Ultimate 2017 Silver Dollar City Christmas Guide

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A trip to Branson during the holiday season isn’t complete without a visit to Silver Dollar City (SDC). The amusement park’s “Old Time Christmas” festival features over five million lights (plus an additional 1.5 million in 2017!), one thousand decorated trees, two Broadway-style musical productions, thrilling amusement rides, unique shopping, and endless holiday comfort foods and treats.  In 2007, ABC’s Good Morning America declared it one of the top five holiday events in the country and CNN.com calls it one of the world’s top holiday destinations.

There’s so much to see, do, and (of course) eat at SDC during the Christmas season. This guide will help ensure you make the most of your time in the park so you can have the best Christmas yet at Silver Dollar City!

Preparing For Your Visit

sdc front entrance wreath

WHEN TO GO: Silver Dollar City begins its transformation into a Christmas wonderland at the end of October. It officially opens for the Christmas season on Sat., Nov. 5 and continues through Dec. 30. The daily operating schedule varies, but it’s generally open Thursday through Sunday from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. New for 2016, the park will also be open all Wednesdays in December.

SDC TICKETS: Single-day tickets at the gate or online are $61 for adults and $50 for children. A two-day ticket is available for just a few more dollars — $66 for adults and $55 for children. As an added bonus, if you enter after 7 p.m., you also get to return the next consecutive day for no additional charge. This is especially convenient if you want to see the lights on the first night and come back the next day for the shows and rides.

If you’re able to visit on a Thursday (certainly the least crowded day of the week), stop by select Price Cutter locations in Missouri (including Country Mart, Ramey, Smitty’s, Summer Fresh, and Bistro Market) to purchase tickets for just $35. There are two Country Mart’s near the park: 18128 State Hwy 13 in Branson West or 1447 MO-248 (Shepard of the Hill Expy) in Branson. The $35 tickets can be purchased any day, but can only be used on a Thursday when the park is open. The After-7-Next-Day-Free promotion does not apply to these tickets.

If you plan to visit SDC more than one time next year, you should take advantage of the option to upgrade that ticket to a 2017 season pass (for unlimited entries) for just $50 extra — that’s less than a single day ticket. Season pass holders also receive a 10% discount on food purchases inside the park and a $5 discount on single-day tickets for others in your party.

PARKING: Believe it or not, parking is FREE. You can choose to pay extra for “preferred” parking if you’d like to park closer to the entrance, but they run (free) open-air trams throughout all the parking lots to shuttle folks from waiting areas up to the front entrance and back. You can also walk in, but it’s quite the hike up a moderately steep hill to get from the back lot to the front entrance. I prefer to walk since it seems faster and the tram rides can be a bit chilly on colder days.

THE WEATHER: SDC is an outdoor theme park so be prepared for varying weather conditions. In Southwest Missouri, we can enjoy a sunny 60 degree day only to see temperatures plummet into the 30s the very next day. Wear layered clothing to stay comfortable while roaming the park, enjoying the rides, or sitting inside a heated theatre or restaurant. Locker rentals are available ($3/day) if you need to store coats or other items. Some rides are unable to operate if temperatures are too cold and the City will close completely if winter weather is too extreme.

GETTING AROUND: Put on your best walking shoes because you’ll be doing plenty of it (and hey, it might help lessen the guilt from eating all the great foods throughout the park!).  SDC is nestled deep within the Ozark Mountains, so be prepared to climb up and down steep hills throughout the park. If you (or your kids) are physically unable to move around that much, SDC does rent electric scooters ($38.50/day), wheelchairs ($9/day), and strollers ($13-18/day) near the front entrance or via the ticket add-on page. Know that there will be lots of strollers and scooters to navigate around.

MAPS: It’s best to somewhat familiarize yourself with the layout of the City before you arrive. You’ll enter the park near the Main Street Square and you’ll then have to choose to go west or east from there. The SDC smartphone app (for iPhone/iOS and Android) contains a convenient park map that uses GPS to detect your current location and show rides and attractions near you.

SCHEDULES: Shows and activities vary each day so be sure to review the schedule by either picking up a copy of the “Pathfinder” newspaper when you arrive, view the online schedule on the SDC website, or download the SDC smartphone app (for iPhone/iOS and Android) to view schedules, maps, estimated ride wait times, and more.

5 Million Twinkling Lights

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Few things compare to the sight of over five million twinkling lights covering the trees, buildings, and walkways throughout the park. Over 1,000 decorated trees are sprinkled throughout the park and almost every building is strung with lights from top to bottom. You can spend hours just wandering around the lights so be sure build in extra time during your visit just to explore.

