Hi! I’m Jolly Jinglebutton, and I’m going to tell you about the town that – IMEO (in my elf opinion) – takes Christmas to entirely new levels. I’m talking about Branson, Missouri – population around 13,000. And that means that there are 500 Christmas lights per capita – and that’s if you only count the lights in the town’s brightest attraction, Silver Dollar City. Let me illuminate things for you!
By Jolly Jinglebutton
The town’s biggest attraction, an award-winning theme park that celebrates the culture, food, music, and crafts of the Ozark Mountains, launched An Old Time Christmas last weekend. Through the end of the year, Silver Dollar City is home to an astounding 6.5 million lights. Santa would take away my elf credentials if I lied, so you can trust me when I say that there are parts of the park where it’s actually brighter at night than it is by day!
Other highlights include an eight-story musical Christmas tree, a light parade (featuring my buddy Rudolph!), and Broadway-style stage shows. I’m more of a creative right-brainer, but for those of you who enjoy numbers, be amazed by these stats: In this single location in Branson, you can find more than 680 miles of lights, 1,000 decorated trees, 600 wreaths, and three miles of garland and ribbon! Whew!
If you’re covering that much territory on a visit you’ll need some energy, which should come in the form of their famous Holiday Dinner, which stars smoked turkey, ham, and prime rib. If you have a sweet tooth, be sure to get a hearty portion of warm apple pie topped with house-made cinnamon ice cream! Yum-o!
Silver Dollar City may have an astounding number of trees inside the park, but there are plenty of other trees around town, too. Several tourism-related businesses decorate trees themed to what they do, for example, The Track Family Fun Parks uses old go-kart tires to build their tree, and Level 2 Steakhouse transforms used wine bottles into beautiful glass trees! It’s upcycling at its finest!
One tree does stand a little taller than the rest, and that’s the “community tree,” whose theme changes each year. This year that theme is “We All Shine On!” and the tree was lit in a special ceremony on November 1, 2022. It stands 39 feet high and is covered in stars that represent the unity and perseverance of this community.
The community tree is located right next to the Branson Ferris Wheel, which, by the way, is decorated in holiday colors and has an incredible synchronized show featuring 16,000 LED lights “dancing” to favorite Christmas music every hour on the hour once night falls.
Since 2020, The Track Family Fun Parks have partnered with a company called Holidays on Ice to install a 7,200-square-foot ice rink adjacent to the community tree and Wheel.
Fun fact: The rink is the same size as that famous one in Rockefeller Center in New York City.
More fun fact: I am the least coordinated elf you’ll ever meet. When I say I’m going to “hit the ice,” I mean it very literally. I think it has something to do with trying to cram my little elf shoes into my skates.
This attraction is very dependent on Mother Nature, but the hope is that the rink will be open from 4:30-9 p.m. on weekdays and 4:30-10 p.m. on weekends. The rink should officially open next week and remain operational until at least New Year’s Day. If you see a tiny figure out there practicing a triple Axel, it’s probably me!
I’d have to check the law books, but I’m pretty sure you’re not allowed to live in Branson if you don’t have some sort of amazing talent. It’s like everyone here is born with the ability to sing, dance, make music, create magic, tell jokes, or do some combination of all of those things at the same time.
There are entire families (the Haygoods, the Presleys and the Duttons, just to name a few) in which I’m pretty sure the kids learn how to sing before they speak, dance before they walk, and play an instrument before they clutch a rattle.
At this time of year, the theatres transform into winter wonderlands, and shows celebrate all the feelings of the season. I’m wondering if maybe one of these gifted families would like to adopt me for the season so I can join their show. I do love to sing-sing-sing and tap my little toes. I also play drums and the tuba. Like the families of Branson, we elves are a multi-talented lot.
If you know anything about elves, you know that we overflow with energy – and we’re helped along by generous portions of caffeine and sugar. Branson offers plenty of both. If you’re heading to town, I encourage you to stop at the College of the Ozarks, which is nicknamed “Hard Work U.”
Students here don’t pay tuition or room and board, but they do work for their education. Among the jobs is running the bakery, which churns out thousands of fruitcakes each year and then ships them across the country. I know, I know, but ignore every joke you’ve ever heard about fruitcake and trust me when I say that these are amazing. You can order them here.
If I haven’t convinced you, that’s okay. My second suggestion is to hit Sugar Leaf Bakery Café for one of their famous yule logs and one of the richest cups of cocoa you’ll ever sip. Pro tip: Don’t skip the toasted marshmallow!
One of my favorite parts of Branson is its historic downtown. It’s a few very walkable blocks that take you past museums, shops, and restaurants. This year they’ve decorated this part of town with 65 lampposts that celebrate a “Winter Wonderland” theme, featuring a combination of nearly 400 snowflakes and pure white swirls of light that have been created by 87,568 LED lights!
These lights will help me find my way to Dick’s 5 & 10, a family business that’s one of the last proper dime stores in America. Amazon has nothing on this place, which sells everything you’ll ever need and all the stuff you didn’t even know you needed. That makes it the perfect stop for an elf who’s responsible for loading up on stocking stuffers!
There’s so much more I could tell you about Branson! I could share how the Chateau on the Lake hotel displays an amazing village made not just from gingerbread, but from all kinds of sweets (in this village, the sheepdogs are made from frosted shredded wheat!). Or I could tell you that this is the home of the World’s Largest Toy Museum, which is where Santa goes when he needs to get blueprints for beloved old toys so he can pass them to the elves in his workshop. But I don’t want this story to go on for pages and pages.
So, I’ll leave you with the knowledge that there’s a whole lot of Christmas tucked away in this Ozark Mountain town. I hope you can come visit, if not this year, then soon.