Exciting move increases access to Lake Taneycomo cruises aboard Main Street Lake Cruises

Portion of Main Street Marina and entrance to Main Street Lake Cruises awaiting installation of ramps and final adjustments.

Portion of Main Street Marina and entrance to Main Street Lake Cruises awaiting installation of ramps and final adjustments.

After many months of planning and effort, many of those walking along the Branson Landing Boardwalk on Sunday, February 21, 2016 were astounded to see the largest structure ever floated on Lake Taneycomo in the middle of the lake and moving ever so slowly and carefully upstream. The amazing sight was the Main Street Marina, at 428-foot-long and 112-foot-wide, being moved from its old home at 7 North Boardwalk on Branson Landing, to its new location at 9 South Boardwalk.

Main Street Marina is a multi-function facility; home to Main Street Lake Cruises, as well as restaurant and retail facilities. “This is a game changer,” said Larry Milton, the co-owner of Main Street Marina with his wife Lianne. “The marina’s new prime location, along the shoreline of the Bass Pro Parking lot, provides not only increased visibility, but drive-up parking and immediate access to our main entrance from a flat parking lot, all of which will enhance the experience of our guests,” he added.

Main Street Lake Cruises offers Lake Taneycomo sightseeing and dinner cruises aboard its two vessels, the 140 passenger riverboat replica Lake Queen, and the 100-foot luxury yacht, the Landing Princess. 2016 cruises from the new location are scheduled to begin on May 1. “Our goal is to provide our passengers with a unique, exciting, and unforgettable experience that will become a special part of their favorite Branson memories,” said Steve Johnson, the General Manager of Main Street Lake Cruises. “A cruise aboard the 84-foot-long riverboat replica Lake Queen is reminiscent of the travel on the White River that played such an important part in Branson’s early history, and each cruise is truly a living, one-of-a-kind adventure show with the sights, sounds, and excitement produced daily by Mother Nature.” he added

Johnson says that although there is plenty of time to relax and just enjoy the serenity of being on the lake, the Captain will provide a live, interesting narrative of what you’ll likely see, both fixed and spontaneous sights. How can you plan for a bald eagle sitting in a tree, a great blue heron soaring overhead, a mink scurrying along the shoreline, or any number of the amazing things that just happen daily along the lake shore?

Fixed sights include a unique mid-lake view of Branson Landing and its $7.5 million fountain, a spectacular synchronized fire, water, light, and music show; one of Missouri’s largest Blue Heron Rookeries; amazing bluffs carved naturally by Mother Nature over the centuries; spectacular Ozark vistas; and much more. In addition, from the comfort of your vantage point aboard the Lake Queen or the Landing Princess, you’ll come upon the birds and other wildlife that abound on Lake Taneycomo and its shoreline such as deer, mink, river otters, the great blue heron, bald eagles, various species of ducks, Canada geese, and much more. Although there are fixed elements in each cruise, each cruise experience can be as different as a snowflake when it comes to the wonders that Mother Nature will reveal.

Both of Main Street Lake Cruises’ boats and their crews are licensed, and the boats are inspected by the U.S. Coast Guard on a regular basis. In addition, they are fully accessible to the disabled and offer a full complement of modern amenities, including full-sized modern restrooms, a well-stocked bar, as well as snack and food service, as appropriate. The Lake Queen has a fully enclosed environmentally conditioned lower deck and an open-air upper deck, while both the decks of the Landing Princess are fully enclosed and environmentally conditioned.

For additional information on sightseeing cruises on the Lake Queen, or dinner cruises on the Landing Princess or any of Branson’s other shows and attractions, or for lodging arrangements, please feel free to contact the Branson Tourism Center, one of Branson’s largest and most respected vacation planning services; call 1-800-785-1550 or visit www.BransonTourismCenter.com.

Johnson points out that there are also opportunities to lease the marina’s restaurant and retail space at the exciting new prime location. Anyone interested in any of these leasing opportunities should contact him at 417-239-3980

$1.7 million Titanic Violin ignites a spectacular Titanic 10th anniversary celebration

Shoji Tabuchi viewing the  Wallace Hartley Titanic Violin and paying his respects to his fellow musicians who perished that night.

Shoji Tabuchi viewing the Wallace Hartley Titanic Violin and paying his respects to his fellow musicians who perished that night.

Why would someone pay $1.7 million for a violin that can’t be played and has not played a note in over 100 years? There can’t be too many reasons, but one would surely be because it’s believed to be the very violin played by the Titanic’s bandleader, Wallace Hartley, the night of April 14, 1912 when the RMS Titanic hit an iceberg and sank into the deep depths of the icy north Atlantic, and became a legend for the ages.

“RMS Titanic bandleader Wallace Hartley’s violin has become the iconic symbol of the Titanic saga. Found strapped to his body after the sinking, it was returned to his wife-to-be, only to be lost to the world until it resurfaced almost a century later. Now, for the first time since an unnamed owner took possession of the violin, visitors to the Titanic Museum Attractions will be able to experience, for themselves, the overwhelming sense of emotion it evokes,” says Mary Kellogg-Joslyn, co-owner of the Titanic Attractions.

She also points out that 2016 is the 10th anniversary of the Titanic Museum Attraction’s “setting anchor” in Branson, and to honor the occasion, they are pleased to present a 2016 World Exclusive Exhibit, the display of the $1.7 million Wallace Hartley Titanic Violin; it will be at the museum from March 7 through May 29 along with the only Bible to survive the sinking.# “The Titanic Violin may never be played again,” admits Kellogg. “But one of the final songs Wallace Hartley was said to have been playing during the ship’s final moments can still be heard in our imaginations: ‘Nearer, my God to thee, Nearer to thee…’”

Although the violin exhibit is a major feature of its 10th anniversary celebration, there will be other events at Titanic during the year to honor the occasion. One of these is a special $10.00 admission to the attraction for children ages 5 through 12 throughout all of 2016.