The Five-Story Tree

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The clear focal point of the Old Time Christmas as Silver Dollar City celebration is the massive five-story tree prominently positioned in the Main Street square near the front entrance. The tree itself is decorated with 400 ornaments and over 350,000 colorful LED lights, which are choreographed to “dance” to music in unison with Square’s 10 storefronts, 20 street festoons, and over 250 trees.

The Christmas on Main Street light and sound spectacular begins at dusk and is performed every 15 minutes throughout the evening. It features a total of six different songs, with two performed during each show for a total of three different and unique shows.

TIP: Although the Square will be crowded, gather around the tree for the lighting ceremony at 5:30 p.m. each night. The parade runs through the Square shortly afterwards.

Christmas on Main Street featured songs:

  • Carol of the Bells – David Foster
  • Interlude – Steven Curtis Chapman
  • Joy to the World – Boston Pops Orchestra
  • Medley – Michael W. Smith
  • Suite from Polar Express – Alan Sylvestri
  • Sleigh Ride – Boston Pops Orchestra

Rudolph’s Holly Jolly Christmas Light Parade

Silver Dollar City Rudolph Parade 2014 - 10

The 2014 Christmas season marked the 50th anniversary of the longest-running, highest rated Christmas TV special in history: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. To commemorate the anniversary, SDC unveiled an all-new Christmas light parade, led by Rudolph himself.

Now in its third year, Rudolph’s Holly Jolly Christmas light parade features nine musical floats, designed exclusively for Silver Dollar City and illuminated in a total of 100,000 LED multicolored lights. Park officials say they spent $1 million to develop the parade. Float themes include  lovable huge drumming bears, cymbal-playing penguins, twirling ballerinas, a cowboy doll rocking on a hand-carved rocking horse, and of course Santa and Mrs. Claus. The parade is accompanied by 33 colorful costumed characters (including Rudolph’s friend Bumble the Abominable Snow Monster), 14-foot moose characters, 12-foot tall elves, and 10-foot candy canes, plus penguins, elves, and marching wooden soldiers.

While the new parade is more bright and polished, the content isn’t dramatically different from the previous “Gifts of Christmas” parade. But it’s still an obvious must-see while you’re in the park!

Check out more photos from the parade here.

Rudolph’s Holly Jolly Christmas Light Parade Tips:

  • The parade runs twice most nights: 6 p.m. (following the tree lighting ceremony on the Square) and again at 8 p.m. (On Saturdays the parade is held at 7 and 9 p.m.)
  • It begins on the east side of the park near the Red Gold Heritage Hall (home to the live production of It’s A Wonderful Life), passes through the Main Street square, and finishes near Powder Keg.
  • Snowflakes painted on the street mark the path of the parade.
  • The Square can get quite crowded for the parade, particularly for the 6 p.m. parade, so try viewing near the beginning or end of the route for better viewing.

Live Broadway-Style Stage Shows

I’m ashamed to admit that I didn’t discover the live shows at SDC until after several initial visits. My younger self focused solely on the rides and once my older self finally picked up a park schedule, I foolishly assumed the shows were amateur middle-school attempts. Boy was I wrong.

An Old Time Christmas features two award-winning musical productions: It’s A Wonderful Life and A Dickens’ Christmas Carol. I have seen a good amount of Broadway musicals throughout the world, and I’m continually impressed with the talent and production quality of these two shows. After seeing these each year I now ask myself questions like “where in the world did they find people with this level of talent,” “how did they convince them to move to or stay in Branson,” and “are they really not charging extra for these?”

Both shows are indeed free with park admissions and run approximately 60 minutes each. I must suggest arriving around 30 minutes before the show begins because the lines can grow quite long and you could be left without a seat. If you prefer to skip the lines, a $10 (per show) “Show Lover’s Pass” is available which guarantees you a seat for a performance of your choice. This could be especially helpful on busy weekend visits.

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A DICKENS’ CHRISTMAS CAROL: This is the most Christmassy of the two and an absolute must-see show. The Silver Dollar City adaptation of the classic Charles Dickens tale follows Scrooge on a journey through Christmas past, present, and future to help him realize the error of his cold-hearted ways. A 15-member cast sings the story with the accompaniment of a live (yes, live!) orchestra, while surrounded by truly impressive Victorian scenery and props, and adorned in beautiful costumes.

