Tourist Trap of America

9 Mar

Where in the USA do tourists outnumber locals ten to one? Branson, Missouri. Almost every summer, my family heads out there with the help of a timeshare and takes in as much Vegas-like kitschiness as possible. With theme parks, shows, and more mini-golf than you can shake a club at, you’ll remember this place for one reason or another for the rest of your life. I’m going to go over some of the coolest attractions they have.

Not sure about Silver Dollar City? Why don’t you “ax” them yourself!

Perhaps one of the most renowned theme parks in America is in Branson: Silver Dollar City. Visitors can explore the beautiful underground Marvel Caverns, ride spectacular rides, and experience the fun of the old west. Another theme park – this time, slightly less dry – is White Water, which has everything you expect at a water park: a wave pool, a lazy river, and a couple of water slides (some of which use inner tubes). But the highlight of my White Water experience was Kalani Towers, a humongous seven-story tall waterslide of terror! Tremble in fear, mortal!  After you climb up numerous stairs, you have a choice of riding down on your back vertically, screaming the whole time, or using a mat to go down several slightly smaller, yet still just as thrilling, slides.

Those with weak stomachs should look away. (And stay on the ground.)

If theme parks aren’t really your thing, maybe you could just sit back and watch one of Branson’s shows. (You can even find one if you’re lost, they’re so numerous. Pretty much all the roads in Branson lead to Country Music Boulevard.) One of the best I saw was recommended by my Aunt Phyllis and Uncle Ron:  Legends In Concert. It features impersonators of such singers as The Blues Brothers, Little Richard, Alan Jackson, Madonna, Elvis, Elton John, Aretha Franklin, Michael Jackson, and tons more. Intrigued about it, we made it one of our prime destinations. It did not disappoint.  If you enjoy music and the fake realism of celebrity wanna-bes, then you urgently need to see one of their shows. (More LIC venues across the country, i.e., Seattle, Myrtle Beach, etc.)

On the topic of phony celebrities, Branson has the amazing Hollywood Wax Museum. Travelers can pose with Harrison Ford, Johnny Depp, Jack Black, Marilyn Monroe, and a host of others. In the same building are two more attractions, the three together known as the “Hollywood Wax Trifecta.”  The second one, the Castle of Chaos, is much more… interactive. It is, in fact, the world’s first 5-dimensional haunting experience! (Don’t ask me how that’s possible, I don’t know.) It’s pretty much a 3D horror film with so many special effects added in that you’ll think zombies are actually attacking you! According to its website, the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions says, “This is the first haunted ride in the world to combine so many multi-media elements and technologies in one attraction. The result is a first-class scare!” The third and final element of the HWT is Hannah’s Maze of Mirrors. If you’re claustrophobic or maze-o-phobic, then I suggest you sit this one out. This labyrinth of reflections will mess with your mind until your face is bruised from bumping into yourself too many times. It’s even a multimedia presentation, as sometimes you’ll discover it’s not a path or a mirror, but a projector screen with hints, encouragement, or even taunts from medieval- themed characters.

The last fun thing I want to cover is a gateway to even more fun things: ducks. Yeah, ducks. Ride the Ducks is a group that uses old military amphibious vehicles to give tours around Branson, showing off some of the more interesting places. With each ride comes a free “Wacky Quacker,” a duckbill that makes a funny noise when blown through. If you pass another duck on the road, then it is your duty as a tourist to quack as loud as possible. Some stores and restaurants even give discounts to people with Wacky Quackers. Once land gets a little boring, the driver speeds the duck into Table Rock Lake and lets some passengers drive for a while. It’s a fun way to see more stuff.
I have only scratched the surface of what Branson has to offer. Whether you’re after rides and attractions, comedy or music shows, or just a way to escape the humdrum routine of everyday life, Branson has something to offer you.

–Hunter

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One Response to “Tourist Trap of America”

  1. Dot Davis March 26, 2011 at 4:23 pm #

    That thorough review really made me want to go there, Hunter—TODAY! I was woefully ignorant of the attractions in Branson, thinking it had a country music thing going on and…hmmmmmm, well, I had no idea what else. It sounds like a ton of fun, and I can see why you guys keep going back.

    You did a great job of describing what is probably close to being indescribable—particularly the multi-media, multi-dimensional effects in the Castle of Chaos. You managed to give a good mind’s eye view of the amazing-ness of the experience. I’m sure you’d say one has to see it in person to fully get the picture, but you definitely painted a vision that caught my interest.

    You have really great observational skills as well as the ability to put your observations into words–and so colorfully!

    I wonder, by the way, what you think the chances might be of me being able to take the leap at Kalani Towers? If you said less than 0%, I’d say you’re in the ballpark. Of course, if I was PUSHED….

    I enjoyed this review very much. Write on, Hunt. 🙂
    –Dots

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