When asked why Branson was picked as the “home port” of the Titanic Museum, Kellogg pointed out that it was a process that started over a decade before its 2006 opening. More than 10 years before that, while serving as the Executive Vice President of Television for The Walt Disney Company, she bought the national TV show “Live With Regis and Kathie Lee,” to the Grand Palace in Branson as the result of a letter received from Steve Presley, on behalf of the Ozark Marketing Council. During the process, a warm friendship with the Presleys developed and Mary and her husband John fell in love with Table Rock Lake. As a result, they kept in contact with the Presleys and came back to Branson and Table Rock Lake every 4th of July.

Through the years, her husband John, who had been touring with the Titanic artifacts throughout Europe and the United States, thought that they needed a permanent location for display. When he decided it was time, their love of Branson and friendship with the Presleys, along with the demographics of the Branson visitor, made Branson an ideal location. The museum opened in 2006 and the rest is history.

“Congratulations to the Titanic Museum Attraction on the occasion of its 10th anniversary in Branson, and on being able to obtain a 2016 World Exclusive Exhibit, the display of the $1.7 million Wallace Hartley Titanic Violin,” said Annette Wood, Director of Sales and Marketing for the Branson Tourism Center. “What a blessing the Titanic Museum Attraction has been for Branson and its visitor as it honors those who were on board by telling their stories in a special and dignified way, while providing Branson visitors of all ages with a special, unique, and fun-filled experience they’ll never forget,” she added.

For additional information or tickets for the Titanic Museum Attraction, or any of Branson’s other shows and attractions, or for lodging arrangements, please feel free to contact the Branson Tourism Center, one of Branson’s largest and most respected vacation planning services; call 1-800-785-1550 or visit www.BransonTourismCenter.com.

# From June 7 through Labor Day Weekend the violin will be on display at the Titanic’s sister ship in Pigeon Forge, TN

 

Is one of these non-Big 3 Branson restaurants your favorite?

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Shorty Small’s, a popular Branson Restaurant.

“No matter where or when we vacation, there is one thing we all do and that is eat! For many, it’s an important part of the vacation,” said Annette Wood, Director of Sales and Marketing for the Branson Tourism Center. The good news for Branson visitors is that there are plenty of places here, from national chains to quaint local eateries, offering a variety of food for every taste and budget,” she continued.

Recently, the Branson Tourism Center asked those interacting with them on their Facebook Page, www.facebook.com/bransontourismcenter, about their favorite, locally-owned and operated, non-national chain, restaurant. The comments, while covering a wide range of restaurants, centered around three, which we have appropriately dubbed, “The Big 3,” Billy Bob’s, Danna’s, and Billy Gail’s. Along with two of our favorite local restaurants, they were featured in an article entitled, Five great local non-national chain restaurants to try on your next Branson trip.

We wondered what would happen if we excluded the Big 3 and asked about all Branson restaurants without the “locally owned and operated, non-national chain, restaurant” condition placed on the question. On February 27, 2016, we posed the following question on our Facebook page; “Outside of the ‘Big 3,’ Billy Bob’s, Danna’s & Billy Gail’s, what is your favorite Branson restaurant?”

As the comments came in, we interacted with those who commented and asked them to name their favorite menu item at the restaurant. The result is a collection of not only some of the more popular restaurants in Branson, but people’s favorite menu item at those restaurants. The following is a list of the six places that received the majority of the recommendations, sorted alphabetically, with one pertinent comment on a favorite menu item, and a link to more information such as location, hours of operation, description, and average prices:

CRACKER BARREL

Barbara M…Love Cracker Barrel…We are there during most Thanksgiving holidays, and it is a great place for a “home cooked” Thanksgiving dinner. Always lots of diners there on Thanksgiving and there are no dishes to wash! My fav thing to order at other times is the sampler plate – samples of meat loaf, ham, and chicken and dumplings with three sides – can’t beat hash brown casserole as a fav side. Okay, now I’m hungry! Lol.

FAMOUS DAVE’S

Tim L: Definitely ribs!

GRAND COUNTRY BUFFET

As is the case with most lists of favorite places that Branson diners like most, the Grand Country Buffet was well ahead of any other buffet by a large margin. We did not ask for a favorite menu item.

McFARLAIN’S FAMILY RESTAURANT

Jessica R: They have the best meat loaf! And of course cornbread! And French fries. I’m too full to eat pie! I plan on getting one next time we make it up.

MEL’S HARD LUCK DINER

Kathey H: Cheeseburgers are great! The singing servers are so talented and so friendly!! Never come to Branson that we don’t at least eat there once!!

SHORTY SMALLS

Robert K: Shorty Smalls has the best chicken fried steak! Yum!

A rising new name on the Branson dining scene also appeared, and it’s mentioned here because of its growing great reputation and developing following due to its menu and entertainment format:

BRANSON CENTER STAGE GRILLE & BAR

Pat C: Bill is a magician in the kitchen… try the schnitzel! I’m a purist and prefer the Wiener Schnitzel. The Jager Schnitzel also looked good. We usually go on Sunday after church, and I’m planning on the Coquilles St. Jacques scallops tomorrow.

