Although this technically was a trip for my mom’s birthday, it fell at a time Christmas season was in full swing in Branson. And although I’m usually a stickler for not celebrating Christmas before Thanksgiving, I decided I’d make an exception and embrace an early start to the celebration this year … what with an entire town encouraging it!
– feature film –
See the occasion come alive in these video highlights!
day 1 • 11.06.22
My parents have become well-versed in Branson visits over the past few years, and their first stop upon arriving always is the purple house that sells 2-for-1 tickets. I’ve heard it said that Branson has more seats than Broadway, so of course seeing some shows here is a must. And with the purple house evidently being vital to that endeavor, I figured a portrait with it was an appropriate way to document Day 1!
day 2 • 11.07.22
bright colors & big stars
We began this day downtown, where we happened to be dressed just right for matching this mural. Happy accidents like that always make my day, so we were off to a good start!
After breakfast and some shopping, we went for a walk around Branson Landing:
This shot of me and Seth may not be as picturesque as the ones of my parents, but we were recreating a moment from our first date. So what the image lacks in autumn leaves, I’d say it makes up for in sentimentality, or something.
The first show we saw was Legends in Concert, which featured Garth Brooks, Carrie Underwood, Alan Jackson, Elvis Presley and the Blues Brothers (or at least pretty convincing impersonators). They performed some of their hits as well as Christmas songs.
After dinner at the most festive Chick-fil-A I’d ever seen, we went to our next show: Sons of Britches. It came highly recommended by another purple-house patron when we were selecting what to see, and these guys were really good! A lot of the show consists of them playing whatever the audience requests, and it was impressive how well they managed that.
day 3 • 11.08.22
an Ozark experience & Elvis’ cousin in concert
With Seth and I having visited Top of the Rock in New York City a month before, it seemed only fitting to also hit Top of the Rock in Branson. Same name but very different – although both are really impressive in their own ways. This one is owned by Johnny Morris, the founder of Bass Pro Shops, who created Top of the Rock Ozarks Heritage Preserve to sustain and share the history and beauty of the Ozarks. It sits at the highest point in the county and thus offers great views.
We took a 2.5-mile golf cart tour along Top of the Rock’s Lost Canyon and Nature Trail (and fortunately, with my dad there, we had a very practiced golf cart driver as a chauffeur). Even with the fall colors a little past their peak, we were surrounded by beautiful scenery.
At the top of Top of the Rock is this chapel overlooking Table Rock Lake, as well as a golf course. Part of the course is now under excavation, as it turned out to be on a sinkhole. Rather than just fill the hole, the property owner opted to unearth these limestone spires that are now called the Cathedral of Nature.
Also at the top of Top of the Rock is Ancient Ozarks Natural History Museum. The cost of admission was included in the tickets for the golf cart tour, so it was an easy choice to do both – and the museum was way more extensive than I expected. From prehistoric creatures to Native American artifacts to galleries on the American West and Civil War, I found it a really impressive curation of items and information.
I also found it difficult to turn off my tendency to document All The Details – which is a good approach for a wedding day but an overwhelming and perhaps unnecessary way to walk through a museum! For what it’s worth: I captured only a fraction of what I saw and am posting only a fraction of what I captured. So this little bit (while still kind of a lot) is just the tip of the iceberg!
By the time we finished at the museum, it was almost time for the chapel to open. So we were able to take a look inside before leaving Top of the Rock.
We had dinner at another of my parents’ go-to spots: Mel’s Hard Luck Diner, where the serving staff also provide live entertainment.
Last up for the evening was Jerry Presley, who actually is Elvis Presley’s cousin. Rather than doing a full-on Elvis impersonation, he performed his songs while also sharing some about knowing him personally. At the end, he even showed the last note Elvis wrote him before his death (captured in the final photo collage):
day 4 • 11.09.22
one last 80-degree day
We soaked in the sun and unseasonable warmth of this day, knowing it would likely be months before we experienced 80 degrees again! First up was a waterfall hike, followed by something else I found extra exciting …
The extra exciting thing for me was finding this Ferris wheel is the one I’ve had framed as an 8×10 photo for years. I captured it a decade ago during a trip to Chicago, where it used to reside at Navy Pier. And with this Navy Pier focal point having such a visual presence in my life for so long, it’s no surprise I immediately noticed during a more recent Chicago trip that the original wheel was no more – having been replaced by one I assume was an improvement in some ways but that missed the mark in my book by having blue gondolas rather than red. Because as far as I’m concerned, those red gondolas against a blue sky are literally frame-worthy!
Anyway: All this to say it was like finding a long-lost friend when I realized this was the Ferris wheel from my photo. It made the move to Branson in 2016, and some six years later, Seth and I finally took a spin on it.
Later that afternoon, we returned to Branson Landing to see the sun set and fill some time before heading to our final show.
The atmosphere was very festive once the lights came on. But with the weather being so warm, it felt more like Christmas in Miami than the Midwest.
After the fountain show at the landing, we went to Sight & Sound Theatres for their production of the Christmas story – a great conclusion to this trip and start to the holiday season!
day 5 • 11.10.22
donuts & departure
Per my parents’ tradition, we had one last stop to make on our way out of town. It was a (literally) sweet end to the trip!
I'm a print-journalist-turned-wedding-photographer who fully believes in the value of telling true stories beautifully. By means of a camera, I am a curator so my clients can be keepers of their most important moments.
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