Ultimate 2020 Silver Dollar City Christmas Travel Guide

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 6.5 million lights, 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 in 2019 USA Today readers chose it as the “Best Theme Park Holiday Event” for the third consecutive year.

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!

**PLEASE NOTE: The 2020 season will be a bit different due to to COVID-19, and this guide is being updated as changes are announced. We also wrote a separate post about changes here.**

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 2020 Christmas season on Sat., Nov. 7 and continues through Dec. 30 (with a special NYE celebration on Dec. 31, Jan. 1, and Jan. 2). The daily operating schedule varies, but it’s generally open Wednesday through Sunday from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m.

SDC TICKETS: Single-day tickets at the gate or online are $72 for adults and $62 for children. A two-day ticket is available for just a bit more — $92 for adults and $82 for children.

**2020 RESERVATIONS: Due to COVID-19 capacity restrictions, single-day ticket purchasers will need to select a specific date to visit. For annual pass holders, reservations are only required to visit on Saturdays in November and December, and Nov. 26-27, Dec. 20-23, and Dec. 27. Reservations can be submitted here.**

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 Ramey, Country Mart, Summer Fresh, Food Pyramid, King Cash Saver, Pyramid Express) to purchase tickets for just $35 (this is a great deal — in 2019 it was $47). There are two Country Mart’s (newly renamed to “King Cash Saver) 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. Find details and a full list of participating Price Cutter locations here.

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 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.

There are also a number of limited-time promotional ticket deals available. Find more tips on finding the best SDC ticket prices here.

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COVID-19 PRECAUTIONS: To promote social distancing, park capacity is limited. The exact number isn’t published, but it’s said to be near 9,000. For comparison, some of the record-breaking days of the past few Christmas seasons saw more than 28,000 guests.

To ensure you aren’t unexpectedly turned away at the gate, single-day guests now need to select a specific date of their visit when purchasing. If you have an annual pass, reservations are required on Saturdays in November and December, plus Nov. 26-27, Dec. 20-23, and Dec. 27. Annual pass holders do not need reservations on other days. However, we still recommend arriving early, or wait until later in the evening (after 7 p.m.) to visit after the daytime crowd has thinned.

The park entry process is a bit different. You will be go through a “screening” area in the front parking lot where you’ll be asked to answer a series of health and COVID-19-contact questions, and a host will check your temperature via infrared thermometer. You’ll then be given a wristband and will proceed to the normal park entrance and ticketing areas. This does potentially add some time on to your entrance experience, so plan accordingly.

Masks are required at all times at Silver Dollar City (except when eating or drinking), and throughout all other Branson businesses. Not only is it the responsible thing to do, but your face will appreciate the extra layer of warmth.

Inside the park, hand sanitizer is available in many locations, and guests are asked to keep a distance of at least 6 feet from others not in their group.

There will be no indoor shows this year, but select outdoor stages will be open. Rudolph’s Holly Jolly Christmas Parade IS happening, though it may be different than usual (we’re not sure yet!). Ride wait times will likely be longer as not all seats are being used in order to properly distance guests.

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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. Using the online or app schedule is especially important in 2020, as some times can change unannounced.


SEE ALSOBranson Christmas Attractions & Activities


6.5 Million Twinkling Lights

sdc-christmas-streets

Few things compare to the sight of over 6.5 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.

Christmas in Midtown Light Spectacular

The Christmas in Midtown Light Spectacular debuted in 2017. The area — located behind Main Street near the park’s entrance — features a 90-foot light pole Christmas tree, a 50-foot Santa and sleigh, a large globe perched 30-feet in the air, 30 flying angels, three light tunnels, two 40-foot moving trains, dozens of stars and snowflakes, and more.

Read more details about this incredible new addition here.

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Joy on Town Square with an Eight-Story Tree

The clear focal point of An Old Time Christmas at Silver Dollar City is the massive eight-story tree (which was brand new in 2019) prominently positioned in the Main Street square near the front entrance (for comparison, the previous tree was five-stories tall).

Part of a new “Joy on Main Street” experience, the $1.5 million custom-designed tree soars 80 feet into the night sky and features hundreds of thousands of “dancing” high-resolution lights. Together with other illuminated trees and structures on Town Square, over one million LEDs combine color, music, light, and animated imagery. Read more about it here.

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 (although we’re not yet sure if the initial lighting ceremony is happening during the 2020 season). The parade runs through the Square shortly afterwards.

Joy on Main Street featured songs:

  • Sleigh Ride – Boston Pops Orchestra
  • Most Wonderful Time of the Year – Andy Williams
  • Joy To The World – Faith Hill
  • Christmastime – Michael W. Smith
  • Rejoice With Exceeding Great Joy
  • Carol of the Bells – Mannheim Steamroller

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.

**2020 UPDATE: The parade WILL be held nightly during the 2020 season, and is scheduled for 6 p.m. and 8:15 p.m. each night, but the timing could change depending on crowds. Read more about parade plans here.**

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.

