We’re taking a break from our regularly scheduled (study abroad) programing because I just got back from ‘An Old Time Christmas’ festival at Silver Dollar City, and I want to post about it while it’s still fresh in my mind!
I hadn’t been to An Old Time Christmas for about 5 years, so I was very excited to see everything that’s changed.
Silver Dollar City is an 1880’s-themed theme park in the heart of the Ozark Mountains in Branson, Missouri. Its holiday festivals keep it open from March to January, but surprisingly, Silver Dollar City is by far the most crowded around Christmas time. I’m talking packed shoulder-to-shoulder crowds, even on weekdays!
Should you still go? Yes, absolutely! SDC has won the title of America’s best holiday even 4 years in a row, and if you come with the right expectations, you’re going to have an amazing time!
I know I sure did! Here’s what I did at Silver Dollar City’s an Old Time Christmas, 2019:
Getting to Silver Dollar City
Like I said before, Silver Dollar City is in Branson, Missouri, which is about an hour away from where I live.
We left for the park at 3pm so that we could be there by 4 and have an hour of daylight before sunset at 5pm. Our reason for this was that here in the Ozarks, it gets COLD after sundown.
At SDC, you have to park in one of 7 lots, then take a shuttle to get to the actual park. Thankfully, there are a lot of shuttles, and you shouldn’t have to wait for more than 10 minutes to get on one. Be sure not to forget your lot number, though!
Frisco Sing-Along Steam Train
Realistically, I knew that there was no way we’d be able to do all of the holiday activities at SDC, so in order to avoid a night of frigid misery, my family and I made a list of 2 or 3 activities that we were willing to wait in line for. The Frisco Sing-Along Train was at the top of our list, so we made a bee-line for the train station!
Something you should know before visiting SDC during Christmas time is that you are going to wait in line for over an hour to do almost any activity. As a testimony to this inevitable truth, we visited on a weekday, before thanksgiving, and still waited an hour and a half to board the train.
We considered ourselves lucky, though, as this is shorter than we expected 🙂
The line is well managed by the staff, who made sure that no one tried to cut in front.
I was thrilled to finally board the train, and even more thrilled when the conductor announced that this was a sing-along train, so he played Christmas music and everyone sang carols together- it was awesome!
The train takes you around the park so that you can see the different light displays, and then through the Ozark Mountains.
About half-way through the 30-minute ride, the train stops and an old man called “grandpa” in a rocking chair tells a story about the nativity, as the nativity scene lights up behind him. Even if you aren’t religious, it’s beautiful and very sweet.
As the train was heading back to the station, we stopped all of the sudden. The conductor said that we’d stopped because he needed to locate the other train so that we didn’t crash into them. Someone behind me yelled, “Trainwreck!” and it was hilarious.
Rudolph’s Light Parade
We’d worried that we would miss the parade while waiting for the train, but thankfully, we had a half hour to find a good spot on the parade route before it started.
Rudolph’s Holly Jolly Light Parade happens twice every night, though the specific times change, so you’ll have to ask a staff member when they are. The parade starts at the Grand Exposition and ends in Midtown, so we chose somewhere in the middle of the route.
Just as the parade was scheduled to start, things got crazy when there was a medical emergency somewhere along the route, and people were swarming all over the place. It was chaotic!
Thankfully, it cleared out just in time for the floats to arrive.
The parade itself was awesome! Rudolph rides his motorcar at the front, with a couple of costumed characters dancing in the middle, and a stained glass nativity float at the end. The whole parade only lasts about 4 minutes, but the floats are all beautiful!
Christmas in Midtown
Christmas in Midtown is arguably the most popular attraction at SDC’s An Old Time Christmas.
During the rest of the year, Midtown is an area of the park full of shops, craftsmen’s stores, and restaurants; but during An Old Time Christmas, every surface is covered in LED lights. And I mean EVERY surface.
To get there, you walk through a tunnel of yellow lights to the main display, which is full of moving light panels and cute photo ops. Walking through Christmas in Midtown felt kind of like a technicolor fever dream, except really delightful. It’s nice because no matter how crowded the park is, you’re guaranteed a great view of the lights.
One good tip: the funhouse called ‘Grandpa’s Haunted Mansion’ is open year round, and it’s a great place to go inside and warm up while you’re in midtown!
Joy on Town Square
After walking through Christmas at Midtown, we’d been at Silver Dollar City for 4 or 5 hours, so we were all pretty cold and ready to leave soon.
I wouldn’t let us leave yet, though, before we’d seen SDC’s newest Christmas attraction- Joy on Town Square!
Joy on Town Square is on the main square, just inside the entrance to the park. The centerpiece is an 8-story-tall digital Christmas tree that lights up with animations that illustrate a couple different Christmas carols. The surrounding trees are also covered in lights and blink in time with the carols.
Apparently, its the only light show of its kind in the world, and I’d believe it too. I’ve never seen anything like it!
Since it’s right by the exit, Joy on Town Square was a great last activity for us, and after watching two songs, we were able to get back on the shuttle and to our car before the temperatures dropped too far below freezing.
Other Activities at An Old Time Christmas
We only went to 4, but there are a few other Christmas attractions at SDC, most of which are geared towards kids.
Shows at SDC
The theater shows at Silver Dollar City are always a hit, and during An Old Time Christmas, they have several! ‘A Christmas Carol’ and ‘The Nativity Story’ are popular ones, and they’ve also got a comedy show and a kid’s musical.
I had been hoping to catch the comedy show called ‘Falalollies’, but I was overruled by my sisters who wanted to go home.
Oh well, maybe next time!
Character Meet & Greets
I know that there are stations where kids can meet Santa or the characters from Rudolph.
This might give you a chance to escape the cold for a few minutes, but since the youngest in my family is 15, we didn’t visit these areas.
For more info on pricing, operating hours, and activities during An Old Time Christmas, click here!
I’m so glad I made it to an Old Time Christmas this year!
Silver Dollar City is a completely different theme park during Christmas time than it is during the rest of the year, because the activities and attractions are so different. For that reason, I think you should definitely visit SDC during An Old Time Christmas. If you’re well prepared for the crowds and the cold, it’s one of the best Christmas experiences in the US!
Maybe it’s just because my siblings and I are older now, but since we actually planned our route through the park, our visit this year was astronomically more enjoyable than in previous years.
I actually think I’m going to put together a guide for visiting SDC during An Old Time Christmas within the next few days to help you plan your visit. If that’s something you’re interested in, let me know!
After that, I’ll get back to posting my study abroad adventures. I promise! 🙂