With the variety and quality of Branson’s restaurants available, one could almost write a book, but no sooner would it be written than it would change. “Word of mouth” is generally a reliable and current source of information, but Branson Tourism Center’s Wood suggests that two convenient sources of current dining information would be the Branson Dining Forum at www.1Branson.com, Branson’s largest message board, or calling 1-800-785-1550 and talking with one of Branson Tourism Center’s Branson-based Travel Planners, the same people who can also help you with Branson show, attraction and lodging information and reservations. She also points out that www.Branson.Com has a list of over 200 Branson Restaurants with contact info, hours of operation and other information.

 

Wouldn’t you like to see some of these amazing March 2016 Branson highlights?

A few of the highlights of what's happening in Branson during March.

A few of Branson’s March highlights!

“March, with the colors of spring painting a beautiful mosaic over our Ozarks hills, the opening of Silver Dollar City, as well as many of Branson’s most popular shows and attractions reopening after their winter hiatus, signals the beginning of Branson’s 2016 season,” said Annette Wood, Director of Sales and Marketing for the Branson Tourism Center. “And if what’s happening in Branson during March is any indication, 2016 promises to be a wonderful year full of freshness, fun, excitement, and adventure for Branson visitors,” she added.

Here’s our Featured Show, and Event of the Month, along with a list of the major events you can enjoy in Branson during March, 2016:

Featured Show of the Month: The long awaited Branson premier of Sight & Sound’s phenomenal biblical spectacular, Moses. “While maintaining its inspirational biblical perspective, Moses is the most spectacular, technologically advanced, show that Sight & Sound Theaters has ever put on stage,” said Mike Pitman, the Business Development Manager for the theatres. He said that people expect the inspirational and spectacular from Sight & Sound, but Moses takes it to an entirely new level. “And that’s saying a lot when you consider the incredible productions, such as Noah – the Musical, Miracle of Christmas, Joseph, and Jonah, that Sight & Sound has become legendary for,” said Branson Tourism Center’s Wood.

Featured Event of the Month: Branson Titanic Museum Attraction presents a 2016 World Exclusive Exhibit, the $1.7 Million Dollar Bandmaster Titanic Violin, in honor of the 10th Anniversary of the attraction’s setting anchor in Branson. RMS Titanic bandleader, Wallace Hartley’s violin has become the iconic symbol of the Titanic saga. Found strapped to his body after the sinking, it was returned to his wife-to-be, only to be lost to the world until it resurfaced almost a century later. Now, for the first time since an unnamed owner took possession of the violin, visitors to the Titanic Museum Attractions will be able to experience for themselves, the overwhelming sense of emotion it evokes,” says Mary Kellogg-Joslyn, co-owner of the Titanic Attractions. The Hartley Titanic violin will be on display in Branson, along with the only Bible to survive the Titanic, from March 7 through May 29, after which it will move to the Pigeon Forge Titanic Museum Attraction, where it will be displayed from June 7 through Labor Day Weekend.

 SPECIAL EVENT HIGHLIGHTS (Sorted by starting date.)

Mar 1 – 31: Opening of many of Branson Shows (Check schedule for show(s) of interest.)
Mar 1 – 31:Annual Irish Celebration Month at Titanic Museum Attraction
Mar 4 – 6: 4th Annual Branson Classic Gymnastics Invitational
Mar 4 – 6: 2016 Sugar Bert Boxing Title Belt National Championship…Call 770-833-7888
Mar 5: Branson Premier of Sight and Sound’s Moses!
Mar 5: Limited Engagement – Charles Esten
Mar 7: Silver Dollar City Opens 2016 Season with “Spring Ride Days”
Mar 7 – May 29 Exhibit of $1.7 Million Dollar Wallace Hartley Titanic Violin
Mar 9 – 15: NAIA Division II Men’s Basketball National Championship 2016
Mar 19: Shamrock Shamble Golf Tournament at Branson Hills Golf Club
Mar 24: 3rd Annual Keller Williams 5K Run
Mar 26: Hollister Easter Egg Hunt
Mar 27: Easter Weekend in Branson
Mar 27: Easter Brunch at Keeter Center
Mar 27:Chateau on the Lake Easter Champagne Brunch

For additional information on these events, or any of Branson’s shows and attractions, or for lodging arrangements, please contact the Branson Tourism Center, one of Branson’s largest and most respected vacation planning services by visiting www.BransonTourismCenter.com, or calling 1-800-785-1550 and talking with a Branson-based vacation planning specialist who will be delighted to answer any questions, and assist you with show or lodging reservations. There is absolutely no charge for this service.

Amazing Million Dollar Quartet is heart of an exciting 2016 at Welk Resort Theatre

 

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“2016 is going to be a busy and exciting one for the Welk Resort Theatre,” said Susan Smith, Senior Director of Sales and Marketing for Welk Resorts in Branson. “From the Million Dollar Quartet and Charles Esten, to Daniel O’Donnell and Herman’s Hermits Starring Peter Noone, & B.J. Thomas, and more, the theatre will be alive with a vibrancy, variety, and quality of entertainment that will thrill our audiences all season long,” she added. An overview of the show and acts scheduled to appear at the Welk Resort Theatre during 2016 testify to that fact, and provide a glimpse of the fun and dynamic musical entertainment that awaits Branson show goers  at the theatre:

