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Silver Dollar City - Review
Theme Park Heavy on the Theme
I'm a huge fan of amusement parks. Some people can't stand the crowds, waiting in line, the overpriced food, walking around all day, but I truly enjoy every single aspect of the amusement park experience. However, I much prefer a park that is heavy on theming. The truth is some parks skimp on theme in favor of just providing bare-bones thrill rides to excite teens and young adults. I prefer a park that really tries to create a strong sense of time and place.
Nobody does theming better than the Disney Company (except perhaps Universal). However, there are some real gems across the country, and one of my favorites is a little park called Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri. It's owned by the Herschend family, and they have taken great care to create a park with a strong sense of theme.
The park was built in the 1960s on the site of Marvel Cave. In fact, the cave is located right in the middle of the park, and tours are available throughout the day. Silver Dollar City is themed to the 1880's, and this is reflected throughout the park in the architecture, the costumes of the cast members and the ride storylines.
More Exciting than Ever
For the first few decades of its existence, Silver Dollar City was light on thrill rides. They have made a real effort in recent years to add a little more excitement for the adrenaline junkies. One of the more recent additions is a roller coaster called Outlaw Run, a wild wooden coaster with corkscrews and an almost vertical drop. The story of the ride is that you are riding in a runaway stagecoach, and the queue goes through the offices of the stagecoach company. You even pass by an office that is filled with ticking clocks.
Despite being a wooden coaster, it is a smooth ride, fast and intense but over fairly quickly. It has become one of my favorite roller coasters in the world, and it is worth the price of admission.
The Giant Swing
There is one ride that is a little too intense for me. It's called the Giant Swing, and it is my daughter's favorite ride in the park. She always wants to ride it multiple times. Though it doesn't go completely upside down, it gets really close, and that is just more than my stomach can handle. The ride is located inside what appears to be an actual giant barn, though the ride itself goes outside and gives incredible views of the surrounding hills.
All the Little Touches
You know a park's owners really care about a place when they go out of their way to add little touches throughout, things that many visitors will overlook but which add to the theme and create a richer and fuller atmosphere. Silver Dollar City is that kind of place. From amusing tombstones tucked out of the way to phony billboards and ads for things like antique soap, it's the kind of place that rewards careful attention.
Christmas Time is the Right Time
Silver Dollar City does a great job of decorating for the holidays, particularly Christmas. From a special Christmas story presentation to a music and light show to extensive decorations all over the park, December is the perfect time to visit. Of course, if the weather is too cold, some of the rides will be closed, so keep that in mind. You will still be able to enjoy the food, shows and decorations, but they don't run the roller coasters or other outdoor rides when it is near freezing.
A Real Slog
One potential drawback for Silver Dollar City has to do with the terrain on which the park is built. Basically, you're walking around in the Ozark mountains, and there are some surprisingly steep hills. This will be most noticeable at the end of the day, as the steepest hill is the one leading from the back of the park. Wear comfortable shoes!
Our Mine Restaurant Review
Silver Dollar City offers some great food selections. Yes, you can get standard amusement park selections like burgers and hot dogs, but there are also some rather unusual options like succotash skillets (sautéed corn, yellow squash, okra, peppers, onions and chicken) and calico fried potatoes (white and sweet potatoes, peppers, onions, seasoning and smoked sausage). There are also some nicely themed restaurants, including Molly's Mill and the Mine Restaurant, that offer generous buffets (at a hefty price).
Worth A Visit
Silver Dollar City is absolutely worth a visit. If you live within driving distance, be sure to get a season pass. The cost of a season pass is less than buying two tickets at regular price, plus it comes with a number of guest passes if you buy it early in the season. You will definitely get your money's worth. Bring your comfortable shoes and have a great time. There are thrill rides, kiddie rides, leisurely rides, plenty of live shows, interesting shopping with thematically appropriate products (like handmade jellies and sauces, hand-carved furniture, artwork, birdhouses, etc.). We love this place!