On the way there, the munchkins and I got to be on TV. We stopped in Joplin on the way up and had a picnic lunch at one of the parks there. We noticed a news car there and the cameraman/anchor filming bits and pieces of the park but didn't think much of it. Besides anything else, I'm an Okie, not a Joplinite! So when the news anchor came up and asked if I'd help do a story on parks and rec, I told him that seemingly significant piece of info, but he said it didn't matter... if I'd do the same in my hometown, I was good enough for his story. All righty then!
THIS is what came of it in the end. Gotta love it when they show you on the news without makeup and in travel clothes, right?!?
Anyway... so then we headed on to Branson.
In the course of planning the trip, lodging, of course, was the biggest hurdle. Oz snores. Loudly. Someday I will upload the video I have of this phenomenon and let you experience it for yourself if you're not lucky enough to have a spouse or significant other who doesn't already provide that particular joy. And because Oz snores, it's almost impossible for the rest of us to sleep in the same room with him. The second thing is that I am a night owl but the kids do actually need sleep to function. Oz can sleep through anything. This means if we're in a conventional hotel room, one of the following scenarios occurs: A) Oz and I go to bed at the same time as the kids. He inevitably falls asleep first, leading to snoring, which keeps the rest of us awake. AND/OR... B) The kids bounce off the walls till Oz and I go to bed and then we're all cranky the next day from either lack of sleep or dealing with children who are dealing with lack of sleep.
Neither scenario is pretty.
But at the same time, I didn't want to pay for two hotel rooms.
So when Oz mentioned that a friend of his stayed at a condo, I was inspired and did a search for "cheap Branson condos."
Lo and Behold, a Miracle Occurred.
We found the Lichlyter's condos. We contacted them. We lined up a condo. And when we got to Branson and found the condo, we walked into THIS:
Two bedrooms, two bathrooms. Full kitchen with things like coffee, condiments, etc. provided. Toys, games, and movies for the kids. Stacked washer and dryer. Comfortable beds. Central heat/air. Seriously, this condo had everything you could ever want. It was cozy. I felt like I was at home on vacation. The best part wasn't even inside the condo.
It was out here...
Out where we had hot cocoa and fudge even though it was a cool, rainy day...
This was the view. It was quiet. Like home for me. Gorgeous view. Even misty and cold, the view was fabulous. I couldn't have kept the kids off that porch if I'd tried (but I really didn't).
I probably could have stayed the entire vacation in the condo if I'd wanted, but of course I didn't want. We no sooner got in and unpacked then we piled back into the van and headed into Branson proper (the condo is in Branson West... which means no lights, no cars at midnight, and uberclose to a certain theme park to be mentioned later) for a show at Dolly Parton's Dixie Stampede. No pics, but we had a fantastic time. Oz and I got to be in the show... they had us racing on hobby horses around fake barrels. Given the fact that one of the other couples fell down during the race, we felt like we did a good job! They gave us both medals that we then bequeathed to the kids.
I had to say that I really liked the fact that the show started at 5:30 (preshow started at 4:40) because that meant that it was over by about 7:30 and so bedtime was at a decent hour for the kids. After a long day, that was crucial! They still stayed up till about 10 talking in the bunk beds.
Day 2 was rainy and cold-ish, so we headed up to Springfield, Missouri, to see Fantastic Caverns, which is a ride-through cave - perfect for M2 who isn't up to all those stairs yet. The kids loved it. M2 really loved taking pictures through the entire cave. She actually took this first shot.
I took this photo. The kids really enjoyed the whole experience. We had lunch at Bass Pro in Springfield since it was nearby and then headed back to the condo. It was nice to have a leisurely evening; I even fixed a quick dinner.
The third and last day of the trip was spent entirely at Silver Dollar City. There's no telling how much the kids and I enjoyed the entire place. Since it was a cool, misty Wednesday in October, the place really wasn't crowded and kids were even more rare (except for a few school groups).
M1 really loved watching the glassblower. M2 enjoyed seeing a couple of folks make violins. They both really liked watching a basketweaver, and M2 was so enthralled she insisted on getting one of the baskets to take home. Mama had to get something glass.
We also sat to watch a show called "Wings Over Missouri" that featured birds of prey. Now... to fully appreciate this story... you have to know that apparently there are a few cats on the grounds of the park. And apparently one of the cats has had kittens. And apparently birds of prey think kittens are just about the right size for a snack. And when you have a falcon that suddenly jumps off its perch during the show to catch itself a snack... well... you have chaos. Note: No kittens were harmed during the making of the show. Scared sh!tless, probably, but not harmed. The handlers, however, moved very quickly to make sure that there weren't any repeats!
After the show - and both kids missed the bit with the kitten - we moved on. The kids quickly learned to enjoy amusement park rides. Oz and I really haven't done amusement parks with them since the local one got torn down a few years ago and the one near my mom doesn't offer a ton for little kids. Silver Dollar City, though, has a whole section dedicated to kids and those big enough to ride with 'em.
Both kids were beyond delighted when they realized they could ride the kids' roller coaster without Mom and Dad. M2 was somewhat happier than M1.
M1 had to check out the situation before he'd board (or let sister on board).
He also held on for dear life during the ride. Afterward, though, he was all smiles!
He liked this ride better because he could control whether the elephant went up or not. He chose 'not.'
M2, on the other hand, learned how to run the machine herself and insisted on doing so at the earliest possible convenience.
She also insisted on taking a picture of Mama. She's a good little photographer, just like her brother.
By the end of the day, though, they were giddy and silly and ready to go.
Nothing like sleeping children in the back of a van to prove it's been a good vacation.