard work they received a Dixie Stampede medal, book, and a letter from Dolly Parton telling them how brave they were :)

One feature that sets Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede apart from others is their fabulous four course feast. We got so much food that we ended up taking more than half of our plates as leftovers back to the hotel room. Their creamy veggie soup was delicious and their cheddar rolls reminded me of one of my favorite seafood restaurant’s. The chicken wasn’t just a small slice of chicken but a whole rotisserie chicken for each person. The look on Jacob’s face when that huge piece of meat was put on his plate was priceless.

Image from Dixie Stampede

Overall we had a great experience at the show and can’t wait to go back again! You can learn more about Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede, including how to get tickets here.

(Disclosure: I received tickets to the show for free but all thoughts are my own.)

Discover Branson

I haven’t gone on vacation since I lived with my parents but a month or so ago I decided that it was time for our family to go on our very first vacation. I have been researching places online, talking to friends, and chatting about vacation destinations on Twitter and I still haven’t narrowed down where we are going to go. When I was asked to write about a popular vacation destination, Branson, Missouri, I jumped at the chance because it would give me an opportunity to look into the destination more.

My main goals when looking for a vacation are to find something affordable and family friendly. I looked online at a website that had Branson vacation packages to see what Branson had to offer. I have been to Missouri but don’t think I’ve ever visited Branson so I was surprised at all the fun things there were to do there. Ziplining looked fun but wouldn’t work for our family because we have young kids. Looking more I did find a lot of fun things that would be family friendly. Silver Dollar City has something in June called KidsFest which looks like something my kids would love {especially because Dora would be there}. There is also a Dinosaur Museum and a water park. One of my childhood favorites “The Ducks” {that I’ve ridden on in the Dells} can also be found in Branson so I was excited to find that out.

Will we end up in Branson, MO on vacation this year? Guess you’ll just have to stay tuned to the blog and see where we end up :)

(Disclosure: This is a compensated post but all thoughts are my own.)