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Experiential BransonSeptember 14, 2012 By: Susan Young Travel Agent
|The exterior of Titanic Branson replicates the ill-fated ship’s look.|
When travel agents think about Branson, they think of amazing shows and entertainment palaces. Yet, this southwestern Missouri tourism hot spot is also a fantastic place for clients to indulge into their passion for “experiential” pursuits—from cooking classes to mountain hiking, from historic immersion to a group cattle drive. Here’s a peek at some of those fun activities for your clients.
|Fishing is one of the many fun options available in Branson.|
Silver Dollar City, a major theme park with thrilling coasters and other rides, oozes Americana—from its pioneer structures to down-home cuisine, from old-fashioned games to eclectic crafts and culinary classes. In partnership with Midwest Living, Silver Dollar City runs a Culinary and Craft School each operating day from March through December. Classes are conducted in a spacious, 1880s style timber-frame farmhouse, but one that has such unique features as a kitchen showroom with Viking appliances, flat-screen TVs for overhead views, and tiered seating.
Debbie Dance Uhrig, the park’s master craftsman of culinary arts, teaches the hour-long culinary classes. She presents seasonal recipes, offers cooking tips and gives secrets from her cooking career. Clients may choose classes with such culinary themes as savory skillets or pie making. Participants receive hands-on instructions, taste the dishes, and go home with the recipes and a gift bag. Typically, classes are offered several times a day, with participation limited to 34 students. Cost is typically $12 per person. Clients should visit the website for pricing, schedules and registration.
Alternatively, if clients just want to experience gorgeous butterflies flying around them, they might head for The Butterfly Palace with its exotic butterfly aviary. Visitors also have access to the Living Rainforest Science Center, home to a blue-tongued skink, poison dart frogs, salamanders, geckos and other critters. Guests also may watch a movie about the tropical butterfly life cycle, journey through an Emerald Forest Mirror Maze and perhaps try out the Coconut Tree Climb; instruction and safety harnesses are provided for the climb.
|Sweet treats are made at Silver Dollar City, which also offers guests culinary classes.|
If an experiential look at a 20th-century historic event with human drama appeals, send clients to Titanic Branson. They can’t miss it. The attraction’s exterior replicates the ill-fated ship’s look. Upon entering Titanic Branson, clients receive a Titanic boarding pass with the name of one of the ship’s passengers. So the clients play an actual passenger as they navigate around educational vignettes, historic documents and even a few artifacts from the ship including a deck chair.
This attraction strives for authenticity and succeeds to a great extent. The ship’s grand staircase was painstakingly re-created to the tune of $1 million. Exhibits are structured and presented so that guests may easily imagine they’re ascending the staircase in elegant attire, shoveling coal into the ship’s boilers, settling into their first-class or steerage cabin, or barking orders from the ship’s navigational bridge.
Travelers also may dip their hand into the 28 degree water to understand just how cold the ocean was on the night Titanic sank in April 1912. Before exiting, visitors will learn the fate of the passenger listed on their attraction boarding pass. Photos are not permitted inside Titanic Branson.
Are any clients eager to experience the great outdoors? Kayak Branson offers guided kayaking trips at Table Rock Lake or Lake Taneycomo. For zipline fans, Branson Zipline and Canopy Tours offers courses at Wolfe Creek Preserve.
|Big Cedar Lodge will host the ‘Plein Air Workshop & Paint Out’ October 10-15 this year.|
Branson Zipline also has a new “Wolfe Creek Photo Safari,” a gentle downhill hike. It begins with a ride to the top of Wolfe Mountain in a Pinzgauer Swiss Army troop carrier. Participants then hike with their guide down the mountain through the meandering trails. They spot zipliners overhead and photograph mountain scenery, while the guide imparts tales of the Ozarks. This hiking safari costs $19.95 or $18.95 for those under 17. A family pass for two adults and two kids is $59.99 or for two adults and three kids at $69.99.
The 10,000-acre Dogwood Canyon Nature Park near the Missouri-Arkansas border just south of Branson, offers hiking, bicycling, Segway nature tours, safari adventure rides, archery instruction and ATV rides. The park’s spring-fed trout streams include 17 with stone bridges, some of which are Amish-built.
Anglers are offered half-day guided catch-and-release fishing, fly casting clinics, two-day fishing schools and hourly self-guided opportunities to either “catch-and-keep” or release. No license or trout stamp is required. Tackle and rods are available for rent. The park’s two-day Fly Fishing School is offered for those 12 and older from April through October. Schools are conducted on Mondays and Tuesdays or Saturdays and Sundays. Cost is $470 per person.
|The 14,000-square-foot Spa Chateau is a good option for guests looking for some pampering.|
If you have a group or family reunion booking, the park has a slew of specialty group options. On an old-fashioned group cattle drive, participants ride horses and “drive” the herd (including some Texas longhorns) to Ozark Mountain pastureland. After the drive, a down-home meal awaits at the chuckwagon site.
|Guests can enjoy an old-fashioned cattle drive on Ozark Mountain pastureland.|
One unusual, enrichment opportunity is the guided, behind-the-scenes tour at Table Rock Dam. Constructed in the 1950s, the dam is operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and provides flood control for the White and lower Mississippi rivers. Tour goers head deep inside the dam to learn what it takes to operate the massive structure, create hydroelectric power and maintain the pristine waters of Table Rock Lake for fishing, boating and recreation. Cost is $14.50 for those 12 and older, or $8 for kids ages 6-11.
|The renovated Hilton Branson Convention Center Hotel has reopened with new windows, furnishings and carpeting.|
Arts enthusiasts might participate in the “Plein Air Workshop & Paint Out” at Big Cedar Lodge from October 10 to October 15. All artists from beginners to more advanced painters are welcome to attend. Artists will have their artwork displayed in the Big Cedar Lodge registration building during the competition. Resort guests and the general public will be able to purchase the works throughout the event as well as during an art show slated for the last day. All 2-D mediums are welcome.
As for accommodations, the renovated Hilton Branson Convention Center Hotel has reopened with new features and decor. That property sustained damage in a tornado earlier this year. The hotel replaced 3,400 windows with a more energy-efficient glass, new carpet was installed in all guest rooms and suites, and many rooms have new drapes and furniture. Carpet was replaced in all of the hallways and in Level 2 Steakhouse, the hotel’s signature restaurant, and Clear, the lobby lounge.
If your clients want to combine a Branson vacation with a spa getaway, Chateau on the Lake is home to the 14,000-square-foot Spa Chateau. This full-service spa has multiple treatment rooms, customized body treatments, pedicure and manicure stations, saunas, steam rooms, and an Infinity Tub that is filled from the ceiling. One stunning spa feature is the Roman Bath, which is situated beneath a waterfall overlooking Table Rock Lake.
A romantic “Royal Celebration for Two” package at Spa Chateau includes relaxation for a couple in twin candlelit tubs with aromatic scenting in the air, as well as 80-minute, side-by-side Grand Chateau Massages. Cost is $359 plus service charge.
Contact the Branson/Lakes Area Convention and Visitors Bureau at www.explorebranson.com.