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!
Preparing For Your Visit
WHEN TO GO: Silver Dollar City begins its transformation into a Christmas wonderland at the end of October. It officially opens for the 2021 Christmas season on Sat., Nov. 6 and continues through Dec. 30. 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 $74 for adults and $69 for children ages 4-11 (children under 3 are free). A two-day ticket is available for just a bit more — $94 for adults and $89 for children.
If you’re able to visit on a Thursday, 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 $50. 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 $50 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 $60 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.
2021 COVID-19 PRECAUTIONS: As of now, it appears the park will be operating at near-regular capacity for the 2021 Christmas season.
Masks are required for non-vaccinated guests older than 12 in all indoor areas. Masks are still encouraged for all others.
While there were no indoors shows last year, it DOES appear they will return this year…including Dickens’ Christmas Carol at the Opry House.
RESERVATIONS: In 2020, SDC introduced a reservation system for season pass holders to better manage lowered park capacity. They’ve mostly done away with the requirement to make advance reservations, however there is some confusion as to whether this will return for busy days during the Christmas season.
Earlier this year the SDC website read “Reservations will be required to ensure entry on peak attendance days during November and December as follows: All Saturdays, plus 11/26 & 27, 12/20 – 23 & 12/27.” The website now simply says the park “may” require reservations on peak attendance days.
If you have a season pass, we suggest you make a reservation, even though it’s not technically required at this time.
Season pass holders can make reservations here. This is not necessary for single-day ticket holders since you already chose a specific visit date when purchasing and that serves as your reservation.
BEST DAYS TO VISIT FOR LOW CROWDS: The Christmas season has become an increasingly popular time to visit Silver Dollar City, especially on weekends. The park has reached maximum capacity on some Saturdays, with folks waiting hours in traffic just trying to get into parking lots, only to be turned away at the entry gates.
If you are not a fan of large crowds, avoid visiting on Saturdays in November and December, but especially on warmer weather days. Sundays can also be very busy, but not always.
For the lowest crowds, the best days to visit are Wednesday or Thursday.
If a weekend is the only time that works for your schedule, plan to either arrive before the park opens or wait until later in the evening (after 7 p.m.) to visit. A large portion of the crowd tends to leave right after the first parade at 6 p.m. so parking spots and space in the park is more available after that point.
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 ($49.50/day), wheelchairs, and strollers ($20-25/day) near the front entrance or via the ticket add-on page. Know that there can sometimes 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.
6.5 Million Twinkling Lights
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.
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. 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
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.
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. (check the app for exact timing)
- 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.
Live Broadway-Style Stage Shows
**2021 UPDATE: At this time, it appears indoor shows WILL return this year. A Dickens’ Christmas Carol will return at the Opry House. It’s A Wonderful Life, however, is being retired and replaced with a new variety show called “Home for Christmas.”**
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: “A Dickens’ Christmas Carol” and “Home for Christmas.” 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 45-60 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.
A DICKENS’ CHRISTMAS CAROL: This is an absolute must-see show and has become a holiday tradition for many SDC fans. 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. The show will feature an all-new music score for 2021.
- LOCATION: Opera House on the west side of the property (near Fire in the Hole)
- RUNTIME: 60 minutes
- TIMES: Check app for exact times
- COST: The show is FREE with park admission but remember to arrive early or purchase a Show Lovers Pass to guarantee a seat.
HOME FOR CHRISTMAS: This is an all-new show for 2021. The variety show will feature a cast of 12 signers and dancers with a live four-piece band. They’ll perform over 28 familiar and original Christmas songs with six different scenes as a backdrop.
- LOCATION: Red Gold Heritage Hall on the east side of the property (near Frisco Barn)
- RUNTIME: 45 minutes
- TIMES: TBD
- COST: The show is FREE with park admission.
Other Shows and Musical Performances
Beyond the two truly fantastic Broadway-style stage productions, here’s where you can catch the following shorter performances to fill time in-between other activities. Check the SDC mobile app or on-park newspapers for exact schedules.
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.
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
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: Venue TBA
- RUNTIME: 30 minutes
- TIMES: TBA
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: TBA
Sing-Along Steam Train
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.
Character Meet & Greets
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.
**2021 UPDATE: Santa will again appear within “Santa’s Cottage,” where children can walk up to Santa’s window to share wishes and dreams in an appropriately socially distanced way. We are not yet sure if meet & greets with Rudolph/Clarice and Bumble will be offered this year. **
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.
- Times TBA
- Times TBA
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
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.
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. 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!
**2021 UPDATE: While the buffets were switched to family style last year, self-serve buffets have returned this summer so we expect this to continue for the 2021 Christmas festival. It’s likely only Molly’s Mill will be open, however, with select foods from the menus of the three buffets listed below.**
- 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.
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.
TASTING PASSPORTS: These were recently introduced, and we’ll have 2021 info available soon. Tasting passports give you the chance to pay one up-front fee to enjoy five different seasonal items of your choice throughout the park. The pass is typically $30 (or $40 with a refillable mug included). Portion sizes are smaller than regular full-sized orders but most folks have said it’s more than enough food.
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.
**2021 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!
Christmas Class Topics:
- 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
**2021 UPDATE: We aren’t yet sure if this will be offered this year.**
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.
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 $45-50 per person, allowing you to skip the lines for up to eight rides.Sign up now for the Branson Christmas newsletter to get these stories delivered straight to your inbox. Also find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and join the Branson Christmas Fanatics group on Facebook.