Silver Dollar City: An Ozarks Gem
By Megan Valentine
Nestled in the Ozark Mountains in the tourist town of Branson lies quite possibly the most immersive theme park I’ve been to outside of the Disney Parks: Silver Dollar City. When you walk through the gates of Silver Dollar City, you enter an 1880s mining town in the Ozarks. Its hilly pathways are filled with folksy music, small, unique shops, food stalls, rides, and employees dressed in period clothing.
Those who enjoy rides will have plenty to choose from within the park. With five roller coasters for thrill ride fans as well as a variety of attractions for kids and adults alike, there is no shortage of entertainment in the form of rides. In addition, there is an entertaining train ride around the park and a tour into Marvel Cave (with a lantern tour option). Although the rides are fantastic, I would argue that the true charm of the park lies in the other details, particularly the food and entertainment.
Photos: Seasonal show “Reuben’s Swashbuckling Adventure,” Potter demonstrating, Taffy shop, Glass blowing demonstration
Entertainment in Silver Dollar City is found anywhere you look. There are concerts and other shows scheduled throughout the day, varying from comedy and magic to Broadway-style shows and a concert to close out the night. In addition to the performances, many of the shops and stalls are enhanced by demonstrating craftsmen such as candy makers, potters, and blacksmiths. In addition to the more unique offerings, these craftsmen elevate the shops beyond those of many theme parks. Anyone in the park can learn about and watch a man blowing glass and then purchase an item which was, in many cases, blown right there. The same is true with anything from lye soap to leather working. You can even take a class at the Culinary and Craft School, learning a variety of culinary arts (my family learned how to make pretzel bread in one class).
In addition to attractions and entertainment, one of the best aspects of Silver Dollar City is the food. The park boasts multiple sit-down restaurants with buffets, pizza, a southwest grill, and more, but the true charm of Silver Dollar City food lies in the food kiosks. You can find snacks including baked goods, traditional park fare such as funnel cakes and popcorn, as well as things like tater twists and handmade pretzels. Silver Dollar City boasts the best and freshest turkey leg I’ve ever found in a theme park as well as multiple barbecue choices.
Even with all of these delicious food options surrounding you, arguably the best culinary choice within Silver Dollar City is the skillet cookery. A seemingly humble creation, these skillets in their multiple varieties are absolutely delicious! Each is cooked in giant cast iron skillets and includes a selection of veggies with a meat. My skillet of choice, the Family Feud, includes sautéed corn, yellow squash, okra, peppers, onions, and chicken. You can also choose a Jambalaya skillet, the Calico Potato Skillet, Sausage Medley, and the Chicken Fajita Skillet. My family enjoys these so much that we have begun making them at home! (They also sell a black kettle seasoning in the park that can help recreate the meal).
In addition to the year-round offerings, Silver Dollar City has multiple festivals throughout the year to further enhance the visitor experience. For instance, if you visit in mid-August through early September, you’re likely to hear a few of the over 70 different gospel groups that come to perform during the Southern Gospel Picnic. During October, the park combined their Craft Days with Pumpkin Nights for their Harvest Festival. During this festival, you can see many more craftspeople and special shows along with special characters, food, and nighttime Halloween offerings. Silver Dollar City goes all out for their Old Time Christmas, filling the park with lights, decorations, and a parade! The park continually adds to and adapts its seasonal offerings so there is usually something new to see and do. Spring 2020 will see the Festival of Wonder, focused on impressive entertainment options as well as Bluegrass & BBQ, bringing in over 60 bands and tons of barbecue.
In short, whether you love roller coasters or just want to enjoy the overall theming of the park, Silver Dollar City offers something for every visitor, from the taffy to the Marvel Cave! But seriously, get the skillet cookery and stock up on some taffy, you won’t regret it!
My name is Megan Valentine. I'm a travel junkie, a lifelong Disney fan, and a museum curator & registrar. My granddad was born in 1928, just like Mickey Mouse, so he has worked to instill a love of all things Disney in his kids and grandkids. He and my grandmother took me to Walt Disney World for the first time when I was four years old, and I have been addicted ever since. I have now been to WDW seven times and can't get enough! I am the planner for all of my family's Disney trips and consultant for any friends with questions since I am always reading about Disney, listening to podcasts, or watching the movies. In addition to my Disney travels, I love to explore a variety of destinations with an ever-growing list of places to visit. As a museum professional and art historian, I often seek out fascinating new museum exhibits when I can, particularly if it has anything to do with my other major obsession, Egypt!
See Tyler’s trip to Silver Dollar City here!