Million Dollar Quartet: March 17 – December 30
Daniel O’Donnell: October 31 – November 19
Charles Esten: March 5
Trace Adkins: April 22
Barrett Baber: May 6
Engelbert Humperdinck: May 14
Roots and Boots Tour starring Aaron Tippin, Sammy Kerhsaw and Collin Raye: May 27
Diamond Rio: June 10
Huey Lewis and The News: June 15
Crystal Gayle & T.G. Sheppard: July 1
Tanya Tucker July 15
Lee Greenwood & Lacy J. Dalton: October 7
Ronnie Milsap and Johnny Rodriguez: October 14
Charley Pride: October 21
Herman’s Hermits Starring Peter Noone, & B.J. Thomas: October 28

This year will be the celebration of the 60th Anniversary of one of the greatest jam sessions in rock n’ roll history; an impromptu gathering of four young recording legends-to-be, Carl Perkins, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, and Jerry Lee Lewis, that took place on December 4, 1956 in the Memphis storefront recording studio of Sun Records. That jam session, unknown recordings of it found decades later, and the four rock n’ roll legends involved became the inspiration for the Tony Award winning musical, Million Dollar Quartet, that shares the music, spontaneity, and drama of what happened that day, as these four legends performed together for their first and last time.

How good is this show? When I first saw the show I wrote, “Over the last three decades, I have seen many Branson shows of all types, but never one like the Million Dollar Quartet! An outstanding cast, timeless music that everyone knows, and a great storyline combine with the show’s unique set and great production to create an incredible entertainment experience for the whole family that should not be missed.”

Daniel O'Donnell

Daniel O’Donnell

“We feel very honored that, after taking a year off from touring, Daniel O’Donnell picked the Welk Resort Theatre for his Branson performances as he resumes a limited touring schedule,” Smith said. O’Donnell, incorporating his charismatic and engaging style, will present a blend of traditional Irish ballads, country favorites, and traditional gospel with an Irish twist that shows why he has sold millions of records and has been a household name across Ireland and Great Britain for decades. In the United States, O’Donnell has starred in several Public Broadcasting Network Specials as well as charting 18 albums in the Top 20 of Billboard’s World Music Album Chart. In 2011, O’Donnell became the first artist to have an album in the UK charts for 25 consecutive weeks.

 

Charles Esten, the co-star of the ABC Prime Time hit “Nashville,” will head off a roster of national stars that will be making short limited engagement performances throughout the year. As of this date, these include Charley Pride, Crystal Gayle & T.G. Sheppard, Diamond Rio, Herman’s Hermits Starring Peter Noone, & B.J. Thomas, Huey Lewis and The News, Lee Greenwood & Lacy J. Dalton, Roots and Boots Tour starring Aaron Tippin, Sammy Kerhsaw and Collin Raye,and Tanya Tucker.

Annette Wood, Director of Sales and Marketing for the Branson Tourism Center, points out that, when planning to see any of the shows at the Welk Resort Theatre, it might be a good idea to consider that it is part of Welk Resorts Branson which also contains the Welk Resort Hotel, a full service facility, that is one of the finest lodging properties in Branson. The hotel recently completed a multimillion dollar renovation that included its lobby, common areas, corridors and 159 guest rooms and baths. “We’re very proud to offer our hotel guests an all new guest room that enhances the value of their experience with us,” said Dathan Atchison, General Manager of the Welk Resort. “We have always made gracious service to our guests our foremost objective. Now, along with our other great amenities that Welk guests have come to expect, we are very excited about our new rooms and hotel upgrade, and believe our guests will be also.”

Wood suggests that a Branson experience combining the purchase of show tickets at the theatre and lodging at the hotel into one package could result not only in convenience, but in savings. “What could be better than seeing great entertainment, staying at a wonderful resort, and saving money while doing it,” she said.

For additional information on any of the show at the Welk Resort Theatre, or any of the things there are to do in Branson, she recommends contacting the Branson Tourism Center and talking with one of their Branson-based Travel Planners. They’ll be delighted to assist you! BTC can be reached by calling 1-800-785-1550 from 8:00 AM to 9:30 PM seven days a week, or through its website www.BransonTourismCenter.com.

 

More Roads Scholars enjoy traveling around Branson with ease

Branson Tourism Center's Branson Map with Alternate Colored Routes.

Branson Tourism
Center’s Branson Map with Alternate Colored Routes.

At first glance, it appears that the wrong term, “Roads” instead of “Rhoades” was used in connection with the word “Scholars,” but that’s not the case. We are actually referring to “Roads Scholars,” as in making traveling around a more pleasant part of the Branson experience. Does Branson have a lot of traffic during its season? We sure hope so; but the challenges of getting around in that traffic are no worse in Branson than those encountered in most major travel destinations. With a little planning, these challenges can be reduced if not eliminated entirely.

As we use the term “Roads Scholar,” it simply applies to a person who knows the three things that can have them driving around Branson like a local. These three things are; knowledge about Highway 76, the key to efficient Branson travel; the Alternate Colored Route System; and targeting your destination to either Highway 76 or the Alternate Colored Route System. Let’s take a look at each of these in order:

1.  Highway 76, the Branson Strip, is the key:

Highway 76 is also referred to as “The Branson Strip.” It’s easily Branson’s most traveled road and runs east and west through the entire length of town. With its three block Main Street extension, running east from the intersection of Highway 76 and Business Highway 65, through historic downtown Branson to Branson Landing, Highway 76 extends from Silver Dollar City, on the west, to Branson Landing, and the shoreline of Lake Taneycomo on the east.

The majority of Branson’s theatres, including some of its most popular shows, are located on Highway 76. These include, among many others, Legends in Concert, Dixie Stampede, Grand Jubilee, Amazing Pets, Illusionist Rick Thomas, Presleys’ Country Jubilee, Clay Cooper’s Country Express, The Haygoods, Billy Dean In Concert With Jarrett , Ayo starring Voices of Glory, it starring the Hughes Brothers, and SIX. Most of Branson’s major attractions are located on Highway 76, including the Titanic Museum Attraction, The Track Family Fun Parks, Hollywood Wax Museum, Ripley’s Believe It or Not, White Water, the Butterfly Palace and Rainforest Adventure, and many more.