  • LOCATION: Opera House on the west side of the property (near Fire in the Hole)
  • RUNTIME: 60 minutes
  • TIMES: Thurs., Fri., & Sun.: 1:45, 3:45, 6:15 p.m.; Sat.: 12:45, 2:45, 4:45, 7:15 p.m. Doors open 30 minutes prior to showtime.
  • COST: The show is FREE with park admission but remember to arrive early or purchase a Show Lovers Pass to guarantee a seat.

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IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE: The 1946 film by Frank Capra comes to life on the Red Gold Heritage Hall stage. A cast of 14 actors perform a Silver Dollar City adaptation of the popular Christmas story of George Bailey who, after many setbacks, discovers the value of life, family, and friends, with the help of his guardian angel Clarence. The music selections are sung live but, unlike the Dickens’ Christmas Carol, the music is pre-recorded. There’s less stage prop movement for this production, but the costumes are stunning, especially the “worldly” costumes.

  • LOCATION: Red Gold Heritage Hall on the east side of the property (near Frisco Barn)
  • RUNTIME: 60 minutes
  • TIMES: Thurs., Fri., & Sun.: 2:00, 4:15, 6:30 p.m.; Sat.: 1:00, 3:15, 5:30, 8:15 p.m. Doors open 45 minutes prior to showtime.
  • COST: The show is FREE with park admission but remember to arrive early or purchase a Show Lovers Pass to guarantee a seat.

Other Shows and Musical Performances

Beyond the two truly fantastic Broadway-style stage productions, here’s where you can catch the following smaller performances to fill time in-between other activities:

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TRACY HEASTON: Tracy was named Branson’s Pianist of the Year and performs four times nightly in the gazebo right under the tree in the Town Square. It’s less than 15 minutes long and you can easily catch this performance while waiting for the 5:30 p.m. tree lighting ceremony or 6 p.m. parade.

  • LOCATION: Main Street Square
  • RUNTIME: 10 minutes
  • TIMES: 5:15, 5:45, 6:15, 7:15 p.m.

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THE LIVING NATIVITY: Celebrating the reason for the season, The Living Nativity is a live musical version of the original Christmas story. It lasts just 15 minutes and is performed four to five times daily.

  • LOCATION: Riverfront Playhouse
  • RUNTIME: 15 minutes
  • TIMES: Thurs., Fri., Sun.: 3:45, 4:45, 6:45, 7:30 p.m.; Sat.: 2:45, 3:45, 4:45, 6:45, 7:30 p.m. Doors open 15 minutes prior to showtime.

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FROSTY: Get ready for a fun sing along with everyone’s favorite snowman, Frosty!

  • LOCATION: Boatworks Theatre
  • RUNTIME: 20 minutes
  • TIMES: Thurs., Fri., Sun.: 2:00, 3:00, 4:00, 5:00, 7:00 p.m.; Sat.: 2:00, 3:00, 4:00, 5:00, 6:00, 8:00 p.m.

YULETIDE BY THE FIRESIDE: Uncle Gene tells a heartwarming Christmas tale.

  • LOCATION: McHaffie’s Homestead
  • TIMES: 7 p.m. nightly

HOMESTEAD PICKERS: You’ll hear some traditional Ozark Mountain Christmas music here along with some family humor.

  • LOCATION: McHaffie’s Homestead
  • RUNTIME: 20 minutes
  • TIMES: 2:00, 4:30, 6:45, 8:15 p.m.

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FRONTIER FA-LA-LA FOLLIES: Slip back into the Wild West with this Saloon-style Christmas show featuring comedy, dancing, singing, and “just plain fun.” Complimentary peanuts are served.

  • LOCATION: Silver Dollar Saloon
  • RUNTIME: 30 minutes
  • TIMES: 2:00, 3:00, 4:00, 6:00, 7:00 p.m.

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CHRISTMAS ON THE BAYOU: Cedric Benoit and the Cajun Connection Band perform Cajun-spiced Christmas favorites. It’s just like a Christmas in Louisiana (minus the warmer weather!).

  • LOCATION: Dockside Theatre
  • RUNTIME: 25 minutes
  • TIMES: Thurs., Fri., Sun.: 3:00, 4:30, 6:00, 7:00, 8:00 p.m.; Sat.: 3:00, 4:30, 6:00, 7:00, 8:00 p.m.

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SOUNDS OF CHRISTMAS: Pure Heart performs gospel and traditional Christmas songs in the gazebo right under the Christmas tree on Main Street Square.

