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If you’re looking for a special place to get into the Christmas spirit, look no further than Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri. Every year during November and December, the park is transformed into a winter wonderland with Christmas touches in every nook and cranny. My family has been coming to Silver Dollar City at Christmas time for fourteen years, and we often go more than once. I’d like to share some of the details that make An Old Time Christmas at Silver Dollar City so special while giving you my best tips for making it a memorable trip instead of a miserable one. Sometimes crowds can dampen even the jolliest of elves’ Christmas joy, so I’ll share with you what I’ve learned through a lot of trial and error.
Get to Silver Dollar City Before Opening
This really is so helpful in getting the most out of your experience. The only time I may suggest getting there later is if you have young kids who may not make it to the night activities, or you just simply have no other choice due to your schedule. For An Old Time Christmas, Silver Dollar City does not open as early as it does for other festivals. On Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, the park opens at 1:00 p.m., and on Saturday, the park opens at 11:00 a.m. Click here to see an updated schedule for Silver Dollar City. If you can get parked, through bag-check, your ticket scanned and up the hill to the square before the park officially opens, you’ll be in a prime spot to be seated for the first performance of A Dickens’ Christmas Carol, the most popular show in the park. We never miss this show, and the line for it can get long during the day, especially on a nice Saturday. If you can wait by the rope at the left side of the square as you enter, you’ll have an excellent chance of getting in.
Once the park opens, you will head straight down Hill Street towards the Opera House. You will know you’re going the right way because there will probably be a crowd heading the same direction. Don’t be discouraged if you see a lot of people; the Opera House holds at least 800 people. If you wait to see this show later, the line may be backed up, and it may be harder to get in. Another time that may work, though, is whenever something else is happening in the park, like the parade or the tree-lighting ceremony. Those events draw people away from the shows.
You will need to have your party together to be seated; you are not allowed to save seats. There is a restroom right outside the entrance if you have an emergency or a small child who doesn’t let you know right away. They will usually let you go before the show starts and return to your seat if someone in your party stays behind. Otherwise, your seat will probably be taken.
Of course, you are not allowed to take pictures or record the show in any way during the performance, so I’ve included a picture of the stage before the show starts. The show is about 45 minutes, and it is one of my favorite shows I’ve ever seen. My family has actually watched this show twice on the same trip. This experience is not to be missed!
Eat Meals at Non-traditional Times
If you eat at times that aren’t popular, you will spend less time in line. We often eat lunch before entering the park since it opens later. Then we may eat an early dinner before dark, or we will plan to snack around the park and eat a later dinner outside the park. Realize, though, that many restaurants close early in Branson. I would check hours before making your plans. Fast food and national chains will probably still be open.
On our latest trip, I decided to try out the new Mexican-style place in the park, Percy’s Southwest Grill. My family of picky eaters don’t usually eat Mexican food, so I was on my own here. It was pretty good; it reminded me of Qdoba. I chose nachos, and then I was able to choose a meat and toppings. My entree also came with chips and salsa. I probably didn’t need the chips and salsa since my entree was nachos, but I did give it a try. I was really full, and I couldn’t finish this. This may be something for people to share.
Across the path from Percy’s is Sullivan’s Mill, home of yummy cinnamon bread. This area is part of Midtown which is newly lit up with Christmas lights this year. You don’t want to miss this area after dark. But during the day, you should certainly check out the goodies.
I decided that I would need some cinnamon bread for a snack later, so I went inside.
If cinnamon bread isn’t your thing, there are a lot of other yummy options. The cinnamon loaves are definitely shareable, and I even had enough left for breakfast the next morning, too. Just look at that cinnamon goodness!
The park has so many delicious options for meals or snacks. During An Old Time Christmas, there are two holiday buffets on the square with traditional offerings. Don’t forget to grab a cup of hot chocolate or wassail during your visit.
Use the Afternoon for Shows, Shopping, and Craft Demonstrations
Silver Dollar City has many entertainment options throughout the year and especially for An Old Time Christmas. On the other side of the park, you’ll find another Broadway-style show, It’s a Wonderful Life. It’s not quite as popular at A Dickens’ Christmas Carol, but you should still plan on arriving at least 45 minutes early on busy days to get a seat. This is even more important as the day goes on and more people arrive at the park for the Christmas lights.
You can also see a rendition of the Nativity at the Riverside Playhouse. Here is a Nativity scene right outside of the theater.
You can catch a couple of music shows during your visit, and the saloon show has a Christmas theme this time of year, as well. You can even see Tinker the Christmas Tree in his own show just for kids.
Be sure to make some time for shopping, too. Silver Dollar City has a Christmas store that is open all year, but the Christmas merchandise bumps up a notch during An Old Time Christmas.
The Frisco Barn turns into a Christmas-lover’s paradise during the holidays. Craftspeople create special items for Christmas, so be sure to see a demonstration and then purchase an item they’ve created right there at Silver Dollar City.
