Mini-Vacation to Branson

Why haven’t I posted this week, you ask? A few months ago, Groupon had a great deal for an 8-person condo in Branson, Missouri, and since the Other Half and I hadn’t ever been before, we decided to go on a mini-vacation with a group of friends.

We stayed at Still Waters Resort, which is a bit off the beaten path from most of the main attractions (obviously I’m okay with this). I have stayed at a resort exactly once in my life (in Las Vegas when I was too young to remember anything but trying to sneak into the casino), so this was an entirely new and awesome experience. The resort even had a marina where you could check out paddleboats and kayaks (which we did). The hotel staff also told us exactly where to go for the best hiking spots (which we didn’t, because there were roller coasters to be had!).

Oh, you didn’t realize that I like roller coasters? Well, I’m excited about them until I get on them, and then it goes downhill from there. Ha!

Well, okay, we did explore quite a bit, but the coolest thing we found was right outside our balcony:

Something we haven’t seen around where we live is the red-headed woodpecker (though I was told that I’m probably looking in the wrong spots). Something we really haven’t seen is a pair of them flying around us and squawking; that was pretty amusing.

We also went to one of the dinner shows. We decided that Yakov’s Dinner Adventure sounded promising, and it was. It consisted of a variety of circus acts entwined into an overarching storyline. Oh, and it had a delicious dinner that even had silverware, which is apparently hard to find in Branson.

Of course, what a lot of people go to Branson for is Silver Dollar City. We were fortunate enough to go to the amusement park during the Bluegrass and BBQ festival (which is ongoing if you’re interested). They had musicians playing on every stage all the time (or at least, when we walked by each stage, it was always occupied). I was even highly amused to hear ‘I Am A Man of Constant Sorrow’ and a bluegrass rendition of the Beatles’ ‘Help!’

We also partook of the local BBQ masters. Mind you, I’m a BBQ snob: if it isn’t smoked at home, I’m not touching it. But this stand had an extremely long line in front of it, so the Other Half and I decided to split a plate.

Ignore the odd name; these people have delicious BBQ. I’m not a big pork-and-beans fan, either, but their beans tasted like liquid smoked brisket (read: I’m rethinking my BBQ snob situation). The downside: It’s $10 a plate. But it is enough to fill 2 people up, so it was worth it.

On the way out, after an exhausting day of traipsing around, we decided to walk back to the car. I was surprised by 2 things on the walk: (1) That there were only 2 other small groups that were also walking instead of taking the tram, and (2) that the walk to the parking lots wasn’t fully paved, so if you had a stroller, you were pretty much screwed. It was kind of sad, but at least it was relaxing. We were also trying to play ‘ID that plant’. There were lots of wildflowers as well as some ivy and oak (pick your poison). There was also this interspersed with all the aforementioned ivy and oak:

The big leaf on the right is poison oak; the small serrated-edged leaves with the berries (which we thought were poison ivy berries) are in fact from another kind of plant entirely. Any guesses? These, my friends, are delicious wineberries, a wild relative of the raspberry introduced from Japan. It’s invasive, it’s weedy, and it looks a lot like a poisonous plant, so we unfortunately were not going to try to reach in to try to get them for a closer look.

All in all, Branson is a worthwhile trip if you’re in for a short escape, but be aware of deals and coupons for it since it’s otherwise a money trap (if a fun one).

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