  • LOCATION: Main Street Square
  • RUNTIME: 20 minutes
  • TIMES: Thurs. & Fri.: 12:30, 1:30, 2:30, 3:30 p.m.; Sat.: 11:30, 1:00, 2:30, 4:00 p.m.; Sun.: 1:30, 2:15, 3:00, 4:00 p.m.

Sing-Along Steam Train

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This is a year-round attraction but it’s converted into a Christmas-themed train ride for the holiday season. The route is decorated with plenty of Christmas displays and decorations and traditional carols are sung along the way. About half way through the ride, the train stops while a grandfatherly actor tells a story about the true meaning of Christmas from his rocking chair. You also get a behind-the-scenes look at the some of the park’s rides (including Outlaw Run) while on the route.

The lines can be discouraging for this ride, but the train carries a good amount of people so the lines usually moves quickly. The staff usually tells some good stories and fun facts while you’re waiting.

Character Meet & Greets

Silver Dollar City Rudolph Parade 2014 - 9

Don’t miss your chance to meet Rudolph, the star of this year’s new parade, his friend Bumble the Abominable Snow Monster, and Santa too! Just stop by the Carousel Barn to meet the characters and snap a photo or two. The meet and greets are free and open to all ages.

Meet & Greet Schedule:

  • Rudolph
    • Saturday: Noon, 1 p.m., and 2 p.m.
    • Sunday: 1, 2, and 3 p.m
  • Bumble
    • Saturday: 12:30 and 1:30 p.m.
    • Sunday: 1:30 and 2:30 p.m.
  • Santa
    • Thursday, Friday, Sunday: 3:30-5:30 and 6:30-9:00 p.m.
    • Saturday: 2:30-5:30 and 6:30-9:30 p.m.

Holiday Shopping

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Of course there are PLENTY of opportunities to purchase gifts and souvenirs at Silver Dollar City. In addition to the year-round “Christmas Hollow” shop, the Frisco Barn (pictured above) is also transformed into “Jingle Bell Junction,” a Christmas decorators dream. It’s a great spot to get inspiration for your own Christmas tree at home and also find some really unique ornaments and decor that you’ll not likely find elsewhere.

There are also lots of other non-Christmas shops throughout the park where you can purchase anything from salt water taffy to clay pots. Since SDC claims to be the “Home of American Craftmanship,” some of the products are manufactured/created right on site. You can often watch demonstrations of the times being made.

Endless Comfort Foods

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At times it can seem like SDC is a food park that happens to have other rides and attractions. There are three onsite buffets as well as plenty of concessions stands and restaurants offering everything from BBQ and fried chicken to red velvet funnel cakes and fried Oreos.

There are a few lighter options, but I typically set aside my better food judgement for the day and indulge in a bit of everything instead. If you choose to stick to your usual diet, I suggest eating right before you arrive because the food aromas alone with be enough to trick you into that first funnel cake. And we all know it’s a slippery slope from there.

If you want to save your diet and some cash, they DO allow small coolers and bags inside the park so it’s okay to bring your own snacks and beverages.

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BUFFETS: There are three all-you-can-eat holiday-themed buffets to choose from, all located just off Main Street Square near the five-story Christmas tree. From the outside of the building, the individual buffets all appear to run together, but they are indeed separate. The meats are the main differentiating factors among the three buffets. I’ve tried each of these and, while plentiful, the quality of food is just okay. I do still recommend the fried chicken at Molly’s Mill but the prime rib at Reunion Hall usually lacks the seasoning I prefer.  Prices include unlimited soft drinks/coffee/tea. Ask for a to-go cup of hot chocolate or coffee for a warm drink when you leave!

  • Molly’s Mill Holiday Harvest Buffet: Adults $16.99 / Children 11 & under $7.99. Menu inclues smoked turkey, fried chicken, glazed ham, chicken & noodles, cornbread dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy, sliced apples, candied sweet potatoes, green bean and mushroom casserole, mac and cheese, salad bar, and assorted breads and desserts.
  • Reunion Hall Prime Rib Buffet: Adults $19.99 / Children 11 & under $8.99. Menu includes hand-carved prime rib, root beer glazed ham, hickory smoked chicken, chicken & noodles, scalloped potatoes, harvest vegetables, green been and mushroom casserole, rice pilaf, baked potatoes, sliced spiced apples, holiday corn, salad bar, and assorted breads and desserts.
  • Lucky Silver Mine Restaurant: Adults $15.99 / Children 11 & under $6.49. Menu includes smoked pulled pork and baked apples, orange glazed chicken, smoked beef brisket, beef stew, ham and beans, mashed potatoes and gravy, apple raisin dressing, sweet potato casserole, mac and cheese, assorted veggies, sweet corn bread, and assorted breads and desserts.

