If Santa didn't have to work this holiday season, he would take a vacation to Branson, Missouri.
As a Missouri native, Branson has contributed more than its share of my Christmas memories growing up. Whether it was wandering the countless shops which shift into Yuletide gear after the summer tourist season winds down, seeing a performance from the Rockettes on tour, or snapping pictures of Silver Dollar City's world-breaking number of Christmas lights, the Christmas spectacle that Branson becomes is worth the drive.
Silver Dollar City
The "Old Time Christmas" at Silver Dollar City is in keeping with the theme park's tradition of being set in the world as it was in the 1800's. There were always exceptions of course. Next to the blacksmith and across from the woodcarver's, you could step into an air conditioned building and buy a soda in a commemorative plastic cup.
During the Christmas season, the spectacular luxury at the park which 19th century Christmas shoppers never got to enjoy are the 6.5 million Christmas lights illuminating the entire park.
An Old Time Christmas® is four-time winner and reigning title-holder of a USA Today 10 Best Readers' Choice poll for the nation's Best Theme Park Holiday Event! (from the Silver Dollar City website)
Restaurants at the park transition to serving Christmas dishes and the theaters put on productions of Christmas shows. The train at the park is decorated with a wreath and Santa can be found for pictures with kids.
Kringles Christmas Shop
While Silver Dollar City creates the biggest Christmas spectacle in Branson, my award for the greatest Christmas cheer goes to Kringles, the Christmas store that's open year-round.
Kringles is packed so tightly with trees, Santas, and reindeer that you'll need to be ready to turn sideways to fit between displays.
If you are shopping for holiday decorations big or small, or if you just want to see an explosion of Christmas spirit, plan to stop by. Weekend visitors beware through, as they are closed on Sundays.
Stage shows are what Branson has become known for and they don't close down for Christmas.
This year, they have a couple of options for Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. Dolly Parton's Stampede joins in the fun or you can buy a ticket to board the Showboat Branson Belle.
The Amazing Acrobats of Shanghai even incorporate a Christmas theme into their shows along with dozens of other stage show options in Branson.