One way or another, either because of wanting to or having to, it is a virtual certainty that you will be traveling on Highway 76. The key to doing so efficiently, and avoiding frustration, is to simply keep direct travel on Highway 76 to a minimum during peak travel times, and to use Branson’s Alternate Colored Route System to help you do so.

Because it is the main east/west Highway link to and from Branson, and because most of Branson’s theatres, attractions and major shopping areas are on it, Highway 76 is heavily traveled throughout the day. Typically, this causes minimal if any inconvenience except for the peak periods.

The traffic generally becomes heavier and more concentrated during two peak periods; one is between approximately 5:30 PM and 8:00 PM when people are trying to eat and get to shows. The other is on Sunday, between about 9:30 AM and 1:00 PM, the time-frame when many people are try to exit Branson at the same time. These periods would be excellent times to use Branson’s Alternate Colored Route System to avoid travel on Highway 76 as much as possible.

 2. Use Branson’s Alternate Colored Route System:

Branson’s system of three alternate colored routes – Blue, Red, and Yellow – is overlaid on existing highways and roads. In general, these routes are an alternate to Highway 76, paralleling it, for the most part, in an east and west direction. A little time spent familiarizing yourself with these colored routes, and the “north-south” connector roads between them and Highway 76, will help you get just about anywhere in Branson you want to go with little, if any,

Here’s a couple examples of how Branson’s Colored Route System can help:

Exiting and Entering Branson: When exiting Branson, you can avoid the traffic on Highway 76 by getting over to the Red Route, as close to its western junction with Highway 76 as possible, and taking it east to its intersection with Highway 65 from where you can exit north or south. Simply reverse the process when entering Branson.

Getting To and From Branson Landing: The Red Route is also an excellent alternate to Highway 76 for getting to and from Branson Landing. Take it east past the Highway 65 junction to the roundabout and go into the Landing from the roundabout.

 3. Targeting Your Destination:

Investing a little time with a map and planning a route to your initial Branson destination, for your daily travels while in Branson, and to your exit from Branson can make your time here more enjoyable. A simple way to do this is to “target” your destination by relating it to Highway 76 or an alternate colored route on a map. This way, you have a point of reference should there be a problem.

Unfortunately, many online maps and GPS services ignore Branson’s Alternate Colored Route System. The good news is that, in the vast majority of cases, the maps available online through Branson based businesses and in printed form at many places in Branson, including the Branson Tourism Center, not only show the Alternate Colored Routes, but also a lot of the major shows, attractions, and other things that Branson has to offer, making it extremely easy to target your destination. The Branson Tourism Center’s online map, which can be viewed online or downloaded and printed in PDF format, is one such map.

If you have any questions about directions or need information or tickets for any of Branson’s shows and attractions, or if you need lodging arrangements, please feel free to contact the Branson Tourism Center, one of Branson’s largest and most respected vacation planning services, by calling their toll free number 1-800-785-1550 or by visiting www.BransonTourismCenter.com.

 

Branson Legends in Concert 20th anniversary lineup will blow your mind!

JC Brando as "Adele," top right, Michael Knight and Elizabeth Scarborough as "Michael Jackson" and "Taylor Swift, "Dean Z as "Elvis "and Chance Havens and Danny Zeligman as the "Blues Brothers."

JC Brando as “Adele,” top right, Michael Knight and Elizabeth Scarborough as “Michael Jackson” and “Taylor Swift,” Dean Z as “Elvis “and the “Blues Brothers™.”

“We are just so excited to be starting our 20th anniversary season in Branson,” said Legends in Concert General Manager, Jeannie Horton. “The star studded lineup is mind blowing, even by Legends in Concert standards. It is designed to meet the changing demographics of our audience as they change throughout the season, and provides them with the stars that they have most often requested,” she added.

Horton points out that, in addition to the seasonal star-studded guest lineup, every performance of Branson’s Legends in Concert includes a Blues Brothers™ and Elvis tribute. The always entertaining, energetic, and exciting Blues Brothers™ tribute is performed by Clint Nievar. and Danny Zeligman. For the 2016 season, the Elvis Tribute will be performed by a rotation of noted Elvis tribute artists such as Bill Cherry, Cody Ray Slaughter, and Ted Torres, except when Dean Z is performing the tribute May 1 through the end of August, and November 1 through the end of the year.

Jeannie is excited about the opening lineup for the spring season, which started February 5. It includes a powerful tribute to Tina Turner and the Ikettes as Lori Mitchell-Gay opens the show with her always crowd-pleasing rendition of “Proud Mary;” Paul Eve’s tribute to Johnny Cash, including “Ring of Fire”, “Folsom Prison Blues,” and other hits; the crazy antics of The Blues Brothers™ that will just make “Everybody” want to “Shout;” Michael Knight’s return as Michael Jackson, starting off his set with a medley of hits from The Jackson Five, and working his way up to “Thriller” and “Billie Jean,” and the return of Bill Cherry as Elvis Presley, performing #1 hits from The Jumpsuit Era, like “See See Ryder” and “My Way.”

Here’s the amazing 20th anniversary Legends in Concert 2016 lineup of stars, by season:

Spring: February 5 – May 17

Johnny Cash, Tina Turner, The Blues Brothers™, and Elvis through May 17, with Michael Jackson from February 5 through April 30, and Michael Bublé from May 1 through May 17.