Here glassblowers are creating a glass snowman.
Here are candy makers making peanut brittle at Brown’s Candy Factory. They make peanut brittle all year, but it’s fun to see the candy makers wear their festive attire for Christmas. You may even get a warm sample of peanut brittle!
Make Time for Santa and Other Photo Opportunities
At Silver Dollar City, you can meet Santa and tell him what you’d like for Christmas. A photographer is available to snap pictures for you, but you can use your own phone or camera if you’d like. Here is Kristin’s first visit to An Old Time Christmas and her first meet with Santa.
You can also meet Rudolph, Clarice, and Bumble at Rudolph’s Christmas Town.
If you are interested in some Rudolph and friends merchandise, this is the place. I may or may not have purchased a Clarice sweatshirt for myself.
Silver Dollar City is filled with great photo opportunities! Here is a cute one on the square.
When the Sun Goes Down, All is Merry and Bright
As it gets closer to dusk, you will probably notice that the park is getting busier, especially on the busiest days. Silver Dollar City offers a tree-lighting ceremony in which the tree on the square is lit for the first time, and the lights on the tree and the square dance to music. The square will probably be extremely crowded for this followed by the first parade. My tip here is to skip the tree-lighting ceremony. It’s nice, but the tree will continue to dance with the Christmas music periodically for the rest of the night. For our family, it is better to be somewhere else in the park away from the crowds. We are often near our preferred parade viewing spot which I will discuss in a moment. Here is a video of the Christmas tree.
You will probably enjoy the tree more if you are not standing elbow to elbow with people, so my tip is to catch it later in the evening.
After the tree-lighting, the first parade will make its way through the park. Most nights, this parade will run twice. It’s not a bad idea to consider viewing the second parade because there will be fewer people. If you arrived later and you haven’t seen A Dickens’ Christmas Carol, this is a possible time to get that in. The crowds will be thickest on the square and along Hill Street. We actually enjoy watching the parade near the Grand Exposition area. You can often find a place along the parade route in this area right before the parade begins. The parade is really fun, and kids will love it. Here is a video of Rudoplh’s Holly Jolly Christmas Light Parade.
In the video, you can see that very few people are near us. After the parade, I would suggest staying where you are for a moment and let the crowds follow the parade. Also, many people choose to leave the park right after the parade. This could lead to you waiting in line for a tram back to your car, so I would suggest letting the crowds filter out while you enjoy some park ambiance.
This time of night is actually the best time to grab a ride on the train. You’ll have the best experience for viewing the Christmas lights in the woods after dark. The line for the train will probably look horribly long, but in our experience, the line moves faster than you would expect. The trains depart and arrive faster during Christmas than at other times of the year, so don’t let past experiences in other seasons affect your decision to hop in line. We may grab a snack or some hot chocolate to enjoy while we wait, especially when the temperatures get cooler.
You could also choose to ride some coasters if the temperature remains above 44 degrees. The coasters at night are a whole new experience, and you’ll have glimpses of the lights at the park and possibly Shepherd of the Hills.
The best part about the park after dark is the lights! Give yourself plenty of time to stroll through the park and enjoy the beauty of the twinkling lights all around you. This year, Silver Dollar City has added a new display called Christmas in Midtown. It is right off the square, and it is not to be missed! Here is a video of my first walk-through.
This area is absolutely stunning! Everyone was pointing cameras and gazing up at the lights.
It’s impossible to describe just how breathtaking the lights are. I’ll just let the pictures do the talking.
Of course, the lights aren’t just limited to Midtown. You should explore the entire park to see all the pretty displays.
After you’ve taken in all the Christmas sights and sounds, you can then head back to the square and towards the exit. We usually stop for one more encore of the tree.
If you are still there when the second parade happens, my tip would be to not leave right after that parade. Otherwise, you will probably not have to leave with a crowd if you leave at another time. These days, the tram loading area is more organized than in years past, and you shouldn’t have to wait too long to get to your car in the free parking lots. If you have paid for preferred parking, you can just walk to your car. In past years on very crowded days, you sometimes had to wait in line just to exit the park after certain events in the park were over. This is why we recommend not leaving right after parades or the tree-lighting. If you have to wait, you may as well be in the park with the lights instead of in a line.
I hope you will make a trip to Branson and Silver Dollar City during the holiday season. Visiting Silver Dollar City during An Old Time Christmas has become a tradition in our family, and we’ve made a lot of great memories here. In fact, we love to come to Branson and Silver Dollar City throughout the year for different seasons and festivals. If you’d like to read about our visit to Silver Dollar City this summer, click here. To read about other things to do in Branson, click here. I hope your family has the opportunity to come to Silver Dollar City’s An Old Time Christmas to make memories of your own!