by Meghan Dryzga
Want a family-friendly, kid-tastic weekend adventure? Go to Silver Dollar City theme park in Branson, Missouri.
For Father’s Day 2009, the kids (kid-at-heart husband and real kid) and I all hopped in the car and drove to Silver Dollar City, the old-fashioned Western/Southern-themed… well… theme park. I’m more of an observer than a participant when it comes to rides so the kids had a great time while I manned the camera. (Sweet jimminy, I hate rides.)
So, a bit about Silver Dollar City. The roller coasters. While they're fun and certainly thrill-worthy (according to Daddy and Daughter), they don’t quite measure up to Cedar Pointe in quantity or in thrill quality. However, Silver Dollar City kicked Cedar Pointe's butt in every other department. Let's just say, they understand and embrace the idea of a "theme park": Pick a theme; go with it. Every single detail of Silver Dollar City's Old Time Southern theme was tended to. Sun washed wood slats formed every edifice. Uniforms were reminiscent of Laura Ingles. Michael Landon would've felt very at home. Rides were named appropriately: The Barn Swing, Wildfire, Powderkeg, Fire in the Hole. Water rides were a riot. Consistent with the theme. The park maps were titled "Public Notice." And, in case you're not sure what it's like to milk a cow, you can give it a whirl on their udder-squeezing simulation. Squeezable udders!
And the food. When it comes to food, Southerners don't mess around. Skillet meals, Kettle Corn, fresh baked bakery goods… I actually bought a loaf of fresh-baked white bread. The food options were insane. I ordered a grilled chicken sandwich and actually got REAL chicken. Not processed. Real. Just incredible.
Aesthetically, the park had a mountain town feel. Big hills ran through the park making quite a landscape for this simulated old Southern town. The planners also retained a lot of the foliage to shade people on hot days (it was about 90 degrees).
Turns out that Silver Dollar City was actually built on top of a giant cave network. The dude who discovered the cave thought it was filled with marble and brought many people here to mine the marble out of the cave. But the miners discovered their bright-brained leader mistook marble for limestone. "Poop!" said the miner… which sparked an idea. In lieu of calling off the dig, they mined a pant load of guano (that's fancy miner-speak for "bat poop") and made it into gun powder. Talk about adding insult to injury.
There were 600 stairs throughout the cave, HUGE natural waterfalls and quicksand (what—it actually exists?!). In fact, they used to let cave visitors go down to the bottom of the waterfall, but we couldn’t because the floor had recently turned into quicksand. Seriously. To get out of the cave (after traveling over 600 stairs to get down to it) the SDC staff puts you on this slanted horror house "train" that has walls that are all at a 45% angle. It crawls up the side of the cave to propel you back to ground level because the incline is too steep to walk up. (I did not like this part.)
The 20-minute train ride that tours you through the park was also delightful. As you would expect, half way through the ride, a pack of scripted “robbers” hijacked our train. I guess when you do the same gig 20 times a day, you start to memorize other people's roles because midway through their skit, our train conductor said his own lines, along with those of the other two robbers. They laughed and played it off well. Hilarious to parents, unnoticed by the kids.
The best part? Not only did we have an awesome time, but we’re going to keep having an awesome time at SDC all year. Once you're in the park you can upgrade to a season pass for $35 per person. With single day passes at $40 per person, a season pass makes perfect sense if you think you’ll go back even one more time.