On a recent visit to Branson, my husband and I were happy to find that Silver Dollar City and other favorite attractions still offer fun, wholesome activities that appeal to all ages. The Missouri city’s core values of God, home, and country may seem old-fashioned to some, but they’re very much on display everywhere.
Popular shows like The Haygoods and Dolly Parton’s Stampede all feature patriotic songs that always bring audiences to their feet. Other attractions like the Showboat Branson Belle include patriotic tributes, so families looking for G-rated entertainment can feel safe taking their younger children along.
Fall is a great time to visit Branson, with pumpkin festivals, autumn foliage, and cooler weather inviting outdoor explorations. That also makes it the perfect time to visit Silver Dollar City while the theme park’s annual Harvest Festival (Sept. 15- Oct. 28) is underway. Artisans who demonstrate and sell their handmade crafts at Silver Dollar City all dress in traditional 1880s-era costumes, adding an extra dimension to the park’s theme.
Silver Dollar City History
The history of Silver Dollar City is fascinating, especially since the theme park (recently named #1 in the country by USA Today and Trip Advisor) happened by accident. After discovering Missouri’s largest and deepest cave 100 years ago in the Ozarks, people arrived in droves to tour the cavern. Searching for a way to entertain Marvel Cave’s visitors, who often waited hours to enter the cavern, tour operators invited Ozark artisans to demonstrate their crafts and skills.
Over the next 60 years, the old mining town theme park grew to include 100 acres with 100 resident craftsmen, 12 stages, over 40 rides and attractions, and 18 award-winning restaurants. Their original attraction, Marvel Cave, is still open for tours (free with park admission) that take about an hour. Spending time in the cave is a great way to stay cool since the temperature is always 60-65 degrees.
Harvest Festival Tasting Passport
Silver Dollar City’s traditions and family-friendly activities remain a step or more above most amusement parks. The food is also exceptional, with their culinary experts creating new tasting experiences—like the hearty skillets—that fit right into the Ozark Mountains theme. During the Harvest Festival, a $35 Tasting Passport offers the best way to try new foods from over 20 vendors.
With five punches on each passport, it’s easy to enjoy a healthy, progressive meal at the park, especially if you start with one of the skillet meals. Dockside Grill features a filling Pork Belly Skillet (pork belly, potatoes, vegetables), and Wagon Works Grill has a hearty pumpkin chili with cornbread crumble. Our favorite find was a savory and flavorful Chicken and Andouille Gumbo with cheese grits sold at Taste of the City in Pumpkin Plaza.
Silver Dollar City Concessions
It’s hard to eat healthier than the fresh Autumn Harvest Shaker Salad offered at Cross Roads Pizza and Wagon Works Grill. Refreshing, cold Apple Cider was available at Dockside Concessions and Pumpkin’s Cider Shack on the Square. After all that healthy food, we were ready to try some sweet offerings from Eva & Delilah’s Bakery. It’s impossible to ignore the tempting aromas from the bakery for very long, and we succumbed to a Pumpkin Whoopie Pie and Pumpkin Cinnamon Roll. At a media tasting held in Reunion Hall, we also sampled tender BBQ brisket, fried chicken, a glass of Apple Palmer (green tea with apple cider), sweet potato kettle chips, and a deliciously decadent Pumpkin bread pudding made from the bakery’s cinnamon rolls.
Silver Dollar City offers plenty of activities, rides, and pumpkin-lined pathways to help you walk off all these calories. Special ticket prices of $40 each for all ages start after 5 p.m. The park is open until 10 p.m. Single-day tickets start at $89, so if you can go more than one day, season passes make the most sense. They start at $154 with hours 9:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. for ages 12-64. Ages 4-11 and over 65 are $10 less; under three are free. Parking is also free, but premium parking is available for a fee.
This was our third trip to Silver Dollar City and our first during the Harvest Festival. Years ago, we visited during the Christmas season, which starts in early November and runs through Dec. 30. Silver Dollar City is a wonderful place to visit for an unforgettable family holiday—but it’s also extremely crowded then. We were lucky to find a few early Christmas presents at SDC craft booths during the Harvest Festival, another reason to make it our favorite time to visit the theme park.
Special festivals and events are featured at Silver Dollar City throughout the year. For updated schedules and information, please visit silverdollarcity.com.