Summer: May 19 – September 6

Johnny Cash, Kenny Chesney, Michael Jackson, The Blues Brothers™, and Elvis through September 6, with Taylor Swift from June 1 through August 15, and Martina McBride from August 16 through September 6.

Fall: September 8 through October 31

Barry White, Marilyn Monroe, Alan Jackson, The Blues Brothers™, and Elvis

Christmas: November 1 through January 2

Frank Sinatra, George Strait, Adele, The Blues Brothers™, and Elvis

And, it gets better! Although the obvious stars of the show are the tribute artists, it is the manner in which their individual talents and personalities are integrated with the show’s extremely talented dancers, vocalists, and live band, into a series of unique, exciting, and entertaining “mini concerts,” that makes Legends in Concert a spectacular and entertaining production that holds the interest of the audience from beginning to end.

For additional information or tickets for Legends in Concert, or any of Branson’s other shows and attractions, or for lodging arrangements, please feel free to contact the Branson Tourism Center, one of Branson’s largest and most respected vacation planning services; call 1-800-785-1550 or visit www.BransonTourismCenter.com.

Branson Up-Close-and-Personal with Grand Jubilee star Jackie Brown

Jackie Brown performing "When I Think About Angels" in Grand Jubilee.

Jackie Brown during recent Grand Jubilee performance of “When I Think About Angels.”

Grand Country’s Grand Jubilee is one of Branson’s most popular shows, combining the vocals of New South, the comedy of “Jim Dandy,” the MC mastery of Mike Patrick, and the award-winning vocals of Jackie Brown into two hours of fantastic entertainment! Recently, Jackie took time from her busy schedule as an entertainer and mom to share a bit of herself, and her career, with us in an interview for “Branson – Up Close and Personal.”

“Branson – Up Close and Personal” is a service of Branson Tourism Center, one of Branson’s largest and most respected vacation planning services, and is intended to provide readers with an up-close-and-personal look at a Branson star or personality. The interview with Jackie Brown (JB) uses a “Question and Answer” format, and was conducted for Branson Tourism Center (BTC) by Gary Groman, a 30 year resident of the Branson area, and a local columnist and freelance writer.

BTC: Where were you born?
JB: Phoenix, AZ

BTC: When?
JB: January 23, 1974

BTC: When did you first start singing?
JB: When I was four.

BTC: When did you first sing publicly?
JB: I was four and sang in church for a Mother’s Day Pageant with my mom.

BTC: Do you remember the name of the song?
JB: “Jesus Loves Me” and “You Light Up My Life.”

BTC: Do you have any formal vocal training?
JB: No. My mom was an elementary school music teacher. I just followed her lead, learned from her choir practices, and taught myself from some of the things that she taught me.

BTC: What is your favorite genre of music?
JB: I have no one favorite because I like so many different styles.

BTC: What is your favorite song to listen to?
JB: I love to listen to Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby, but outside of Christmas and “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” I don’t have a favorite

BTC: What is your favorite song to sing?
JB: I’ve always liked singing “I Will Always Love You,” which I sing in the show this year in a duet with Luke [Menard], or as a solo if he isn’t here.

 BTC: When did you realize that you wanted to sing professionally?
JB: When my mom and I visited Opryland in Nashville when I was about sixteen or seventeen years old; we went and saw the show “Country Music USA.” I told my mom, “I want to do that. That’s what I want to do for a living.” We went back to Opryland when I was about 20, I auditioned, was hired, and the rest is history.

BTC: When did you first start performing professionally?
JB: Although we had a local band in Phoenix, I consider Opryland as the start of my professional career.

BTC: Do you remember the first number you performed professionally?
JB: I do, it was “Independence Day,” by Martina McBride.

BTC: Where else did you perform prior to coming to Branson?
JB: Dollywood, Disney Cruise Lines, and Country Tonite in Pigeon Forge.

BTC: While there, did you get to meet and perform with some country music legends?
JB: Actually we did; at Opryland I got to perform with some of the Grand Ole Opry stars such as Porter Wagoner, Jeannie Seely, Margo Smith, and others.

BTC: Did you ever get the chance to meet Dolly Parton?
JB: At Dollywood, she was the producer of the show, which was the story of her life. She worked with us and when she was in town she would sometimes surprise us, and come sing on stage with us.

BTC: Do you have a little-known fact about yourself that you think our readers would be interested in?
JB: While at Opryland, they picked me to be “Country Rose Barbie.” It’s the only Grand Ole Opry Barbie Doll that Mattel ever had. They hired two of us who looked alike, one to be the interviewer spokesperson, and me to sing. We were each dressed like the doll and I was the singer who introduced her on national TV, on the Grand Old Opry Show singing the Loretta Lynn song, “You’re Looking At Country.” It was a lot of fun!

BTC: While in Pigeon Forge, did you meet anyone else who was to be a large part of your life?
JB: Yes, I met my future husband, guitar player Matt Hanshaw, while we were working there.

BTC: What brought you to Branson?
JB: Matt had come to Branson while I was still working at Country Tonite in Pigeon Forge. It was a sudden move. He got the call in Pigeon Forge that the job was available on a Saturday, and he was in Branson on Monday. With our schedules, I didn’t get to see him for three months when we each drove part of the way and met in Paducah, Kentucky. I finished out my contract with Country Tonite and moved to Branson in January of 2004. Matt and I were married on August 23, 2004.

BTC: How long have you been performing in Branson?
JB: I started performing at Country Tonite in Branson in March of 2004.