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SAVORY DISHES: If you still want a taste of the country without the buffet, check out Mary’s Spring House for friend chicken and catfish dinners, spaghetti, ham and beans, and salads. Prices run around $9 for a full meal. Buckshot Annie’s Skillet Cookery serves some delicious cast-iron-skillet creations featuring a variety of vegetables and meats. There are a variety of sandwiches (burgers, pork tenderloin, chicken, sausage) available at various locations throughout the park.

SWEETS: SDC is a sweet tooth’s paradise. Entertain your taste buds with hot apple dumplings and cinnamon ice cream, caramel apples, sweet potato chips with marshmallow cream drizzle, s’mores, cotton candy, and festival favorite kettle corn. Love-it-or-hate-it, fruit cakes are also a holiday favorite at Eve & Delilah’s Bakery. Check out their giant cinnamon rolls and cookies while you’re there…and the cinnamon roll bread pudding too!

DEEP FRIED TREATS: Visit Wilson’s Farm for fried oreos, red velvet oreos, fried veggies on a stick, and more. Funnel cakes in red velvet (with cream cheese icing!), cookies and cream, or regular varieties are sold in multiple locations and run $5.99 to $7.99 each.

DRINKS: Holiday favorites like wassail ($2.33 small/$2.99 large) and cappuccino are sold out of carts on the Square. Hot chocolate ($2.33) is sold in concession stands throughout the park and is especially rich, containing marshmallows, chocolate chips, whipped topping, and candy canes. If you plan to visit often, it might be worth purchasing a $11.99 souvenir mug which entitles you to $1.63 refills on most beverages.

ALCOHOL: Unlike many other amusement parks, you won’t find a drop of alcohol sold here. As much as we’d love a spiked wassail or egg nog while enjoying the sights and sounds, it’s just not going to happen. You won’t find it at any of their other associated properties either, including Dixie Stampede.

Culinary Classes

We could all use some extra help creating our holiday meals and treats, right? The Midwest Living Culinary & Craft School is located near Frisco Barn and, for an additional charge, you can join skilled kitchen masters as they recreate some favorite recipes…and taste them too!

2016 Christmas Classes (2017 classes TBA):

  • Ratatouille
  • Holiday Sides
  • Winter Gingerbread Trifle
  • Annual Holiday Dinners
  • Southwest Breakfast
  • Cure For the Sweet Tooth

Most classes are held at 2 and 4 p.m. Prices range from $15 to $30 per person. View the full schedule and visit the ticket add-on page to reserve seats. All ages are welcome.

Lunch With Santa

On Saturday and Sundays, you can dine with Santa himself for lunch in the Reunion Hall. Tickets are $20 for adults and $16 for children  ages 11 and under. This is an extra cost beyond the price of admission to the park. Season pass holders save 10% on these tickets.

Lunch With Santa Menu

  • Mrs. Claus’s Famous Fried Chicken
  • Santa’s ‘Pasghetti Noodles & Sauce
  • Frosty’s Mounds of Smashed Potatoes & Gravy
  • Rudolph’s Dirt & Worms
  • Elf Cookies

Reserve your seat at the table by calling 800-831-4386 or visiting the ticket add-on page.

Amusement Rides

With so many special holiday activities, shows, and attractions, it’s sometimes easy to forget the rides are there too. It is an amusement park, after all.

Even though the temperatures are cooler, all of the rides (except water rides) are typically open throughout the Christmas season. In extreme cold temperatures, some rides are unable to operate.

These rides will stop operating at the temperatures listed below:

  • The GIANT barn swing: 38°
  • The Grand Exposition Coaster: 42°
  • All other rides in the Grand Exposition: 35°
  • High-Low Silos: 32°
  • Lil’ Swings at Half Dollar Holler: 32°
  • Outlaw Run: 34° (will not operate for the day unless temperature reaches 37°)
  • Powder Keg: 40°
  • Thunderation: 32°
  • WildFire: 40°

Lines for the rides are typically much shorter during the Christmas season — especially on weekdays when the crowd tends to be a bit older — but a “Trailblazer Pass” can be purchased for $30 per person, allowing you to skip the lines for up to eight rides. An unlimited Trailblazer pass is $60.

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