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. and 8:15 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.
  • Want to see a very rare “secret” version of the parade? Hang out by the entrance to Outlaw Run in-between the two parades and you’ll get a unique view of the floats and characters as they travel from the parade’s end point back to the beginning.
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Live Broadway-Style Stage Shows

**2020 UPDATE: Unfortunately, these two shows will NOT be produced in 2020. The information below will hopefully give you something to look forward to when indoor shows are allowed to return. Some of the performers from these iconic shows will be part of caroling troupes who can be seen and heard around the City’s walkways.**

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 more-mature-self finally picked up a park schedule, I foolishly assumed the shows were amateur productions. Boy was I wrong.

An Old Time Christmas features two award-winning musical productions: It’s A Wonderful Life and A Dickens’ Christmas Carol. Having seen a good amount of Broadway musicals throughout the world, 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.

BC - sdc dickens carol cast

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: Not being held in 2020
  • COST: The show is FREE with park admission but remember to arrive early or purchase a Show Lovers Pass to guarantee a seat.
  • **2020 UPDATE: Unfortunately this show will NOT be produced during the 2020 season, but we look forward to its return when indoor shows are permitted in the future.

BC - sdc wonderful life finale

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: Not being held in 2020
  • COST: The show is FREE with park admission but remember to arrive early or purchase a Show Lovers Pass to guarantee a seat.
  • **2020 UPDATE: Unfortunately this show will NOT be produced during the 2020 season, but we look forward to its return when indoor shows are permitted in the future.

SEE ALSOBranson Christmas Attractions & Activities


Other Shows and Musical Performances

Only outdoor shows will be held this year, and we’re next exactly sure where or when. A press release mentioned there would be “more shows than ever before,” but only mentioned three: The Living Nativity, the Saloon Frontier Fa-La-La Follies, and a new “Cool Yule” show with a live band and performers, Gospel groups, and more. Check the SDC mobile app or website for exact schedules.

We wrote more about 2020 show and schedules here.

CAROLING TROUPES: Performers from some of the shows previously held indoors (Dickens, It’s A Wonderful Life, etc.) will be part of caroling troupes who can be seen and heard throughout the city. We don’t think there will be a set schedule for this — just keep you’re eyes and ears open.

silver-dollar-city-live-nativity

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: Outdoor venue TBA
  • RUNTIME: 15 minutes
  • TIMES: TBA

sdc-saloon

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: Outdoor venue TBA
  • RUNTIME: 30 minutes
  • TIMES: TBA

COOL YULE: This is a new show for 2020, made up of performers and a live band.

  • LOCATION: Outdoor venue TBA
  • RUNTIME: TBA
  • TIMES: TBA

Sing-Along Steam Train

sdc-steam-train-christmas

This is a year-round attraction but it’s converted into a Christmas-themed train ride for the holiday season, and is supposed to be operational for the 2020 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.

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Character Meet & Greets

Silver Dollar City Rudolph Parade 2014 - 9

Don’t miss your chance to meet Rudolph, 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.

**2020 UPDATE: Santa WILL be there, and has his own new “Santa’s Cottage,” where children can ‘share wishes and dreams in an appropriately socially distanced way.’ Unfortunately, meet & greets with Rudolph/Clarice and Bumble are not being offered this year, but put it on your list for a future visit. **

Meet & Greet Schedule:

  • Santa (timing could change for 2020)
    • Wednesday-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.
  •  Rudolph
    • Not scheduled to appear in 2020
  • Bumble
    • Not scheduled to appear in 2020

Holiday Shopping

sdc-christmas-shopping1

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 Craftsmanship,” some of the products are manufactured/created right on site. You can often watch demonstrations of the times being made.

Endless Comfort Foods

BC - sdc pastry case

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.

silver-dollar-city-buffet-line

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!

**2020 UPDATE: We’re told the buffets will be operating as “family-style” restaurants, and not all options may be available. Stay tuned.**

  • 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.

sdc-harvest-skillet

SAVORY DISHES: New for 2020 is the Rivertown Smokehouse with fresh-smoked meats, classic sides, and specialty desserts. Buckshot Annie’s Skillet Cookery serves some delicious cast-iron-skillet creations (read: succotash) 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! Rivertown is also home to the new Clara Belle’s Cinnamon Bread bakery, serving up the fan-favorite cinnamon bread along with new flavors like apple cinnamon, peach cinnamon, and more. This location also serves coffee brewed with Starbucks beans.

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. If you’re looking for coffee, Clara Belle’s Cinnamon Bread shop in Rivertown now serves coffee (hot and cold) drinks brewed with Starbucks beans.

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

**2020 UPDATE: Unfortunately we don’t foresee these Culinary Classes being offered this year, but put it on your list for a future visit.**

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!

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Christmas Class Topics:

  • 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. Visit the ticket add-on page to reserve seats. All ages are welcome.

Lunch With Santa

**2020 UPDATE: Unfortunately we don’t foresee Lunch with Santa being offered this year, but put it on your list for a future visit.**

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.

**2020 UPDATE: To encourage social distancing, not all seats on rides are being utilized. This could lead to longer lines and wait times.**

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