BTC: What was your first impression of Branson?
JB: How compact the strip and its entertainment is compared to Pigeon Forge, and the “non-prideful” proudness it emanated.

BTC: What is your favorite thing to do in Branson when you are not performing?
JB: Watch movies at home after the show.

BTC: What do you like best about performing in Branson?
JB: The loyalty and family atmosphere of the entertainment community.

BTC: Prior to becoming the featured female vocalist in Grand Jubilee, what other Branson shows have you performed in, if any?
JB: Country Tonite, Legends in Concert, and The Entertainers at the Andy Williams Moon River Theatre.

BTC: If you could perform or meet with any one entertainer/person (living or deceased) who would it be and why?
JB: Amy Grant. She’s the I one grew up listening to, and I have always loved her style and voice. I would give anything to be able to sing in a duet with her someday.

BTC: Do you have a favorite Amy Grant song?
JB: “If These Walls Could Speak.”

BTC: In your career, of all the performances you have been in, no matter how big or small, which one personally meant the most to you and why?
JB: Singing as “Country Rose Barbie” on the Grand Old Opry Show.

BTC: Do you have a favorite hobby or activity, and what is it?
JB: I love do-it-yourself projects and yard sales.

BTC: Do you have a “little known” fact about yourself that you think our readers would enjoy?
JB: I love to cook when I have time. People just love my “Baked Chicken Nachos.”

BTC: What is the funniest thing that has happened to you in front of an audience?
JB: There’s a lot to pick from, but one that stands out is the day I forgot to zip my skirt while performing in the Country Tonite Show here in Branson. I had hooked it, but forgot to zip it for a bluegrass number that required a lot of movement and, every time I turned or pivoted around, unbeknownst to me, the audience got a view of my derriere and thong. Clay Cooper, who was performing in the number with me, whispered, “Your skirt’s unzipped.” I was horrified and immediately reached behind and zipped it. Adding to my embarrassment was the fact that the mike was still in my hand when I reached behind to do it, and caught the sound of the zipper going up. An embarrassing situation became more so, and I was as red as the red skirt I was wearing.

BTC: How long have you been performing with Grand Jubilee?
JB: I started with the Grand Jubilee in 2008. For many of those years, I also performed in the Comedy Jamboree, but have not been doing that for the past couple of years so that I can spend more time with our son.

BTC: What part of this year’s do you personally enjoy performing the most?
JB: Performing “Let It Go,” from Disney’s “Frozen.”

BTC: Why?
JB: It’s a little different number than we normally do in the show and challenging because of the costume change with all its accessories, but I really like it because of the audience reaction; especially the kids, they love it.

BTC: Why should someone coming to Branson plan to see the Grand Jubilee?
JB: Because it’s one of Branson’s best kept entertainment secrets. Although not a secret to us, when people see the show for the first time, a typical reaction we hear a lot is, “Wow, we were blown away, we didn’t know it was going to be this good!”

For additional information or tickets for the Grand Jubilee, or any of Branson’s shows and attractions, or for lodging arrangements, please contact the Branson Tourism Center by calling 1-800-785-1550, or by visiting www.BransonTourismCenter.com.

 

Why you’ll love Branson’s new stage spectacular “Moses”

150907 Moses NOP

“While maintaining its inspirational biblical perspective, Moses is the most spectacular, technologically advanced, show that Sight & Sound Theaters has ever put on stage,” said Mike Pitman, the Business Development Manager for the theatres. He said that people expect the inspirational and spectacular from Sight & Sound, but Moses takes it to an entirely new level.

“Wow, that’s saying a lot when you consider the spectacular productions, such as Noah – the Musical, Miracle of Christmas, Joseph, and Jonah, that Sight & Sound has become legendary for,” said Annette Wood, the Director of Sales and Marketing for the Branson Tourism Center. She points out that the legend will continue with the Branson premier of Moses on March 2, 2016.

This powerful and epic biblical story follows Moses on his quest for personal identity; what that meant as he decided to follow his God and, unbeknownst to him at the time, change the course of human history. Journey back to that time with your family and witness some of the greatest moments in biblical history; experience the exhilaration and celebration of the Israelites as they brush past you on their path to freedom; feel God’s awe-inspiring power as you sit in the midst of the parted Red Sea, and the moment God first speaks to Moses at the burning bush, all presented as only Sight and Sound can depict.

When asked what his favorite scene in the show was, Pitman, who has seen the show in Lancaster, PA, said that it would be difficult to pick just one because of the scope of what the show covers, the incredible cast, and the spectacular special effects. Would it be the awe-inspiring feeling he got sitting there when all of a sudden he felt a gush of air as he found himself in the midst of the parting of the Red Sea; the impactful and powerful scene at the top of the mountain when God first speaks to Moses at the “burning bush;” or one of the show’s many other inspirational and exciting scenes?

Parting of the Red Sea.

Parting of the Red Sea.

“The show has incredible special effects throughout that leave people asking, ‘How did they do that?'” Pitman said. Another of his favorite scenes illustrating that point is where the staff of Moses turns into a snake, crawls down a stair banister, and turns back into a staff again. He loves the way that this enables the audience to feel like they are literally with Moses, surrounded by the mountains, at the “burning bush,” and in the Red Sea when it parts around the Israelites as they escape Pharaoh’s wrath.

He points out that another interesting aspect of the production is the way it shows how the Israelites were treated as slaves, and their celebration at being freed as they rush right through the audience on their path to freedom. You realize the true exhilaration they had because God answered their prayers. “It’s pretty powerful,” he said.

Pitman points out that there are cast members and live animals transitioning to and from the stage, in and around the audience, periodically, throughout the show, and that people are not permitted to enter the auditorium for seating while that’s happening. In order to ensure that you’ll not miss part of the show, he strongly suggests that audience members be in their seats before the show starts and by the end of intermission.

Branson Tourism Center’s Wood said that Moses will run through December 31, 2016, and that tickets for Moses are currently available through the Branson Tourism Center. She recommends getting them early to ensure not only availability on desired dates, but the best available seats. For additional information or tickets for Moses, or any of Branson’s other shows and attractions, or for lodging arrangements, please feel free to contact the Branson Tourism Center, one of Branson’s largest and most respected vacation planning services; call 1-800-785-1550 or visit www.BransonTourismCenter.com .

 

Five great local non-national chain restaurants to try on your next Branson trip

Billy Gail's Cafe is one of Branson's most unique and popular restaurants.

Billy Gail’s Cafe is one of Branson’s most unique and popular restaurants.

“Many Branson visitors like to do the same thing that people from Branson do when they travel; eat at locally owned, non-national chain, restaurants,” said Annette Wood, the Director of Sales and Marketing for the Branson Tourism Center. “In that regard, the answers to the question, ‘What is your favorite locally owned and operated, non-national chain, restaurant?’ asked of over 24,000 people who have ‘Liked’ the Branson Tourism Center Facebook page, at www.facebook.com/bransontourismcenter, covered a wide range of local, Branson owned restaurants, along with some insightful comments.

The first three on the following list will be no surprise to frequent Branson visitors or locals, and were easily mentioned the most often. We also listed two of our favorite local Branson restaurants from those responses:

Billy Bob’s Dairyland: Noted for its delicious hamburgers, usually served basket-style with a heaping order of fries, and its unique, bright, and homey 50’s style decor. The burgers, a staple for both locals and visitors alike for over 30 years, are very generously sized, juicy, and oh so delicious! If you like hot dogs, their grilled butterflied Coney Dogs and Foot Longs might just be the ticket. Billy Bob’s is open during lunch and dinner hours, and offers the same menu for each. Make sure you have cash; they don’t accept credit cards.
Hours: Seven days a week from 10:30 AM-9:00 PM *
Phone: 417-337-9291

Billy Gail’s Cafe: Billy Gail’s is noted for its hearty breakfasts, served amid an atmosphere reminiscent of the early 1900’s Ozarks. Whether it’s their huge signature pancakes, their four egg omelet, their Belly Buster Breakfast, or one of their other menu items, you can’t make a bad breakfast decision here! Although famous for its breakfasts, Billy Gail’s is also noted for its chicken fried steak and pork tenderloin sandwiches. It’s another cash-only restaurant – they don’t accept credit cards.
Hours: Seven days a week from 7 AM to 2 PM.*
Phone: 417-338-8883.

Danna’s Bar B Que & Burger Shop: In addition to being noted for the quality of its burgers, Danna’s hamburger menu offers some interesting variations, such as the Danna Burger, a 6oz. patty served on a toasted bun with cheese and topped with Danna’s famous BBQ chopped pork, lettuce, tomato, and pickle. Another highlight is their barbecue ribs, beef brisket, pulled pork, and chicken that, in terms of both quality and popularity, are on a par with their hamburgers.
Hours: Monday through Saturday from 11:00 AM-8:00 PM. Closed Sunday.*
Phone: 417-337-5527

La Piazza: La Piazza is a locally owned restaurant bringing fine Italian dining to Branson! Its authentic dishes prepared with the freshest ingredients are sure to please the taste buds of even the most discerning Italian cuisine fanatic. Traditional carne, pollo, and pastas made with steak, lamb, chicken, and a variety of delicious vegetables, spices, and sauces will satisfy your cravings and your budget! You’ll also enjoy the fully stocked bar and sophisticated decor. La Piazza is located in the Hughes Brothers Celebrity Theatre building and is an excellent place to dine prior to seeing either it Starring the Hughes Brothers and their Families or Ayo Starring the Voices of Glory.
Hours: Sun – Thur: 3:00 PM to 10:00 PM and Fri – Sat: 3:00 PM to 11:00 PM.*
Phone: 417-334-2562.

McFarlain’s Family Restaurant: McFarlain’s Family Restaurant is famous for its legendary cuisine and delightfully named menu items! Where else can you find a Vigilante Taco, Pioneer Pot Roast, an Outlaw Biscuit Sandwich, and Pa’s Morning Favorite? They feature hearty, cooked-to-order breakfast, the kind you remember from Grandma’s house on the farm. Imagine sinking your teeth into their famous honey cornbread, fried green tomatoes, or their homemade Branson Traffic Jam pie, made with cherries, strawberries, rhubarb, and cranberries! And you’ll have fun just looking around; “McFarlain’s” is decorated in hundreds of antiques, original works of art, and photographs. It’s a great place to grab a bite to eat either before or after seeing one of the great live shows performing in  IMAX’s Little Opry Theatre.
Hours: Mon-Thur: 11:00AM to 8:30 PM and Fri-Sun: 8 AM to 9 PM.*
Phone: 417-336-4680

For additional information on these and other Branson restaurants, as well as all that Branson has to offer, please contact the Branson Tourism Center, and talk with one of their Branson-based Travel Planners who will be delighted to assist you. BTC can be reached by calling 1-800-785-1550 from 8:00 AM to 9:30 PM seven days a week, or through its website www.BransonTourismCenter.com.

* These are normal operating hours during the “season” – typically April through mid-December. Off season hours may vary.